By In Stuff

Ballot 8: Tim Raines


Tim Raines

Played 23 years with six teams

Seven-time All-Star won a batting title, twice led league in runs and stole 808 bases. 69.1 WAR, 35.0 WAA

Pro Argument: Multifaceted case of base stealing, getting on base and scoring runs – one of the 100 greatest players ever.

Con argument: Doesn’t have the obvious stats like 3,000 hits – was basically a part time player the last 10 years of his career.

Deserves to be in Hall?: Oh yes.

Will get elected this year?: Yes.

Will ever get elected?: Yes.

* * *

Great news: After next week, we won’t have to spend any more time arguing about why Tim Raines belongs in the Hall of Fame … because he will be elected.

So, one more time, just for old time’s sake, let’s do one of the classic Baseball Hall of Fame bits, a little number we like to call: Tony Gwynn and Tim Raines.

* * *

It is well known that Tony Gwynn was an all-time great player, one of the greatest in baseball history. He received 97% of the Hall of Fame vote his first year on the ballot, the seventh-highest total ever, just off Henry Aaron’s percentage and ahead of Willie Mays and Johnny Bench and Ted Williams and so on. The question in the aftermath was who DID NOT vote for him, a viable question then and now.

Tony Gwynn’s excellence was obvious in the fullest definition of that word. You could not miss it.

Tim Raines was born seven months before Tony Gwynn and his career lasted almost exactly the same number of games and the same number of plate appearances. And if there was one thing that was extremely clear to everyone it was that, while Raines was a fine player, Tony Gwynn was much better.

Tony Gwynn hit .338 for his career. Tim Raines hit .294.

Tony Gwynn had 3,141 hits. Tim Raines had 500 fewer.

Tony Gwynn had 4,259 total bases, Tim Raines had about 500 fewer.

Tony Gwynn won eight batting titles. Tim Raines won one.

Tony Gwynn won five Gold Gloves. Tim Raines probably never came close to one.

Tony Gwynn led the league in hits eight times. Raines never did.

Tony Gwynn made more than twice as many All-Star Games as Tim Raines.

And so on. Raines stole a lot of bases, that was nice, but Gwynn — whew — remember how he was hitting .394 when the strike hit in 1994? I asked Gwynn if he would have hit .400. He said: Yes! Emphatically. No doubt. I think he would have done it, too. Ted Williams called Gwynn one of the purest hitters he ever saw.

And Raines? Right. Good player. Fine player. He got 24% of the Hall of Fame vote his first year on the ballot. People appreciated him.

But he was no Tony Gwynn. That part was undeniable.

* * *

Bill James came up with the concept of “runs created” almost 40 years ago.He came up with it because he saw that baseball people were measuring the absolute wrong things when it came to hitters. They were always talking about batting average. But teams don’t win games with batting average. They win games by scoring runs.

Bill figured that with the stats available, he should be able to come up with a quick and easy formula for how teams (and players) created runs.

He had this notion that scoring runs came down to three basic factors.

Factor 1: Getting on base.

Factor 2: Advancing on the bases.

Factor 3: Opportunities.

His first runs created formula was as basic as can be. Opportunities were at-bats plus walks. Getting on base was hits plus walks. And advancing on the bases was, of course, total bases.

The classic formula: ((H + W) * TB) / (AB + W)

You can see right away how much this formula leaves out — Bill only had a few stats to work with when he started — but it is still surprisingly effective. You look at the 2016 Red Sox, by this formula they 905 runs. They scored 878 runs. That’s about 3% off … Bill found the formula almost always got within 5% of the target. He was definitely on to something.

By the way, if you use this version of runs created, you can see why Tony Gwynn was so clearly better than Raines.

Basic Runs Created:

Gwynn: 1,661 runs

Raines: 1,454 runs

That more or less fits what the mind sees.

Since then, though, the formula has been changed and reworked countless times by many different people, Bill James among them. After all, the basic formula is missing so much. What about stolen bases? What about getting hit by a pitch? What about separating walks from intentional walks? Etc.

Bill eventually came up with what he would call the “Technical Version” of the formula. It is not the last version he came up with and it is not the most complicated. There are dozens of other ways to do this.

But, hey let’s go through the Technical Version with Tony Gwynn and Tim Raines.

* * *

Part 1: Getting on base.

You already know about Gwynn’s advantage in hits.


Gwynn: 3,141

Raines: 2,605

What was easily missed when they played, of course, was Raines’ huge advantage in walks.


Gwynn: 790

Raines: 1,330

Now, walks are not as good as hits, we all know that. And we’ll deal with that in a few minutes. But first, we also have to add in hit-by-pitch (Gwynn 24, Raines 42).

