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The Hall of Fame case for Tim Raines

Dec 5, 2012, 1:44 AM EDT

Tim Raines

I’ve long hesitated to make the Tim Raines Hall of Fame pitch, simply because there’s a website already dedicated to the cause that does a far better job of it than I can here. Still, I figure I can have a quick go at it, and if nothing else, it means a few more people might check out Raines30.com for the better pitch.

Raines’ Hall of Fame problem is Rickey Henderson. Raines might be the second best leadoff hitter off all-time, but he played at the same time as the best. Also, he was a left fielder without much power and he never won an MVP award or came particularly close.

On the other hand, Raines was quite possibly the NL’s best player in a five-year span from 1983-87.  WAR thinks so, placing him ahead of Mike Schmidt, Tony Gwynn and Dale Murphy. Raines hit .318/.406/.467 during that span and averaged 114 runs scored and 71 steals per year. During those five years, only Henderson scored more runs (572-568) and only Wade Boggs had a better OBP (.443 to .406). And those two were playing in the other league.

Raines led the NL in average and OBP in 1986, but 1987 may well have been his best season. After sitting out the first month because of baseball’s collusion against free agents, he hit .330/.429/.526 with 123 runs scored in 139 games. He was so feared that he was intentionally walked 26 times, even though he was one of baseball’s premier basestealers.

Unfortunately, Raines ceased being a superstar pretty young, and while he was still an asset as a role player into his upper-30s, he’s not getting much Hall of Fame credit for those years. The entire body of work is worthy, though. While Raines wasn’t Rickey Henderson, he was a very good match for Tony Gwynn.

Raines finished his career with a .385 OBP, a .425 SLG and a 123 OPS+ in 10,359 PA
Gwynn finished his career with a .388 OBP, a 459 SLG and a 132 OPS+ in 10,232 PA

Raines scored 1,571 runs and drove in 980
Gwynn scored 1,383 runs and drove in 1,138

Raines stole 808 bases and was caught 146 times
Gwynn stole 319 bases and was caught 125 times

B-ref WAR has Raines at 66.2, good for 97th all-time. It has Gwynn at 65.3 wins, 102nd place all-time.

Obviously, it’s commonplace throughout history to trump up one Hall of Fame candidate by matching him with another, typically one barely over the borderline. Gwynn, though, was a sure-fire Hall of Famer, getting in on the first ballot with one of the all-time highest percentage of the votes. And the one real difference between him and Raines was hits. Raines had 2,605 hits and Gwynn had 3,141. That’s a difference of 536. However, Raines had 1,330 walks to Gwynn’s 790, a difference of 540.

I think Raines is also well over what should be the borderline for Cooperstown. He mixed in five years of true greatness into long career in which he was almost always an asset. It’s a career that’s clearly worthy.

  1. crackersnap - Dec 5, 2012 at 2:12 AM

    So, you are saying…that the same people who slammed the door on the historic season that was Mike Trout in 2012, should now be expected to recognize Tim Raines for the HOF due to all the same category of skills that Trout exploits?

    Yeah. That’ll be the day.

    • jarathen - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:14 AM

      Except Mike Trout hits homers while patrolling center field… from the stands.

  2. jeffa43 - Dec 5, 2012 at 2:53 AM

    Last week you were saying no to Bagwell, and this week you are talking up Timmy.

    You discredit yourself one article at a time.

    Did you ever play or watch your subjects play?

    • mrfloydpink - Dec 5, 2012 at 3:53 AM

      What on Earth are you talking about? First, I’ve never seen any of the contributors on this site argue that Bagwell should not get into the Hall of Fame. Second, a quick search of the archives reveals that the last time Pouliot wrote anything on Bagwell was in January of 2011:

      http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/01/01/jeff-bagwell-isnt-getting-into-the-hall-of-fame-anytime-soon/

      • cur68 - Dec 5, 2012 at 9:47 AM

        MrPink, never mind this guy. He’s Mathew’s personal troll. Just ignore his crap.

      • jeffa43 - Dec 5, 2012 at 12:05 PM

        Last week homie! Easy to say no to Bags… But put Piazza in.

        Two days later Pouliot followed that as to say Biggio should face the same criticism of Bagwell in regards to roids.

        Look it up!

