Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Jim Rice Post (sorry)

I really don’t want this to be about Jim Rice or the Hall of Fame, but you may not believe me if you keep reading. What I really want to do here is make a point, and Rice just happens to serve as the example. However, the Hall of Fame debates are near the forefront of the baseball scene right now, and one writer’s argument about Rice has inspired me to write this piece.

Another disclaimer: this is not a good post. It just isn’t. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

I also don’t want to make this about the writer in question, Peter Abraham. I cannot claim to be familiar with his work, but my first impression is that he seems to be reasonably thoughtful and intelligent. However, he happened to raise a particular point, which I have seen broached elsewhere in different forms, explicitly and openly, and thus it is easy to respond to. It is a lot more difficult to respond to “Some people say…” as it seems as if you are setting up a strawman piƱata to bash with a Louisville Slugger.

This is what Mr. Abraham wrote in his blog at LoHud.com:

But here’s the problem, the Hall of full of players who were elected based on those standards. So should Jim Rice suffer or Bert Blyleven be elevated because smart people came up with better, more revealing statistics?

Nobody cared about on-base percentage in the 70s and 80s. Rice’s job was to swing for the fences. But now we know OBP matters. But Jim Rice can’t get in the DeLorean and take more pitches because it would make the Baseball Prospectus guys respect him more.


I have four points I would like to make in response, and I will take the lazy route and make a list:

1. Jim Rice had a low walk rate for a big slugger, even for a benighted era. I looked at the relative walk rates (W/(AB + W) relative to the league average of the same) for all of the 350 HR men in MLB history who started their careers in 1974 or earlier; Rice started his career in 1974, so these are all players who presumably would not have been affected by external pressure to take more pitches:


As you can see, most of these hitters drew a lot of walks relative to their peers, regardless of whether it was “their job” or not. Rice, walking at just 79% of the league average, is 38th of 41 on this list.

I could see this argument if Rice was not unique, and all of the big sluggers of the benighted era were not drawing walks. That’s just not the case.

In fairness, you can pick apart this list in a couple of ways. For one, the 350 homer minimum puts Rice, with 382, near the bottom. He’s being compared to a bunch of players who are better than him. A true group of his comparables would set the line lower, so that Rice was near the middle of the group. On the other hand, since the Hall of Fame is the overarching subject of this whole discussion, these are the guys he should be compared to. Also, eyeballing similarity, I would say the most similar players (in terms of career length, era, and production) on this list would be Dwight Evans, Dick Allen, Norm Cash, Rocky Colavito, Frank Howard, Graig Nettles, Billy Williams, Tony Perez, Dave Kingman, Orlando Cepada, and Lee May--all of whom walked more than he did except the last two. You don’t need to compare him to Ruth, Foxx, and Mantle to see that he didn’t draw a lot of walks for a slugger.

Another complaint is that by requiring the players to have embarked on their careers in 1974 and earlier, I am cutting out players who are essentially contemporaries of Rice while including many others who are clearly not his contemporaries (Ruth, Gehrig, Ott, etc.) Rice belongs in a group with Andre Dawson, who’s excluded here, much more than he does with them.

Caveats aside, I think the claim that sluggers of Rice’s era didn’t walk (or weren’t expected to walk) and thus it doesn’t matter should have to establish that contention. It flies against common sense and it flies against a cursory look at the evidence, and I am trying to be generous.

2. I let it go in my first point, but I don’t believe there was a benighted era (Abraham does not explicitly state that there was, but it is hinted at). Sure, baseball people (and writers, and fans, etc.) generally have a better or more complete understanding of the value of OBA and walks now than they did in 1980 or 1920. But I think it’s just a little bit condescending to pretend as if it was a revelation to them. Perhaps to some; but there have always been Earl Weavers and Branch Rickeys out there who understand the importance of getting on base/avoiding outs as well as anybody in any time.

There are certainly people throughout baseball, past and present, who didn’t properly appreciate the value of getting on base. And there are many more that, while recognizing the theoretical value of getting on base, have ignored or undervalued it when using statistics to judge a player. That’s a far cry from believing that this belief was so overwhelming that it prevented Rice from displaying patience, and the walk rates of other big home run hitters doesn't support such a position.

3. Even if someone threatened to fine Rice for every pitch he took, I don’t care. In the end, I am only interested in assessing value. If Rice’s lack of selectivity was caused by the conditions of his time, and made him a less valuable player in his own time and place than he might have been had he played in 2005, I don’t care.

Generally speaking, the same things that won baseball games in 2005 won baseball games in 1975. Evolving metrics just allow us to better quantify reality--they don’t change it.

