Monday, August 3, 2009

Jim Rice and the Hall of Fame (Revisited)

Bob Ryan of recently wrote an article called The big picture is that Rice earned his plaque. He takes a swipe at "SABR people." But we're not monolithic and I don't know if all or even most SABR members agree with my views on Rice. But anyway, here is part of what Ryan said and I follow by summarizing some of my past posts on Rice that counter what Ryan says.

"The SABR people are resolutely anti-Rice. They’ve got numbers parsed by the truckload to downplay his impact, and to this I say, “Phooey,’’ or maybe even something stronger. For SABR people refuse to acknowledge the concept of anecdotal evidence when evaluating a ballplayer (no, not you, Bill James). So when I speak of the time Milwaukee manager Alex Grammas confirmed for me that, yes, indeed, he had ordered a sizzling Jim Rice pitched around (like, four straight unhittable balls out of the strike zone) in a sixth-inning, bases-loaded situation, or when fellow inductee Rickey Henderson says, as he did yesterday, that when the A’s had pitchers meetings prior to Red Sox series in the Rice era guys “trembled,’’ they say that’s nice, but irrelevant.

Sorry, it matters.

There was a three-year period from 1977-79 when Rice was The Man in the American League, averaging 41 homers, 127 RBIs, and 206 hits a year. And did you know he had back-to-back seasons (’77-78) of 15 triples? He was a feared - yeah, SABR people, feared - hitter, because he was very content to get a base hit in a key situation. He was, after all, just trying to win the game."

One of my posts was Was Jim Rice A Feared Hitter?. I showed that he did not draw very many intentional walks compared to other top hitters and that players who batted in front of him were not especially helped.

With Jim Rice and the Hall of Fame I showed that his clutch hitting stats, although better than his overall stats, were very close. I wrote "According to retrosheet, with ROB [runners on base], his AVG-SLG were .305 & .509. With RISP [runners in scoring position] he had .308 & .501. These are very close to his overall stats of .298 & .502." In fact, he was more likely to come up with runners on base in Fenway, a good hitters park. So naturally he would hit better in those situations. He most likely had a disproportionate number of ABs with RISP & ROB in Fenway. His close and late AVG-SLG were .274-.453. So that does not look very clutch.

He was helped by Fenway. His AVG-SLG in home games was .320 & .546 while on the road they were only .277 & .459. I also showed that his RBI-to-GDP ratio was very poor, even below average.

One commentor at Ryan's article mentioned that Rice had alot of clutch hits in Septmber 1986 when the Red Sox were in a tight divisional race. But his AVG was .310 in Sept while it was .324 for the whole season. He also grouned into 6 double plays that month. He had 19 for the whole season, so he had close to 1/3 in Sept. His SLG was .560 in Sept. while it was .490 for the whole season. So he did slug better even if he got fewer hits.

I have also found that Jose Cruz of the Astros may be just as Hall worthy as Rice. Go to Jim Rice vs. Jose Cruz.


henry said...

HERE WE GO AGAIN -- more 'facts' in support of a 'considered thesis'! What's with all you nerds? Why do you have to confine your considerations to things that are 'true' and 'verifiable'?

I mean, for god's sake: RICKEY HENDERSON said Rice was scary, and he hardly ever says things that are totally insane, right? Right?

In all seriousness, though, all of those were nice analyses. At a time when newspapers are struggling to look relevant, the fact that so many MSM sportswriters are STILL allowed to make the crazy-talk seems like a bad choice on the part of management.

Cyril Morong said...


Very funny! Thanks for dropping by and glad you liked it.

Rickey Henderson might be recalling correctly (we do know that ball players don't always remember things right). But between 1975-89, Ben Oglivie Harold Baines and Ken Singleton all received more IBBs than Rice. Were they more feared than he was?

One more thing, I had the wrong address on the "feared hitter" link and I corrected that.