The candidate we’ll look at today is Tim “Rock” Raines, who played for the Monteal Expos, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Oakland A’s, Baltimore Orioles, and Florida Marlins during a lengthy career that spanned 23 seasons. He will be first eligible for election into the Hall of Fame in 2008. In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of Raines’ Hall of Fame case, and compare him to other similar players, some of whom are already in the Hall of Fame.
Below is a look at Raines’ career numbers:
G AB R H 2b 3b HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG 2502 8872 1571 2605 430 113 170 980 808 146 1330 817 .294 .385 .425
Raines’ long career can be broken more or less into five sections. After two seasons that totaled only 20 games and 20 at bats at ages 19 and 20, Raines began a seven year stretch in which he put up dominant numbers. During that span, from 1981 to 1987, he hit .298 or better in 6 of the seasons, including 3 seasons of .320 or higher and 2 seasons in which he hit over .330. His on base percentage was below .390 only once during those seasons. He also stole over 70 bases in 6 of those 7 seasons, including one season of 90 steals. He also hit over 30 doubles in every year except the strike shortened 1981 seasons, and had 7 or more triples in all seven seasons. He made seven all star appearances during this stretch. He won a batting title in 1986, also leading the league in OBP that season on the way to a silver slugger award. He led the league in stolen bases four times (and finished in the top three every season), runs scored twice, and doubles once. During these years, Raines put up the dominant numbers that make him a potential hall of famer.
The next stage of Raines career, the eight year’s from 1988 to 1995, he was a very solid player, although not nearly the level at which he played from 1981 to 1987. During those eight seasons, his batting averages were .270, .286, .287, .268, .294, .306, .266, and .285. His OBP ranged from a low of .350 to a high of .401, and sitting above .370 in all but three of those seasons. He stole 40 or more bases in 4 of those seasons, including one season over 50, before beginning to slow down at age 33, when he stole 21 bases. He stole 13 bases each of the next two seasons, getting caught only twice. While not leading the league in any offensive category during this time, Raines was still an above average major league regular, helping the Chicago White Sox to the playoffs in 1993. He put up .444/.483/.556 numbers in the ALCS with 3 doubles in six games, but the Sox lost to the eventual World Championship Toronto Blue Jays. While not nearly as dominant as his 1981-87 seasons, these seasons were still very strong, and allowed him to attain some impressive career numbers.
At age 36, Raines moved to his third team, the New York Yankees, via a trade. In his three years with the Yankees, 1996-1998, he was a part time player – his at bat totals for the three seasons were 201, 271, and 321. Despite his age and some injuries, he still managed to put up solid numbers in his new role, with averages of .284, .321, and .290 and on base percentages of .383, .403, and .395. He was a member of the World Championship New York Yankees in 1996.
At age 39, Raines moved on to the Oakland A’s in 1999. He had a rough season in a part-time role…hitting just .215 in 58 games. In July, the reason for his rough season became evident, when he nearly died.
Here is an explanation of Raines’ 1999-2001 seasons, from the excellent The Baseball Page.com:
“He gained 28 pounds in three days, and after a series of tests he was diagnosed with lupus. After months of aggressive treatment, Raines’ condition improved and he played part of the 2000 season in the minors, hoping to get a shot at the big leagues again so he would have the chance to play with his oldest son, Tim Jr. In 2001, the Montreal Expos signed him to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. With Tim Jr. moving through the Baltimore Orioles farm system fast and certain of a major league spot at some point in 2001, Raines Sr. was dealt to the O’s on October 3, 2001, to play with his son. The next day, the Raines father/son tandem became the second in baseball history to play together, joining Ken and Ken Griffey Jr. Raines Jr. played center field for the Orioles and Raines Sr. played left field.”
During the 2001 season, played mostly with Montreal, Raines hit .303 in 89 at bats in 51 games, with a .413 OBP. After his brush with death in 1999, this season must have been sweet for Raines…getting both a chance to play in Montreal, where his career began, and to play with his son. At 42, Raines wasn’t done, however. He played one more season in 2002, with the Florida Marlins. Raines appeared in 98 games, but in 89 at bats, he hit just .191. Amazing, he still had his eye for the strike zone; his 22 walks (vs. 19 strikeouts) gave him an OBP of .351.
Raines, the diminutive (5’8″) switch hitter, had a long twenty three season career in which he turned in rate stats of .294/.385/.425. His 2605 career hits rank 68th all time, and his 1571 career runs rank 46th all time. It’s worth noting that of those 45 men ahead of him in career runs, the only ones not already in the Hall of Fame are players either not yet eligible (including active players), players who played predominantly in the 19th century, and the ineligible (Pete Rose). His 1330 career walks rank him 31st all time, and contribute to his impressive .385 career OBP, much higher than the .331 league average.