This is where the discussion crosses into opinion territory of course--"value rules all" does not have to be the underlying philosophy that you use when evaluating players. I happen to believe that the only truly fair way to evaluate a player is to estimate how many wins he contributed to his team in the unique context in which he actually performed. Anything else is judging him on what he might have been or could have been and ultimately, what the individual thinks he could have been, rather than what he was. From reading the arguments of other writers over the years, it is my observation that straying too far off the value reservation often results in a mess of countering what-ifs and contradictions. It is much easier to just judge the player’s achievements as they relate to winning baseball games in the environment in which he actually performed.

Perhaps Rice would have taken more pitches if he had played today…but perhaps his aggressiveness enabled him to hit some of his home runs. Perhaps he would have gotten frustrated as a rookie when his hitting coach tried to impose this upon him, pressed, and gotten labeled as a AAAA player. Perhaps he would have been Manny Ramirez instead. The point is, you cannot possibly know what would have happened with any degree of certainty. Sabermetric estimates of Rice’s value in his own time and place are certainly not without flaw, weakness, and oversight, but they also are grounded in the principle of assessing what Rice actually did, and estimating its value.

I would even go so far as to say that Abraham’s argument, taken to its extreme, glorifies statistics above winning. One of the common complaints about sabermetricians is that all we care about is the numbers. Of course, the reason we look at certain statistics and interpret them as we do is because they correlate with wins. If you throw up your hands and say “In Rice’s time, people valued BA, HR, and RBI” and look at these despite agreeing that they are less telling than other metrics, aren’t you in fact saying that putting up statistics (specifically, statistics that are in vogue in a given time and place) is what matters?

4. Even if one accepts Abraham’s premise, I can’t imagine using it as an argument against a player. He cites Rice and Blyleven as two sides of the coin; one whose standing has been hurt by the proliferation of sabermetric ideas and one who has benefited from it.

Abraham suggests that perhaps Rice would have played the game differently if he played today. As I have spent the rest of this post explaining, I don’t buy it and even if I did, it wouldn’t change my mind on my opinion of him. But if you do, you may accept Abraham’s argument and view Rice’s relatively low OBAs (for a Hall of Fame corner outfielder) as a product of environment.

I have to ask, though, how would Blyleven’s performance be affected? Blyleven looks better when you evaluate him by runs allowed instead of by win-loss record. Had the observers of the time thought more about his ERA instead of his W%, he would have been better regarded in his own time. But how would it have affected what he did on the field? Blyleven was trying to prevent runs and win games. Are we to believe that he would have been able to allow less runs (or that he would have allowed more) had his contemporaries not paid attention to the “W” and “L” columns? Since I have to assume that just about everyone would answer “no”, then what good does it do to evaluate Blyleven in an outdated light? At least in the case of Rice, Abraham has offered a possible cause and effect relationship between contemporary views of statistics and performance. I don’t see any offered for the case of ERA v. W-L.

I have tried to avoid mentioning the Hall of Fame, because I don’t want to get into that debate (“that debate” being the one about which specific players should be in/out, not the election process itself or how a theoretical Hall might look). The same issues that come up in relation to the Hall are relevant for the general discussion of player value down through the years. My opinion of the Hall will be the same after Rice’s induction as it was before Rice’s induction, and while you can probably tell what I think of Jim Rice as a player, my intent really was just to use him as a vehicle to touch on the larger issues.

52 comments:

  1. Rice finished in the top 5 in mvp voting 6 times the other 9 players that have done that are in the hof .RICE Should be in as well. Or arre you saying that the voters at that time were wrong also and Rice value was overblown. I will go with the voters of the time not one looking back 30 years later.

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  2. Regarding Anonymous's comment about the voters "of that time" vs. "looking back 30 years later" ... What about the Hall of Fame voters 14 years ago? Where do they fit in your equation? Because 14 years ago the Hall of Fame voters soundly rejected Jim Rice as a Hall of Fame candidate.

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  3. Robbie
    Rice was a borderline case and has aways been one.(yes I think there is room for borerline cases) You know that it takes a borderline player time to build up his vote totals. (Not to mention that many of the voters were sticking it to him for being a jerk to them). Take a look at goose sutter carter for some recent examples. Rice had more votes than all of them if I recall more than gossage for 8 years and more than sutter for 7 carter for two or three.Not to mention that it is he luck of the draw for some players depends if the likes of ripken and gwynn are on the ballot. You can get bumped off without even getting 5% to stay on. Almost happened to baines. It did happen to Bobby Grich who deserved more consideration and if I recall d evans as well. IF rickey H would have retired 1 year earlier Rice would have walked in easy this year and blyleven and or Dawson would have also. It is the luck of the draw for the borderline guys.
    I know that you dont like Rice. But I think that he belongs.I wont bore you with stats and other reasons this debate has been exhausted many times over. I just dont understand the attack on him through the years. IT is like the guardians of the hall will fight to their last breath to keep the man out. Who is next probably Dawson i guess? The 80's players have been overlooked for too long.I would think that you would be rooting for the man at least for giving you something to write about all these years. Give the man a break.He has been a stand up guy through the process and has actually gained more fame from the process. When is the last time anyone has talked about sandberg carter boggs sutter etc.

