However, I realize that many BBWAA members aren’t the most sabermetric-savvy folks in the world. The thing is, even using conventional stats I can’t help but scratch and shake my head at some of the votes handed out. Probably the biggest is Jim Rice apparently being on the threshold of the Hall of Fame.
No, I’m not going to bash or diminish Rice’s career. He was, for a time, a tremendous player. What I will do is use Rice’s vote tally to show some glaring inconsistencies in how the BBWAA evaluates players for immortality. For instance, we know that Rice wasn’t a young Barry Bonds in left field as regards defense. He did a fine job playing the Green Monster but they don’t hand out fielding awards for taming the monster.
While we can debate ad infinitum ad nauseum about the validity of Gold Glove selections however if a player garners, say--five Gold Gloves we can assume that the recipient is a reasonably capable defender.
What about eight? Are eight Gold Gloves indicative of a good fielder? By all accounts, I think it is safe to saw Dwight Evans was a solid defender.
Player AVG OBP SLG Runs Hits 2B 3B HR RBI
Evans .272 .370 .470 1470 2446 483 73 385 1384
Rice .298 .352 .502 1249 2452 373 79 382 1451
Player AVG OBP SLG RCAA
Evans .272 .370 .470 378
Lg. AVG .262 .327 .393 -
Pos. AVG .264 .332 .424 103
Player AVG OBP SLG RCAA
Rice .298 .352 .502 270
Lg. AVG .263 .328 .395 -
Pos. AVG .271 .338 .419 103
Even if you limit yourself to the traditional measures, it’s not hard to discern that Dewey was as good, if not better than Rice. Therefore, Rice would need a solid 90 run, 90 RBI, 30 HR season to match his 2469 Runs Produced in the same number of at bats.
Evans was far superior to his right field peers than was Rice to his fellow left fielders.
Now when you toss in Dewey’s far superior defense at a more important defensive position it isn’t a stretch to state that Rice wasn’t even the best outfielder on his own team. Evans isn’t even on the ballot and Rice is almost in Cooperstown.
Let’s look at another contemporary of Rice. This one is a Gold Glove calibre shortstop who is third in AL history at his position in extra base hits/total bases, fourth in hits/doubles/reaching base, fifth in HR/RBI, sixth in runs, seventh in total bases. He was a six-time All Star in the era of Cal Ripken, and grounded into half as many double plays as Jim Rice in about the same number of at bats.
Player AVG OBP SLG Runs Hits 2B 3B HR RBI RP* GIDP
Trammell .285 .352 .415 1231 2365 412 55 185 1003 2049 156
Rice .298 .352 .502 1249 2452 373 79 382 1451 2318 315
A historically great AL shortstop vs. a left fielder that wasn’t even the best outfielder on his own team? Alan Trammell cannot even get 20% of the vote. While Rice’s traditional stats are better, it seems illogical that the spread between a probable HOF outfielder and a Gold Glove shortstop getting less than 100 votes (and were contemporary players) is that narrow.
Of course, probably the most aggravating thing about the vote (you knew this was coming):
Player AVG OBP SLG Runs Hits 2B 3B HR RBI RP SB CS GIDP
Raines .294 .385 .425 1571 2605 430 117 170 980 2381 808 146 142
Rice .298 .352 .502 1249 2452 373 79 382 1451 2318 58 34 315
O.K now--we’re still using BBWAA stats and looking at players that were contemporaries. One played in a terrific hitter’s park, the other a good pitcher’s park, and...
A quick and dirty way to make the point is to use ‘eyeball runs’ (runs produced Runs + RBI - HR).
- Raines beat Rice in runs produced 2381 to 2318 (granted, Raines had about a season’s worth more at bats--however, longevity does count when assessing HOFers).
- While giving Rice a slight edge in this category (runs produced), let‘s factor in that Raines stole 750 more bases than Rice with a far, far superior stolen base percentage (84 to 63%).
- Despite having a season’s worth of extra at bats Raines grounded into 173 fewer double plays than Rice.
- Raines was considered a well-above average defensive left fielder while Rice’s glove never drew any rave reviews.
- Raines is probably the greatest leadoff hitter in National League history.
- Rice is nowhere near the best middle-of-the-order hitter in American League history.
- Raines is 40th in baseball history in reaching base.
- Rice is 141st in baseball history in reaching base.
- Among 20th century outfielders, Raines is 14th in reaching base--Rice is 91st.
With all this in mind, I find it difficult to take the BBWAA seriously in assessing Hall of Famers.