Baseball BeatJanuary 14, 2008
"Listen, Buster" Redux
By Rich Lederer

Buster Olney provides an invaluable service by linking to numerous baseball articles on almost a daily basis. I enjoy skimming Olney's blog (ESPN Insider subscription required) for his notes and links to stay abreast of what others are writing and saying.

Unlike the Baseball Primer Newsblog, which tries to highlight the best (or most interesting) stories irrespective of their origin, Olney's links are nearly always to stories in the mainstream media. However, Buster linked to Baseball Analysts a year ago [editor's note: link is no longer available] when I challenged his rationale for excluding Bert Blyleven from his Hall of Fame ballot.

Olney and I differ not only on Blyleven but on Jim Rice as well. With respect to Rice, Buster wrote two entries in support of him on Friday and Saturday, and I believe there are several fundamental flaws that need to be addressed – especially in light of the fact that the candidate in question finished second in the balloting with 72.2% of the vote and is on the verge of being elected next year in his 15th and final opportunity.

I'm going to excerpt Olney's comments and respond to them on the small chance that Hall of Fame voters will take the time to read this and further evaluate their position on Rice. I'm hopeful that this exercise will also shed some light on a number of basic truths and falsehoods when it comes to analyzing stats so as to improve the process (and the quality of the inductees) in the future.

During Jim Rice's incredible 1978 season, a total of two American League players had on-base percentages over .400: Rod Carew, with .411, and Ken Singleton, at .409. In 2007, eight AL players achieved an OBP of .400 or higher.

In fact, in the seven seasons played since the start of 2001, there already have been 42 AL players who have posted OBPs of .400 or better; in the entire decade, of 1970-79, there were only 36 AL players who achieved OBPs of .400 or better. It was a time of less offense and fewer runs, a time when teams didn't value walks the way they do now, a time when the strike zone was larger, a time when hitting 20 homers and driving in 80 runs was an excellent year.

Rice's OBP in 1978 wasn't anywhere close to .400. It was .370. He ranked 12th in that category. Rice, in fact, never finished higher than ninth in OBP in any single season. As such, mentioning Rice and on-base percentage in the same sentence does more harm than good when it comes to discussing his Hall of Fame qualifications.

I don't believe anyone is disputing the fact that runs were more difficult to come by during the 1970s than in the current decade. By the same token, I don't know anyone who is comparing Rice's raw totals to today's sluggers. The case "for" or "against" Rice should be based on how he performed versus the competition over the course of his career. More on that later.

As far as teams not valuing walks the way they do now, I believe there is some truth to that. However, more than anything, I contend writers and voters (both HOF and MVP) have never given walks their proper due. I played APBA during a large portion of Rice's career and used to count how many "on base numbers" players had on their cards. Walks have always been important. If anything, walks were more valuable in Rice's day because bases and runs were scarcer than they are today.

So it's almost laughable to hear and read about how Rice was nothing more than a very good player in his time. Look, if you stick his statistics into offensive formulas tailored for the way the game was played in the '90s, he's not going to look as good. Giving him demerits because he failed to draw walks is like diminishing what Pedro Martinez has accomplished because he has only two 20-win seasons.

Speaking of "laughable," comparing Rice's failure to draw walks to Martinez's lack of 20-win seasons is mixing apples and oranges. Of course, Rice deserves "demerits" for not walking more often. It's not like Rice's lack of walks wasn't his own doing. He has nobody to blame but himself for not earning more bases on balls. As such, Rice's low walk rate detracted from his value as a hitter every time he went to the plate. It was one of the weaknesses in his game. The fact that Martinez only won 20 games twice over the course of his career had little, if anything, to do with his value as a pitcher every time he took the mound.

But, if you want to go down this alley, let's at least be fair about it. To Martinez's credit, he had a pair of 20-win seasons. Rice, on the other hand, never had even one season in which he walked 100 times. (Rice's career high was 62 in 1986.) For context, there have been 54 20-win seasons during Pedro's career. By the same token, there were 72 100-walk campaigns during Rice's career. In other words, winning 20 games has been an even bigger rarity in Martinez's time than walking 100 times in Rice's era.