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  4. I don't think Mr. Neyer or anyone else has really attacked him. You know how it goes...an ad saying my candidate lied is an "attack", and ad saying your candidate lied is a courageous effort to get out the message that the voters are too stupid/ignorant/brainwashed to have grasped. And the same is true for Hall of Fame arguments.

    That being said, though, you make an excellent point when you say:

    He has been a stand up guy through the process and has actually gained more fame from the process. When is the last time anyone has talked about sandberg carter boggs sutter etc.

    This is the perverse system that the Hall of Fame has set up, where the marginal cases get all of the glory, and the greats are quickly ushered in and forget about. More ink has been spilled about Jim Rice and Phil Rizzuto over the years, with regards to the Hall of Fame, as on Jackie Robinson and Tom Seaver. I think there is something fundamentally flawed about such a system, which is why I believe the Hall should be constructed as a pyramid, with players being inducted, then voted up to the next rung.

    Such a system would satisfy advocates of both a large and small Hall, as the small Hall crowd could focus on the higher levels. The large Hall crowd could be happy with getting their guys into the first level. And it would keep names from the distant past in the conversation. Alas, it will never happen.

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  5. P & rob

    I agree that the system is a mess. However I disagree and do think that Neyer and Keith Law have been attacking rice. using him him oto bang thier drum for years. Even you had to add "im sorry" to the title of your post because you realize that the story has been beat to death. Let it go. Here is an Idea. How about writing a positive article on a player that you think is deserving and make your case. It might pick up momentem through the years and get the player in.

    I guess that like negative campainging in an election it is easier.Just becaus it is the "way that it is" does not make it right.

    Last year espn.com ran an article ALL through the month of DEC By Rob stating his beliefs that Rice did not belong. Fine his opinion but to have that article on the espn baseball homepage all through the month when voters on the fence are doing their research I believe did or could have caused Rice the vote totals he needed. He missed by a few. The self proclaimed world wide leader in sports I think would be a place some voters would turn to to get their take. What bothered me the most is that at the same time espn.com was writing debate articles on individual players throughout the month. They started with goose highest vote total from previous year not to get in and than skiped over rice for dawson then raines than blyleven then lee smith by the time that the article was written on Rice the deadline for the writers to get the ballotts in had passed. By the way both espn writers in the article believed that Rice should get in. Why would they wait to post their positive rice article untill after the fact. Espically when he was the only player other with goose to have a chance. While at the same time Neyers article was posted for all to see throughout the month?

    I know it all sounds pretty grassy nollish but I so think that Rice has become the Sabermetrics target and that they get great satisfaction in trying to keep him out.

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  6. When will people drop the "80s players being overlooked thing." There are lots of prominent 70s/80s players that were Rice's contemporaries that are in the hall/will be in: Boggs, Schmidt, Brett, Winfield, Henderson, Ozzie, Carter, Fisk, Ripken, Gwynn, Murray, Yount, Molitor, Eckersley, Sandberg, Ryan, Goose, Carlton, Neikro, Seaver, Sutton, and Sutter. Almost all of whom were far more deserving than Rice. Do you seriously think that Rice was more feared than Winfield or Schmidt?

    If you want to induct more 80s players how about Tim Raines or Alan Trammell both were among the better players of the 80s and get no love from the writers.

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  7. The point of this post was not to be pro- or anti- Rice; it was to discuss the specific argument that Mr. Abraham advanced. I think that argument is invalid, as I explained in the post. You can disagree with that conclusion of course, but please recognize that my only goal here was to respond to that specific argument, not Rice's candidacy in general. It's just that the issues of player valuation are rarely discussed so frankly and openly as during Hall of Fame season (with the exception of MVP season).

    I have no interest in writing positive pieces on HOF candidates because I don't really care who they elect. I think, for example, that Tim Raines was a great player, but I'll think that regardless of whether he's ever in Cooperstown. I'd rather argue about the system itself than the players chosen by the system.

    Obviously I don't know about the inner workings at ESPN, but I think it's a little silly to blame Rob for their editorial decisions.

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  8. sorry I did not mean to suggest that Rob was responsible for the placement of the article. I blame espn editor. I believe that it showed a major bias.

    as for your post. I understand your point but when you name a post "A JIM RICE" post you are fanning the negative flame. You are using him like so many others as your vehicle. It has been driven way too long. Choose a different car. IF the sabermetricians had a logo it would be Jim Rice sswinging a bat and probably missing.
    Everyone is intitled to their opinion but in the Rice case it has been a witch hunt. I was actually on the fence with rice and the hall for years but the bombardment of negativity has made me start puling for the man. To recieve 72.3% of the vote and not to get in now would be something that he should not have to shoulder.