      • jeffa43 - Dec 5, 2012 at 12:09 PM

        @ cur86

        I don’t even know who Mathews is.. Much less a troll…. I comment on Stros stuff every blue moon..

        Just a Astro fan who sticks up for Bags and Biggio.

        Astros suck so bad, there is not much to comment on.

      • Matthew Pouliot - Dec 5, 2012 at 12:19 PM

        Last week in my Piazza piece I wrote that Bagwell had let the HOF writers off the hook, giving them an excuse not to vote for him without bringing up steroids because he didn’t hit .300 or 500 home runs. Of course, before I wrote that, I wrote “his body of work leaves him qualified for Cooperstown based on the standards for first basemen.”

        And a day later in my Sosa piece I placed Bagwell and Biggio prominently on my (non-existent) ballot.

        I had forgotten about that Bagwell piece mrfloydpink linked to, but that goes right to the point of what I was writing in the Piazza piece. Guys like Rogers saying his resume isn’t quite strong enough because he didn’t hit the milestones.

      • jeffa43 - Dec 5, 2012 at 1:10 PM

        Mr. Pouliot… I then stand corrected, and I apologize for my misunderstood comments. Astro fans not only have to watch garbage, but often here that their hero was a fraud.

        Bagwell always talked about his respect for the game and never wanting to taint that.

        Over sensituve Stros fan. Sincerely apologizing. Guess I need to do a better job of reading.

        My bad.

      • Matthew Pouliot - Dec 5, 2012 at 3:30 PM

        Thanks, Jeff. I think I failed in how I presented the Biggio column. It’s clear the point I was trying to make was easily misinterpreted.

  3. lanzurrah - Dec 5, 2012 at 3:39 AM

    Out of Gwynn’s 20 year career he only batted under .300 once, and routinely batted closer to .400 than the .300 mark during his prime. Raines batted over .300 8 years out of the 23 he played….and had over double the strikeouts Gwynn had. Both great players, Gwynn seemed to have less protection in the lineup during his career in SD…

    • mrfloydpink - Dec 5, 2012 at 3:50 AM

      First, .300 is a pretty arbitrary number. Nice and round, yes, but if you drop it to .285 (the difference between the two is about one hit every three weeks) then Raines crosses the bar 15 times in the 18 full seasons he played. Second, Raines walked 1,330 times compared to Gwynn’s 790. Those extra 540 walks are HUGE; that’s like two or three seasons’ worth of singles. Which is why their OBPs are effectively identical.

  4. jdvalk - Dec 5, 2012 at 5:23 AM

    Don’t forget his rings…

  5. dirtyharry1971 - Dec 5, 2012 at 7:18 AM

    What everyone seems to miss with Raines is when he stole a base he usually was safe. Compare his stole base sucess rate vs Henderson and you will see he was better when it came to sucess. He probably wont get elected this year either but that is not his fault, its just more proof that baseball writers should NOT be doing the voting cause they dont know any better. Case closed scumbags

    • magicrat13 - Dec 5, 2012 at 8:10 AM

      “What everyone seems to miss with Raines is when he stole a base he usually was safe”

      thank you captain obvious…

    • Gamera the Brave - Dec 5, 2012 at 12:12 PM

      Wait, we’re scumbags?!?

      Cool now I can perpetrate – wait for it – scumbaggery!
      Been waiting to find a use for that word for YEARS!
      Thanks, Harry!

  6. thehumanfly - Dec 5, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    Hall of Cocaine

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 5, 2012 at 8:23 AM

      Paul Molitor says hello

    • gogigantos - Dec 5, 2012 at 9:05 AM

      so,, your point is? No reason for Raines not to be in, at all.

    • kevinbnyc - Dec 5, 2012 at 1:14 PM

      …that probably 60% of players from his era also belong to.

  7. 6stn - Dec 5, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    Yastrzemski had a run of five (1967-1971) great years out of twenty-three. Kaline’s best days were behind him after the age of thirty-two. Both of those guys put up impressive career numbers and had no problem getting into the Hall. Apart from being on world championship teams late in his career, maybe Raines’ early-career substance abuse issues have hurt his chances. Gwynn, Kaline and Yastrzemski also played for only one franchise in their careers, which makes it easier to figure out which cap to put in their plaque. Henderson, of course, played for a different team every week in every city in professional baseball over the last fifteen years of his career, making it easier for every voter to watch him play. Raines deserves the Hall. So does Ted Simmons, who played in the shadow of Johnny Bench from 1970-1980.