Olney then spends time pointing out how highly Rice ranked in HR (3rd), RBI (1st), and OPS (4th) from 1975-1986. I generally find such arguments unconvincing because the time frames chosen almost always favor the player in question. To wit, Rice gets the benefit of all 12 years whereas his competition in many cases loses the early or latter portions of their careers in such studies. Nonetheless, I believe it is instructive to see where Rice ranks in outs during this period.

1    Steve Garvey               5402   
2    Jim Rice                   5298   
3    Robin Yount                5099   
4    Dave Winfield              5069   
5    Buddy Bell                 5040   
6    Dave Concepcion            5025   
7    Don Baylor                 5006   
8    Mike Schmidt               4890   
9    Bill Buckner               4887   
10   Cecil Cooper               4846   

That's right, Rice made more outs than anyone other than Steve Garvey over the course of his 12 best seasons. I make this point not to put Rice down but to show that his counting totals and rankings were highly influenced by the fact that he had more plate appearances (7754) than any player in baseball during this period.

As for RBI, it's important to recognize that Rice benefited from hitting with runners on base much more frequently than most players. In fact, it is one of the reasons why he ranks first by a wide margin in grounding into double plays (GIDP) over this stretch.

1    Jim Rice                    269   
2    Steve Garvey                215   
3    Buddy Bell                  195   
4    Dave Concepcion             194   
5    Dave Winfield               186   
6    Ted Simmons                 185   
T7   Bill Buckner                174   
T7   Ken Singleton               174   
9    Larry Parrish               168   
10   Doug DeCinces               167   

Put another way, Rice's GIDP and RBI totals are inflated for no other reason than he had so many opportunities to accumulate both. Hitting with runners on base will do that. Rice's backers will build their case around his RBI and ignore GIDP. Those who oppose Rice will mock how many times he hit into a double play and disregard RBI. You can't really view one without the other.

Thanks to Baseball Prospectus, we can check where Rice ranked in RBI Opportunities in each of those dozen years.

       RBI  Rank | ROB  Rank | OBI   OBI%  Rank  
1975   102    5    458    3     80   17.5    9    
1976    85   15    391   27     60   15.3   21
1977   114    3    426   17     75   17.6   15
1978   139    1    461    7     93   20.2    4
1979   130    2    474    4     91   19.2    8
1980    86   16    370   33     62   16.8   17
1981    62   10    367    1     45   12.3   53
1982    97   14    466    7     73   15.7   31
1983   126    1    504    2     87   17.3   14
1984   122    2    545    1     94   17.2   10
1985   103    9    496    2     76   15.3   33
1986   110    4    514    3     90   17.5   10
ROB = Runners On Base: the number of runners on base during a batter's plate appearances.
OBI = Others Batted In: runs batted in, except for the batter driving himself in via a home run. Equals RBI-HR.
OBI% = Others Batted In Percentage: the fraction of runners on base who were driven in during a batter's plate appearances.

Although Rice led the AL in RBI in 1978 and 1983 and ranked in the top ten nine times, he was among the top three in terms of coming to bat with runners on base in six of those 12 seasons. More telling is the fact that Rice never ranked in the top three in OBI%.

In 1981, Rice had 47 more ROB than any other batter in the AL, yet ranked 10th in RBI because he was 53rd (out of 73 qualifiers) in OBI%. In 1984, Rice had 57 more ROB than anyone else so it should not be surprising that he finished second in RBI that season. Rice had the second most ROB (behind teammate Bill Buckner) in 1985 and the third most ROB in 1986 (behind teammates Buckner and Don Baylor). Hmmm. I wonder if Wade Boggs had anything to do with that?

Rice was a significantly better hitter at home than on the road, hitting .320, with a slugging percentage of .546 and 208 career homers in Fenway, compared with an average of .277 and 174 homers on the road.

Let me display Rice's home/road splits a bit more visually. I'm mean, there's no reason to gloss over something that is so fundamental to Rice's "for" or "against" case than his home and road performance.

        AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
Home   .320  .374  .546  .920
Road   .277  .330  .459  .789

Rice hit like a Hall of Famer at home and closer to Ben Oglivie (.273/.336/.450) or George Hendrick (.278/.329/.446) on the road.

