Stone on Jim Rice’s Hall of Fame candidacy

DMZ · January 2, 2008 at 1:30 pm · Filed Under General baseball 

You know here at USSM we’re fans of Larry Stone (“Official Seattle Sports Writer of USS Mariner”) so I want to point you to his piece with Phil Rogers on ESPN about Rice.


76 Responses to “Stone on Jim Rice’s Hall of Fame candidacy”

  1. eponymous coward on January 3rd, 2008 4:03 pm

    I acknowledege that Jim Rice’s candidacy also has problems that have been well exposed and argued here, but he did play 15 seasons, and 550 more MLB games than Belle did. Like Belle, there were a couple “breaks” in his peak period where his performance slipped from “great” to just “very good” or even just “good” (i.e., Rice’s ‘76 and ‘81 seasons), but the peak was a lot longer than Belle’s – arguably 9-11 years. That difference means something.

    Yeah, but Belle’s peak was considerably higher. Rice’s top 3 OPS+’s were 157 (1978), 154 (1979), 147 (1977). Belle has 4 years in his career with his OPS+ above 157- 1994-1996 and 1998. Yes, Rice hung around for a couple and dragged his averages down, but it’s not hard to see who was the better hitter.

    Rice also grounded into 24 DP’s a year per 162 games, and had a bad SB% (over 162 games, he’d average out to 4 for 7). Belle grounded into 20 DP’s, and would be 9 for 13 over 162 games as a base stealer.

    Both were pretty negligible contributors defensively, so basically if you want to give Rice credit for longevity, it’s for hanging around after age 33 (when Belle retired)… and he was basically done as a player at that point (his OPS’s after age 33: 101, 102 and 70)…. or for starting his career a bit earlier. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk difference, anyway.

    Different era. WAAAAAY different era. That’s pretty much Stone’s whole point. This sorta stands out to me about Albert Belle’s era:

    Well, OPS+ is adjusted for league. Unless you want to go “steroid era, gotta throw it out”, at which point you pretty much kiss goodbye to most players in that era.

    The problem for Jim Rice’s HOF case is, that like I said, I don’t even think Jim Rice is the best OF’er from the Red Sox who isn’t in the HOF, let alone the best candidate for the HOF who’s not in. I’d likely take Dwight Evans OR Reggie Smith ahead of him.

    Yeah, Reggie Smith.

    Rice had a SLG .095 above his league through his career (.502 to .407).
    Smith had a SLG .102 above league (.489 to .387).

    Smith’s raw OBP is better than Rice’s, and adjusted for league, it’s not very close (.034 above league to .015).

    Smith grounded into less DPs, stole more bases at a better clip, and could play credible CF. (Bill Lee, who wasn’t Reggie Smith’s buddy, said Smith had the best OF arm he’d ever seen.)

    Reggie Smith’s career is almost as long as Jim Rice’s, and he never had a season where he was a waste of at-bats like Rice did (well, maybe his 1981 season, but he only got 35 AB’s).

    The reason why Rice is a HOF candidate and Smith is just viewed as a damn good ballplayer is Rice’s offense is seriously inflated in comparison, and MVP/HOF voters love HR’s and RBI and don’t often use defense and baserunning to evaluate players. Smith played in the late 60’s-early 70’s AL, just a TERRIBLE league for offense, and then went to St. Louis and then Dodger Stadium, another TERRIBLE place for offense.

    Given that guys like Dale Murphy and Tim Raines are on the ballot… sorry, no, Jim Rice wouldn’t get my vote.

  2. James T on January 3rd, 2008 4:07 pm

    #46. I know that seems like an AHA!! or a gotcha that proves the media’s bias gainst Albert.

    Only it doesn’t.

    Albert produced something like 32 of those 50 homers from August 1 on, at which point the Indians already had a 12 game lead over a pathetically weak Brewers team (yes, from back when the Brewers were in the AL). Albert was no more valuable than 5 or 6 others on the tribe in the team getting out to that lead. He was, however, the most valuable in the lead going from 12 games up to 17 or 18 games up.

    Would I have voted for Belle for player of the year? Absolutely. But it wasn’t crazy or tragically unfair to not vote him MVP when you take into account more of the context of that season.

  3. James T on January 3rd, 2008 4:31 pm

    Smb, #38.
    I don’t think Ortiz is a hall of famer at this point and he probably only has an outside shot at getting there.

    As to his owing as much to Fenway as anyone, that’s simply not true. Maybe you think Fenway’s a good home run park. It’s not, not any more. It typically has a HR index of something like 95 for homers by righties, meaning they’re reduced 5% compared to Sox road games. And the HR index is typically about 75-80 for lefties, meaning it reduces them 20-25% compared to Sox road games.

