Monday, December 5, 2011

Hall of Fame Voters: Don't Overlook Fred McGriff and Tim Raines

In the 2011 Baseball Hall of Fame vote four candidates--Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin, and Jack Morris--each accumulated 50% or more of the vote with Alomar (90%) and Blyleven (79.7%) tallying the required 75% for election and Larkin (62.1%) and Morris (53.5%) coming next closest.  In 2011, the average Hall of Fame voter cast about six votes per ballot, so with the election of Alomar and Blyleven, many voters may look down the ballot and reconsider some holdovers they have previously overlooked.  Two holdovers who definitely deserve a second look are "Crime Dog" Fred McGriff and Tim "Rock" Raines.

A home run slugging first baseman, McGriff will be making his third appearance on the ballot.  After a disappointing 21.5% debut on the 2010 ballot, "Crime Dog's" vote total saw a surprising drop to 17.9% in his second year.  Those vote totals are especially low considering McGriff's career had the qualities most Hall of Fame voters look for:

Excellence--hit 31 to 37 home runs each year from 1988 to 1994 and was in the top 4 in his respective league, leading the AL in 1989 and NL in 1992.  Was a key figure in one of the most memorable Division races when he helped the 1993 Atlanta Braves go 51-17 and come from nine games back to overtake the San Francisco Giants for the NL West Division title after acquiring him from the San Diego Padres in late July.

Milestones--493 home runs and 2,490 hits, just shy of 500 and 2,500, totals he would have most certainly eclipsed had it not been for the 1994 baseball strike.  McGriff also drove in 1,550 runs in his career and had an excellent 134 career adjusted OPS+.

Consistency--hit 19 or more home runs each year from 1987-2002 including 30 or more ten times during that stretch.  Though no longer a perennial MVP candidate following the 1994 season, McGriff was still a very productive player averaging 27 HR, 99 RBI, .288 BA, .371 OBP, and a 121 adjusted OPS+ from 1995-2002.

Longevity/Durability--appeared in 2239 games at first base, third all-time behind Hall of Famers Eddie Murray and Jake Beckley, thus preventing his team from having to use a replacement-level bench player in his place.  In addition, the 2003 season was the only year he spent time on the disabled list.  

McGriff's career started in 1986, the same year as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro.  Prior to the 1994 baseball strike, McGriff was the most ubiquitous home run hitter of the four.  However, following the strike, Bonds, McGwire, and Palmeiro all saw big jumps in their home run totals with their amount of at bats per home run decreasing by almost half for the balance of their careers after the strike.  McGriff, by contrast, saw a natural decline and occasional rebound in his home run totals:

McGriff’s Home Run Totals vs. his peers                              
                        86-94              95-on              Career total               
McGriff            262                 231 (95-04)           493                         
Bonds             259                 503 (95-07)           762                
McGwire         238                 345 (95-01)           583 
Fred McGriff 1989 Score
Palmeiro        155                  414 (95-05)           569
McGriff’s AB per HR vs. his peers
                        86-94              95-on              Career total
McGriff            15.2                20.7 (95-04)            17.8
Bonds             17.4                10.6 (95-07)            12.9
McGwire         14.0                  8.2 (95-01)            10.6
Palmeiro         27.8                14.9 (95-05)            18.4

As we all know, Bonds, McGwire, and Palmeiro have all faced PED allegations which have doomed or at the very least complicated their Hall of Fame candidacies.  Conversely, McGriff's reputation has remained intact but due to playing the second half of his career in what has become known as the Steroid Era his impressive career accomplishments are being overlooked by the Hall of Fame voters.

The NL's premier leadoff hitter and base stealer of the 1980's, Tim "Rock" Raines was always a little overshadowed by AL contemporary Rickey Henderson, who is generally regarded as the greatest leadoff hitter and base stealer of all-time.  Raines debuted with just 24.3% of the vote on the 2008 Hall of Fame ballot.  Like McGriff, Raines saw a surprising drop to 22.6% in his second year on the ballot, the same year Henderson breezed into the Hall of Fame with 94.8% of the vote.  Perhaps with Henderson's induction, some Hall of Fame voters took another glance at Raines' Hall of Fame credentials as the speedster's vote totals jumped in 2010 and 2011 to 30.4% and 37.5%, respectively.  Also like McGriff, Raines' career includes qualities that should make "Rock" a viable candidate for election:

Excellence--finished career with 808 stolen bases, good for 5th most all-time.  His 84.7 stolen base percentage is better than Hall of Fame base stealers Henderson (80.8) and Lou Brock (75.3).  Additionally, he stole 70 or more bases six years in a row, from 1981 to 1986, and was the NL league leader each year from 1981 to 1984.  Also, Raines wasn't just a base stealer, he was a good overall hitter who led the league in other categories such as runs scored, doubles, batting average, and on base percentage.  "Rock" finished his career with a 123 adjusted OPS+--a very high total for a leadoff hitter, along with a .294 career BA and .385 career OBP.

Milestones--lost time to both the 1981 and 1994 baseball strikes but still finished with 808 stolen bases and 2,605 hits.

Consistency--never had a batting average lower than .266 or an OBP lower than .350 while he a was a full-time player.

Longevity/Durability--played over 20 years and won two World Series rings late in his career as a valuable role player for the Yankees.  Had his 1999 season cut short when he was stricken with lupus but battled back from the life-threatening disease and returned to the majors for the 2001 and 2002 seasons.

Raines may fall a little short when compared to Hall of Fame base stealing contemporary Rickey Henderson but appears to be a logical Hall of Fame choice when compared to Hall of Famer Lou Brock:

Tim Raines 1987 Topps
Raines and Brock have similar career batting averages of .294 and .293, respectively, as well as comparable slugging percentages of .425 and .410, however, Raines' .385 career OBP greatly exceeds Brock's .343 career mark.  While it is true that Brock did play the bulk of his career during a pitcher's era, only in Brock's best OBP season, .385 in 1971, did the Cardinals speedster even match Raines' career OBP.  Moreover, Raines' 123 adjusted OPS+ and 64.6 WAR outshine Brock's respective career totals of 109 and 39.1.  Raines and Brock both spent most of their careers as left fielders and while neither player was considered Gold Glove caliber, Raines' .987 career fielding percentage far exceeds Brock's .959 mark.

--Excerpt from The Best Players Not In the Hall of Fame By Position-Part 2:  Tim Raines and Dwight Evans Highlight The Outfield

No comments:

Post a Comment