Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Gossage Makes the Hall of Fame... And That’s It?!

On Tuesday, January 8th, BBWAA’s ballot results were announced. Congratulations are due to Rich “Goose” Gossage for making the Hall of Fame. He is the scariest man ever to wear a fu manchu, and a pretty good pitcher, too.

Jim Rice just missed the necessary amount of votes (75%) with 72.2%. Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven weren’t too far behind with 65.9% and 61.9% of the votes (Gossage received 85.8%). All those results were improvements from last year’s ballot. What I’m most surprised by is the lack of votes for outfielder Tim Raines, receiving only 24.3%.

Each writer who has a vote has a slightly different opinion of what a player needs to achieve to get Hall of Fame consideration, but, for the most part, a career that lasts long enough with consistent results and includes a dominant peak will receive more support. Tim “Rock” Raines may have been slightly different than most cases, being that by the time he got to his “peak years”, when most players play the best ball of their careers, Raines’ best play was behind him. However, there isn’t any reason why his time from age 21-27 can’t be considered his peak. When looking at a speedster like Raines, it increases the odds that his best play will be when he is younger anyway.

Raines broke into the league in 1981 with the Montreal Expos and put up a .304 batting average, with a .391 on base percentage and 71 stolen bases. He did that in only 88 games. He proceeded to steal a minimum of 70 bases per year through the 1986 season (6 years in a row) with a high of 90 in 1983. Edit: He is the only person to ever steal 70 or more bases 6 years in a row. Even though the streak ended, 1987 was arguably his best year as he hit .330 with a .429 on base percentage, .526 slugging percentage, led the league in runs scored with 123, had 18 home runs, 68 RBI and 50 stolen bases. His “peak years” are certainly worthy of the Hall. He was an explosive, game changing player and his only superior as a lead off hitter was the man who will go down as the greatest of all time, Rickey Henderson.

Like I said, his career did start to go down hill from there. He admitted to having picked up a cocaine addiction and it no doubt affected his play. If he had stayed clean, we may be having an entirely different conversation about Tim Raines. And to those who say that the cocaine addiction may have something to do with his low vote total, I say you’re taking the character aspect of player evaluation a little too far. He didn’t cheat and there are plenty of players with questionable character in the Hall of Fame already. Besides, we are a nation of second chances, eager to forgive those who repent of their sins (sometimes even if they don’t). Tim Raines did kick his addiction and became a great clubhouse presence and role model for younger players. Anyway, even though he battled a drug addiction through some of his prime years, he was still an above average player the rest of his career and was able to retire with good totals.

He is fifth all time with 808 stolen bases and has the highest stolen base percentage of any player with more than 300 attempts. A good way to argue whether a player is “Hall worthy” is to compare him to players that are already in. The most comparable player who is already in the Hall of Fame is Lou Brock. The biggest advantage Brock has over Raines is that he reached 3,000 hits. He ended with 3,023 compared to Raines’ 2,605. Brock also has over 100 more stolen bases with 938, but Raines’ success rate is almost 10% higher. Many of their other numbers are very similar: runs scored are within 40 of each other, doubles within 56, triples within 28, home runs within 29, RBI within 80, batting average within .001 points, and slugging percentage within .015 points. On base percentage is Raines’ biggest advantage over Lou Brock. Brock’s career on base percentage is .343 and Raines’ is .385. As lead off hitters, that cannot be overlooked.

Considering that Tim Raines’ best years are dominant enough to garner Hall of Fame votes and he was consistent enough over the length of his career to post career totals very similar (and in one important statistic much better) to a current Hall of Famer, I refuse to believe that Tim Raines does not belong in the Hall.

What makes this such a big deal? Raines still has 14 years left on the ballot, right? He’s got plenty of time left to get in. The reason I’ve got my panties in a twist over this is because that Hall of Famer I’ve compared him with, Lou Brock, was inducted on his first year on the ballot, 1985, with 80% of the vote. Tim Raines only received 24.3%. There shouldn’t be that big of a gap between them.


Pops said...

I think HOF induction should be reserved for those who dominate the game, or atleast their position, during their time. They should have a lengthy career of consistent high performance, and for atleast a number of their playing years be known as the unquestioned best. Lou Brock was THE base stealer during his time, and I believe a perennial all-star (no, I didn't bother to verify that) at 2nd base. Statistics are often misleading when looking back over a career. When you compare Brooks Robinson's career statistics they might not be that impressive, but during his long career he was the unquestioned best 3rd baseman... a natural HOF'er.
For these reasons, and no matter what career statistics Mike Mussina accumulates before he's done, I will not believe he belongs in the HOF. He's never won a Cy Young, never won 20 games, never won a world series (hah!). He was very good for many years, but never THE best in his time. Besides, he deserted the O's for the Yankees. Shame on him.

Ryan H. said...

First off, Brock never played a game at second base. He spent his entire career in the outfield.

Now that that's out of the way...Brock was a great player, and he WAS "THE base stealer" of his time, like you said. In fact, when he retired, he was the all-time stolen base leader. That coupled with 3,000 hits explain why Brock was a first ballot HOF'er. I'm not saying that he shouldn't have been, or that Tim Raines should have been in on the first ballot, but with only 24.3% of the vote, Raines has a steep up-hill climb to get inducted. I don't think it should be that steep. With no research, nothing more than gut instinct, I'm going to say I would've been happy to see something in the 40-50% range.

I don't know how many All-Star appearances you have to have to be a perenial all-star, but Brock had 6 All-Star appearances. Tim Raines had 7. Brock never won a batting title. Raines won 1. They both led their leagues in runs scored twice. Now back to the stolen bases thing. Brock does have more, and did retire the all-time leader, but 5th all time ain't too shabby either (Raines). Also, studies have shown that you have to be successful in at least 70% (some have argued for 75%) of your steal attempts before it starts to add runs to your team. This comes from the fact that being caught stealing is more detrimental to your team's chances of scoring, than a successful stolen base is advantageous. Lou Brock's career success rate is 75.3%. Tim Raines' career percentage is 84.7%. Like I said before, Raines' success rate is the highest of anyone with over 300 attempts. I think that counts for something.

It all comes down to how much of an elitest you are. If you believe that the HOF is only for the most elite players to ever play the game, that they have to walk on water, and be able to go toe-to-toe with Ruth, Ted Williams and such, then that's your belief. I believe that there are too many non-elite players already in the HOF to still hold this stance. Therefore, you should take into consideration not just how they stack up all time, but also how a player compares to his peers at the time. Raines' only superior as a leadoff hitter and offensive catalyst was Rickey Henderson. Henderson was the best of all time, so if his superiority over Raines is enough to keep Raines out of the HOF, then we're back to the elitest mentality.

Ryan H. said...

On a separate note, shame on Mike Mussina for picking the Yankees, but shame on Peter Angelos for making him leave. Angelos pretty much left no choice for Mussina as far as his future with the O's. Mussina was one of the best pitchers in the game at that time and all Angelos did was give him a last minute low ball offer, probably to "save face" with the fans. Mussina was leaving because of Angelos, but, I agree, shame on him for picking the Yankees.

Ryan H. said...

I think Jason Stark can get a little too caught up in comparing the players to others in their era, forsaking how they compare to Hall of Fame standards (you’ve got to look at both), but in general, this is a good article looking at the players on this year’s ballot (including Tim Raines). It was written before the voting results were announced.

I'm not sure how to make a link in the comment section, so you'll have to cut and paste.