And then we have to subtract some things, extra outs that the players made. We can do this by subtracting caught stealing and double plays. Gwynn was caught stealing 125 times and he hit into 259 double plays. Raines was caught stealing a bit more (142 times) but hit into 117 fewer double plays (142).

Total for Getting on Base:

Gwynn: 3,571

Raines: 3,689

* * *

The second part of the formula is the “bases advanced” part (the part Bill originally had as total bases).

It starts with total bases where Gwynn has a sizable advantage.

Total bases:

Gwynn: 4,259

Raines: 3,771

But total bases does not include walks. As mentioned, a walk is not as good as a hit but it’s worth something. What? How much do you think a walk is worth compared to a single? Is it worth three-quarters of a single? Half of a single? Bill through various efforts came to believe that real walks — meaning non-intentional walks — are worth one-quarter of a base (.26 to be exact).

Here are the bases added for walks and hit-by-pitches:

Gwynn: 159

Raines: 318

OK, then you have to add some value for sacrifice hits, sacrifice flies and stolen bases. Bill estimates each of those are worth about half a base each.

Bases added for sacrifice hits, sacrifice flies, and stolen bases:

Gwynn: 234

Raines: 482

And that leads us to the total advanced bases for each player:

Gwynn: 4,651

Raines: 4,570

* * *

Finally, the third category is the easiest one — it is simply plate appearances. The funny thing is that it was not easy to find when Bill first started out. You had to deal with at-bats and then add back in the walks, the hit-by-pitches, the sacrifice hits and the sacrifice flies. It really is funny how they used to divide up this game.

Plate appearances:Gwynn: 10,232

Gwynn: 10,232

Raines: 10,359

* * *

OK, before giving you the final total, let’s state one last time why everyone came to believe that Tony Gwynn was a vastly superior player than Raines: Gwynn did those distinct and unmissable things that we always attached to baseball greatness. He hit for high averages. He cracked and flared balls into the open spaces. He won those things we have long called “batting titles.” He had a strong arm and so we gave him Gold Gloves. He stole some bases so we called him a complete player. He was a wonderful man, absolutely wonderful, and so we voted him into All-Star Games year after year after year.

These things are not illusions. They are real. Tony Gwynn was a great baseball player.

Tim Raines did things in the shadows. He walked a lot, and we don’t admire walks. He played his best baseball in Canada where we almost never saw him. He was a cocaine addict when we first came to know him — everyone heard the story about how he slid head first to protect the vials in his back pocket — and you know that line about first impressions. He played left field (played it about a draw) which is so much less romantic than right field or, certainly, center field. He went unwanted after becoming a free agent because the owners colluded. He was a wonderful base stealer, we could see that, but there was someone better, Rickey Henderson, who dominated the time and took most of the air.


And while we all know that a player’s strike took away Gwynn’s chance to hit .400, we forget that Tim Raines probably would have set the stolen base record in 1981. He stole 50 bases in 54 games before the strike. He might have set the record where even Rickey himself could not have topped it.

When you add up and subtract, multiply and divide all the numbers in the runs created formula, though, here is what you come up with:


Tony Gwynn: 1,623 runs created.

Tim Raines: 1,627 runs created.

Of course, that’s only one runs created formula. I actually prefer the one that Baseball Reference uses. In their runs created formula, which has a few adjustments, Tony Gwynn finishes with 1,636 runs created.

And Raines finished … with the exact same number.

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35 Responses to Ballot 8: Tim Raines

  1. Wes Tovich says:

    Awful hard to think of Tony Gwynn in the past tense. Was watching a Hall of Fame thingie on You Tube, and there he was with Joe Morgan and whomever being interviewed. It was not that long ago, and you see he’s the only one of the 4-5 who is no longer with us. I hadn’t predicted the sense of loss there that I’d feel, but I sure did. And you’re right. Gwynn was an absolutely wonderful guy and player, and there’s no two ways about it.

    Rock Raines-very happy to hear he is going in. He should be there. What an awesome player, I like to think of what he did in 1987 when he was screwed out of a big free agent contract by collusion(thanks Bud!), he went out and had a super super year, including that terrific demolition of the Mets on TV his first game out. Loved all that.

    So–nice write up, and lets celebrate Raines being inducted. About time.

    • invitro says:

      I remember that first game for Raines in 1987 on TV, the NBC Game of the Week IIRC. The Expos were expected to be good but had struggled without Raines. And you know about the showtime Mets. I’d been waiting for the game all week. It was big fun in a really fun year for baseball.

