My apologies for boring the non-baseball fans among you.
The next inductees into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced this week. One player whose name will not be called is Harold Baines. I don't know whether Baines deserves to be there or not, but his resume shows that numbers can be deceiving. Baines was still early in his career when I started following baseball, and I dare say the guy wasn't necessarily the most feared hitter in baseball. If you examine his year-by-year stats, they don't look very imposing in hindsight...I was actually surprised they weren't better. However, somehow, when you look at the totals, a slightly different story emerges. Sure, that could be due to how long he played, so let's compare to others with a similar number of lifetime at-bats.
In my mind, the crux of a baseball offense is built around one thing - scoring runs. You can look at all the crazy categories of stats and analyze them until the cows come home, but, at the end of the day, hitters are paid to elevate their teams' scores - either by driving runs in, or by scoring them. So logically, shouldn't RBI and Runs be considered the two most critical categories? Hits, Home Runs, Stolen Bases - those are all critical pieces of the game, but they're just a means to an end - scoring runs. RBI and Runs are the only two categories that illustrate the end result.
RUNS SCORED: Harold Baines - 1,299 - "only" good for 118th-best all-time, but when you consider how many players have stepped on the diamond...not too bad. Other players who scored fewer runs without having more than 600 fewer at-bats than Baines (approx. 1 full season) - Ozzie Smith, Tony Perez, & Brooks Robinson...all in the HOF.
RBI: Harold Baines - 1,628 - Here's where it gets really surprising...that's good for 29th all-time! Out of all the players who have marched through the game of baseball in over 100 years, only 28 of them sent more runners home than Baines; remarkable considering he only had three 100-RBI seasons (oddly enough, the last one at age 40). George Brett, Andre Dawson, Al Kaline, and Tris Speaker all had more at-bats than Baines, but fewer RBI. Only Dawson is not in the HOF, and that may change as of Wednesday, as his name is a lot more likely to be called than Baines'.
HITS: Harold Baines - 2,866 - Still a very important category, for obvious reasons. Here, Baines is 40th all-time. Brooks Robinson, Andre Dawson, Ken Griffey, Jr., Tony Perez - all fewer hits in a similar number of at-bats.
Incidentally, the player over whom everyone seems to be drooling over for this year's induction is Roberto Alomar. Baines' career numbers outdo Alomar's in Hits, HR, RBI, Walks, and Slugging %. Alomar had just over 800 fewer at-bats, but benefits from being compared to other 2B, a historically light-hitting position. Why we compare players by position when analyzing their merits for the HOF, I simply have no clue. The 10 Gold Gloves also help Alomar.
So, what does this all mean? No idea. Just food for thought.