Today the list of first-time HOF candidates was released, and no one seems to be a first-ballot HOFer. Or at least that's how the list is going to be perceived. In reality, there's one name on the list who should make the HOF without question: Tim Raines.
I'm too young to have watched Raines in his prime, but I did get to see him play for the championship Yankee teams of the late 90s. Although he was no longer a star, he was serviceable player who split time with Daryl Strawberry to give the Yankees a solid, but not spectacular, left field platoon.
When I saw Raines' name on the list today, I decided to look up where he stacked up against some of the LFers in the Hall. In order to compare I am going to use EQA, WARP3, total Runs Above Average (RAA) and OPS+ (just so I don't get accused on using BP exclusively). I am going to include RAA and WARP3 per season and also per game, as I think the latter is probably a better indicator than the former. I will also try to use Hardball Times' Win Shares and Win Shares Above Bench when possible.
Here are Raines' career numbers. .307 EQA, 123.9 WARP3 (5.38, .049), 564 RAA (24.5, .225) , 390 WS and 203 WSAB and a 123 OPS+. He averaged around 24.5 runs above the average left fielder for his career. These are very solid numbers, but LF is one of the least valuable positions, so the bar is higher. The best way to determine the propriety of his candidacy is to compare him to the players already in the Hall.
There are two LFers who were substantially better than Raines: Ted Williams and Stan Musial. These players are in a different league and frankly only a select few major leaguers in history even enter the conversation with these guys.
The tier-two LFers are much more comparable. Let's make a list in no particular order:
1) Willie Stargell. 312 EQA, 100.4 WARP3 (4.78, .042), 491 RAA (23.38, .208), and a 147 OPS+. Stargell made about 800 less outs, which is not a trivial amount, but that's why his EQA is 5 points higher. But Raines' WARP was 23.5 wins higher. And Stargell's RAA per season was only 23.3, so Raines has the edge. Stargell also had 370 WS which is less than Raines, but had 204 WSAB, which is one better. I think the Stargell/Raines debate is a good one, but even if Stargell is better, Raines is very close and Stargell is a clear-cut HOFer.
2) Lou Brock. A good comparison because Brock was also a great basestealer, and actually beat out Raines 938 to 811. But otherwise the two players were not really comparable. 282 EQA, 88.2 WARP3 (4.64, .033) 226 RAA (11.9, .086) and a 109 OPS+. Not even close.
3) Goose Goslin. Goslin only played 18 seasons to Raines' 23, so his numbers are worse overall. .294 EQA, 426 RAA (23.1, .186), 103 WARP3 (5.72, .045), 182 WSAB, 355 WS and a 128 OPS+. A lower EQA by a double digit amount, with a higher OPS+. But Goslin produced one less run relative to an average LF, and his WARP3 was 21 points lower (although his 5.7 WARP3 per season beats out Raines' 5.38). Raines, of course, wins the WSAB battle simply by being around longer. Raines also had better WARP3 and RAA per game. Another favorable comparison.
4) Ralph Kiner. Kiner only played 10 seasons, but was great for most of the time. 319 EQA, 362 RAA, 74.5 WARP3 and a 149 OPS+. Kiner's 36.2 RAA (.245) and 7.45 WARP3 (.506) per season dwarfs Raines' numbers.
5) Joe Medwick. 304 EQA, 454 RAA (26.7, .228) 98.6 WARP3 (5.8, .049) and a 134 OPS+. Raines had the EQA advantage, and Medwick had the advantage in runs and wins per season and per game. Fairly close.
6) Al Simmons. 297 EQA, 107.9 WARP3 (5.395, .048), 461 RAA (23.05, .208) and a 132 OPS+. Raines has a 10 point advantage in EQA, a slighly higher WARP3 per game, a higher RAA per game, and a 9 point disadvantage in OPS+. These two players were very close.
7) Billy Williams. Honestly I know very little about Williams, but he was pretty good. 299 EQA, 113.7 WARP3 (6.31, .045), 535 RAA (29.7, .215), and a 133 OPS+. He also had 374 WS and 181 WSAB. Williams was arguably the better player overall, while Raines was the better hitter based on EQA and RAA and WARP3 per game.
8) Dave Winfield. Everyone who grew up in the 80s or 90s remembers Winfield. 300 EQA, 130 WARP3 (5.9, .043) 526 RAA (23.9, .176), a 130 OPS+, 189 WASB and 415 WS. Raines has a sizeable margin in per game stats.
9) Carl Yastrzemski. This guy played in a tough offensive era, when pitchers dominated. .295 EQA, 563 RAA (24.47, .170), 133.5 WARP3 (5.80, .040) 129 OPS+, 231 WSAB and 386 WS. His WSAB is the 27th highest in major league history. Pretty gaudy numbers, but right around where Raines is.
I picked these 9 because they are the most famous HOF LF. There are other guys, but frankly I don't have the time to go through everyone and I believe these 9 out of the 20 LF in the Hall are a pretty good sample.
Ok so let's review. Raines is 3rd in EQA, WARP3, and WSAB and 1st in RAA. When we look at per game stats he's tied for 2nd in WARP3 and 3rd in RAA, and the only two guys ahead of him or tied in either are Medwick and Kiner, the latter having played only 10 seasons. Raines is lower in per season numbers, but I believe per game stats are more meaningful because players play varied amounts of games in different seasons. He also has one of the lowest OPS+ on this list (only better than Brock) because he didn't have the power many of the other guys had, but OBP is more important than SLG and EQA bears that out.
Basically I think a case could be made that Raines is one of the best LF to ever play the game and is better than anyone on the above list. If that's not a HOFer, I don't know what is.