29 December 2008

Dont Believe The Hype

There is the Jim Rice that appeared to be, and the Jim Rice that really was, and that is what his Hall Of Fame candidacy boils down to.

In terms of appearances, Jim Rice was an unequivocal HOFer. He earned a whopping 3.15MVP shares (tied for 30th all time with Piazza), an impressive measure of worth bestowed by contemporary sportswriters. His iconic 1978 season is widely perceived as one of the finest individual campaigns of the last half century, and HOF talk followed Rice early in his career. He was, as most people outside of Mongolia are by now aware, "the most feared hitter of his day".

The problem with this, however, is that it's all bullshit. He deserved the 1978 MVP, but that wasnt one of the better MVP campaigns of the past thirty years, let alone one of the best alltime. He was an outstanding hitter for a short while and compiled very impressive seasonal counting stats for a variety of reasons:

1. He played in an unusually advantageous home park, especially for a RHB, before newer, smaller parks decreased Fenway's relative advantage
2. He batted third within many excellent lineups, maximizing plate appearances and opportunities with men on base.
3. He seldom walked, increasing his propensity for all counting stats -including outs.
4. Despite a somewhat truncated career, Rice was actually very durable during it.

Of course, Rice gets full credit for durability, but everything else discounts the true value of his statistical accomplishments. Everybody was knocking the ball around Fenway, creating runs. Jim Rice just happened to bat third. Dont believe me? Look at this:

Runs Created/27 Outs - Career
Some Red Sox HOFers

Williams 12.0
Ramirez 9.0
Boggs 7.1
Cronin 6.5
Yaz 6.3 - 3308 games, 7 gold gloves
Doerr 5.8 - 2nd baseman
Fisk 5.5 - catcher, 2499 games

Some Red Sox non-HOFers

Ortiz 7.8
Mo Vaughn 7.3
Nomar 7.0
Burks 6.6 - 2000 games, 2 gold glove
Smith 6.4 - 1987 games, 1 gold glove
Lynn 6.3 - 1969 games, 4 gold gloves
Evans 6.2 - 2606 games, 8 gold gloves
Rice 6.0 - 2089 games, 0 gold gloves

It's unfair to compare Rice with Nomar, Ortiz, or Mo Vaughn's rate stats here, because Rice played longer, but isnt it hard to reconcile this Runs Created list with the frothing Fenizens insisiting Rice was some kind of transcendent offensive force?

Rice was a high impact hitter and he's up against the same here, but after factoring in defensive and baserunning considerations, can there be much doubt that for much of his career, Jim Rice was less valuable than Dwight Evans and Fred Lynn - essentially Boston's third best outfielder? Was he honestly a better player than long forgotten Reggie Smith, or Ellis Burks - or thirty other guys?

Then there's the Boston-centric malarkey about how he was the most feared human since, evidently , their Strangler. These people really need to get out more. I was a Yankee fan at the time, and Rice was genuinely feared for a few years, but no more than Cecil Fielder, Pedro Guerrero, or a bunch of other Jack Clarks or Will Clarks not in the Hall.

Here's a list of the current crop of Hall candidates, sorted by career intentional walks:

Baines 187
Parker 170
Murph 159
McGwire 150
Raines 148
Mo Vaughn 144
Dawson 143
Mattingly 136
Grace 115
Matt Williams 86
Rice 77
Rickey 61
Greg Vaughan 54
Trammell 48
Gant 38
Bell 25

...same list, but this time just the so-called sluggers:

Parker 170
Murph 159
McGwire 150
Mo 144
Hawk 143
Mattingly 136
Williams 86
Rice 77
Greg Vaughan 54
Gant 38

Seriously, how feared could Jim Rice have been, by pitchers, the people who actually matter? He barely coaxed more free passes per game than Greg Vaughan, and is nowhere near the other sluggers. The other Vaughn, Mo, played 577 fewer games than Rice, with almost twice as many free passes. Even a Bostonian, blinded by remorse for booing Rice for the better part of a decade, should be able to discern who was the more feared hitter.


Song of the Day - Dont Believe The Hype (Public Enemy)


Michael Norton said...

Damn, I go silent and you start posting again! I've got some catching up to do around here. Good to see you are back in the saddle. Never hurts to take a little down time and recharge the batteries.

Michael Norton said...

That's a great image, btw 8)

Matt said...

Thx, Michael

Some people may not take my "recharging" in stride, but I really need to. I write to learn and have fun, to "live" as it were - I dont live to write. Thanks for understanding.

I heard you had a nice holiday. Same here. My oldest brother, from Maine, who sends us a homemade wreath each Xmas, will visit Monday, and my lowkey mom happened upon a lady doctor she really likes (her old doctor, the one who forgot to tell her to fast as treatment prep, expired). Oh, and I got a new bike! I got a new bike! I got a new bike!

There's a neat trail near my house, on the berms of the canals, with lots of bike underpasses, so you can ride for miles in the city without once worrying about automobiles. Well, I cant ride for TOO many miles yet, but a few anyway, and that's what I'm about to do. Bye :-)

Happy New Year, Friend

Jeff said...

Wow, Jim Rice surely has let himself go in his old age... gold teeth and a top hat... AND a neckCLOCKlace? I'd hate to see what Bill Buckner looks like these days.

Matt said...

Buckner today

Jeff said...

He's really let himself go.

Matt said...

Premature gray, common in the Back Bay :-)

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