    Fenway takes home runs away from Ortiz. Look at the last 4 seasons (I’m leaving out the 2003 season, his first with the Sox because Ortiz barely played the first 6 weeks, in the cold weather at Fenway, while Grady Little, genius old time baseball guy, was playing Shea Hillenbrand and Kevin Millar much more often. Fenway can be impossible to homer at in April)

    2004, Ortiz hit 24 of 41 homers on the road.
    2005, Ortiz hit 27 of 47 homers on the road.
    2006, Ortiz hit 32 of 54 homers on the road.
    2007, Ortiz hit 19 of 35 homers on the road.

    Ortiz’s home-road splits have been neutral two of the last four years with a slight home bias in 2005 and a larger one last year that seemed to be mostly a difference in batting average.

    2004-H .325/.397/.587–.984
    —–A .274/.361/.621–.982

    2005-H .322/.425/.603–1.028
    —–A .278/.369/.605—.974

    2006-H .300/.426/.618–1.044
    —–A .275/.399/.653–1.052

    2007-H .365/.471/.657–1.128
    —–A .298/.420/.585–1.005

  4. Pete Livengood on January 3rd, 2008 6:40 pm

    JI wrote:

    “Belle’s peak destroys Rice’s peak, it was longer and more productive.”

    More productive, possibly. Longer, not true. And it is the length of peak, more so than its height (unless waaaaay higher) that matters most in HoF voting, or should, IMO. Obviously both are very important, but like I said before it is the sustaining of a player’s peak – as long as you can still say the height of the peak shows excellence – that separates the HoFers from the near-great for me.

    And E.C. wrote:

    “Yeah, but Belle’s peak was considerably higher. Rice’s top 3 OPS+’s were 157 (1978), 154 (1979), 147 (1977). Belle has 4 years in his career with his OPS+ above 157- 1994-1996 and 1998.”

    If we voting for an MVP year, season vs. season (or even 2-3 seasons in a row of Belle vs. Rice), you’d get no argument from me, even if Belle did play in a far more offensive (and now, suspect) era. But we’re not – we’re looking at a career, and the length of the peak becomes far more important in that context. As long as Rice was considered among the best in baseball during his era (and he was), I just wouldn’t put that much stock in the height of the peak as opposed to its length. Just my opinion; YMMV.

  5. JI on January 3rd, 2008 7:35 pm

    I agree, Reggie Smith has a pretty respectable case too. I think,once he retires, Jim Edmonds is one of those guys who the MSM won’t care about because of counting numbers, but will end up being championed by stat-heads.

  6. studes on January 3rd, 2008 9:44 pm

    If you’re interested, Rice falls far short in WPA:

  7. eponymous coward on January 3rd, 2008 9:56 pm

    As long as Rice was considered among the best in baseball during his era (and he was)

    Same thing is true for Belle.

    But we’re not – we’re looking at a career, and the length of the peak becomes far more important in that context.

    Rice also has more seasons where he was simply a bad player, period, or just mediocre.

    Take 1984, for instance: .280/28/122… but 36 double plays, and .272/.313/.428 out of Fenway (Fenway was the best hitters park in the AL that year, with a park factor better than Coors Field in 2007). THAT’s a HOF line?

  8. Pete Livengood on January 3rd, 2008 11:03 pm

    I was NOT making the argument that Rice should be a Hall of Famer. I was arguing that his credentials (even apart from the off-field sh*t that will probably alone prevent Belle from ever getting serious consideration) are better than Belle’s. I think you (and a few others) have dented my confidence in that position, but I still stand by that, mostly because Rice was excellent longer than was Belle. I understand that both have serious flaws in their HoF credentials.

  9. Pete Livengood on January 3rd, 2008 11:10 pm


    That is a damn fine article. Seems on the money to me on every call you make, subjectively. Great work.

  10. JI on January 3rd, 2008 11:12 pm

    Again, if you look up the numbers you’re going to find that Belle’s peak (as I originally stated was longer (93-99, with 97 being a down year), if you want to count Rice’s “peak” as to going to 83, you’re going to have to concede there are 3-4 mediocre years mixed in that period as well as the best of his peak years being dwarfed by Belle’s best years.

  11. Jack Howland on January 3rd, 2008 11:41 pm

    #52. I know that seems like an AHA!! or a gotcha that proves the media’s bias gainst Albert.

    Only it doesn’t.

