So I had an email exchange with a Hall voter who voted for Rice but not for Raines, and I thought it might be worth sharing. I’m withholding the voter’s name and am not saying whether or not his ballot was published. Anyway, I asked why he didn’t vote for Raines, and he wrote:
for a guy who played that many seasons, he should have well over 3,000 hits, or a .320 average. The steals are a plus, but on non-contending teams you can run every time you get on base after the all-star break, as henderson did in 1982.
Rice had a higher average, and he was a power hitter – and he didn’t play 10 years on artificial turf.
Here’s my reply; as I look at it now, it’s a little half-formed, but I’ll present it without edits. I was trying to rebut specific arguments rather than presenting a global case for Raines:
Batting average is inferior to on-base percentage in every way; batting average pretends that walks, hit by pitches, and (weirdest of all) sacrifice flies don’t exist. In fact, a walk is worth somewhere between 80% and 90% as much as a single is [KL: I guessed on this one, but if someone has a hard coefficient for BB wrt a single, I’d love to see it.], because most of the value in either event is in not making an out. So penalizing Raines for not hitting .320 in his career ignores the fact that his career OBP is one of the 100 best since 1900, higher than Willie Mays’.
Raines reached base safely 3977 times in his career. That’s more than Tony Gwynn (3955, in almost the same # of plate appearances), Lou Brock (3833, in 1000 more PA), and way more than Rice (3186, in about 1000 fewer PA), and just a shade behind Rod Carew (4096, in 200 more PA).
As for running every time after the All-Star Break on non-contending teams, Raines stole more bases in the first half in his career (405) than in the second half (403). Also, the Expos finished in first or within ten games of first in 1981, Raines’ first season; 1982; 1983; 1987; and 1990. He went to Chicago in 1991, and they finished in second, 8 games out; in 3rd in 1992, ten games out; and of course they won the division in 1993. He then won two rings as a part-time player in New York. Raines spent at least ten of his twenty full years on good clubs.
Rice, on the other hand, got more benefit from his home park than any Hall of Fame candidate I can remember. He hit .320/.374/.546 at home with 469 extra-base hits, and just .277/.330/.459 on the road with 375 extra-base hits. I compared him in my ESPN.com chat session yesterday to Dante Bichette, an OK player who looked like a star because he played in a great hitters’ park. So if you want to downgrade Raines for playing on turf for part of his career, you would need to downgrade Rice more for playing in a friendly stadium for his whole career.