When the National Baseball Hall of Fame reduced ballot eligibility from 15 to 10 years before the 2015 election, Tim Raines seemed to be running out of time.
Raines, who starred in the Expos’ outfield in the 1980s and won the 1996 and 1998 World Series with the Yankees, was entering his eighth year on the ballot at the time. His name had never come close to appearing on the required 75 percent of ballots, peaking at 52.2 percent in 2013.
But while time was not on Raines’ side, a growing awareness — and acceptance — of advanced statistics was. Ultimately, Raines told media during a Friday conference call he thinks Sabermetrics helped him land on 86 percent of ballots this year, his last on the ballot.
“It helped me tremendously,” said Raines, 57, who will be inducted July 30 alongside Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez, John Schuerholz and former Commisioner Bud Selig. “I think it played a really big role in my induction, but I didn’t really know the things I did as a player. I didn’t look at the stats as a player that much. Since all these new stats are coming out, I’m amazed of the things I was able to do.”
By traditional numbers, Raines was a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate. Nothing other than his 808 stolen bases, which rank fifth all-time, jump off the page, but he hit .294 with a .385 on-base percentage, 2,605 hits, 430 doubles and 1,571 runs scored. He was a seven-time All-Star and finished top 10 in MVP voting three times.
Advanced stats such as Wins Above Replacement (WAR) indicated Raines unquestionably had a Hall of Fame career. Among outfielders, Raines’ 66.4 career WAR is tied with Manny Ramirez at No. 32 all-time, according to Fangraphs.com. He ranks ahead of:
Tony Gwynn (No. 35, 65.0 WAR)
Duke Snider (No. 39, 63.5)
Zack Wheat (No. 41, 63.1)
Willie Stargell (No. 42, 62.9)
Andre Dawson (No. 50, 59.5)
Enos Slaughter (No. 73, 51.4)
Larry Doby (No. 75, 51.1).
“As a fan, as a baseball person, starting to see the way things are looked at in baseball right now, it’s really interesting,” said Raines, who has worked in the Blue Jays organization since 2013. “We didn’t have the stats the way they have them today, but I think if we would have, I think [I might have gotten in] even earlier.”