    I agree that it doesn’t prove a BWAA bias in itself. Belle had by far the superior year to Vaughn in 1995 and you seem to be punishing Belle’s MVP chances because the Indians were too good that season. I think that’s wrong.

    Back to the media bias, there most certainly was a media bias toward Belle in 1995 which can be detected in Buster Olney’s comment from that time when defending his vote for Vaughn:

    “At that time, baseball was in a very, very fragile state, having come off the strike year. I felt like the MVP was also who was most valuable to the game as a whole…I do think that’s probably a human element that determines what happens sometimes. There are certain guys you want to vote for.”

  12. Pete Livengood on January 4th, 2008 12:24 am

    JI: I looked at the numbers, too. I said all along that Belle’s peak was (arguably) 7 years, giving him credit for the “down” year in ’97 (which I think we both agree was less than HoF-caliber “great” but still a pretty good year). So, seven years, one “hole” for Belle. Not much else other than that, except a half a year of waaay less than league average performance at the beginning of his career, two that are good but not great (’92, ’93), and one that is barely better than league average (his last).

    Rice was an All Star and in the top five in MVP voting four out of his first six years. Yeah, he had a year like Belle’s ’97 in ’76, and another in ’81 (though, again, “down” years here would be career years for the average player). He had another five-year stretch of great seasons (one arguably just “very good” in ’84) after that.

    I have no idea why you would think ’83 is questionably included in Rice’s peak (he was 3rd in MVP voting that year) or stop counting Rice’s “peak” at ’83. He won a Silver Slugger and was an AS (13th in MVP voting) in a year I have included as a “down” year (’84), was an AS again in ’85 when he hit .291/.349/.487 with 103 RBIs and a 123 OPS+, and he was an AS and 3rd in MVP voting in ’86, when he hit .324/.384/.490!

    Ignoring the seasons that don’t measure up, Rice had 9 of those seasons, and Belle had five.

    I’ll concede that Belle’s peak was higher, but I stand by the assertion that Rice’s was longer.

    And just saying that OPS+ accounts for park and league doesn’t mean it adjusts properly for era. You have to consider the era each player played in. That certainly doesn’t favor Belle.

    I have no idea why I am championing Jim Rice, for whom I probably wouldn’t even vote if I had a HoF vote, other than I disagree that he is somehow clearly inferior to Albert Belle, as you and some others have asserted. I think he is better, based on a longer period of pretty well-sustained excellence. As I said before, YMMV, especially if you value a higher peak over length of sustained excellence. At the very least, I don’t think a very credible argument can be made that a HoF vote for Belle would be more justified than one for Rice.

  13. JI on January 4th, 2008 1:15 am

    OPS+ does adjust for era, it adjusts park factors, and weighs the player’s OPS against the league average.

    An OPS+ of 193 in 1994, is a good as an OPS+ of 193 in 1978. The one thing it does not adjust for is the handedness of the hitter, so an OPS+ of 120 at Safeco, for example, means something different for Raul Ibanez than it does for Mike Cameron. So if anything, because Fenway was so favorable for right handed batters, gives more wight to slugging %, and doesn’t factor in GIDP, it’s probably overrating Rice’s productivity.

  14. That Bootleg Guy on January 4th, 2008 10:03 am

    #46 wrote:

    Albert produced something like 32 of those 50 homers from August 1 on, at which point the Indians already had a 12 game lead. Albert was no more valuable than 5 or 6 others on the tribe in the team getting out to that lead. He was, however, the most valuable in the lead going from 12 games up to 17 or 18 games up.

    But it wasn’t crazy or tragically unfair to not vote him MVP when you take into account more of the context of that season.

    From August 1st, 1995 to the end of the 1995 season (freely conceding “sample size” issues, etc.)

    Albert Belle: .350/.439/.885 (58 games) 1.324 OPS

    Mo Vaughn: .309/.386/.574 (56 games) .960 OPS

    Player X on eventual ’95 AL playoff team: .332/.417/.561 (55 games) .978 OPS


    Can a .250 negative delta in OPS really be explained away by pointing to the quality of intradivision opponents? If Belle put up those numbers on a last place Indians team, there’d be some people who’d justify not voting for him because his team didn’t make the playoffs. But, is your argument that the Indians were “too good” for Belle to get your MVP vote?

    They were too good because of Belle (and Thome and Ramirez, etc.), but there’s a lot to be said about being the best player within a lineup of players having great seasons.

    And, if we’re talking “context”, Player X above is Red Sox SS John Valentin. His numbers for the ’95 season were just a tick or two below Vaughn’s (OPS+: Vaughn, 144; Valentin, 138), while being a tick or two better “when it counted”. Valentin finished 9th in the MVP voting.