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  9. I think we're going to have to agree to disagree.

    These discussions are a give and take. Rice has a lot of advocates advancing a lot of different arguments on his behalf. If it wasn't Rice, it would be somebody else. After Rice is taken care of this year (one way or the other), it will be Jack Morris or Lee Smith or, from the sabermetric side (if we're going to characterize it as monolithic), Blyleven or Raines or Trammell.

    If Abraham had made this argument about Player X, I would have responded about Player X. I sort of pre-apologized for the fact that Rice was a major topic here becuase I think there's a saturation of Rice articles, pro and con, and I can certainly see why people, whether they advocate for, against, or are netural on Rice, would be suffering from some fatigue. And how's that for a run-on sentence?

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  10. Anonymous said: "I wont bore you with stats and other reasons this debate has been exhausted many times over. I just dont understand the attack on him through the years."

    Um, you're not going to "bore" us with statistics because, other than your heavy reliance on MVP voting, they don't favor Rice, right? They simply prove the argument you can't take, that he belongs in the "Hall of Very Good."

    And if by "attack" you mean "defense of the standards the HOF supposedly upholds," then perhaps you should ask yourself why hundreds of writers, with access to MVP voting, statistics, videos, and the 20/20 of hindsight seem to continually disagree with your position...maybe because: you're wrong?

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  11. I think you need to worry about intentional walks. I know they weren't always kept, but at least an estimate.

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  12. It would be nice to have IW data, but I'm not taking them out for Rice and the other players we have the data for, so they are at no record-keeping disadvantage here.

    It would be next to impossible for IW to make Rice's walk rate anything more than below average within this group of players.

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  13. i think i am as sick as everyone is about the rice and blyleven debate, but i would just like to add that as a stat inclined yet player neutral fan of the game, i now hate jim rice and hope he never gets in the hall because of fans like anonymous. they ruin every discussion about the hall this time of year. honestly, i grew up in the late 80s and 90s and never gave a darn about rice one way or the other until the last few years, when i have grow to hate rice's guts with a passion.

    p.s. P, great blog, long time first time.

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  14. Greg 3 things
    Last time I looked 72 % of thoae voters agreed with me

    Second.The Rice stats that I speak of have been published over and over and over again and I know that they fall on deaf ears to the sabermatrician so why bother

    and finally. who made you a guardian of the hall and the " defense of the standards that the hall supposedly up holds" last time I checked the calls criteria was a 10 year career Rice led in almost every offensive catagory h,hr,rbi,r,slg total bases etc.over a ten year span Dont bother with your stat analysis they have been rehashed over and over.also in the bylaws of the hof I thought character was suppose to matter but yet eck,molitor( 2 illegal drug users at one time) got in and everyone who backs Raines gives him the pass on his coke habit.astually sliding headfirst not to break glass vials of coke in his pocket. I dont see any guardians of the hall trying to uphold the halls criteria there. (i know they reformed and good for them everyone deserves a second chance ) but tell that to the fans and owners that paid or paid to watch those players when they were not living up to their contracts. Eck was so deep in the botle and drug habit that instead of being the ace he should have been became a so so preformer untill tony larussa saved him.Keep I guess you can pick and choose your criteria to protect the hall and ops is more important.

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  15. P
    You are right we will have to agree to disagree and thats ok.At least we wont have to revisit rice in the coming years again. Somehow if he gets in I think still there will be more post attacking his elaction for years to come. Hopefully you will have moved on to another player by then.

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  16. This is a specious argument. Comparing walk rates to different eras is about as unscientific as comparing OPS+ to different eras. Take Rice's 75-86 peak and rank all hitters with 200+ HR by OBP. Rice was 12th out of 32. Winfield's OBP was identical (and he hit in a weak lineup). Jackson was lower. Fisk was lower. Carter was lower. Dawson was lower. The higest OBP was Schmidt at .386. Now do it for 63-74 and you'll notice that the mean OBP of the same group is significantly higher. You can't value out of context and you're ignoring the fact that the Sox didn't run, didn't play small ball and relied heavily on the philosopy of the 3 run HR. Ignore the fact that if you walked Rice with runners on you had to face a very good lineup after him. Tell me why no one criticizes Murray and Stargell for a near identical career out rate as Rice. You can slice and dice this all you want, but the fact remains that for sluggers of his era, Rice was in the top 3rd for OBP while in top 5 for slugging (and 2nd in go ahead RBI's at his peak).