Let's drill down deeper and see just how Rice fared away from Fenway Park year-by-year. His MLB and AL rankings are nothing more than where his road OPS would have placed among all qualifiers (both at home and on the road).

       Road OPS  MLB Rank  AL Rank
1975     .807       41       18
1976     .746       55       30
1977     .886       19       11
1978     .837       24       15 
1979     .809       49       27
1980     .810       40       27
1981     .703       92       50
1982     .859       22       15
1983     .903        7        4
1984     .741       71       42
1985     .743       73       47
1986     .835       28       19

Rice's performance on the road would have ranked him in the top ten in the AL in OPS one time in his entire career. ONCE. Now I recognize that this exercise unfairly penalizes Rice in the theoretical rankings because his Boston teammates get the full benefit and visiting players the partial benefit of playing games at Fenway Park. Bump Rice's rankings up a bit if you would like to compensate for the simplicity in my methodology.

But again, consider the era, and how much less offense there was. If you were a team, you would like to have the guy considered to be most dominant home-field hitter in the game? Of course you would.

Look, Rice wasn't the "most dominant home-field hitter in the game." Olney makes that statement as if Rice would have hit well at any home park. There is no evidence to suggest that at all. Simply put, Rice hit well at home because he played his home games at Fenway Park. From 1975-1986, Fenway's park factor averaged 107.5, meaning it favored hitters by 7.5% over the league average. In 1977, Boston's home park played like Coors Field in 2002.

Rice was taking advantage of the conditions in the games he played, much as Sandy Koufax did. From 1962-1966, Koufax had a home ERA of 1.37, in the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium, and a road ERA of 2.57. Does anyone say that this diminishes what Koufax accomplished, the way it is said about Rice?

I don't know anybody who would dispute the fact that Koufax benefited by pitching his home games at Dodger Stadium during the last five years of his career. But to try and compare Jim Rice to Sandy Koufax? Oh my! Koufax's 1.37 ERA at home is much, much more impressive than Rice's .920 OPS at home. But, more to the point, Sandy's 2.57 ERA outside of Dodger Stadium is also much, much more impressive than Rice's .789 OPS away from Fenway.

Like Rice's OPS rankings in the illustration above, Koufax's MLB and NL rankings are nothing more than where his road ERA would have placed among all qualifiers (both at home and on the road). As in the case of Rice, feel free to adjust Sandy's rankings upward due to the simplicity in methodology as well.

       Road ERA  MLB Rank  NL Rank
1962     3.53       26       14
1963     2.31        2        2
1964     2.93       19       10
1965     2.72       16        6
1966     1.96        1        1

Koufax was also much better than generally believed in 1960 and 1961 when his season totals were negatively affected by pitching home games at the Coliseum. His 3.00 ERA on the road in 1960 would have ranked fourth in the National League and sixth in MLB. His 2.77 ERA on the road in 1961 would have topped the senior circuit and placed third overall. It's all a distant memory now but Koufax's 269 strikeouts in '61 broke Christy Mathewson's NL record that had stood for 58 years.

In any event, Sandy's road ERA was good enough to theoretically lead the league two times and finish in the top ten six times in a span of seven seasons! Koufax was not only one of the greatest pitchers ever inside the confines of Dodger Stadium, but he was a terrific pitcher on the road as well. Too bad the same can't be said about Rice's hitting.

I will cover Olney's second article tomorrow, which focuses on Adjusted OPS (or OPS+) and how the adoption of this statistic has unfairly hurt Rice.


Great work as usual, Rich.

The one comment I would make--not a criticism, more like an "addition--is that we must take care not to overstate home/road splits. In Rice's case, since he hit better at Fenway than the simple park factor would suggest, he deserves credit for that. If, for example, the park factor is 110 but he hits 30% better at home, then he deserves credit for the 20%. Wade Boggs's H/R splits were larger than the park factor, but when he went to NY he hit well there too. He worked hard at taking what the park gave him.

This is also true for Koufax. Some people (not you) try to use his road numbers as some sort of proxy for what kind of pitcher he really was. I suspect that if he had pitched in Wrigley, he would have adjusted his approach and excelled.