    I feel pretty safe in calling “bias” WRT Vaughn over Belle in the MVP balloting that year.

  15. eponymous coward on January 4th, 2008 10:13 am

    I wouldn’t count 1984 as a good season for Rice. Again, 36 double plays. That’s a huge number of DPs, and he had that problem for a number of years.

    But like I said, “I don’t think it’s a slam dunk difference, anyway”- so I basically agree. But that’s the essential problem with Jim Rice’s candidcay- he doesn’t clearly distinguish himself from the Belles and Evanses of the rest of the field. Damn fine ballplayer, but there’s nothing he brings to the table you can’t find in 20 other players.

  16. Pete Livengood on January 4th, 2008 12:09 pm

    E.C. – Agree, mostly. While he doesn’t distinguish himself from guys like Belle, Reggie Smith, et al., part of me thinks most of us have standards set too high for the HoF (as Bill James argued in The Politics of Glory). Since that’s not likely to change, though, I agree with you.

    JI – Show me one definition of OPS+ that adjusts for era. Bith THT’s and BR’s glossary pages indicate that OPS+ adjusts for park factors, and league (by comparing OPS to league average), but not era. If you’re using OPS+ data from somebody else, or can enlighten me (other than just with your say so) as to where it adjusts for era, please do.

  17. JI on January 4th, 2008 12:34 pm

    Adjusting for yearly park and league factor is adjusting for era.

  18. Pete Livengood on January 4th, 2008 12:52 pm

    I don’t think it does, and what I’m asking you for is something other than your say so that says it does.

    What “league average” is clearly changes over time, and is affected by lots of variables, from what the make-up of the league is (influx of Latin and Asian players, or black plaerys in the late 40s and 50s) rule changes, and PEDs all come to mind. So, just because you are 40% better than league average in one era doesn’t mean you would be 40% better in another.

  19. Pete Livengood on January 4th, 2008 1:30 pm

    I think I see the problem…

    There is no “league factor.” OPS+ does adjust for park factors, but beyond that it simply compares a player’s OPS to league average OPS. There are no adjustments for differences in league or era other than that – and that doesn’t do it.

  20. JI on January 4th, 2008 3:41 pm

    Then I don’t know what you’re looking for because the league average changes every year. I also don’t know how we can accurately judge a layer other than how great he was compared to his peers.

  21. Pete Livengood on January 4th, 2008 4:11 pm

    Of course league average changes every year, but that doesn’t mean that league average 1982 = league average 1995. All OPS+ does is let you measure how great a player is relative to his peers, as you’ve said. Not versus someone in another era; compared to players in his own era. We can use OPS+ to judge whether a player was great versus other players of his era, but it gets much dicier when (as you have) you start claiming that a player from a vastly different era is way better.

    You are sidestepping the argument, even though it was YOU who claimed that Belle’s peak “destroys” Rice’s peak. It’s fair for me to ask you how you are adjusting for the difference in era in making that claim.

  22. JI on January 4th, 2008 5:46 pm

    Again I have no idea what you are looking for when adjusting for ‘era,’ it’s quite vague. What is an era? When does it start? When does it end? How is it defined? If you want to get into hypotheticals about Rice having access to weight training PEDs etc., I feel that those arguments are pointless.

    As I’ve said, I’m adjust for era using the (admittedly crude) OPS+ numbers. Those numbers produce a value that factors in park factors, and the league average numbers, year-by-year, that the player played. Looking at Belle’s (easily) superior OPS+ numbers I can tell Belle dominated his peers, much more so than Rice ever did. I honestly don’t know how we can compare Rice to Belle without comparing them to their peers, since they played long after integration, and were not peers of each other.

  23. Pete Livengood on January 4th, 2008 6:37 pm

    You’re shifting the burden of defining an era and its impact to me. You were the one who said Belle’s peak “destroyed” Rice’s. I don’t know how we can make that judgment without accounting for differences in era.

    Honestly, I don’t know the answers to your questions, but I do know that there are commonly accepted “eras” and that offensive performance differs across eras. I know that some (some BP stas for one; RCAA I think is another) have tried to adjust for differences in era. Not sure how, or how they define eras.

