Author: Matthew Pouliot

Tim Raines

The Hall of Fame case for Tim Raines


I’ve long hesitated to make the Tim Raines Hall of Fame pitch, simply because there’s a website already dedicated to the cause that does a far better job of it than I can here. Still, I figure I can have a quick go at it, and if nothing else, it means a few more people might check out for the better pitch.

Raines’ Hall of Fame problem is Rickey Henderson. Raines might be the second best leadoff hitter off all-time, but he played at the same time as the best. Also, he was a left fielder without much power and he never won an MVP award or came particularly close.

On the other hand, Raines was quite possibly the NL’s best player in a five-year span from 1983-87.  WAR thinks so, placing him ahead of Mike Schmidt, Tony Gwynn and Dale Murphy. Raines hit .318/.406/.467 during that span and averaged 114 runs scored and 71 steals per year. During those five years, only Henderson scored more runs (572-568) and only Wade Boggs had a better OBP (.443 to .406). And those two were playing in the other league.

Raines led the NL in average and OBP in 1986, but 1987 may well have been his best season. After sitting out the first month because of baseball’s collusion against free agents, he hit .330/.429/.526 with 123 runs scored in 139 games. He was so feared that he was intentionally walked 26 times, even though he was one of baseball’s premier basestealers.

Unfortunately, Raines ceased being a superstar pretty young, and while he was still an asset as a role player into his upper-30s, he’s not getting much Hall of Fame credit for those years. The entire body of work is worthy, though. While Raines wasn’t Rickey Henderson, he was a very good match for Tony Gwynn.

Raines finished his career with a .385 OBP, a .425 SLG and a 123 OPS+ in 10,359 PA
Gwynn finished his career with a .388 OBP, a 459 SLG and a 132 OPS+ in 10,232 PA

Raines scored 1,571 runs and drove in 980
Gwynn scored 1,383 runs and drove in 1,138

Raines stole 808 bases and was caught 146 times
Gwynn stole 319 bases and was caught 125 times

B-ref WAR has Raines at 66.2, good for 97th all-time. It has Gwynn at 65.3 wins, 102nd place all-time.

Obviously, it’s commonplace throughout history to trump up one Hall of Fame candidate by matching him with another, typically one barely over the borderline. Gwynn, though, was a sure-fire Hall of Famer, getting in on the first ballot with one of the all-time highest percentage of the votes. And the one real difference between him and Raines was hits. Raines had 2,605 hits and Gwynn had 3,141. That’s a difference of 536. However, Raines had 1,330 walks to Gwynn’s 790, a difference of 540.

I think Raines is also well over what should be the borderline for Cooperstown. He mixed in five years of true greatness into long career in which he was almost always an asset. It’s a career that’s clearly worthy.

Rockies acquire reliever Wilton Lopez from Astros

Wilton Lopez

As the Denver Post’s Troy Renck first reported, the Rockies have acquired reliever Wilton Lopez from the Astros for right-handers Alex White and Alex Gillingham.

Lopez was nearly traded to the Phillies for right-hander Tyler Cloyd and catcher Sebastian Valle last week, but the deal fell apart, reportedly because the Phillies’ physical brought up red flags. Tonight’s deal is official, suggesting that he passed a physical with the Rockies.

Lopez went 6-3 with 10 saves and a 2.17 ERA in 66 1/3 innings for the Astros last season. He’s pitched 60 innings with a sub-3.00 ERA each of the last three years. Possessing some of the best command of any reliever in the league, he’ll fit in nicely in front of Rafael Betancourt in the Rockies pen.

White was one of the two top prospects the Rockies got from the Indians for Ubaldo Jimenez in 2011, but he’s been a disappointment since. He went 2-9 with a 5.51 ERA and a 64/51 K/BB ratio in 98 innings for the Rockies last season. Getting out of Coors Field should help him, though his ceiling no longer seems as high as it appeared a couple of years ago. He’ll be a strong candidate to claim a spot in Houston’s rotation next spring.

