Jim Rice Makes It In

The Hall of Fame inductees were announced today. I was not aware that today would be that day and upon learning who got in, I found myself with two reactions: good for Rickey, he was a Hall of Fame worthy player no matter what rational criteria you use and disappointment that Jim Rice finally made his way in. Mostly though I was left with a resounding apathy. Like every award that is voted on by the writers association or by the general fans, I can no longer get emotionally invested in it. The process is too broken, the voters too uninformed.

People who I was (and mostly still am) willing to defer to had by and large made the relevant cases for why Jim Rice did not belong among the game’s supposedly greatest elites. That was fine enough for me since my aforementioned lack of caring about the Hall of Fame (other than to be happy for the people that I wanted to get in since I imagine they do still care about the honor) gave me little motivation to investigate otherwise.

But it’s worth a little bit of work now that Rice is officially in. Granted, we only have sketchy information for that time period, and I don’t have historical weights off-hand, so I’m going to present a range of possible values for Jim Rice‘s career and we’ll see how that stacks up.

Rice’s career wOBA ends up at .373 or so depending on which formula you use, which is quite a good number, especially since the league average on base percentage (which wOBA aims to be scaled against) from 1975 through 1988 is roughly .328. Over the roughly 9,000 plate appearances of Rice’s career, we’re left with Rice generating just shy of 360 runs, or to put it a more familiar context, about 24 runs per 600 PAs.

Seems pretty good but there’s a giant missing part here and it’s green and very tall. A right-handed hitter in Fenway Park enjoys a tremendous boost to his hitting stats. Given Rice’s hitting profile, his overall numbers are likely to have contributed to a 2% increase in his wOBA. That sounds small, but when adjusted, Rice’s wOBA drops down to .366, and his value per season to 20 runs. As it turns out, that would mark Rice down for roughly 300 runs over his career, a number very much close to Baseball-Reference’s Batting Runs (294.7) which is park and league adjusted.

Positional wise, Rice spent three-quarters of his career in a corner outfield spot and the remainder at DH meaning that he averaged a ten run penalty per season for his position. Left is to make guesses about how much his defense was worth. If you thought he was an average defender, Rice grades out at about the three-win level. Having never seen Rice play, I cannot attest to any valid opinion on his defense, but even granting Rice average defensive skill, is 15 seasons of three wins worth a Hall of Fame induction?

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

13 Responses to “Jim Rice Makes It In”

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  1. David R says:

    The good thing about having Jim Rice in the HOF, based on the votes of the uninformed, is that Blyleven finally should get in next year. The uninformed would not want to advertise their lack of knowledge by returning empty ballots, and they were destined to vote in Rice, next year if he did not make it this year.

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    • giantsrainman says:

      This year was Rice’s last year of eligability. His 15 years would have run out and thus he could not be on the ballot again next year.

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    • Kincaid says:

      Dawson is still out there ahead of Blyleven-he’s gotten more votes every year he’s been on the ballot, including this year. A number of writers will also likely vote for first-balloters Barry Larkin and Edgar Martinez, so I don’t think Blyleven will get in just because there is no one else to vote for.

      One writer voted for Jesse Orosco. I would think it’s a pretty safe bet Blyleven at least passes that guy’s standards.

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  2. JI says:

    If I were Alan Trammell I would be so depressed.

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  3. Tony says:

    Matt, you should use batting wins rather than batting runs. The wins are adjusted for run environment as well as park and league.

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  4. giantsrainman says:

    I think RIce’s election was is part of the overreaction to steroids. Pre steriods era sluggers are being given unearned extra credit for being suposedly clean to the same extent steroids era sluggers are getting in unjustified demerits for suposedly being unclean.

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  5. Matt B. says:

    Fenway certainly has been a boon for doubles to righties, and triples to lefties, but it has only been a slightly above average environment for HRs according to some past DMB park ratings… In 2008 (obviously not a Jim Rice year!) it supressed HRs for lefties and righties by about 15-20%…

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  6. Evan says:

    The greater absurdity here is that Rice was inducted while Tim Raines was not. Even a cursory glance at their numbers side-by-side shows Raines to have been a vastly superior player.

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  7. Greg says:

    Don’t forget Roberto Alomar (very likely a first ballot) and Fred McGriff (likely to be borderline, at least somewhere down the line) are also being added next year. It could be very tough for Dawson and Blyleven to gain the necessary votes, at least not until they find themselves at the end of their time on ballot and facing a weak first-year class (as was the case for Rice this year).

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  8. NickP says:

    And Larkin.

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  9. Joe says:

    “If I were Alan Trammell I would be so depressed.”

    Lou Whitaker too.

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  10. Joe R says:

    Just bumping to remind all you nerds who don’t watch baseball that Jim Rice was hyperscrumdumfuliciousful.


    Seriously, how can you consider a Hall of Fame to be correct when people like Jim Rice as in, but people like Alan Trammell, Ron Santo, Darrell Evans, and the like will never sniff it?

    And for those who say Jim Rice was a borderline candidate who got some sort of intangible boost, what did he actually do? He only played in 18 postseason games, 80 PA’s, and went .225/.313/.366.

    B-R says he was about a +2.5 fielder in LF per 1250 innings, so I’d say +3 per season (when he played there).

    So +23 offense, +3 defense, -7 positional = +19 = 3.9 WAR player. So the average year of Jim Rice was…well, good (though this may be an overestimate). Though Derrek Lee has been at a 3.9 WAR / year pace, too, since 2002. Who’s ready to put him in the Hall?

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  11. roguepatriot says:

    Despite being a Yankee fan living in New England, born and raised, I’ve saw plenty of Jim Rice during my youth. Based on the albeit sketchy memory of my youth, Rice was primarily a line drive hitter who had prolific power to CF. As we all know, CF in Fenway is death. Yet, I’ve never seen a player assault the CF triangle like Rice did. Therefore, playing in Fenway may have harmed Rice, rather than helped him.

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