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July 23, 2010

Prospectus Hit and Run

If Hawk, Then Rock

by Jay Jaffe

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On Sunday, Andre Dawson will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Per the decision of Cooperstown's gatekeepers, his bronze plaque will feature the cap of the Montreal Expos, baseball's lost tribe, just like that of former teammate Gary Carter. Alas, the visage of one eminently deserving former Expo has yet to be cast in bronze, despite numbers showing he's a much stronger candidate than this year's honoree: Tim Raines.

Over the course of their fascinating and often dazzling careers, "The Hawk" notched more career hits, home runs, and RBI than "The Rock," and was awarded more hardware (whether he earned it is a different story):

 

Player

H

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

OBP

SLG

AS

MVP

GG

Dawson

2774

438

1591

314

.279

.323

.482

8

1

8

Raines

2605

170

980

808

.294

.385

.425

7

0

0

 

As flashy as those credentials are, Raines trumps his former teammate not only in stolen bases (he's fifth all time, and his 84.7 percent success rate ranks third among players with at least 300 attempts), but in the categories which equate most directly to measurable value on the diamond: he reached base over 500 times more than Dawson while using nearly 900 fewer outs in a similar number of opportunities, advancing himself or his teammates further around the diamond, and creating more runs per plate appearance:

 

Player

PA

BB

TOB

BG

Out

TAv

Dawson

10769

589

3474

5692

7404

.285

Raines

10359

1330

3977

5805

6528

.306

 

TOB is times on base (H + BB + HBP), BG is bases gained (TB + BB + HBP + SB - CS), presented here to show that Raines' edge on the basepaths made up for Dawson's edge in power. The comprehensive True Average metric boils all of that down, translating each player's runs created per plate appearance onto a batting average scale.

Furthermore Raines compares more favorably to the left fielders in the Hall of Fame than Dawson does to the center fielders. Not only was he better at the plate, he was better in the field, and worth more wins per year both at his peak and over the course of his career. That's the verdict according to both our Wins Above Replacement Player metric, as well as that of JAWS, my Hall of Fame monitor comparing candidates' career and peak (best seven seasons) values against those of the average enshrined player at his position:

 

Player

TAv

RARP

RAP

FRAA

Career

Peak

JAWS

Dawson

.285

527

190

-11

59.6

40.2

49.9

Avg HoF CF

.306

565

316

21

68.8

44.2

56.5

Raines

.306

708

411

16

81.7

51.4

66.6

Avg HoF LF

.302

548

273

4

65.3

42.1

53.7

Avg HoF OF

.304

572

303

22

70.3

44.4

57.4

 

Deciphering the abbreviations, TAv is True Average, RARP is Runs Above Replacement, Position-adjusted, and RAP is Runs Above Position; the latter duo provide good secondary measures of career and peak value. FRAA is Fielding Runs Above Average, generally more comprehensible than measuring fielding from replacement level. JAWS = (Career WARP + Peak WARP) / 2.

Along with a keen batting eye, dazzling speed, and all-around athleticism, Raines did offer a reasonable amount of pop. Like Dawson, he was at his most valuable during his time in Montreal (1979-1990) before injuries took their toll, and like Dawson, he was victimized by collusion, unable to cash in when his earning power was at its highest. He's is often slighted because he doesn't measure up to Rickey Henderson, his direct contemporary and a 2009 Hall of Fame inductee; unlike Henderson, he doesn't have 3,000 hits, the all-time runs and stolen base records, or a persona backed by a bevy of amusingly apocryphal anecdotes. But if Rickey was the best leadoff hitter of all time, Raines has a strong case as the second best, and he was no less cerebral. Those bemoaning today's increasingly power-oriented game take note: Raines was among the best ever at getting himself around the basepaths.

Raines' WARP and JAWS tallies rank fifth among left fielders, trailing only Barry Bonds, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, and Rickey Henderson; his peak value ranks sixth, with Ed Delahanty sneaking past him. In all, he winds up 12.9 wins ahead of the average Hall of Fame left fielder.

During his years in Montreal (1976-1986), Dawson offered a fine mix of speed and power while playing mostly center field; only in his last three years did knee problems force him into right field and leach much of his value. By the time he moved on to the Cubs (1987-1992), he was a lousy defender, and the hitter-friendly confines of Wrigley Field masked his decline as a hitter. His glaring weakness was a lack of plate discipline; his .323 OBP is nine points below the park-adjusted league average for his career, and ranks as the seventh-lowest among Hall hitters. The other six are infield wizards such as Brooks Robinson, Joe Tinker and Bill Mazeroski who rank among the best defenders ever. Furthermore, Dawson's ratio of strikeouts to unintentional walks (3.38) is by far the worst of any Hall hitter; Willie Stargell (2.73) is next, but with an OBP 41 points higher relative to the league. In 1987, Dawson drew just 25 unintentional walks to go with his career-high 49 homers; his 3.3 WARP tied for the 44th-highest total in the NL. Yet he won the MVP award, the first player ever to do so while playing for a last-place team.

Dawson's 59.6 career WARP ranks 12th among players whose primary position was center field. Seven—Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Billy Hamilton, and Richie Ashburn—are enshrined, the first five voted in by the writers, the latter two by the Veterans Committee. The other four ahead of Dawson are Cooperstown lock Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Edmonds, 19th-century standout George "Piano Legs" Gore, and Andruw Jones—not a bum in the lot, though the last three are hardly slam dunks. Nine other Hall center fielders, all VC choices except for Duke Snider and Kirby Puckett, have lower WARP totals.

