On Sunday, Major League Baseball inducted new members into its Hall of Fame.
To my delight, Tim Raines finally got in after being eligible for 10 years.
I really don’t understand the holdup, but I’m glad he made it before his eligibility ran out.
Rickey Henderson is generally considered the greatest leadoff hitter in baseball history. I would argue that Tim Raines was the second-best leadoff man for a decade as the starting left fielder of the Montreal Expos.
Along with center fielder Andre Dawson, the Expos had one of the best outfields that no one ever heard about. While Dawson had a cannon for a right arm, it was Raines’ speed that set him apart.
Montreal had a big stadium and a lot of ground to cover. Raines and Dawson made the outfield smaller. Then on the basepaths, Raines was a terror.
According to Michael Lewis’ book “Moneyball,” teams tend to overvalue stolen bases for what they contribute to the offense.
Sure, you can crunch numbers and look for all kinds of definitive proof through mathematics. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story of Raines’ impact.
When Tim took his lead at first, the pitcher became nervous. There were many peeks and a few throws that direction, hoping to keep him close to the bag. You think that didn’t have an impact on the pitcher’s performance compared to empty bases?
Then, pitchers tended to throw more fastballs than offspeed pitches to get the ball to the catcher quicker. You think that didn’t help the next batter prepare for the pitch? Some teams put mediocre batters in the second spot just because they are good fastball hitters.
And once Raines had stolen second base, the second man might be intentionally walked to create a force-out possibility. Or he might drop a sacrifice bunt to move Raines over to third.
Oh, but what if the runner gets thrown out trying to steal? Raines get caught? That only happened once every seven tries. His success rate of 84.7 percent is the best of any runner in the top 150 for career steals.
Henderson got on base more than anyone of his era because he hunched down like a catcher so he had a tiny strike zone. Only Barry Bonds walked more in MLB history than Henderson.
But Henderson also had a tendency to strike out when he tried to hit leadoff homers. He struck out once every 6.5 at bats.
Raines struck out 83 times in his first full season, and that was his worst number. Then he lowered his strikeout rate each of the next six seasons. He retired with a strikeout every 9.2 at bats.
While Henderson was known for the pop in his bat, it is Raines with the higher career slugging percentage: .425 to .419.
Despite Henderson’s ridiculous walk totals, Rickey’s career on-base+slugging percentage was .820 because he was a run-of-the-mill hitter when it came to batting average (.279). Raines batted .294 and finished with a nearly identical .810 on-base+slugging percentage.
Lou Brock and Vince Coleman are the only two players to seriously contend for that top leadoff title, and Raines outpaces those two.
Vince Coleman had a hot start, getting to 400 career steals in only four seasons. However, his poor batting held him back the rest of his career.
Brock was a lot like Raines — a .294 hitter with 938 steals, higher than Raines at 808. However, Brock just ran more often and was caught quite often. Seven seasons he led the majors in getting caught trying to steal. He was thrown out once every four tries, much worse than Raines’ once every seven tries.
If a man was the second-best pitcher of all time — say Walter Johnson behind Cy Young — that player would be a first-ballot hall of famer.
A person could argue who was the better slugger between Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth, but no one would doubt both belong in the hall of fame on the first ballot.
In 2009, Henderson was voted into the hall on his first try, getting selected on 511 of 539 ballots, 94.8 percent. In that same vote, Raines got 22.6 percent.
It shouldn’t have taken so many years to get Raines in, but at least he didn’t miss his chance completely.
Now, if I can just talk people into Cavalier center Brad Daugherty for the basketball hall of fame.
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.