And by "excelled" I mean "excelled even more than he already did".

Good article, as they so often are.

While I agree that Rice is a marginal HOFer, I note that until Wade Boggs came along, Rice generally ranked higher in OBI% than in ROB. So while Boggs inflated ROB, maybe there was something in what Boggs did compared to prior leadoff hitters that made him harder for Rice to drive in. I dunno, could it be lots of singles, walks, and no steals? Since OBI% is independent of how many opportunities a player had, it's reasonable to assume that every AL team had 9 batters with an OBI% and that Rice was therefore above average (top 63 or higher) every season he played, and usually much better than that. I'm not sure that OBI% is truly a skill; Rice wouldn't have been in the majors if he didn't get a lot of the kinds of extra base hits that drive in runners from second or even first. But Rice seems to me to have been a very good clutch hitter. Even if each team has only three hitters who are expected to be good at driving in runners (batting 3, 4, and 5) that was 42 such hitter types in the AL for most if not all of Rice's career, and Rice finished better than 21st half of his seasons, so at worst he seems to be a player who drove in his share of runners compared to the other sluggers in the league.

For HOF voting, there are tangibles (the offensive and pitching stats), the intangibles (like steals for a slugger, playing great defense at an important defensive position, winning gold gloves anywhere, or simply playing catcher which shortens careers and worsens all stats), and the tie breakers (postseason success, awards, all time high rankings for single season or career in any positive category, fame for part of his game like Dwight Evans arm or Bert Blyleven's curve ball). For a player who is gaining substantial consideration for defensive contributions (Ozzie Smith, Johnny Bench) I will weight the intangibles higher. For a player on a team with good players at the same position, I will rate the tangibles higher. A hitter has more at bats and RBI and scoring opportunities in a good offense. A starting pitcher is likely to face weaker starting pitchers if he's only the #2 pitcher on his staff.

On the tangibles, Rice is a borderline Hall of Fame player. Other players competing with him had better seasons (Fred Lynn, Dave Winfield, to name a couple). Rice's best seasons were worthy of HOF inclusion, but he didn't have enough of them. He was great at slugging, but not so great at avoiding outs. He had some very good players helping inflate his stats, especially Wade Boggs. I could go either way on Rice.

So then I look to the intangibles. Nothing gained from steals; the Red Sox would probably be better off if he'd never tried to steal. Mediocre defense at the least valuable defensive position. That's got to be a negative.

And I look at tie breakers. No World Series titles. Anecdotal evidence that some people believe that despite it never happening, he was so feared folks would walk him with the bases loaded. One MVP, which I do value highly. While often wrong to us stat heads, MVP awards do reflect the opinions of people who watch baseball games for a living and keep on getting paid to watch baseball games. Love them or hate them, they are doing something good enough to keep their jobs, and they watch more baseball than I would even if I won the lottery. Postseason OPS less than 700. Overall, I put Rice's intangibles as below average.

Put it all together, and I get marginal, negative, and slightly negative. It's a reluctant thumbs down.

I can understand why somebody would vote for Rice, especially if they value that MVP more than I do. And Rice seems a lot closer to a HOFer than, say, Jack Morris, because you have to lean a lot more on intangibles to pick Morris.

There are basically two items that immediately exclude Rice for me.

First, his road line of .277/.330/.459 is just so pedestrian for a "slugging" left fielder. Mark's right in that home/road splits need to be treated appropriately but Rice's performance on the road is more or less a non-starter for me.

Second and moreover, he was only the best position player on his team once by my count. Fisk was better in 1977, Lynn better in 1979. Rice was best in 1978. Boggs, Dewey (or both) were better than him throughout the eighties.

In and of itself this should not exclude Rice. Rice's Sox had some good teams, but Murderer's Row they were not. Barring a Gehrig/Ruth, McCovey/Mays anomalous situation, a HOF'er should have at least a handful of seasons as his team's best player.

A lot of the Rice supporters remember 1978, and I think many people that lived through that season aren't aware of how far he dropped within two years. I recently studied this season extensively for another publication, and (for a Red Sox fan like me) it was a very painful experience to do so.