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  17. You seem to be missing the point. I am not arguing that Rice should not be in the Hall of Fame because he had a below-average walk rate. What I am arguing is: any contention that Rice's below-average walk rate was an inevitable result of the environment in which he played is a specious and faulty argument.

    That being said, let's look at your argument: Rice is 12th in OBA among players with 200+ HRs in 1975-86. First of all, it should be noted that this is a very favorable comparison for Rice since it covers just about his entire productive career, whereas for a player like Jackson, it leaves out what one could argue are his second, third, fifth, and sixth most valuable seasons (71, 68, 69, and 73 respectivley).

    Brushing that aside, here are the players in your group with lower OBAs than Rice, divided into some relevant categories:
    Hall of Famers
    Jackson
    Carter
    Fisk
    Players who might be elected
    Dawson
    Players who aren't HoF candidates, at least right now
    Cey
    Parker
    Foster
    Baylor
    Oglivie
    Cooper
    Horner
    Hendrick
    Garvey
    Nettles
    DeCinces
    Thomas
    Parrish (Lance and Larry)
    Kingman
    Armas

    Of the HoFers, Carter and Fisk are both catchers and thus have oodles more defensive value than Rice.

    I don't find this a particularly compelling argument; in fact, I think one could very well look at your argument and conclude that it is a mark against Rice rather than the positive you want it to be.

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  18. Mr. Neyer:

    Rice was not soundly rejected in 1995. He came in 8th in his first year right behind Ron Santo a guy you "wholheartedly" endorsed for the Hall of Fame. 4 Hall of Famers finished ahead of him plus Oliva and Garvey and he finished ahead of Bruce Sutter who made it in. Rice finished with 30% on his first ballot higher than B. Williams, Sutter and many others. During the 14 years Rice finished ahead of other players in voting who eventually made it in to the HOF. To say Rice was "soundly rejected" is misleading and intellectually dishonest. Your anti-Rice campaign is full of misleading arguments like this - please stop doing such damage to your journalistic credibility and reputation.

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  19. No personal attacks, please.

    This is directed at a comment that I rejected, not any of the ones posted, which are fine.

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  20. Obviously I don't speak for Rob, and while perhaps "soundly rejected" is a bit strong, I think the point he is trying to make is that at no point was Rice considered an obvious HoFer by the writers. He has always been a borderline case.

    Now you can argue that's wrong--he should be a no-brainer, he shouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell, whatever you want. But I don't see a lot of wiggle room to argue that the electors have ever viewed him as anything but a borderline candidate.

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  21. why would rob neyer have an anti rice bias? a writer who covers the entire league would purposely piss off one of the largest and most rabid fan bases in the entire sport? i think a more logical explanation is rob neyer has objectively looked at the evidence for and against rice and reached a conclusion. a conclusion that is shared by many other sabrely inclined writers who also cover every team and gave no professional or (apparent) personal incentive to include bias into their reasoning. believe me, espn is more than generous in their coverage of the red sox. to not include neyer's opinion of rice in the hall debate web pages would be far more ludicrously biased. just give it a rest already. sheesh.

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  22. andrew
    maybe rob just hates rices guts as yur stated you do earler.

    The espn point was that it ran the entire month whereas the pro rice article did not appear untill after the vote total was in.

    and yes ticking off red sox nation would be a brilliant move by a writer trying to advance his or her career. just look at the reaction you get when you get red sox nation upset. Confilct sells my friend.

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  23. hey you know i think youre right. i think rob really does hate rice's guts. that makes total sense. in fact, it fits with rob's whole career, of writing for the last dozen plus years about baseball, always purposely ticking of members of red sox nation to help sell conflict for espn. i think we should all thank red sox nation for helping elevate the discussion of baseball to a higher level and for exposing the truth. well, glad we got that cleared up.

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  24. Andrew
    I was being sarcastic With the "hate rices guts comment"

    But if you dont think articles by neyer and other writers are written to creat conflict and heated debate(and in turn bringing the writer attention) than I think that you are wrong.They are easy articles to write.It is always harder to build something up than tear it down.

    My whole point of these post was to say that I believe that the sabs of the world have played the antirice drum too often and too loud. It has become their battle cry. Get off the man and move on.He was one hell of a player who now has become known almost solely as a topic of debate.

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  25. I am supposed to believe that Rob Neyer, former assistant to Bill James, author of five (?, I may be selling him short) books, columnist for one of the top sports sites on the web, has to go around ripping on Jim Rice in order to get attention?

    The Rice advocates can't have it both ways. He can't be the #1 returning vote getter on the ballot without drawing a lot of attention, pro and anti.