    • derklempner - Dec 5, 2012 at 3:16 PM

      The problem with Matthew’s case of Raines’ great five-year run (disregarding the other HoFers you mentioned) is that he recently posted an article on Sammy Sosa where he stated that although Sosa had one fantastical five-year run where he was basically the most productive power hitter in the game, the rest of his career was pedestrian (like Raines and those other HoFers you mention) and therefore not Hall-worthy.

  8. gogigantos - Dec 5, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    This got under my skin with Gossage the other day, are “they” all so sure there isn’t a roid case already in The Hall? Isn’t Henderson a likely candidate for that guy? It was several years ago I read about somebody, Bill James?, doing a bit of research on who it might be based on the word of someone saying that there was at least one already in. I don’t care and seriously love me some Ricky. I think they should all be in, Bonds first. Flame away sports fans, but that was the best hitter, one of the best athletes, I ever saw with my own eyes over any period of time.

    Raines’ time is past due, the dude was a beast in any age. Do check the site, Raines30.com, if you have any doubt.

  9. stex52 - Dec 5, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    Raines was a fun player to watch. I don’t put a lot of stock in the HOF, one way or another. But it wouldn’t hurt my feelings to see him there. And if he went in with Craig Biggio, all the better.

  10. raysfan1 - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:26 AM

    @jeffa43–
    Try improving your reading skills. Matthew SUPPORTED Bagwells’s candidacy, both in the Bagwell post and the Biggio post. This has been pointed out repeatedly. That you just don’t seem to understand when people are agreeing with you is getting old.

    • jeffa43 - Dec 5, 2012 at 12:14 PM

      In this day of speculation, there is no need for unnecessary innuendos tying Biggio to Roids.

      The article Pouliot wrote says in the first sentence says, saying no to Bagwell is easy, but not so with Piazza.

      • raysfan1 - Dec 5, 2012 at 9:52 PM

        I see that you and Matthew got things cleared up. We’re good now too from my end.

        For the record, I totally agree both Bagwell and Biggio belong in the HoF. So does Rock.

  11. digbysellers - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    everyone stop yelling. you’re ruining my birthday.

  12. dasher521 - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    Lowering the bar.

    • gret9 - Dec 5, 2012 at 11:05 AM

      Tim Raines was better that more than half the position players that are in the HOF ALREADY. How can his election lower the bar?

  13. richwizl - Dec 5, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    He was great; if he played for a high-profile team his selection would be an open and shut case.

  14. weaselpuppy - Dec 5, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    B-ref WAR has Raines at 66.2, good for 97th all-time. It has Gwynn at 65.3 wins, 102nd place all-time.

    B-Ref WAR Also has Lou Whitaker at 71.4 (more than Jeter btw) and Alan Trammell at 67.1 (the EXACT same as Barry Larkin)…….

    • shynessismyelguapo - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:34 PM

      All-Time HOF snub team (off the top of my head, forgive any obvious omissions)

      C: Ted Simmons
      1B: Jeff Bagwell
      2B: Lou Whitaker (with apologies to Bobby Grich)
      SS: Alan Trammell
      3B: Sal Bando? Graig Nettles? Stan Hack? Ken Boyer?
      LF: Tim Raines
      CF: Jim Wynn
      RF: Dwight Evans

      SP: Kevin Brown
      SP: Luis Tiant
      SP: David Cone
      SP: Tommy John

      Of course, they all shouldn’t go. But they all do have one thing in common:
      They are much more deserving than Jack Morris.

      • Matthew Pouliot - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:50 PM

        Just to get another Tiger in there, you could stick Darrell Evans at third base. 21 years of a 119 OPS+. 47th all-time in homers, 83rd in RBI, 83rd in runs created, 98th in total bases, 12th in walks.

  15. ebraiter - Dec 7, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    I wish Raines got in. But there was also another couple of issues. First his career wasn’t long. Second, he did have a drug problem. Oh he did play second base – but not that good.
    He was also popular with the fans and help out off the field as well. Can’t say that for a good chunk of players currently in the HOF.

    • shynessismyelguapo - Dec 11, 2012 at 1:15 PM

      ” First his career wasn’t long”

      He played for 23 years and raked up over 10,000 plate appearances. What on earth are you talking about?

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