The 23-year-old Gillingham, a 2011 11th-round pick, was 6-8 with a 3.66 ERA and an 83/28 K/BB ratio in 123 innings for low-A Asheville last season.

Dale Sveum was shot by Robin Yount while hunting quail

Dale Sveum

Adding to his already impressive total of 3,142 hits, Hall of Famer Robin Yount accidentally shot Cubs manager Dale Sveum while hunting quail in Arizona,’s Carrie Muskat reports.

“The bird went up in front of [Yount] and I was about 50 yards up on the hill,” Sveum said. “He got the bird up and lost track of where I was and pulled the trigger and was like, ‘Uh oh.’ I was looking for birds myself and he was behind me. I got drilled with pellets in the back and the ear.”

In Yount’s defense, he probably thought Sveum was waving him in.

While Sveum said there was some blood involved, he didn’t need stitches for the ear.

Yount and Sveum were Brewers teammates for five years in the 1980s and early 90s and also worked together with the Brewers before Sveum became the Cubs’ manager last season.

Orioles among four teams to meet with Nick Swisher’s agent

Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher

There have been mixed messages over just how much the Orioles have to spend this winter, but it looks like they are considering one big-ticket item after meeting with Nick Swisher’s agent, Dan Lozano, on Tuesday.

Three other teams also met with Lozano about Swisher, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown.

Swisher, who is married to actress JoAnna Garcia, is believed to prefer to play in New York or Los Angeles, but none of the four clubs with those cities in their names have expressed any interest. San Francisco would seem to be a reasonable compromise, but the Giants are likely out of the mix after re-signing Angel Pagan.

Assuming all of that holds true, Baltimore might be one of the best options for Swisher. He’d likely play left field for the Orioles, replacing Nolan Reimold and Nate McLouth. McLouth is a free agent, and Reimold would likely become trade bait in such a scenario. Alternatively, the Orioles could use Swisher at first base and make Chris Davis their DH.

The Mariners are also believed to be considering Swisher, and the Rangers could enter the mix if Josh Hamilton departs. For that reason, Swisher may wait to see what happens with Hamilton before he picks his destination.

Report: Red Sox could trade Jacoby Ellsbury, re-sign Cody Ross

Jacoby Ellsbury

Upside, shmupside.

Sources told the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham that the Red Sox are considering trading Jacoby Ellsbury and re-signing Cody Ross to play right field, with the newly signed Shane Victorino taking over in center field.

Ellsbury, the runner-up for AL MVP honors in 2011, is a free agent after the season and is considered unlikely to sign a long-term extension before he gets to test the waters.

Ross would be a candidate to receive the sixth two- or three-year deal handed out by the Red Sox this winter. They’ve added Victorino ($39 million for 3 years), Mike Napoli ($39 million for 3 years), Jonny Gomes ($10 million for 2 years) and David Ross ($6.4 million for 2 years), plus they’ve retained David Ortiz ($26 million-$30 million for two years). Ross is believed to be seeking about $24 million for three years.

If the Red Sox actually go that route, their odds of returning to contention in the AL East in 2013 would seem to grow even longer. Ellsbury has been injured and ineffective two of the last three years, but he was flat-out awesome in 2011, hitting .321/.376/.552 with 32 homers and 105 RBI in 660 at-bats, and it’s not as though he has any chronic physical problems. Plus, he probably wouldn’t bring all that much in return since he has just the one year left on his deal.

A Red Sox lineup with Ross replacing Ellsbury would also seem to be very susceptible to right-handed pitching:

CF Shane Victorino – S
2B Dustin Pedroia – R
DH David Ortiz – L
1B Mike Napoli – R
RF Cody Ross – R
LF Jonny Gomes – R
3B Will Middlebrooks – R
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia – S
SS Jose Iglesias – N/A

Victorino has always been better against lefties, and he slipped all of the way to .230/.295/.332 against righties last season. Ross and Gomes are also far better against lefties, though Gomes could at least be platooned with Daniel Nava. Napoli, the other new addition, did hit righties better than lefties last year, and he has a solid .253/.347/.498 line against them in his career (.273/.381/.529 against lefties).