Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Weekly Cup Of Joe: Tim Raines Edition

I prefer to think of this as more of a tribute to Fire Joe Morgan than a blatant ripoff. But who are we really kidding here?

I took the last couple of weeks of from Joe Morgan's chats over at the Four Letter because I was afraid of all the brain damage. But it's Tuesday and I'm a masochist so I strapped on my special helmet and dove into this week's Joe Chat. Instead of just blasting away at some nonsensical answer, I'm actually using this question and answer for a jumping off point for something I was planning on writing anyway. Let's grab that nugget of wisdom...
Tito (Brooklyn)

What do you think is more important from the leadoff hitter in a batting lineup: speed or OBP?

Joe Morgan (11:25 AM)

A perfect leadoff hitter does both. You want guys to get on base. There were a lot of guys who hit first and got on base but didn't have speed. Wade Boggs comes to mind. He got on base a lot and gave his team a chance to score runs. Now if a guy gets on base and has speed, he can help the team score runs by himself. If he doesn't have speed, then you can still get on base and help the team score runs within the team concept.

Joe Morgan (11:27 AM)

The perfect blend is getting on base with speed and Rickey Henderson comes to mind with that. But as we both know Rickey and Boggs are both in the hall of fame.
Rickey Henderson comes to mind, huh Joe? Well Rickey is the greatest leadoff hitter in the history of baseball with a career .401 OBP and the all time steals record of 1406 (second is Lou Brock with 938). Henderson was the prototype for leadoff hitters, the perfect combo. Somewhere along the line, managers fell too in love with the speed and now Ozzie Guillen has no problem leading off with Juan Pierre and his .348 career OBP. Sure speed at the top of the order is nice but getting on base is, well, the most important part of baseball from the hitter aspect. Or not making an out but now we're just arguing semantics. Rickey got on base 40 percent of the time. Then with the combination of his speed and forcing the pitcher to throw from the stretch, he gave the rest of his lineup the advantage. Which leads me to the next best leadoff hitter.

Why isn't Tim Raines a first ballot Hall of Famer? No, really, I'm asking. By the way, my love for Raines has nothing to do with my recent affair with the Expos that started here and continued here with their draft history and will end in the not foreseeable future. Okay, maybe that has a little something to do with it but it's mainly stat based love. Raines is 5th all time in stolen bases with 808 and sports a career .294/.385/.425 line. He was overshadowed by Rickey but that's certainly no excuse for his lack of Hall of Fame votes.

Raines is tied with Ozzie Smith for the 82nd best career WAR of 64.60 according to Baseball-Reference. Now, I can't really get a grip on Raines' fielding because Fangraphs' Total Zone has him all over the place throughout his career and there aren't any UZR stats for him except for the brief 2002 stint with the Marlins. Either way, WAR puts him into the top 100 players of all time which should get him much more HOF love. Still not convinced? Go check out our friends at Raines30 who have put together Rock's Hall of Fame case better than I can.

I'm not sure what the argument is against Tim Raines. I don't even hear a big backlash against his drug use either. There's no stat based reason I can see. How about some more nerdy stats? Rickey's career wOBA .386, Rock's career wOBA .374. Raines has the advantage in batting average (.294-.279) and slugging (.425-.419) but trails in the all important leadoff categories of on base (.401-.385) and steals (1406-808). Rickey was clearly the prototype but if Raines wasn't built in his image then I don't know who was.

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