    And don't pretend as if it's just Jim Rice that the Hall of Fame process has turned into a pinata. It's Blyleven, it's Raines, it was Rizzuto and Drysdale in the past. That's the way the system works. You don't have to like it, but don't pretend as if it's confined to Jim Rice and that he is somehow being singled out as no player ever has before or will be again.

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  26. There has hardly anything thats been written about Blyleven he has quietly been gaining steam and he will probably get some attention by themedia next year as for Raines he was not considered a first ballot lock by most so he will have to wait out the process.Have funr with the campainging.
    As for Rice not continuning to be a topic of debate (in or out of the hall) I will believe it when I see it. He is your posterboy.

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  27. Darn, you figured us out. The entire existence of sabermetrics is all a big plot against Jim Rice.

    Rice is in the discussion because he is in the news. It's just that simple. You can't have it both ways; you can't try to seek the ultimate baseball honor for your guy and expect the rest of the world to just say "OK, whatever".

    As for me, I can assure you that this is the first post I've ever made about Jim Rice (I may have had a sentence in one or two other posts, but certainly nothing like this). And it wasn't even supposed to be about Rice's HoF candidacy, it was supposed to be about Mr. Abraham's specific argument, with Rice serving as the example because that's who Abraham used.

    Unfortunately the Rice supporters who have commented here have really not grasped the difference, and thus have changed the topic of the discussion.

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  28. once the sabes idol Bill James stated that Roy White was as good a player as jim rice it has been a heated discussion. numbers can be massaged in different ways to generate any outcome. the rice 75-86 totals leading everything offensively can be misleading(he was not the best offensive player of that era but was in the discussion) and any formula that sabes use ca nalso be misleading (yes including the almighty ops+) bottom line is rice was a much better player that roy white and is a borderline candidate for the hall and if he gets in would not diminish the hall in the least.

    you cant write an article about the subject and expect the discussion to go any other way than it has unless you want to just preach to your believers and have them say good job with the article. and pat you on the back.

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  29. you cant write an article about the subject and expect the discussion to go any other way than it has unless you want to just preach to your believers and have them say good job with the article. and pat you on the back.

    I have no problem with critical responses; believe me, if I did, I would be rejecting many of these comments. However, I don't think it's too much to hope that the responses deal with the real point, which I reiterated in the last comment.

    One could reject Mr. Abraham's particular argument in favor of Rice while still supporting Rice's candidacy. If someone tried to argue that Tim Raines should be in the HoF because he stole X bases over some period of time, I would consider that a very poor argument, despite the fact that I think Raines was a terrific player.

    One of the comments from the Rice supporters, the one about him being 12th in OBA from 75-86, did touch on the main point of my post. And one (which did not specify whether they were pro, anti, or neutral towards Rice) raised the issue of intentional walks, which is certainly related to my post. The rest have been about the general topic of his HoF worthiness.

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  30. i guess that discussing rice is like complaining to your mother in law about her daughter . It wont do any good no matter what you say.
    that goes both ways (pro and anti rice)
    every point brought up by either side gets brushed aside for a counter stat. the bombardment has made for an impossiable discussion.

    we will have to agree to disagree and it will be interesting to see if the rice discussion does end with his election (on non election).I will be pulling for him on dec 12th he has been at the center of the storm for too long.

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  31. It seems like this is being made waay to complicated. If a pitch is a strike and the player knows its a strike he can hit then thats when a player swings. If its a ball then they do not or should not swing. Its not like balls and strikes are a new rule. Did players from Rice's era decide to swing a bad pitches? I don't think so. They just weren't that good.

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  32. no the middle approach the middle of the order guys had at that time were to swing the bat. They were the guys paid to deliver the offense. now a days the ss and 2b men are paid to hit and the lineups are more offensive. anyone in the lineup can drive in runs so a 3 or 4 hitter can wait for his pitch if he does not get it who cares the 678 hitters will drive him in. The game is played different today.There are no Mario mendozas mark belangers. if you cant hit there is little room for you.

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  33. That's certainly what you and Mr. Abraham would have us believe, but I'm not buying it (nor do I buy "they just weren't that good", which is silly).

    In 2008, the 3-4-5 hitters in the AL had a walk rate W/(AB+W) of .111; the league average was .096, so they were 15% above it. In 1978, the 3-4-5 hitters in the AL had a walk rate of .104 versus a league average of .095, or 9% better.

    So today's heart of the order hitters are walking, relative to the league average, 115/109 ~ 6% more than those of 1978. 6%, and to hear the arguments from the Rice crowd you might think it was 60%.

    Jim Rice simply did not a lot of walks relative to his peers, whether you consider his peers to be the whole player population, the heart of the order hitters, or big sluggers throughout history.

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  34. I meant they weren't that good compared to Hall of Famers. The Hall of Fame players from that era were plenty good. I mean the people with bad pitch recognition.

