January 14, 2009


Raines belongs in Hall (Keith Law, 1/14/09, ESPN)

Raines spent much of his career as the second-best leadoff man in the game. He had the misfortune to be a contemporary of the greatest leadoff man in history, Rickey Henderson, who was elected to the Hall on Monday with 94.8 percent of the vote. [...]

Raines, of course, did many things well on the diamond, none better than stealing bases, where he might have been the best base stealer in the game's history. Yes, Henderson had 1,406 steals to Raines' 808, but those extra steals came at a higher cost: Henderson was caught more than twice as many times as Raines, posting an 81 percent success rate compared to Raines' 85 percent.

In fact, Raines has the highest stolen base success rate of any base stealer with at least 300 career steals for whom we have caught-stealing data. He's second-highest if we drop the bar to 200 career steals, behind Carlos Beltran. For an institution that elected Lou Brock, an extremely limited player whose career OBP is more than 40 points below Raines', Raines' stolen base numbers should boost his candidacy.

Speaking of getting on base, Raines ranks 41st all time in times on base, just ahead of a fellow named Tony Gwynn, who isn't in the Hall for any reason other than an ability to produce base hits.

In fact, not only did Raines reach base slightly more times than Gwynn did, he had more homers and triples than Gwynn and had almost 500 more stolen bases with just 21 more times caught stealing. [...]

Raines' career numbers were also affected by baseball's labor strife in the 1980s and early 1990s, a period that overlaps perfectly with his peak years. The strikes in 1981 and 1994 (the latter spilling into 1995) cost him around 120 games, and collusion cost him another 20 games at the start of 1987, when he was arguably the best player in the National League, hitting .330/.429/.526 after his return from exile on May 2. Given back those 140-odd games, Raines would have passed 4,000 times on base and finished with perhaps as many as 2,700 hits, since the work stoppages and collusion all took place during good or great Raines seasons.

The HoF vote has produced the usual round of complaints about the selection process but few sensible proposals about how to fix it. At a minimum, SABRmetrics ought to be brought to bear to decide who's eligible.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 14, 2009 10:46 AM
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