Tim “Rock” Raines received 55 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America vote in the 2015 Hall of Fame election, the most he has received on any ballot, but still 20 percent shy of election. Raines has now been overlooked in eight rounds of voting and is long overdue to be recognized among baseball’s all-time greats.
How great was he? Let’s take a deep-dive into the stats to make a Hall of Fame case for Raines.
Rock and the Deadball Era
Baseball had gone generations without a player like Raines when he broke out in 1983. Raines, who was 23, collected 183 hits, 97 walks and 90 stolen bases. The only other players in history with a season of at least 180 hits, 90 walks and 90 stolen bases are Ty Cobb (1915) and Billy Hamilton (1894 and ’95). Raines also had 51 extra-base hits that season. The only other players with at least 50 extra-base hits and 90 stolen bases in a season were Tom Brown (1891) and Pete Browning (1887).
Raines had at least 30 doubles and 70 stolen bases in five straight seasons from 1982-86. Prior to 1982, the most recent 30/70 season was by Ty Cobb in 1915. Raines also had five seasons with at least a 125 OPS+ and 70 stolen bases. Only Billy Hamilton, who last played in 1901, had more (six).
Raines is unique in baseball history. For example, he is the only player with more than two seasons in which he had at least 50 extra-base hits and stole at least 70 bags; he had four consecutive from 1983-86. He is the only player in baseball history with at least 100 triples, 150 home runs, and 600 stolen bases, and he has the best stolen-base percentage among players with more than 400 attempts, 84.7. He began his career with a Major League-record 27 consecutive steals before he was caught and had five seasons with at least 30 doubles and 70 stolen bases from 1982-86. Ty Cobb is the only other player in baseball history with even three of such seasons.
Raines had 978 combined home runs and stolen bases, seventh all-time. Of the six players with more, five are Hall of Famers and one is Barry Bonds. The player who ranks eighth is active, Alex Rodriguez. Nine and 10 are also Hall of Famers. The only eligible players in the top 14 in combined extra-base hits and stolen bases who are not in the Hall of Fame are Barry Bonds and Tim Raines.
Rock and Brock
Lou Brock, a Hall of Famer who retired with the all-time steals record, did not have a single season in which he swiped bags as efficiently as Raines did throughout the course of his career. In fact, Brock would have to return to baseball and steal 762 consecutive bases to surpass Raines in efficiency. Raines also has better numbers than Brock in these categories: batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS+, wOBA, home runs, wRC+ and WAR. In fact, Raines reached base safely 3,977 times during his career — 144 more times than Lou Brock despite having 881 fewer career plate appearances.
Rock vs. Rickey
Rickey Henderson, who is a Hall of Famer and broke Brock’s all-time stolen-base record, would have to return to baseball and steal 448 consecutive bags to surpass Raines in stolen-base efficiency. Despite Henderson’s reputation as a power hitter, Raines outslugged him, .425 to .419. Raines’ overall numbers stand up well with Henderson’s. Raines had 280 career games with at least a walk, hit, and stolen base; Henderson is the only player in the last 100 years with more such games.
Rock vs. the Hall of Fame
Raines had a career .385 on-base percentage, ranking ahead of 93 Hall of Fame position players, edging out even Willie Mays by one point. He collected 69.1 Wins Above Replacement during his career, which puts him ahead of 97 Hall of Fame position players, edging out even Tony Gwynn by 0.3 rWAR. Raines’ career 123 OPS+ puts him ahead of 54 Hall of Fame position players, which bests even 500 Home Run Club member Ernie Banks by one point. Raines reached base safely 3,977 times during his career, more than the following 3,000 Hit Club members (all Hall of Famers): Tony Gwynn, Nap Lajoie, Lou Brock, and Roberto Clemente. He averaged 4.455 WAR per 162 games played, edging out likely 2019 first-ballot Hall of Famer, Derek Jeter (4.234 WAR/162).
Numbers are not the end all be all, but anyone who saw Raines play every day – a very limited group of people given he played his prime in Montreal in the 1980’s – will tell you he was a Hall of Fame presence on the field.
So let the 2016 campaign begin: Send Rock Raines to Cooperstown.