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  35. there you go with your abbacus again.

    Do you honestly believe that a 6 time top 5 finisher for mvp whould not have been able to walk more ao adjusted to todays game if he wanted to. My god he had seasons with over 670 ab and did not strike out 200 times like todays sluggers do. He would have adjusted. Giambi and his like walk all the time because with todays small ballparks and watered down pitching and small strikezone it is easier to and there is a more of a benefit to than there was in the past. get off the walks. the strike zone was at the letters in his rices day. jim palmer probably never threw a ball below a hitters waist in his career.

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  36. To the 4:26 poster: Gotcha. Sorry I misunderstood which group you were referring to.

    To the 4:53 poster:

    1) The idea that looking at walks/PA compared to the league average causes you to bust out the old "abacus" line (what, are slide rules chopped liver?) is hilarious.

    2) Get off the walks? That's the whole point of the original post, which was not meant to take a stand on Rice's candidacy but instead to respond to Mr. Abraham's argument about walks. If you're not interested in that topic, why did you read this in the first place? There are plenty of other blogs out there where people have explicitly gone after Rice's candidacy as a whole, and if you feel that they are overstating the importance of walks, than that would be a good place to focus your energy.

    I don't accept the premise that Rice would have to adjust his plate discipline if he played in 2008. There are still middle of the order hitters with a liberal approach (Carlos Lee, Vlad Guerrero, Jose Guillen to name a few). There is not a monolithic approach to hitting in any era.

    For all I know, Rice may have maximized his talent using the approach that he did. The real question is how much value did his actual performance have when he played.

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  37. i love it when admitted red sox fanatics accuse someone else of bias. absolutely hysterical. uh, would this conversation be going on if rice played for the texas rangers? the sabes (a new one to me) try to remain calm and use objective analysis while the red sox spazes scream foul and spew wholly subjective nonsense. kind of goes with the whole you-cant-prove-anything-with-numbers-and-to-prove-that-i-will-use-numbers, argument.

    and so another quality discussion about baseball is ruined by jim rice super fans. hence my hatred for jim rice.

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  38. something that you do not take into account is teams approach. some teams want their player to walk others do not. another thing about the strikezone rice murdered the ball that was up at the letters and was usually called a strike if he took it in his day. with the srtike zone being much larger in his day he would swing more often. to say that he lacked pitch recogniton is crazy he was a .298 career hitter. ( dont bother I know ba means nothing too you) some players of his time were actually praised for their swing at all cost approach such as sanguillen and a little before his time clemente. anyone who ever saw Rice play knows he did not hack at anything like Vlad G.
    I dont buy that he would be a hofer only if he walked 25 more times a year

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  39. See the pitch, determine whether strike or ball. Strike in players comfort zone=swing, put ball in play. Ball or pitch player can't handle=don't swing, walk or force pitcher to make perfect pitches.

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  40. FACT: Jim Rice has a lower OPS than Neifi Perez and Tony Womack over the last 10 years.

    (Of course, this has nothing to do with Jim Rice being worse than these guys, just the fact that he hasn't played)

    Picking specific years is a problem, no matter how you do it, this is why I hate the "during the 12 years I've selected, Jim Rice was X Y Z" type arguments. He was a tremendous player, but he's borderline. I remember how much of a pleasure it was to watch him hit, but I also remember watching Keith Hernandez hit (I still have his 1988 "Starting Lineup" figure).

    It doesn't take anything away from Jim Rice's career...no one can argue that he was a BAD player. However, there simply has to be a line somewhere, and maybe he's destined to be the one of the best guys on the outside.

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  41. something that you do not take into account is teams approach. some teams want their player to walk others do not.

    If the Red Sox didn't want players to walk, they did a poor job of passing this on to Dewey, Yaz, and Lynn, all teammates of Rice.

    Even if they did, so what? What if a team didn't want it's players to hit for power? Would we just ignore that a player only averaged say, 10 homers a year when evaluating his career?

    to say that he lacked pitch recogniton is crazy he was a .298 career hitter.

    I never said he lacked "pitch recognition"; I just said he didn't walk a lot, and that's a fact.

    I dont buy that he would be a hofer only if he walked 25 more times a year

    If he would have traded 25 outs for walks a year, he would have gone from a career line of 298/351/502 to a career line of 311/390/523, which is a big difference.

    That's not to say that he COULD have, but in a world where you could waive a magic wand and turn outs into walks, it would be extremely valuable.

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  42. I think you have a troll on your hands with Ananymous. Although his refusal to listen to any of your well-thought out arguments does make for some comical reading.

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  43. just like with your stats that you throw out there. you seem to be just as one sided with what personal attacks you allow to post.but thats ok it is your post.