As for Dawson's peak, 18 other center fielders were more valuable, with Carlos Beltran and Jimmy Wynn also surpassing him on the JAWS scale despite lower career values. In the end, Dawson finishes about nine wins short of the career standard, and four shy of the peak mark, leaving him 6.6 behind on the JAWS scale. He's a below-average Hall of Famer, one who doesn't advance the cause of recognizing the cream of the crop. If he's worth enshrining, so are dozens of others around the diamond.

Dawson needed nine years of ballot eligibility to reach the requisite 75 percent necessary for enshrinement; he broke 50 percent in his second year and inched forward in nearly every cycle. Raines hasn't gotten nearly that kind of love from the voters; he debuted at 24.6 percent, and just crossed 30 percent last year, his third year of eligibility. There's no reason he should be left out in the cold; Tim Raines quite certainly belongs in Cooperstown.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jay's other articles. You can contact Jay by clicking here

Related Content:  Cooperstown,  Andre Dawson

12 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

TangoTiger

Great job Jay.

Only one issue: "[Raines] was better in the field"

Dawson was a legitimate Gold-Glover in CF during his Expos years, well-deserving of his Hawk nickname. Raines was possibly an above-average fielder in LF. And I'm saying this as the biggest Raines fan around.

Jul 23, 2010 09:22 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Glad you liked the piece. The FRAA numbers like Raines more than Dawson, though I now see that Total Zone likes Dawson more; I'd love to see what UZR or +/- thought about them back in the day. Either way, the statement should have been tempered somewhat.

Jul 23, 2010 13:31 PM
 
BrettG

I am glad the people at Cooperstown realized that Dawson should be inducted as an Expos player. His longevity and performance there exceeds that of everywhere else he played. I kept telling people that if Dawson gets inducted that it will be as a Expos player. They laughed at me and said I was still living a dream about my team because his performance with the Cubs is what everyone remembers. If it were not for his performance with the Expos, he never would have had a chance to play for the Cubs. These people make me laugh just like the Twins fans pushing for Jack Morris to be inducted into the HoF. If Morris ever gets inducted, it will me as a Tiger, not a Twin or Blue Jay.

And Raines should have been inducted before Dawson. Whether Raines is worthy is another discussion, but Raines should be in before Dawson ever got considered.

Jul 23, 2010 10:13 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

It took Dawson a long time to build up support. Raines as well doesn't have much support yet, unfortunately. Nonetheless, Raines played his last game 6 years after Dawson did so I disagree with the "Raines should be in before Dawson ever got considered." Players get considered automatically five years after their last game.

Jul 23, 2010 11:24 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

As noted above, Dawson was at 50 percent very early on, with more than double the support Raines has had in the early going. There's no reason that should be, none at all.

Jul 23, 2010 13:08 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Since you bring up current players like Jones and Edmonds, I'm kind of wondering about Johnny Damon and how he compares with Rainess JAWS-wise and leadoff wise as he approaches 3000 hits.

Jul 23, 2010 11:34 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

I tweeted about Damon's case recently, but he's due for a more thorough workup. The short answer is that he's not a very strong choice even if he gets to 3000; there are about 45 points of translated OBP separating the two, not to mention a whole lot of extra success on the basepaths for Raines.

Jul 23, 2010 13:06 PM
 
orlandoca7

Jay ~

Always look forward to your Hall pieces. Although I didn't always instinctively think Hall when thinking of Dawson, it irked me that Rice entered. I'll take Dawson over Rice. I grew up in the 80's & saw more of the National, so I may have some bias on that front, I admit The Rice entry bugs me more than the Hawk's. I suppose this is the slippery slope.

Right on re. the Rock!

Jul 23, 2010 16:27 PM
rating: -1
 
jake726

Agreed on the HoF pieces being a great feature and on Dawson over Rice. And, I say that as a Red Sox fan. I'm not a huge fan of FRAA and am willing to give Dawson's defensive reputation the benefit of the doubt versus FRAA, at least during his peak. Even if looked at as a good defensive player, he is going to come up a little short, but he's only a slightly below average Hall of Famer, which really isn't objectionable.

Raines' lack of support, on the other hand, is inexcusable and continues to show that the voters don't understand how to properly value players. The voters not voting for players who clearly deserve to be enshrined is a much bigger problem than that they occasionally vote in players who probably don't deserve it.

Jul 24, 2010 16:40 PM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

I'm very happy that this article got cross-published at ESPN, where the larger audience might help Raines' case. Good job!

Jul 23, 2010 20:20 PM
rating: 0
 
Patrick M

I'm convinced that Raines's biggest problem is that he had the misfortune to be Rickey Henderson's contemporary. Raines did well in every facet of the game, but then Rickey seemed to be just a bit better than Raines at everything but defense.

To me, Raines should be a no-brainer selection for the Hall, but I guess it's tough when you have to go up against someone with basically the same skill set who did it better than you did.

Jul 26, 2010 15:16 PM
rating: 0
 
AWBenkert

What's with the different font?

Aug 20, 2012 12:19 PM
rating: 0
 
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