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Why Tim Raines' trend points toward Cooperstown

By January 16, 2013

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It's been a week since the Hall of Fame voting was announced, along with the requisite hand-wringing that the writers voted nobody in to Cooperstown this year.

But buried in the voting was an important threshold for former stolen base champion Tim Raines. He cracked the 50-percent barrier among the electorate. In 2009, that number was 22.9 percent. That's a pretty big leap in four short years, and it's not like Raines really did anything in that time to merit more consideration.

So why is he looking like a strong Cooperstown contender? Perhaps it's because there's a new appreciation for his talent -- guys just don't steal that many bases anymore, and Raines had the best percentage all-time for a player who made 300 attempts. Maybe it's because of Raines' longevity in the game and a closer look at the numbers he accumulated (more than 1,500 runs, 800 steals). And maybe it's because of sabermetrics.

If there's one thing "Moneyball" taught us, it's that getting on base is more important than batting average.

CBS Sports' Eye On Baseball ranked him as the No. 5 Hall of Fame candidate in 2013 -- ahead of Craig Biggio -- and compared Raines' stats favorably to first-ballot Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. They played in the same era and had roughly the same number of games and plate appearances. Sure, Gwynn hit .338 in his career and Raines hit .294. But they had almost the same on-base percentage-- Gwynn's .388 to Raines' .385. Raines had 536 fewer hits but 540 more walks than Gwynn. Raines hit more home runs (170-135) and twice as many stolen bases (808-319). Raines also won a batting title in 1986 and two World Series as a role player with the New York Yankees toward the end of his career.

And compared to another speedster in the Hall of Fame who played the same position, it's hardly a fair battle. Raines hit for a better average, more power and almost as many stolen bases as Lou Brock. Brock's on-base percentage was a pedestrian .343, considerably lower than Raines. But Brock got to 3,000 hits, which made him essentially an automatic Hall of Famer.

Raines doesn't have a magic number like 3,000 hits. And he had some trouble with drugs, but it was a drug of abuse (cocaine) early in his career, a problem he addressed and kicked. More and more voters are looking toward sabermetrics when deciding their Hall of Fame vote, and that trend will only get stronger as older voters die off and younger ones are added. So all trends are pointing toward a Cooperstown future for Raines.

What do you think? Does Tim Raines belong in the Hall of Fame?

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