A Hall of Fame Case For: Tim Raines

Should Tim Raines be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame? In short, yes. Below is a statistical look at how Raines compares to the Hall of Fame averages, and to some of his Hall of Fame contemporaries.

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Raines meets or exceeds the Hall of Fame averages for left fielders in many traditional counting numbers including runs (1571), stolen bases (808), and walks (1330). He also meets standards in OBP (.385), and slightly exceeds them in bWAR (66.2)

Just looking at Raines’ raw stolen base totals doesn’t do his baserunning justice. His stolen base percentage of 84.6% is best all time among integration era (1947-present) players with at least 400 steals. His UBR (BsR) rating on FanGraphs is 100.2, 2nd all time trailing only Rickey Henderson at 142.7. Trailing only Rickey Henderson is an unfortunate microcosm for Raines’ career.

Raines also meets the overall Hall of Fame standards in bWAR (Baseball-Reference), OBP, and wRC+.

Moving away from the averages, Raines also meets standards in C-WAR. C-WAR is a Hall of Fame monitoring system that I created using career and peak WAR. C-WAR is the career WAR(P) totals from Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus added up and averaged out, plus an eight year peak (five best years in a row, plus 3 best additional years) from Baseball-Reference. Click here for more information on C-WAR.

The average C-WAR line for a Hall of Fame left fielder is 69.7 career average/44.0 peak/113.7 C-WAR. Raines meets those numbers (almost exactly), his C-WAR line looks like this: 69.1 career average/44.6 peak/113.7 C-WAR. Raines’ C-WAR of 113.7 ranks 9th all time among left fielders, topping 14 members of the Hall of Fame, and Manny Ramirez.

From 1980 (Raines’ first full season) to 1994, his WAR (Baseball-Reference) was 61.3 tying him with Ryne Sandberg for 8th best in the majors over that stretch. During that span, Raines generated more wins than several Hall of Famers including Robin Yount (59.3), Paul Molitor (58.9), Mike Schmidt (54.1), Tony Gwynn (53.2), Eddie Murray (51.4), Andre Dawson (50.5), and George Brett at 49.5. Rickey Henderson was the most valuable player during that span with a WAR of 97.3, nearly twenty more wins than Wade Boggs in 2nd place at 78.6.

Raines has some black ink on his resume too; in 1985 he led the National League in batting average (.334) and on-base percentage (.413). He also led the N.L. in runs twice (83,87) and stolen bases four consecutive years from 1981-1984. In terms of top ten finishes in his league, Raines had 4 in AVG, 7 in OBP, 7 in WAR (Position Players), 6 in OPS+, and 7 in WPA.

Over the course of his career Raines posted six seasons with a bWAR of 5 or more. Dave Winfield had five seasons, Andre Dawson and Tony Gwynn each had four.

Earlier in the piece I looked at the overall Hall of Fame averages. While those can be valuable to look at, it’s not a perfect mechanism to determine if a player is Hall-worthy. Different eras greatly skew the averages, as do some of the undeserving members at each position. Comparing Raines to Jesse Burkett doesn’t make much sense, but comparing him to people like Gwynn, Winfield, and Dawson does.

Below are the career numbers for all four of those players.

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Gwynn’s batting average of .338 dwarfs Raines’ at .294, however the gap between the two closes when you look at OBP: Gwynn .388, Raines .385. Raines tops Gwynn in both fWAR (FanGraphs) and bWAR; he also hit more home runs, triples, walked nearly twice as much, and stole 489 more bases.

In fairness, Gwynn tops Raines in plenty of categories too. Gwynn bests Raines in wOBA, OPS+, wRC+, total bases, and extra base hits. Gwynn was also a better defensive player than Raines having saved five runs (UZR) over his career compared to Raines’ minus eleven.

Dawson was the best defensive player of the group saving 69 runs over his career. He also had the most power slugging .482 with 438 career home runs. However Raines tops Dawson in bWAR, fWAR, OPS+, wRC+, wOBA, and bested him by sixty two points in OBP (.385-.323). Raines was a better baserunner than Dawson, this we already knew, but he was also a better hitter and overall player.

Winfield had the longest career of the group, thus he ranks 1st among them in most traditional counting numbers. Winfield had a lot more power than Raines, but was also the worst defensive player of the four. Raines tops Winfield in fWAR (70.6-67.7), bWAR (66.2-59.4) and OBP (.385-.353). Raines falls just a few percentage points behind Winfield in wOBA (.361-.364). This is somewhat surprising as wOBA only measure a player’s offensive contributions, baserunning and defense are not factored into the calculation. Winfield was a better player for longer than Raines. However, Raines was better at his best — a better baserunner, defender, and a comparable hitter.

Looking at WAA (not in the charts above) you get a better look at a player’s value at his best. WAA measures how much better than league average a player is, WAR measures how much better than a replacement level player a player is. Gwynn tops the group with a WAA of 36.7. Raines is next at 35.5, followed by Dawson at 29.3, and Winfield at 24.

If I were to rank the four players, that’s the order I would do it. The point of this piece wasn’t to disparage Gwynn, Dawson, or Winfield. I think they are all deserving Hall of Famers. The point was to show Raines belongs in that group, and in the Hall of Fame as well.

One other note, because the numbers used to the compile the Hall of Fame averages are MLB stats only, it makes it impossible for me to include players who played exclusively in the Negro Leagues. Nothing has diluted stats and the integrity of the game like the exclusion of black players for over fifty years. While I can’t include them with these averages, I encourage you to visit the websites for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame to find out more about the many great players who were shamefully excluded from the game because of the color of their skin.

Many thanks to the incredibly smart people who work at Baseball-Reference, and FanGraphs, without their tireless efforts to improve and maintain their sites and information none of this research would be possible. It’s also worth noting that sometimes FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference have slightly different numbers for the same player. For example, FanGraphs has Willie Mays with 12,493 plate appearances, Baseball-Reference has him at 12,496. These slight differences are common with historical players, the differences aren’t enough to skew the averages but it’s worth mentioning that the statistics represented in the charts above were compiled using data mostly from Baseball-Reference.

Follow Ross on twitter @Rosscarey

Originally posted 12/4/12

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  27. [...] Because so much of Lofton’s value came from fielding and baserunning, it was more difficult to find player’s to compare him to. I settled on Sandberg, Tim Raines, and Richie Ashburn. Ashburn played from 1948-1962, yet he and Lofton had very similar careers. Sandberg and Ashburn are members of the baseball Hall of Fame, Raines should be in, but isn’t yet. My HOF case for him can be found here. [...]

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