    • MartyR says:

      Peter Ueberroth was the colluding commissioner.

  2. invitro says:

    Tony Gwynn Jr. was a lot better than Tim Raines Jr.

  3. Mike says:

    “The question in the aftermath was who DID NOT vote for him, a viable question then and now.”

    This is one of the reasons I like making the ballots public. When you publicize your ballot, there’s less ability to hide petty and stupid garbage like not voting for Gwynn. Last year, 100% of the public ballots included Griffey. The only ones that didn’t were private. The year before, only three public voters left off Johnson and only six left off Martinez. The year before, only three public ballots left off Maddux. More public ballots hopefully less of this “I don’t vote first ballot for anyone” nonsense.

    • Robert says:

      I absolutely agree. There should be accountability, which is only available through public scrutiny. Make them justify their positions.

      • Rob Smith says:

        I think the downside of this approach might would be that the votes would become more political. If a voter has to justify their pick, then they would be forced to go along with everyone else. I like voters having independence. I personally would prefer that voters make up their own minds without political pressure. This isn’t the US Senate, after all. What I would change, however, is that I would purge any writers from having a ballot if they aren’t currently reporting on baseball. As long as they are focused on baseball, I’m OK with them. One exception might be the writers, like Murray Chass, that go out of their way to publicly try to make some sort of philosophical point with their votes. I want voters that are focused on making good choices, and not making some larger philosophical point that merely calls attention to them. I would like, therefore, to see a process for removing voters for gross incompetence or negligence of their duties. This should be rare.

    • MikeN says:

      It would also mean that writers might feel bullied into voting for someone who they did not think was deserving. Suppose Jackie Robinson’s stats were similar to Moises Alou, or Hanley Ramirez?

      • SDG says:

        Making the votes public wouldn’t change that, I think. People would respect a reasonable argument that someone’s stats aren’t good enough, even if that someone is Jackie Robinson (Larry Doby has more borderline stats, barely got any votes, and the writers never received any fallout for that). Even if the 22.5% of the voters that didn’t vote for Jackie had dumb stats-based reasons for not voting for him (like that he didn’t have enough hits), there’s a huge gulf between disagreeing with someone and thinking they’re racist. I think people get that. Billy Martin apparently loathed Jackie for reasons that had nothing to do with his skin colour, it’s been a part of the Billy Martin legend forever, and if no one is calling an incredibly polarizing figure like Billy Martin racist, they won’t do it to some writer.

        That’s of a different order than whatever idiot didn’t vote for Williams or Musial or Aaron. I really want to hear the justifications for those votes. It’s going to be something like “He was mean to the press” or “He wasn’t classy” and I will sprain my eye-rolling muscles and so will you. I think if the writers made their votes public we could at least eliminate dumb reasons for not voting for someone.

        • Chipmaker says:

          Doby was voted in by the Veterans Committee, and this despite not meeting any of the criteria for qualifying for consideration. The Hall wanted Doby (first black AL player) inducted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Jackie’s debut, and the Hall’s powers got their wish.

          • SDG says:

            There are no criteria for qualifying. No specific benchmarks one has to meet. I’m curious what you mean by “the Hall” wanted Doby. The Hall President at the time? Their board of directors? Selig? And this “Hall” decided to force the members of the VC to pretend to discuss Doby, agree to induct him, including having Ted Williams pretend to be in favour of this against his will?

            Also, Doby was inducted the year after the 50th anniversary. And you can watch Doby’s HoF speech online and no mention is made of the 50th anniversary of anything (which makes sense, as it was not the anniversary of Jackie’s debut).

            Of course, if you have anything supporting your conspiracy theory I’d be interested in reading it.

          • Chipmaker says:

            The VC, at the time, had criteria that candidates had to meet (at least one; it was not a long list; former BBWAA ballot candidates had to be three years past falling off the ballot, as one) in order to be considered. Doby met none of them. I distinctly recall Rob Neyer writing about this, and calling someone at the Hall to ask about it, and getting no clear answer. The point, Doby — whom I consider a worthy addition to the Hall, I am not criticizing his induction — got his name placed for consideration, against the Hall’s own public criteria (Neyer is the only columnist I can recall even raising this issue). Why? It’s only speculation, but the Hall’s powers Wanted It Done. Given that the VC had nil accountability in how it voted back then, voting results were never released (and likely never will be, and we don’t even know who may have been discussed), we cannot know how Doby’s candidacy may have been lobbied for.