On July 19, when the club was 62-28 and had attained their nine-game lead (their largest), Rice, Lynn and Fisk had OPS's of 987, 964 and 911, while Yaz was .861 and Evans .873. When considering positions (Rice had more than half his games at DH at that point), I think Lynn or Fisk was the league MVP at that point. After that date, all of the good hitters on the team except Rice slumped dramatically, most by 200 OPS points or more. Rice's 949 in the last 65 games was 189 points higher than the second best hitter on the etam (Lynn). He was a one-man show admidst the reckage.

From 1980 on, he really just had the two excellent years, and a lot of head-scratching. Not sure what happened.

Supporting your point about counting stats is Joe Posnanski's blog entry the other day about how from 1975-1985 when Rice ranked first in all those counting categories it was as much because he had way more at bats than anyone else during those 10 years as well.

The 12-year argument is OK as a centerpiece for a Hall of Fame case, but in Rice's case, it's the entire argument. And that's a problem. Here's what Rice did outside of those 12 years: 32 homers, .333 obp, .394 slg. Rice turned 33 in August 1987 and never played MLB at a high level again.

My error: Rice turned 34 in March 1987. So he was almost 34 1/2 when he stopped hitting.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for pointing out the thing with the GIDP and RBI. You either have to look at both or ignore both. Peeps who only look at the newfangled stats (with GDP) and say RBI are completely useless are undervaluing Rice.

Also, I don't think it's fair to only look at his road stats. It seems to me that Rice adjusted his swing or something to hit even better than expected at Fenway, but it hurt him on the road. (With his questionable D, it seems the Sawx may have better off giving him plenty of days off when they travelled.)

Anyway, Buster does make touch on a good point with OPS+ (which I'm sure you'll mention in the next installment), which is a 140 or 130 in OPS+ does not always mean the same thing. When talent is thin or a league is high scoring, this decentralizes normalized stats. The AL in the mid 70's had some of the lowest normalized stats I have ever seen, that must have been some collection of talent in a low scoring league.

Anyway, obviously we keep coming back to the point that players need to be compared to their peers. If you really want to know the story with Rice, make a list of the top 10 offensive contributors in the AL from 1973 to about 1990. (The DH era before roids, expansion and the new parks pumped up the scoring.)

I'm not sure if Rice belongs in the HOF or not, but I would say he is in the top 10 of AL hitters from that time.

Thanks to Mark, Richard, and John. I appreciate the feedback from all of the readers who commented above.

Rice (and other players) absolutely deserve credit when they hit or pitch better at home after adjusting for park factors. I didn't mean to imply otherwise. I wrote that "Rice hit like a Hall of Famer at home" but perhaps shortchanged his accomplishments at Fenway by giving a disproportionate amount of space to his road stats.

As promised, I will have more to say on Olney's second article and Rice tomorrow.

Richard Aronson writes, "So while Boggs inflated ROB, maybe there was something in what Boggs did compared to prior leadoff hitters that made him harder for Rice to drive in. I dunno, could it be lots of singles, walks, and no steals?"

Dan Fox showed that, according to his numbers (which I admittedly know nothing about), Wade Boggs is the worst baserunner since 1970.

So that might have a small something to do with Rice's OBI% numbers, although obviously Wade Boggs shouldn't have had a huge effect on the big picture.

They were on the same team for 8 seasons, and Boggs averaged almost 3 runs below average (it might be replacement, he doesn't say) for his career. So even counting Boggs' baserunning, it might have brought down Rice's RBI totals by ONE run per season, if that much. Boggs hitting so many singles is kind of a bad point IMO... for the 6 FULL seasons that Boggs and Rice played together, Boggs averaged 41.5 doubles.

An aside: What the hell is up with Boggs' 1987 season? A season like that today would result in steroid allegations, if surrounded by seasons of 8,8,5,3 homeruns (like brady anderson).

Let me revise a bit:

"Boggs hitting so many singles is kind of a bad point IMO..."

I re-read your (Richard Aronson) comment and realized you were just asking a question about this, not making a point. My bad.

Is a home-away split like Rice's even all that unusual? Is there really anything special about the Rice-Fenway combination? Kirby Puckett had an even more extreme split for his career than Rice, hitting .344/.388/.521 at home but just .291/.331/.430 on the road. And unlike Fenway, the Metrodome is basically a generic park except for artificial turf.

