Saturday, December 1, 2007

Is 'The Hawk' or 'The Rock' the lock?...

One of the more popular pastimes in the Blue Jays blogosphere is bashing Toronto Star columnist Richard Griffin. Admittedly, he is not one of my favourite writers. When reading his material, I generally get the impression that he starts with a visceral opinion then searches out factoids that support it rather than looking at the data and drawing conclusions.

But I digress … right off the bat no less!

Regardless, if you’re hoping for a Griffin rip-job you’ll be disappointed. He wrote a column earlier about Tim Raines needing to wait for Andre Dawson’s induction into the Hall of Fame before he is elected. I don’t agree with his opinion and ‘why’ will be the topic of today’s brain dump.

Griffin argues that since Dawson was Raines’ ‘big brother’ figure during their mutual tenure with les Expos, then little bro’ should have to wait his turn. Again, Griffin is letting emotion be the primary factor in his line of reasoning. While I love both players, I think that Raines is more deserving of the honour than “Hawk.”

Aside from their hitting contributions, Dawson was a superb ball-hawk who copped eight Gold Gloves as a centerfielder. He excelled at the more important defensive position than the left fielder Raines. On the other hand, while Dawson did top 300 stolen bases in his career--he was successful in just 74% of his attempts. Raines is not only second in modern NL history in that category; his 84% success rate leaves Dawson in the dirt.

Both have hardware--Dawson has an MVP, Raines a pair of World Series rings. Neither has an outstanding post-season résumé; Dawson hit .186/.238/.237 in 59 AB while in 126 AB “Rock” batted .270/.340/.349. Dawson was an 8-time All Star; Raines made it seven times.

A quick look at their career batting numbers and their four best consecutive seasons:

Andre Dawson
Career 4 best (1980-83)
Dawson .279 .323 .482 .302 .350 .518
LG avg. .264 .331 .393 .265 .330 .386

Tim Raines
Career 4 best (1984-87)
Raines .294 .385 .425 .323 .409 .477
LG avg. .264 .333 .400 .263 .331 .395

As to career, Raines has the better OPS+ (123 to 119) however part of that has to be discounted by the fact that Dawson gets a bump for playing a key defensive position at a very high level. However, using Runs Created (RC) Raines was 516 RC above average for his career while Dawson was 300 runs lower (216) despite having 1000 more AB. Using Lee Sinins Runs Created Against Position (to be used with a grain of salt) Raines created 392 more runs than his positional peers while Dawson just 140. There are equally vast spreads in these when you examine their four best consecutive years. In both cases, Raines buries Dawson. RC, RCAA and RCAP are all counting stats and Raines had a higher total despite less than close to two full seasons worth of AB than “Hawk.”

Of course, both were different animals offensively; Dawson was the middle-of-the-order hitter while Raines batted leadoff. Dawson has more HR and RBI while Raines is superior in runs scored and bases on balls. Since the BBWAA tends to look at more conventional measures, let’s examine it on that particular basis.

Let’s deal with what I like to call ‘eyeball runs’ (my pseudonym for a better known measure) An ‘eyeball run’ is something that appears on the scoreboard--if you make contact and a runner crosses the plate (except in the case of a double play)--that’s an ‘eyeball run’ … likewise if you’re the player to cross home plate. Although it’s more tangible, it’s also more crude simply because it doesn’t credit a player who gets a key hit that advances a runner two bases yet doesn’t come around until the next batter. The next guy up can make an out and get the RBI even though that contribution wasn’t as valuable as the player who got the hit that allowed the base runner to get to third.

Just so you know.

‘Eyeball runs’ are easily measured by an old saw--their identical twin: runs produced (Runs+RBI - HR). Dawson had 145 more ‘eyeball runs’ than Raines (2526 to 2381). Oh, it’s not that easy folks; you see runs come at a cost. In a 9-3 game won by the visiting team, both clubs paid 27 outs for their runs. The winning team got nine runs for their 27 outs, the loser--just three. Therefore, we have to look at how many outs each player ‘spent’ to ‘buy’ their ‘eyeball runs.’

Andre Dawson paid 7,261 outs for his 2526 runs produced. Raines paid 6,670 outs for his 2381 ‘eyeball runs.’ The Hawk paid 2.87 outs for each run he produced while Raines purchased his for 2.80 outs. That may not seem like much but it is significant. Consider that Raines had 1055 fewer career at bats than Dawson did, yet Hawk only produced 145 more ‘eyeball runs.’ For Raines to match Dawson’s career spendthrift attitude toward generating runs he would need to play two seasons like 1987 in playing time terms. In that year he had 530 AB in 139 games. In each of those years he would need (rounding off) 73 runs produced. “Rock” averaged seven HR per season so we’ll use that for our imaginary years.

Where does that leave it?

Raines would need two seasons with 50 runs, 7 HR 30 RBI in 530-ish AB. How bad is that? In 2007, 40-year old shortstop Omar Vizquel received 513 AB, scored 54 runs, drive in 51 and hit four home runs. Vizquel had 101 ‘eyeball runs’ last season and our hypothetical seasons would have to be significantly worse than ‘the Vizards’ .246/.305/.316 contributions.

Bottom line, the difference between Raines and Dawson’s careers from this point-of-view is two seasons of sub-2007 Vizquel level production. The difference between 2.87 and 2.80 outs per run produced can add up in a hurry.

It doesn’t matter whether you use traditional or sabermetric measures, the bottom line is Tim Raines had a superior career to Andre Dawson. “The Hawk” is a borderline candidate, which puts Raines over the border and into the Hall of Fame.

Best Regards


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