            The VC voted in February back then, after the BBWAA ballot was announced, and February 1998 was still in the twelve months of celebrating the 50th of Robinson’s debut (April 1997-98). Let that slide if you want; it’s not that important. That the Hall ignored its own criteria, is; that had to be a politically motivated decision. Again, Doby is worthy of his plaque, but the means to making that happen was sloppy.

  4. John Autin says:

    Unlike most who took this long to get in, Raines did lead his league in bWAR over a 5-year span (1983-87), and by ’87 he was widely recognized as a real candidate for “best in the game.” I’ll never forget how he destroyed my Mets in his belated ’87 debut (4-5, grand slam, triple, steal), after the owners’ collusion kept him out for the first 21 games.
    As that year began, Raines was the reigning NL batting and OBP champ, and had swiped 70+ six straight years (which no one else ever has). He would hit .330 that year, with a career-high 18 HRs, leading MLB with 123 runs (in just 139 games), and making his 7th straight All-Star Game at age 27.

    Alas, that was his last obviously great season, and his last All-Star berth. His next 11 years (his last as a reguar) totaled less bWAR than his 5-year peak.

    But those were NOT just “hang-around” years. For 1988-93, Raines ranked 22nd in total bWAR, just ahead of “superstar” Jose Canseco. And he was still useful for 5 years after that, with a 111 OPS+ while playing about 2/3 of the schedule.

    So when you add it all up, Raines had all the value required of a HOFer. He just peaked early.

  5. Bpdelia says:

    I feel like in his later years Raines became a player you had to see. When the Yankees acquired him I knew him as a former star who could be a relatively useful bench player.

    But then watching him you realized that even at the end he waa a game changing player.

  6. Dave says:

    Raines–one of my favorite ballplayers to watch. He could beat the other team in many ways, and I know James makes the argument that he’s the second best lead-off batter ever, who had the misfortune of playing at the same time as the best one. I enjoyed the Gwynn comments too. I’m old now–I remember watching Gwynn when he was a skinny point guard starting for San Diego State!

    I toast Raines; I sure hope he is elected this year.

  7. Mike L says:

    I lost interest in the Hall of Fame a long time ago because the results are, shall we say, interesting, but I have loved reading these recaps. thanks, Joe.

  8. Crazy Diamond says:

    Gwynn > Raines. However, Raines was a terrific player who deserves to be in the HOF.

  9. Stephen says:

    These are just great. Thank you so much.

  10. Marshall says:

    I have a hard time seeing how Raines has anything other than a marginal HoF case. I agree that Raines and Gwynn were pretty similar players, but at least judging by peak years (7 or 10 best), he’s also very similar to Sosa. In fact, I’d say Sosa had a better peak than either Raines or Gwynn.

    I think comparing WAR for N-best seasons is a good way to compare HoF cases, and from that analysis is certainly looks like Sosa was as good or better than either Raines or Gwynn. By the way, can anyone find the website that generates graphs of N-best seasons by WAR?

    • Doug says:

      I don’t think that Sosa looks better, looking at WAR for seasons, than Raines or Gwynn. I’m really not certain about the idea that he had a better peak, either. He certainly had the single best season out of any of them in 2001. But I would say the rest of his peak numbers are comparable to or a little worse than Gwynn’s and Raines’. And then once you get out of Sosa’s peak years there’s a really precipitous decline. Raines and Gwynn both had at least 6 or 7 more years where they were above-average players. Might not matter much if you’re someone who really cares deeply about peak but still.

    • there’s also this which doesn’t show every player, but shows the current HOF candidates compared to the players already inducted

    • invitro says:

      “By the way, can anyone find the website that generates graphs of N-best seasons by WAR?” — Go to Fangraphs, Leaders, WAR Graphs (under WAR Tools). Here’s the one for Gwynn, Raines, and Sosa:,1406,302

    • invitro says:

      “I have a hard time seeing how Raines has anything other than a marginal HoF case.” — Well, Joe ranks him #8, if that rank means something, I suppose it means “marginal”, right? And Raines is behind five other non-PED guys who’ve missed election, and gotten fewer HoF votes: Schilling, Bagwell, Walker, EMartinez, Mussina. Because of this, I think Raines has probably gotten *more* HoF support than he deserved, not less. I wonder if there has ever been a time when five players with as much WAR as these guys has been on the ballot, but not gotten elected. I have a feeling that it’s historically unique. These five guys aren’t just HoFers, they’re Willie Mays Hall of Famers (Raines isn’t). Oh well!

      • Mark says:

        Willie Mays Hall of Famers? I think someone exaggerated.
        But I agree they’re probably/certainly better than Raines.