Josh, to address your point I would first point out that like Rice, Puckett is just a marginal candidate.

But with regard to the overall point of home/road splits, the Metrodome played as a very favorable hitters park for much of Puckett's career. To name two HOF'ers, Dave Winfield and Cal Ripken had more impressive stats on the road than at home over the course of their careers.

Great piece, Rich, as usual. But a small quibble. You write:

"Of course, Rice deserves 'demerits' for not walking more often. It's not like Rice's lack of walks wasn't his own doing. He has nobody to blame but himself for not earning more bases on balls."

I wouldn't say that a lack of walks is a problem in and of itself. Tony Gwynn never walked terribly often; neither did/does Ichiro. But they had superior on-base percentages because they were out of this world when it came to banging out base hits. Unfortunately for Mr. Olney's case, you could not say the same about Jim Rice.

Rice's candidacy seems to benefit, at least in part, from the way in which we keep statistics. Yes, Rice got a lot of hits in his career (as many as Mickey Mantle), and yes, he drove in a lot of runs (as many as Yogi Berra). But fortunately for him, most people don't look at the flipsides of those stats: "outs made" and "runners left stranded." I'm confident that, throughout his career, Rice would have made the leaderboard of those two categories as well.

I've always wondered why outs are not an official batting statistic. Outs are integral to the game and easy to assign to particular players. But as far as I know they've never been kept.

Interesting point about Puckett...and it brought to my attention something I'd forgotten about him: the man HARDLY EVER walked! Wow, he never walked more than 56 times in a season. Looking at his 1988 season is jaw-dropping. He had career highs in hits (234), RBI (121), BA (.356) & OBP (.375). However, he also had his lowest walk total ever...23!!!!! Oh my God, that just blows my mind. That's one of oddest stat's I've ever seen. He STILL managed to have 358 TB...he had only one season better with 365 in 1986. I'm not calling into question his HOF qualifications though, he's a HOF'er to me. He did get some "special consideration" due to the horrible beaning that ended his career, but I never questioned him as an HOF'er.
I've got to say this though, all the talk about Rice this past week had put me back on the fence in regard to his HOF worthiness. I had been for it the past several years, but now I'm not so sure. There's been some VERY compelling arguments against him.

The fact that Puckett didn't walk much actually increased his Total Bases. Walks are not factored into TB; therefore, a hacker like Puckett swings more often and gets more opportunities to produce hits, all of which count toward TB.

This is an example why Total Bases *and* Times on Base (which also includes BB and HBP) should be viewed as two of the three most important counting stats (along with Outs). Slugging Average and On Base Percentage are basically their rate stat equals. These five stats, when viewed in the context of era, league, ballpark, and position, should be the holy grail of basic, easy-to-understand measurements of value, at least when it comes to hitting.


I agree...and that leads me to this question:

What IS the worst walk ratio to BA/SLG season ever??? Man, this seems to be one of the worst.

Just wondering and Cheers!

Bruce --

Without being sure exactly what you had in mind, I nominate the following seasons:

with a floor of .450 SLG:
Shawon Dunston 1997 .451 8 BB/221 TB .036
Shawon Dunston 1995 .472 10 BB/225 TB .044
Charlie Hickman 1902 .539 15 BB/288 TB .052
Carlos Lee 1999 .463 13 BB/228 TB .057
Garry Templeton 1979 .458 18 BB/308 TB .058

with a floor of .500 SLG:
Charlie Hickman 1902 .539 15/288 .052
Alfonso Soriano 2002 .547 23/381 .0604
Carl Reynolds 1930 .584 20/329 .0608
Dante Bichette 1995 .620 22/359 .061
Joe Medwick 1934 .529 21/328 .064

with a floor of .400 SLG:
Dunston 1997
Ivan Rodriguez 2007
Dunston 1995
Buck Weaver 1919
Ivan Rodriguez 2005


Great work, as always. I am more interested in part two and am looking forward to reading your thoughts. In Buster's second article he showed a basic lack of understanding of OPS+, Sabermetrics, and statistics in general. I sent him an e-mail with my thoughts but predictably did not receive response. I hope that you can get his attention.

