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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Marchman: A theoretical Hall of Fame ballot, pt. 2

Dan Plesac—No, though if there were a prize for having the best ERA+ from 1986 to 1989 among all pitchers with at least 275 innings pitched he would have won it. Of course if there were such a prize the person handing it out would be too busy getting punched in the face to actually award it. But it’s hardly nothing. Plesac’s broadcast work in Chicago was notable for his high coming off as a nice guy:saying interesting things ratio; I understand he’s now with the MLB Network but I wouldn’t know as the demonic figures who run Comcast refuse for some reason to make it available in my house.

Tim Raines—Yes, of course. I doubt it’s an original point, but Raines is one of the Hall candidates who suffers most from circumstances entirely out of his control. I think what’s hurt his case more than anything is that if you look over his Baseball Reference page, it looks as if he broke in as a part timer in 1981 at 21, had a nice five year run, began to break down, and then finished out his career as a part-timer. This just isn’t true. 1981 was a strike year, in which his 88 games were the equivalent of 136; in 1987 he missed the first month of the year, and quite possibly an MVP award, due to collusion; in the 1994 and 1995 strike years he wasn’t at the top of his game, but he was a full-timer, playing the equivalent of 149 and 144 games.

It isn’t just that the strikes and collusion cost him nearly a full season of playing time, but that they shape the statistical narrative of his career so much. Of course Raines also spent his prime in a pitcher’s park in Canada in an era of moderate offense, played left field not because he couldn’t handle center but because the Montreal Expos had a star incumbent at the position, and was overshadowed through his whole career by the similar but even better Rickey Henderson. Despite all this he’s still an obvious pick, but it shouldn’t be surprising that a lot of people can’t see it.

BTW…Raines has now climbed up to 27.9%.

Repoz Posted: January 06, 2009 at 02:03 PM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, history, sabermetrics

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   1. Bad Doctor Posted: January 06, 2009 at 04:24 PM (#3044372)
Of course Raines also spent his prime in a pitcher’s park in Canada in an era of moderate offense, played left field not because he couldn’t handle center but because the Montreal Expos had a star incumbent at the position,

I don't know ... positional/defensive value is one of the items that gives me some pause on Raines's candidacy, and I don't recall seeing much evidence, statistical or anecdotal, that suggests that he was of much value in left field, let alone that he would have been a good centerfielder if only Dawson wasn't there. Looking it up, Dawson got moved off of center before Raines's age 24 season. Raines was still pretty new to the outfield in general at that time, so I don't see why the Expos wouldn't try to move him to center at that point unless they thought he couldn't handle it. Or maybe Marchman is referring to Herm Winningham as a "star."
   2. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: January 06, 2009 at 04:51 PM (#3044396)
I watched a little bit of the MLB network for the first time last night - it happened to be a rehashing of Maris's chase for 61, but what interested me was the scroll at the bottom. It was fun to watch a network where a Reggie Abercrombie signing is scroll-worthy.
   3. Babe Adams Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:14 PM (#3044424)
I'm not sure how much it impacts the Hall of Fame case, but Raines came to the majors at least partially as a second baseman, but went to left fulltime in an era when the Expos were using Doug Flynn and Rodney Scott at second.

It seems to me that Raines's direct comparables are Gwynn, Henderson, Molitor, maybe Boggs, Biggio, Alomar, and Larkin. The ones that are in so far have 3,000 hits. I don't see Raines going in unless Alomar and Larkin go in easily.
   4. RJ in TO Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:21 PM (#3044441)
Alomar will go in easily (.300 BA, 12 ASG, 10 GG, 2 WS rings). Larkin will have a bit more trouble, as his career totals were lower, and he had the injury-prone association, but he's still likely to go in easily (12 ASG, 3GG, 9 SS, 1 WS, 1 MVP).
   5. slothinator Posted: January 06, 2009 at 06:04 PM (#3044483)
Or maybe Marchman is referring to Herm Winningham as a "star."


Let's not forget studs like Dave Martinez, Mitch Webster, and Otis Nixon.

I remember an interview with Roy Firestone in the late 80's where Raines said he played left because he didn't have the arm for right or center. He probably could have handled CF range wise, but even he admitted his arm wasn't up to the task.
   6. Obama Bomaye Posted: January 06, 2009 at 06:08 PM (#3044492)
Roy Firestone. What was his deal?
   7. slothinator Posted: January 06, 2009 at 06:17 PM (#3044504)
Whenever I watched Firestone's show on ESPN, the way he sat always bothered me. He would bring one leg up into his lap, and you'd have this shot of his pants not being long enough to cover his socks. I mean the pants were probably too short to begin with, but his sitting style was not helping. Very distracting.
   8. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 06, 2009 at 06:48 PM (#3044554)
Looking it up, Dawson got moved off of center before Raines's age 24 season. Raines was still pretty new to the outfield in general at that time, so I don't see why the Expos wouldn't try to move him to center at that point unless they thought he couldn't handle it.

They did - Raines played 160 games in center in 1984, before being moved back to left. Anyone have any kind of evaluation of his performance that year?
   9. John DiFool2 Posted: January 06, 2009 at 08:55 PM (#3044709)
I think the arm thing is overrated. There's been tons of CFers over the years, some GGs, who were able to compensate for weak arms by their sheer ability to track down fly balls. But the Expos of the time were worried, perhaps excessively, about his arm and moved him back to left after one year.
   10. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: January 06, 2009 at 09:09 PM (#3044728)
They did - Raines played 160 games in center in 1984, before being moved back to left. Anyone have any kind of evaluation of his performance that year?

TotalZone says -2.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: January 07, 2009 at 02:20 AM (#3044996)
With the exception of Negro League players and possibly WW2, "what ifs" should play no role in HoF cases.

No matter where Raines could have played, he played 1966 games in LF and 165 in CF. His value is hurt by the fact that his comparison group is LF but "could have played CF" doesn't change that one bit. Such an argument becomes stranger given Raines was given one season of CF at age 24 then moved back to LF. In that age 25 season, Dawson still got 164 innings and 21 starts in CF -- why weren't those given to Raines? After that age 24 season, Raines spent 2.7 innings in CF.

We don't have any evidence suggesting he could cut in CF and a good bit of evidence that he couldn't (mainly 1966 games in LF). To my knowledge we don't even have any evidence that he was a good defensive LF.

I'll say it again -- if you want to make a persuasive case for Raines for the HoF, you change his position to "leadoff hitter" and you claim he was the 3rd greatest leadoff hitter of all-time (Henderson, Rose). The only debate will be around whether he was better than Brock. But I am confident that you will convince more voters that the 3rd (or even 4th) greatest leadoff hitter of all-time deserves to go in than you will convince Raines was really a CF in disguise.
   12. Mbvlckd Posted: January 07, 2009 at 03:05 AM (#3045012)
The early 80's Expos fell into a common trap: they were a highly talented team which never lived up to the expectations set for them, so the organization got frustrated and began to worry about stuff like Tim Raines' throwing arm, rather than about much more serious issues like Doug Flynn's bat. Raines' arm wasn't great, but lots of teams win with weak arms in center; range is much more important. It was a classic case of an organization blaming its best players for its failures.

I agree with Mr. Davis that it shouldn't be a factor in evaluating Raines' Hall worthiness, but it's still something to keep in mind.

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