      • Bryan says:

        5th most WAR, among not elected:
        2014-16 – Bagwell 79.6
        2013 – Walker 72.6
        2012 – Raines 69.1
        2011 – Larkin 70.2
        2010 – Edgar 68.3
        2009 – Cone 62.5
        2007-08 – Tommy John & McGwire 62.0
        2006 – Hershiser 56.8
        Prior to that it’s generally low 60s for 5th most: Dawson, Tiant, Dwight Evans, Ken Boyer, Killebrew and Bunning among the players. The last year the 5th most among un-elected was 70+ WAR was 1960 when Lefty Grove 103.6 WAR got 6 votes, while Appling, Arky Vaughan, Mize and Ruffing had 70-74 WAR and 10-86 votes and you needed 202 votes to be elected.

  11. Scott says:

    Not sure how Tony could lead by advanced bases in less plate appearances and have less runs created.something is amiss. That said I think they should both be in, but Mr Padre was a little more impressive.

    • invitro says:

      Raines led in the on-base department (3689-3571) by more than Gwynn led in the advanced-bases department (4651-4570).

      I find the comparison more enlightening with bb-ref’s runs-above-average components. Gwynn has a big lead (112) in Rbat, and Raines gets most of that back with Rbaser (92). Gwynn leads in Rfield (13), Raines leads in Rrep (25). It adds up to a 33-run lead in RAA for Gwynn, though this shrinks to a 1.4 lead in WAA for a reason I don’t understand (I’d have expected about a 3 WAA lead). So I think bb-ref indicates that Gwynn was a little bit better.

  12. invitro says:

    The guys ranked by number of comments so far:
    270 comments: #3 Curt Schilling
    179 comments: #1 Barry Bonds
    144 comments: #7 Larry Walker
    143 comments: #6 Edgar Martinez
    137 comments: #5 Mike Mussina
    134 comments: #15 Fred McGriff
    98 comments: #16.5 Trevor Hoffman
    87 comments: #13 Sammy Sosa
    80 comments: #19 Jorge Posada
    73 comments: #14 Jeff Kent
    62 comments: #33 Matt Stairs
    60 comments: #2 Roger Clemens
    54 comments: #34 Arthur Rhodes
    53 comments: #20 Magglio Ordonez
    46 comments: #4 Jeff Bagwell
    46 comments: #23 Tim Wakefield
    44 comments: #22 J.D. Drew
    40 comments: #28 Melvin Mora
    33 comments: #18 Lee Smith
    32 comments: #16.5 Billy Wagner
    31 comments: #25 Edgar Renteria
    31 comments: #30 Pat Burrell
    27 comments: #24 Derrek Lee
    25 comments: #21 Mike Cameron
    24 comments: #26 Jason Varitek
    23 comments: #32 Freddy Sanchez
    19 comments: #8 Tim Raines
    19 comments: #27 Carlos Guillen
    19 comments: #29 Orlando Cabrera
    19 comments: #31 Casey Blake

  13. Carl says:

    The challenge I have with Raines is that he was a Hall of Famer for the first 7 years of his career with a batting title, twice leading the league in runs scored, 4x stolen base champ, 7x All Star, etc.

    But the next 14 years of his career he was a good but no where near great ball player. He never led the league in anything after 1987, and the last 7 years of his career was a part time player. To me, a compiler. And the first 7 seasons? Subtract some value for playing on hard turf, and then subtract some more for the cocaine. Is what you’re left with a Hall of Famer? To a small hall guy, no.

  14. Ian says:

    The problem I’ve always had with Raines case is that it’s a straight compiler argument. Just the stat we like is WAR. Raines had an excellent run from 83-87 but after 87 he only had one more season in the top 10 in OBP. He had only 6 seasons of 4 WAR or more (I think 4 WAR is a valid HOF cut off line). Tons of players had his peak – Utley, Mauer, Hernandez. Heck, even Dawson had a better peak by WAR and (more HOF seasons) and there was a strong internet movement to keep him OUT of the HOF.

    The only argument Raines has is these compiler arguments – more times on base (in more seasons), 70 WAR (in 23 seasons). And that’s fine. But what you are saying is that five years made this guy a HOFer. No one can realistically look at his career outside of that 83-87 window and find a bunch of HOF seasons. And if a 5 year peak is all we need, then a lot more players should be in the HOF.

  15. Crout says:

    I will never forget the first time I saw Tim Raines. The Expos played the Phillies at old Veteran’s Stadium. From where I was sitting he did not look very imposing. And then I got a side view and my jaw hit the ground. THE most muscular thighs I had ever seen. Massive. What a ballplayer.

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