His 808 stolen bases are 5th all time, behind only future hall of famer Rickey Henderson and three players already enshrined in Cooperstown (Lou Brock, 19th century star Billy Hamilton, and Ty Cobb). He stole those 808 bases while only being caught 146 times, an 84.7% success rate. That’s a substantially higher percentage than either Rickey Henderson (81%) or Lou Brock (75%). In fact, Raines stolen base percentage is the highest for any player with over 300 stolen base attempts. He was also the first major leaguer to steal 70 or more bases in four straight seasons.
Defensively, Raines was solid in the outfield, playing the vast majority of his games in left field. His career fielding percentage of .988 easily outshone the league average of .981. Likewise, his 2.11 career range factor was better than the league average of 1.96. Raines did not possess a strong arm, in fact it was rated below average by most.
As explained in the overview, Raines had a seven season peak that was quite dominant, something hall of fame voters like to see. The eight seasons that followed were also very solid, and allowed Raines to reach the impressive career numbers mentioned above. His blend of dominance and longevity make him a solid hall of fame case.
Is Tim Raines a future hall of famer? The question is complicated by several things. Raines had a very strong career, with a solid seven season peak, but very few players have careers similar to Raines…which makes it difficult to compare him to other players to determine Hall of Fame worthiness. As you’ll see a bit later, his Jamesian stats are all within range for consideration as a future inductee, but all fall short of what you’d consider a definite inductee.
The other major negative on Raines’ hall of fame resume is an off the field issue. In 1982, a young Raines entered drug rehab for treatment for a cocaine addiction. Raines would later admit to snorting cocaine before, after, and even during games. The fallout from his drug abuse haunted Raines for years, and his hall of fame chances rest soundly on the memory of hall voters and how they view these events of twenty-five odd years ago.
Noted baseball researcher Bill James has developed several metrics for determining how likely a player is to get into the Hall of Fame. The Black Ink, Gray Ink, HOF Standards, and HOF Monitor give a good idea of how a player ranks compared to an average or likely Hall of Fame inductee. Let’s take a look at Raines’ numbers and what they say about his Hall of Fame chances.
The Black Ink metric measures the number of times that a player has led the their league in a major offensive category, with categories earning different scores based on their relative importance. Raines has a Black Ink score of 20, having led the league in stolen bases four times, hitting once, runs twice, and doubles once. He also led the league in OBP once, which doesn’t figure into the Black Ink Score. The average hall of famer scores a 27 on this metric, placing Raines below average, but still with a substantial score, ranking him 103rd all time (tied with Johnny Bench and Edgar Martinez, among others).
On the Gray Ink metric, which measures the number of times that a player was among the top 10 in their league in major offensive categories, Raines scored a 114. The average hall of famer has a score of 144 on this metric, and Raines rank here is 173rd all time.
On the HOF Standards metric, which measures the overall quality of a player’s career as opposed to singular brilliance (peak value), Raines scores a 46.8. An average hall of famer scores a 50 on this scale, putting Raines well within range of hall of fame consideration. Raines ranks 93rd all time in this metric, tying him with Barry Larkin and Ernie Banks, among others. Worth noting is that this metric does not take career stolen bases over 500 into consideration, and Raines finished his career with over 800 steals.
The HOF Monitor metric attempts to determine how likely (not how deserving) a player is to gain induction into the Hall of Fame. A score of over 100 would make someone a good possibility to be inducted to Cooperstown, while a score of 130 or over would make one a likely inductee. Raines score here is a 90. Close, but not quite at the level where you’d say he’s a probable inductee. When one looks further, however, you’ll see that the only time stolen bases are figured into the HOF Monitor is that two points are awarded for each time a player leads the league in the category. Raines did just that four times, but also was in the top 5 in his league five other times, and is 5th all time in the category. A score of 90 with a consideration towards his stolen base totals make Raines look like a bit better candidate.
What do the Jamesian ratings say about Raines and his hall of fame chances? Basically, that he should get some consideration, although he’s not a sure-fire inductee on any of the four scales.
We all know how important it is to compare a player to both his peers and to players already in the hall of fame to determine whether that player is worthy of enshrinement in the baseball hall of fame. When it comes to Raines, however, that is a bit tricky because so few players can be considered to be “similar” to Raines. It wouldn’t make sense to compare Raines to most outfielders already in the Hall of Fame, since he didn’t hit for power or incredibly high average like many of them did. Let’s take a look at several peers of Raines, as well as a few hall of famers and see what they can tell us about Raines’ hall of fame credentials. If you are not familiar with the site Baseball-Reference.com and their use of Bill James’ Similarity Scores, you might want to familiarize yourself with them before continuing.
Rickey Henderson was a peer of Raines, and one might consider him a good place to start, because they both stole a lot of bases and had strong on base percentages, and their careers both started in 1979 and extended over 20 years. They really aren’t that similar players, however. Raines had a substantially higher average (.294 to .279), but much lower OBP (.401 to .385) and while his slugging average was higher (.425 to .419), this can most be attributed to his higher batting average, as Henderson had a lot more power (297 career HR vs. 170 for Raines). Henderson also accumulated over 3,000 hits in his career, scored more runs than anyone in history, and walked more than anyone except Barry Bonds. He holds a substantial lead in steals, as well 1406 to 808. Henderson’s Jamesian metrics are all substantially higher than Raines. Henderson is universally considered a first-ballot hall of fame inductee, while Raines is a bit more borderline. Their lack of career similarity can be seen in their similarity scores. Henderson does not appear in Raines top 10 “Similar Batters”, and Raines is #8 on Henderson’s list, but with a rather low score.