    I agree with you that OPS+ does a decent, if crude, job of comparing players across eras. I disagree with you, though, that just because (say) Rice had a 157 OPS+ in 1978, while Belle had a 193 OPS+ in 1994, that that automatically means Belle had an “easily superior” year relative to his peers than Rice did [though at 193, it’s a pretty sure bet 🙂 Maybe I shouldn’t have used their career high OPS+ numbers.] In an era of greater expansion, “league average” in the 1990s might well be depressed from what it was in the 1970s, and unless we know that (and how far ahead of the pack of other excellent peers each were) it’s hard to tell. For instance, Belle’s 1994 OPS+ didn’t lead his league (18% worse than Frank Thomas), while Rice’s 1978 did (4% better than Larry Hisle, and 5% better than Ken Singleton).

    Integration is not the only thing that can help “turn” an era. Things like rule changes (the prohibition of the spitball and other trick pitches, as well as no longer using a dirty baseball are among the reasons thought to have lead to the offensive explosion of the 20s and 30s; lowering the mound is another), integration, war, expansion, PEDs…. Call me crazy, but something is going on when the OPS+ that dominates in one era is 50% less than another, and HR numbers were commonly in the 30s even for sluggers in one while routinely in the high 40s and 50s in another, something is going on. They are not directly comparable.

    All we can really do is look at those numbers and conclude that both were dominant players in their eras, during their peak (and Rice’s, while perhaps not as high or as consistently, was sustained better). Honestly, I don’t think there is a huge difference in either player, and I think both have marginal HoF credentials at best.

  24. Wishhiker on January 4th, 2008 11:22 pm

    I’ve used baseball reference for rankings, but their HOF ranking stats have seemed flawed to me for quite awhile.

    According to their list of league leading years if I exclude Awards, Games, AB, PA, SO, GIDP, CS, Outs and Salary:

    Rice : 21 1st, 16 2nd, 71 top 5’s
    Belle: 22 1st, 18 2nd, 73 top 5’s

    It looks like Belle has a slight edge in where he ranked in his era using ranking by year / league.


    Rice : 5 1st, 11 top 5’s
    Belle: 1 1st, 3 top 5’s

    Rice’s .679 postseason OPS pales to Belle’s .972. Rice was the better fielder of the 2, but not by so much as to make up for all that. Then again Rice played the field in 1543 of his 2089 games (74%) and Belle in 1311 of his 1539 games (85%). Already mentioned is the late/close differential which is another big nod to Belle.

    BP unfortunately gives credit to meaningless things like Salary and bad things like GIDP and SO. The only things they list there that are really bad to lead the league in is SO’s (sort of) and GIDP (definitely) leading the league in Outs isn’t even a bad thing, especially when you lead the league in AB’s and good offensive categories the same years. That’s why I find it flawed that they come up with this:

    Rice 33 (49)/Belle 28(62)(Avg. HOF ≈ 27)
    Rice 176 (57)/Belle 137 (119)(Avg. HOF ≈ 144)
    Rice 43.0 (113)/Belle 36.1 (178)(Avg. HOF ≈ 50)
    Rice 146.5 (85)/Belle 134.5 (98)(Likely HOF> 100)
    Overall Rank in parentheses.

    When Belle clearly was better among his peers than Rice in a better offensive era. That’s before looking at the league/park adjusted numbers like:

    Rice : OPS+ 128, btWins 28.9
    Belle: OPS+ 143, btWins 33.9

    Although it is difficult to separate the numbers the average fan looks at:

    Rice : .298/.352/.502 382HR 1451RBI
    Belle: .295/.369/.564 381HR 1239RBI

  25. Pete Livengood on January 5th, 2008 12:16 am


    Those “HoF ranking stats” are defined in B-R’s glossary. They’re based on some Bill James predictive tools, with an emphasis (for most of them)on “predictive” rather than “who should be in.” Frankly, given what I know about the four different monitors (Black Ink, Gray Ink, HOF Standards, HOF Monitor), it doesn’t look to far off. Several of them value later milestones more heavily than earlier ones. Since Rice’s career was 550 games longer than Belle’s, and his counting stats therefore higher, it isn’t surprising that Rice gets more of a nod than you think he should. It’s also not surprising that both guys look like marginal HoF candidates by these measures, since that is exactly how they’ve been treated by voters.

    I will say I’m skeptical of judging who is better among peers mostly by looking at a summary of their ranks in various categories. That’s a pretty blunt tool. I’d go by the James tools first.

  26. Wishhiker on January 5th, 2008 2:43 pm

    1 HR and 214 RBI’s in 2372 more AB’s? Less Steals, Walks Or is it the .03 in BA?

    The negative .17 in OBP and .62 in SLG are bigger than that, and show in that.

    I think it’s the particular weight on one MVP award and the 2452 hits to Belle’s 1726. Only explanation that makes sense to me.

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