Thanks, Bobby. Part two is now up.

I'm not sure I agree with Richard Aronson's point above about Rice having been "a very good clutch hitter". On top of the info in the main article regarding his OBI% over the course of his career, his performance in "clutch" situations doesn't measure up to his own performance in other situations. Looking at Rice's splits from and using tOPS+ to compare situational performance to overall performance:

Bases loaded: .302 BA, .299 OBP, .483 SLG, 81 tOPS+

2 outs and runners in scoring position: .270 BA, .358 OBP, .414 SLG, 84 tOPS+

Late & close: .274 BA, .337 OBP, .453 SLG, 86 tOPS+

In innings 7-9: .284 BA, .340 OBP, .461 SLG, 88 tOPS+

Not to make this about someone other than Rice (who I'm just not convinced is a Hall of Famer -- but, then again, I never saw the man play, which would preclude me, in the eyes of most voters, from commenting on him (as absurd an idea as that is)), but bringing up Kirby Puckett is probably an excellent point.

If you go to Baseball Reference and look at his comparable stats, only two names comes up being in the Hall of Fame: Joe Medwick (who I'm not really sure why they think his numbers compare) and Kiki Cuyler.

Other names on the list? Don Mattingly (not a HOF, and I love Donnie Baseball). Garrett Anderson. Felipe Alou. Kirby was an excellent player, and he got hurt, but the same could be said about Mattingly. Longevity means something (for ill or not), and Puckett (rather like his teammate, Jack Morris), is getting a pass because of a memorable game and sentimentality.

I feel, if anything, looking at Puckett is exactly the reason Rice shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. One of the biggest mistakes I think voters tend to make is: Hey, if that guy is in, then surely this guy should be in. But just because voters made a mistake in the past doesn't mean a precedent needs to be set.

In the end, Rice simply doesn't stack up. Yes, he had a great 10 years (and as was brought up, what an arbitrary time-frame), but those ten-years do not add up to a HOF career -- and that's basically as long as his career was.

The main case against Rice is his underwhelming OBP due to lack of walks. Contrary to the assertion in the article that Rice had "nobody to blame but himself for not earning more bases on balls", is the fact that the pitcher has something to do with it. If you're going to diminish Rice's RBI totals because he hit with a lot of runners on base, then his lack of walks should also be diminished for the same reason - pitchers are less likely to pitch around (and therefore, walk) a batter with runners on base. I don't know who hit behind Rice, but chances are it was either Lynn, Fisk, or Yaz at some point. Three good hitters. Do you not think that without Evans and Boggs in front of him, and the aforementioned behind him, that Rice would have drawn more walks? The problem with using walks as an indicator of a batter's ability is because, like RBI, it is dependent on who bats in front and behind you. Drawing a walk is not always an indicator of skill, either. An eighth place hitter in the NL will draw more walks than he would because the pitcher is behind him. How much skill, or "batting eye" does it take to not swing at a pitch a foot outside? The same goes for Barry Bonds and his astronomical OPS+. In most plate appearances, he does not get a pitch that is even close to the plate. Yes, he has a great eye, but you don't need a great eye to not swing at those pitches. So, what I am saying is that all walks are not created equal. Some require skill, some don't, some reflect a hitter's ability, some don't. Which is why, to say a hitter with a low walk total has a "bad eye", and is not as proficient as a hitter with a high walk total is not always true and vice versa.

Russ, you make a good point- that taking walks are not ENTIRELY the batter's responsibility; the pitcher has some say in the matter as well.
It is possible true that Rice would have gotten more free passes if he was hitting in a lineup of banjo hitters, yes, but one of the biggest pro-Rice arguments is that he was the MOST FEARED HITTER IN BASEBALL FOR 12 YEARS, DAMMIT! If this were true, then the other batters in the lineup would be more preferable to any pitcher, therefore more walks for Rice. Since Jim Rice never drew even a decent amount of walks in any season, it doesn't seem as if he could have really been all that fearsome.

Just a quick note to Bruce. Kirby Puckett was not beaned. He retired because of glaucoma.

Wasn't Puckett's glaucoma the result of a beaning, though?