April 23, 2004
BASEBALL: Gwynn and Raines, Part II
Following up on yesterday's review of Tony Gwynn and Tim Raines . . . there are a variety of statistical metrics out there to measure a player's career value. Let's mix and match, with a hearty helping from the Baseball Prospectus, sticking to the same comparison group of Gwynn, Raines, Rod Carew, Wade Boggs, Paul Molitor, Pete Rose, and Ichiro.
Holy acronyms, Batman! See below for explanation. You will notice a few things:
*Again, these players look pretty similar, at least as hitters, once you adjust for context.
*If you're wondering, Raines earns 51 fielding Win Shares to Gwynn's 45, which helps even the score a bit despite Gwynn's offensive advantage.
*The BP stats - which love Wade Boggs - prefer Raines to Gwynn with the bat despite Gwynn's higher batting average. That "XO" category tells a big part of the story - Raines made very few unnecessary outs (he rarely hit into DPs and was the greatest percentage base thief of all time, almost 85% in nearly 1000 attempts), while Gwynn and Rod Carew made the most such outs of anyone in this group.
*Gwynn's high batting average gives him the best translated slugging percentage in the group, although Molitor had the most power.
*Ichiro, even just on three seasons of his prime, barely keeps pace with the rest of the group. He's an outstanding player, but he's not Gwynn or Raines or the others.
*Yes, Tony Gwynn was a great player. But if you can find a dime's difference between Gwynn and Raines, you are stretching. Raines should be every bit as much the no-questions-asked Hall of Famer as Gwynn.
WS= Win Shares (includes defense)
OPS+ is On Base Plus Slugging, relative to a park-adjusted league average
XO/600PA= Extra Outs (Caught Stealing plus GIDP) per 600 plate appearances
RC/27=Runs Created per 27 outs (not context-adjusted)
TrEqA= Equivalent Average, adjusted for historical context (see here for an explanation of this and the remaining Baseball Prospectus stats)
TrEqR= Equivalent Runs (total), adjusted for historical context
WARP3= A context-adjusted Wins Above Replacement Level measurement (includes defense)
TrAvg, TrSlg, & TrOBP = Avg, Slg, & OBP translated into a common time/place context.
There are three advantages Gwynn has over Rock when it comes to the Hall of Fame.
1) His black ink for batting average (and the fame he got chasing 400)
2) His having played on a winning World Series team.
3) His media-friendly personality.
I agree that by performance metrics, there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the two, but #3 often gets a short-shrift from statistically minded people. A famous, popular player sells tickets, and sells merchandise. This makes money for the team, which puts them on a more solid footing for investing in the team. It indirectly helps winning, if a team is willing to take the extra profits and use them.
I'd imagine that over the course of their careers, Gwynn earned more per year than Raines did. I wonder if his popularity justified the extra salary though. My hunch is it did, but I am far from sure.
What I do know is, if you give me two even performers, give me the fan favorite if I am a team owner (as long as the price is not too high). He's more valuable to the organization.
And if he is more valuable to the organization, he's more worthy of the Hall of Fame.
But that's not to say I don't think Rock is worthy. He clearly is one of the most underappreciated stars of the last 30 years.
Ironically, Gwynn's Padres lost to Raines' Yankees in the World Series, although Raines didn't play, I believe due to the Padres' lack of lefthanded pitching and the absence of the DH in NL parks. If you look at baseball-reference.com you'll see that Gwynn did make more money, although he never cracked $5 million per year - what a difference even a few years makes. Also, Raines' reported salaries may not reflect the money he would have made as a free agent in 1986-87 in the absence of collusion - he probably got a big payoff in the settlement from that, seeing as he was at least arguably the best player in baseball at the time.
Too bad George Will never did a book with Raines. (The drug thing can't help either, although Raines was very young at the time and it's not well remembered).
Plus Gwynn was Mr. Padre. Playing your whole career for one team (even in San Diego) does a lot to endear you to fans and cement your legacy. Raines toiled most of his career in the relative obscurity of Montreal and then towards the end of his career his team-jumping and up and down numbers really started to give him the appearance of a hired gun, arguably hanging around too long. I think he also suffered for being portrayed as somewhat of a poor-man's Rickey Henderson. That's hardly a fair criticism, but one that I think does reflect on him and his HOF chances.
As far as the dime's worth of difference, there's the 44-point difference in batting average. All of your (and BP's) analysis shows how that is an overrated statistic, but it is the one most people use to measure by.
Yes, he played his whole career with one team. I am as much of a capitalist as anyone, but I am conservative to my core, and a guy gets bonus points from me for being a one-team guy. Tony Gwynn was a Padre tradition; we need more tradition, not less. :-)
Tim Raines is the greatest baseball player of all-time.