It is that time of year again, Hall of Fame time. Every year in January the baseball world huddles around and each person wants their say on who should be inducted into the Hall of Fame that year and who shouldn’t. Well, today is my day and I want to bring to your attention one player that had a fabulous, Hall of Fame career but has been overlooked for quite some time. This player is former Montreal Expo Tim Raines.
Raines was one of the best base stealers the game has ever seen. Stealing over 50 bases in a season was like taking candy from a baby for him. He accomplished this feat eight times, and seven seasons in a row. He also was an on base machine for his era. He had an on base percentage over .390 for a season, eleven times. He wasn’t the best player by any means of getting hits, but on base percentage was his game. He walked over 80 times in a season, seven different times. To go along with his on base percentage and stolen bases he was one of the best at scoring runs. He scored over 100 runs in a season, six times.
I like to take a look at his walks compared to his strikeouts. He walked 1330 times compared to just 966 strikeouts. You don’t see that big of a margin in the game today. He knew his approach at the plate and stuck to it. If pitchers weren’t going to hit the strike zone he was going to draw the walk and let his speed turn that walk into a double, with a stolen base on the next pitch. That is how he changed the game. Not by hitting a ball out of the ballpark, but by taking advantage of his speed to create runs.
Raines hit his peak relatively early in his career. From 1981 to 1987 he was absolutely dominating the offensive game. Over those seven seasons he had a combined slash line of .310/.396/.448. Again he wasn’t the power hitter of the era, but he got on base nearly 40% of the time. To go along with that slash line, he averaged 195 hits, 116 runs and 82 bases per 162 games from 1981-1987. He could change each and every game with one stolen base and he did just that.
During this peak he led all of Major League Baseball in hits (1,202), times on base (1772), triples (63), was second in runs (719) and stolen bases (504), third in on base percentage (.396) and doubles (296), and fourth in WAR (38.4). That is absolutely incredible for a player that was left in the shadows of Rickey Henderson and Tony Gwynn during this time. I will come back to Tony Gwynn in a second.
From a stolen base stand point, he is top five all-time. He is fifth on the all-time list with 808 career steals. Those 808 steals came on only 954 attempts, which comes out to 84.7% success rate. That ranks 8th all time among base stealers. The magical thing about the 84.7% is it ranks second all-time behind Carlos Beltran‘s 86.5% for players that have attempted at least 300 stolen bases. Pretty magical isn’t it?
Now back to Tony Gwynn. Raines compared to Gwynn is something I would have never imagined. Gwynn and Raines played Major League Baseball at the same exact time, but Gwynn got all of the attention. Is it really fair? I will let you answer that, after this comparison between the two.
I will start with on base percentage, Raines finished his career at .385, while Gwynn .388. Not that big of a difference in retrospect, even when Gwynn out hit Raines by 536 hits. Where Raines caught up was in the walk department. Raines outwalked Gwynn by 540 times. That is what closes the gap as you see in the first sentence of this paragraph. Does it really matter how many hits you have, as long as you get on base, no, not really in my opinion.
Let’s move to runs scored. Raines scored 1571 times to Gwynn’s 1383 times. That is almost 200 more runs scored for Raines than Gwynn. Hits are hits, but if they don’t turn into runs, what good did they do? Not much, just a stat sheet stuffer.
The reason for the major difference in runs scored could be because of stolen bases. As I said above, Raines stole 808 bases, while Gwynn only attempted 444 stolen bases. While Gwynn attempted 444 he was caught 125 times, where Raines was caught 146 times in 954 attempts. That could explain the runs scored difference.
Raines is stacking up with Gwynn at this point isn’t he?
Let’s move on to Wins Above Replacement. Raines ended up with a WAR of 69.1 for his career, which ranks 106th all time. While Gwynn is just behind him at 68.9. To go along with WAR, let’s compare offensive WAR. Raines finished at 68.4, while Gwynn, behind Raines again at 66.3.
Two more statistics and I will leave you alone…
Runs created is one of the best stats to look at when evaluating an offensive player. Raines and Gwynn tied with creating 1,636 runs each over their careers. Pretty even to this point still as well…
One last one. Raines was on base in his career 3,977 times while Gwynn was behind again at 3,955 times.
Gwynn was ahead in the hit department and the overall extra base hit department, but when it mattered, and creating runs is the only thing that matters in the game of baseball, Raines came out on top or was exactly equal with Gwynn in each and every category.
I’m not trying to throw Tony Gwynn under the bus at all in writing this. Gwynn was one of the best to play the game and his 97.6 Hall of Fame voting percentage shows that. His statistics show that he was one of the best the game has ever seen. But what I just showed you is that when it comes down to it, Raines was right up there with Gwynn and he can only scrape up just over 52% of the vote? That doesn’t make sense to me. It could be that he spent most of his career in Montreal, but that shouldn’t matter. If a player is good enough to be a Hall of Famer, it shouldn’t matter where he steps into the batters box.
Think about this when the ballots are revealed tomorrow at 2:00 EST and see if Raines makes it into Cooperstown. What I just showed you proves that he should be there with the rest of the best baseball players to ever play the game of baseball.
Statistics Courtesy of Baseball-Reference