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    ANALYSIS — #3 Hitters

    © Tom M. Tango

    As we've seen, Tim Raines compares favorably to Hall of Fame leadoff hitters. But, Raines also spent a substantial portion of his time as a #3 hitter. Surely, he can't hold his own with those hitters, right? Wrong.

    There have been 26 Hall of Fame players who hit in the #3 slot in the Retrosheet Years (1957-2006, except 1999) with at least 1500 career PA. Of those, there are 8 of them that we can classify as non-power hitters:

    PA of #3 non-power hitters
    5,760 Roberto Clemente
    5,517 Kirby Puckett
    5,196 Tony Gwynn
    3,897 Paul Molitor
    3,564 Joe Morgan
    3,045 Rod Carew
    2,451 Robin Yount
    2,314 Wade Boggs
    
    The other 18 we'll call the power-hitting #3 Hall of Fame hitters.

    A hitter has three things that he tries to accomplish: get on base, move runners over, and not make an out. He needs to get on base to score runs, and he needs to move runners over to drive home runs. All the while, he's trying to minimize his outs to keep the inning alive.

    Tim Raines, as a #3 hitter, made 978 batting outs. Here is how our two Hall of Fame groups and Tim Raines did as a #3 hitter, pro-rated to 978 batting outs:

    Runs RBIs (pro-rated)
     226 222 Hall of Fame Power Hitters
     245 189 Tim Raines
     218 207 Hall of Fame non-Power Hitters
    
    Raines, compared to the non-Power Hitters, scored 27 more runs, and drove in 18 less runs. Compared to the Power Hitters, Raines scored 19 more, and drove in 33 fewer runs. Based on Runs and RBIs, Tim Raines is clearly between the two groups. He's above the group led by Clemente, Puckett, and Gwynn, while being below the more "traditional" #3 hitters. Being smack in the middle of #3 Hall of Fame hitters makes you, well, a great hitter.

    For those who prefer Runs Produced (i.e., Runs Participated In, R+RBI-HR), here you go:

    RP (pro-rated)
    405 Tim Raines
    392 Hall of Fame non-Power Hitters
    379 Hall of Fame Power Hitters
    
    Now, Raines stands above both groups!

    How did Raines manage to hold his own with such great hitters? Here are their batting averages, SLG, OBP, and modified OPS (modified OPS is 1.8*OBP + SLG, a measure that more closely aligns itself to overall run production than OPS):

      BA     SLG     OBP     mOPS
    .292	.513	.379	1.195 Hall of Fame Power Hitters
    .318	.449	.409	1.184 Tim Raines
    .320	.470	.384	1.162 Hall of Fame non-Power Hitters
    
    We can see that while the non-Power Hitters and Raines had a very similar batting average, Raines' OBP was outstanding. He has a 25 point advantage in OBP against this group, compared to their advantage of 21 points in SLG over Raines. Because a point of OBP has more impact to overall run production than a point in SLG, Raines' overall performance exceeds that of these Hall of Famers.

    And even when compared to the Hall of Fame Power Hitters, Raines can hold his own. He has a 30 point advantage in OBP, compared to a 64 disadvantage in SLG. That small difference (remember, an OBP point is worth 1.8 times more than a point in SLG) evaporates when we consider Raines' superiority in basestealing. It's this overall combination of getting on base, moving runners (including himself) over, and not making an out that allowed Raines' to participate in more runs than your standard #3 Hall of Fame hitter.

    Whether Raines is compared to the best of the best leadoff hitters or #3 hitters, he stands among them. And they stand in the Hall of Fame.