So, who are considered the “Most Similar” hitters to Raines? The number one player on his list is hall of famer Lou Brock. In many ways, they are similar; both were basestealing machines who hit for solid average (Brock hit .293 for his career, Raines .294). Brock did accumulate more than 3,000 hits in his career, considered a “magic number” by many voters, but Raines had a substantially higher OBP considering that both had such similar averages (.385 to .343). Brock lead the league in steals more often (8 compared to 4), but other than that, their time on the leaderboard were similar. Brock certainly still is a stronger hall of famer, especially when you look at his Jamesian numbers (26, 146, 43, 154 compared to Raines’ 20, 114, 46.8, 90), but they’re closer than you might think.
After Brock on the list of Raines’ most similar batters, we actually find another hall of famer, Max Carey. Elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee in 1961, Carey had a 20 season career that spanned from 1910 to 1929. He led the league in stolen bases 10 times during his career, and is 9th all time in the category with 738. His career rate stats are a solid .285/.361/.386 and he compiled 2665 hits in his career. His Jamesian metrics are 32, 148, 36, 76.5. Basically, he was among his league leaders more often than Raines, but Raines had probably a more Hall of Fame worthy career when you look at his career totals. When you take into consideration their era, Carey played in the dead-ball era, Raines in modern times, they do have fairly similar careers. It is interesting to note that Carey was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee after his time on the writer’s ballot expired. He started out with very low vote totals (less than 10%) for several years, but eventually peaked at 51.1% of the vote before becoming ineligible for election via the writers. It is possible Raines will have to deal with a similar fate, a fate that may befall several 1980’s outfield stars (such as Raines’ teammate in Montreal, Andre Dawson).
By the time we get to number three on Raines most similar batters list, we get to Willie Davis, who played 18 seasons from 1960 to 1979. While an excellent player in his day and a great defender (3 GG’s), Davis does not stand up to Raines’ when it comes to hall of fame consideration. Davis’ .279/.311/.412 rate stats aren’t close to Raines’ numbers in those categories, and despite being close to Raines in career hits (only 44 less) and career home runs (12 more), his 398 career stolen bases were well behind Raines’ total and he never led the league in that category. His Jamesian metrics (2, 64, 26.9, 43.5) confirm that he is not in Raines’ class when it comes to hall of fame worthiness.
Next on the list is a 19th century player, Jimmy Ryan, and Jose Cruz Sr.. Cruz is clearly not on par with Raines, and the difference in era makes comparing modern players to those who played in the 19th century an exercise in futility.
What can we learn from these comparisons? That Raines was a fairly unique player, one who finding direct comparisons with, both among his peers and with retired players, both in the hall of fame and those who are not, is difficult. We also learned that when compared with those few players historically where it makes sense to do so, Raines is pretty much what we have already seen, a contender for hall of fame enshrinement, but certainly no sure bet.
What other variables could affect Raines’ candidacy for the Hall of Fame? He most certainly will be hurt by his admission of cocaine abuse in 1982, although by all reports he cleaned up and became a model citizen and teammate for the 20 years he continued to play after that point. “Warm and fuzzy” stories from later in his career, such as his comeback from lupus, his return to Montreal at the end of his career, and his being part of just the second father/son combo to play in the same game all could help voters move past the cocaine issue. Voters have long memories, though…so it’s tough to say.
The fact that Raines put up his best numbers during his days in Montreal might also be a strike against him. While the Montreal teams during many of those years were solidly middle-of-the-pack, the team was usually far from the consciousness of most fans and writers. This could hurt Raines’ hall of fame chances the same way it appears to be hurting those of his long-time teammate on those Expos teams, Andre Dawson.
One thing that may help Raines chances is the year in which he becomes eligible for the first time. In 2008, when Raines will first appear on the ballot, he will be the only viable inductee making their first appearance. Among the others who will become eligible for the first time in 2008 are Shawon Dunston, Travis Fryman, David Justice, Mike Morgan, and Randy Velarde. The 2007 class is famously one for the ages, and there are still some solid returning candidates on the ballot (Jim Rice, Rich Gossage), but the 2008, 2009, and 2010 classes are all on the thin side, something that should help anyone on the ballot during those years.
What can we conclude from all this about Raines’ hall of fame chances? Pretty much what I was feeling going in…that Raines is a solid candidate and will get some consideration, but whether he gets voted in or not is still a sound “maybe”. How will voters feel about Raines’ fairly unique combination of skills, about his drug problem, about his longevity? It will all be interesting to watch, for sure. I don’t see Raines getting into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, but I think he’ll eventually be enshrined, although he might have to wait for the Veterans Committee.