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  44. for the first 7 years(rices prime) of his career rice hit way more hr and extra base hits than yaz dewey and lynn and fisk. he was the sox big bat his job bas to swing the bat.yes lynn was hurt alot but RICE played hurt and was almost always in the lineup. almost no sox had a 100 bb season. I think dewey miight of had ane or two . I dont recall off hand. wone boggs got there things changed of course. but the other sox hardly walked burleson hobson g.scott later hr leader tony armas don baylor. maybe it was as a result of the old school managers the sox had during rices career d. johnson d zimmer ralph houk j mac. joe morgan. But they wanted him to hit.

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  45. Again, even if I grant that it's true (I don't), why should I care? The only goal of the team should be to maximize its wins. If they take some counter-productive approach, I see no reason to make allowances when evaluating the value of their players. And the 100 walk season standard is arbitrary. As the data above shows, Dewey and Yaz had excellent walk rates. Lynn's is not in the class, but it was above average.

    Ultimately, a batter's plate approach is up to him. People whined that Ted Williams took too many pitches, passed the buck too much, etc. Guess what? He ignored it and played the game the way he felt was best.

    The underlying assumption of your post seems to be that anybody could walk if they wanted to. I don't accept that as fact. There are differences among players in eyesight, hand/eye coordination, and other factors that affect "plate discipline" just as there are differences in strength and speed. I am not claiming that Rice was a fool or a failure because he didn't draw a lot of walks; but HAD he been able to, he would have been a better player. So would have Mario Mendoza if he could hit.

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  46. How in the hell would you know if a hitters approach is "ultimately up to him". Different teams have different approaches. If you dont know that you have never watched the game.
    Saying that the greatest hitter of all time did it his own way and did not listen to the critics so rice and others should as well is foolish.

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  47. I have watched a lot of baseball games, and I have never seen a batting coach, manager, GM, or owner at the plate swinging the bat for a hitter.

    Teams may have different approaches, but you've failed to provide any evidence that the Red Sox forced Jim Rice to swing the bat. And again, his teammates like Yaz, Dewey, and Lynn were certainly not averse to drawing walks.

    If the Red Sox had ordered Rice to try to be a slap hitter, would you be here trying to wipe away his resulting lack of home runs as relevant to his value as a player? Ultimately, the results the player produces on the field are what he is judged on. Anything else and you end up twisted around like a pretzel, flailing away. Which is where you are now.

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  48. "And the 100 walk season standard is arbitrary."

    Yep, we can even look a little closer and see this more clearly... Dewey had 3 100+ walk seasons, but had 6 95+ walk seasons. He also led the AL in walks in strike shortened 1981 with 85.

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  49. fact: jm rice was in the top 5 for mvp 6 times

    fact: the other 9 players who have done this and are eligible for the hall are in the hall

    soon to be fact : walks or no walks rice will be in the hall. rice basher will have to deal with it and move on to your next player to target.

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  50. Although I can appreciate the fact that you were responding to another's assertion about walks, you chose to ignore those sluggers who played most of their careers at the same time as Rice - at least 2 of whom are in the HOF. This is an interesting omission. Winfield w'd once every 9 ab and finished with a 353 OBP. Rice walked once every 12 AB and finished with a .352 AB. But yet we want to reward the mighty walk over the hit. This is significant when one considers Rice hit .308 with men on compared to Winfield's .287. This becomes all the more significant b/c what's the relative value of a walk vs. a hit when you are in a lineup with other guys with good OBP's who get on base? Conversely, if you're in a good lineup, then it would seem to make sense that you would be walked less. Murray walked once every 8 AB to Rice's 12.2. But despite this large % difference, Murray only got on base .7% more than Rice. So when OBP's are comparable, explain again how a walk is as good as a hit or better than a hit as OPS+ will state. Sorry, but this all smacks of holding players to post 1993 OBP philosophies (and obviously OBP's have gone up significantly) and smacks of revisionism and historical study absolutely demands that one make allowance for the way players were taught in their time.

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  51. Although I can appreciate the fact that you were responding to another's assertion about walks, you chose to ignore those sluggers who played most of their careers at the same time as Rice - at least 2 of whom are in the HOF.

    True, and acknowledged.

    So when OBP's are comparable, explain again how a walk is as good as a hit or better than a hit as OPS+ will state.

    OPS+ states no such thing. OBA weights walks and hits equally; SLG ignores walks entirely. Singles are valued more highly, relative to walks, by OPS+ than by more advanced sabermetric measures. I don't like or use OPS or OPS+.

    and smacks of revisionism and historical study absolutely demands that one make allowance for the way players were taught in their time.

    Does historical study also demand that one pretends as if walks are worthless just because people at the time thought they were (which, again, is a premise that I reject and consider to be historical revisionism at its finest)?

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