Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tim Raines: Underrated for Over 30 Years

It's no secret that Tim Raines was underrated during his playing days. During his time on the Hall of Fame ballot, his case for induction has gained steam, similarly to Bert Blyleven's mostly blog-fueled campaign a few years back.

Unfortunately for Tim Raines and his fans, Rock's timing appears less than ideal. The ballot is overcrowded and looks to get more-so as soon as next year, with the additions of Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, and more. Adding to the logistical problems with the ballot's ten vote max, BBWAA voters may be too consumed with decisions about PED whispers, the character clause, as well as testimony from everyone short of Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o.

Just as a quick example of how Tim Raines has perpetually been underrated, we have a fine example in the 1985 MVP Voting.

In 1985, Tim Raines ranked 5th in the National League in the Baseball-Reference version of Wins Above Replacement, 4th in WARP by Baseball Prospectus, and tied for 2nd in Fangraphs WAR. In spite of this, Raines finished 12th in MVP voting, one spot below Vince Coleman.

Every year has funky voting. A top-5 player placing 12th in the vote isn't an obscenely egregious snub. Plus, there's not much to be said about two players being separated by just one vote. The remarkable things are that Vince Coleman should not be anywhere near a 1985 MVP discussion, and should be so easy to compare to Raines as a fellow base-stealing leadoff hitter.

Vince Coleman ranked 64th by bWAR in 1985, 101st in WARP, and 47th by fWAR.

Ok, so sportswriters couldn't really look up WAR in 1985. So, we can't hold that against them. They also didn't have OPS+ in the 1980's, but just so you know... Vince Coleman's OPS+ was 86 (14% worse than the league average left-fielder)/ Tim Raines's OPS+ was 151 (51% better than average).

The BBWAA didn't have some of these "advanced" stats in 1985, but they did have batting average. In fact, the BBWAA still loves Batting Average, which makes these results so surprising, since Tim Raines's batting average dwarfed Vince Coleman's.

BREAKING: Tim Raines is one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

The differences in batting slash lines are atrocious:

Tim Raines: .320/.405/.475
Vince Coleman: .267/.320/.335

That's a 53-point difference in Batting Average, an 85-point difference in OBP, and a 140-point difference in slugging!

For all that we want to complain about the BBWAA voters of today, i'st doubtful that future voting results will be driven by something as insignificantly single-minded as Stolen Bases. Vince Coleman electrified the baseball world his rookie season of 1985 by stealing 110 bases, which is still the 9th highest total of all time. Raines was 2nd in the league in Stolen Bases that year, with 70.

Stolen Bases trumped all
in '85 Coleman v Raines
Ignore the fact that Tim Raines outperformed Coleman in Hits, Walks, Runs, Double, Triples, Home Runs (11 to 1), and Runs Batted In. Sports writers, in 1985, must have seen that Coleman had many more stolen bases than Tim Raines, so he must have been more valuable.

Unless you're Woody Paige, that's about as lazy as award voting can get.

It's just surprising that the BBWAA could be so wrong when comparing two contemporary players, in the same league, playing the same position, and batting in the same spot of the batting order. Still, as we said, this is nothing new. It's just a snapshot.

Take a look at one year prior, 1984, and you'll see Tim Raines along with Gary Carter, Dwight Gooden, and a few others weren't given their due by the MVP voters.

Leon Durham was one of
7 Cubs to get MVP votes in
the glory days of 1984
In this case, Tim Raines ranked 4th in the National League by bWAR, but placed 11th in MVP voting. Again, this happens all the time and isn't a huge deal. Just take a look at a few of the undeserving that ranked ahead of him, and it's absurd.

The 1984 Cubs were a huge story that year. They were the first Cubs team to make the postseason since 1945, and MVP voters showered the team with praise. Seven Cubs received MVP votes that year. Four Cubs placed ahead of Raines (4!) even though only Ryne Sandberg, who won the award, had a higher bWAR.

What are you gonna do? Hall of Fame and yearly award voting results have befuddled baseball fans for decades and will continue to do so. All we can hope for, as fans, or as people in any walk of life, is for improvement.

No comments:

Post a Comment