Rice is Nice

If the general definition of a Hall of Famer is one who dominates the game for an extended period of time, usually considered to be at least a decade, what then should we make of these leaderboards for a 12-year period of time (1975-86)?

Runs

  1. Mike Schmidt, 1,194
  2. Jim Rice, 1,098
  3. Dave Winfield, 1,069
  4. George Brett, 1,021
  5. Robin Yount, 995

Hits

  1. Jim Rice, 2,145
  2. Steve Garvey, 2,121
  3. Cecil Cooper, 1,975
  4. George Brett, 1,961
  5. Robin Yount, 1,933

Home Runs

  1. Mike Schmidt, 440
  2. Dave Kingman, 365
  3. Jim Rice, 350
  4. Reggie Jackson, 330
  5. George Foster, 321

Runs Batted In

  1. Jim Rice, 1,276
  2. Mike Schmidt, 1,221
  3. Dave Winfield, 1,147
  4. George Foster, 1,114
  5. Steve Garvey, 1,076

Batting Average

  1. Rod Carew, .331
  2. George Brett, .317
  3. Al Oliver, .309
  4. Bill Madlock, .306
  5. Jim Rice, .304

Slugging Percentage

  1. Mike Schmidt, .545
  2. Jim Rice, .520
  3. George Brett, .518
  4. Eddie Murray, .505
  5. Fred Lynn, .494

OPS

  1. Mike Schmidt, .931
  2. George Brett, .900
  3. Eddie Murray, .880
  4. Jim Rice, .876
  5. Fred Lynn, .864

ISO (Slugging minus Batting)

  1. Mike Schmidt, .274
  2. Dave Kingman, .241
  3. Reggie Jackson, .227
  4. Gorman Thomas, .227
  5. Jim Rice, .216

Runs Created

  1. Mike Schmidt, 1,393
  2. Jim Rice, 1,238
  3. George Brett, 1,236
  4. Dave Winfield, 1,135
  5. Keith Hernandez, 1,097

Total Bases

  1. Jim Rice, 3,670
  2. Mike Schmidt, 3,448
  3. Steve Garvey, 3,222
  4. Dave Winfield, 3,221
  5. George Brett, 3,201

Extra-Base Hits

  1. Mike Schmidt, 803
  2. Jim Rice, 752
  3. George Brett, 719
  4. Dave Parker, 682
  5. Dave Winfield, 679

Times on Base

  1. Mike Schmidt, 2,953
  2. Keith Hernandez, 2,764
  3. Pete Rose, 2,759
  4. Jim Rice, 2,757
  5. Dave Winfield, 2,668

Runs Produced (Runs plus RBI minus HR)

  1. Jim Rice, 2,024
  2. Mike Schmidt, 1,975
  3. Dave Winfield, 1,934
  4. George Brett, 1,817
  5. Steve Garvey, 1,786

Over and over, you see four names in these lists: Schmidt, Rice, Brett, Winfield. Other names rotate in and out, but it’s clear who the top four hitters in the game were for those 12 years. That alone should indicate that Rice was not just a good hitter for a few years. He was a great hitter for more than a decade. And he wasn’t just getting by when compared with those other three either.

Let’s look at another key issue for Hall voters, award votes, focusing on these four players, plus Reggie Jackson, who was just finishing up his prime in the late 1970s:

All-Star Games

  1. George Brett, 11
  2. Dave Winfield, 10
  3. Mike Schmidt, 9
  4. Jim Rice, 8
  5. Reggie Jackson, 6

MVP Shares (highest finish)

  1. Mike Schmidt, 4.52 (3 wins)
  2. Jim Rice, 3.15 (1 win)
  3. George Brett, 3.08 (1 win)
  4. Reggie Jackson, 1.50 (2nd place)
  5. Dave Winfield, 1.42 (3rd place)

How about time spent on the leaderboards? Times finished (with highest in parentheses) Top 10 in …

Batting Average

  1. George Brett, 8 (1st twice)
  2. Jim Rice, 6 (3rd)
  3. Dave Winfield, 3 (2nd)
  4. Mike Schmidt, 1 (4th)
  5. Reggie Jackson, 0

Slugging Percentage

  1. Mike Schmidt, 11 (1st four times)
  2. Jim Rice, 8 (1st twice)
  3. George Brett, 7 (1st three times)
  4. Reggie Jackson, 6 (1st once)
  5. Dave Winfield, 5 (2nd)

OPS

  1. Mike Schmidt, 11 (1st five times)
  2. George Brett, 7 (1st three times)
  3. Jim Rice, 6 (1st once)
  4. Reggie Jackson, 5 (2nd)
  5. Dave Winfield, 5 (2nd)

OPS+

  1. Mike Schmidt, 11 (1st six times)
  2. George Brett, 8 (1st three times)
  3. Jim Rice, 5 (1st once)
  4. Reggie Jackson, 5 (1st once)
  5. Dave Winfield, 5 (1st once)

Home Runs

  1. Mike Schmidt, 11 (1st seven times)
  2. Jim Rice, 7 (1st three times)
  3. Reggie Jackson, 7 (1st three times)
  4. Dave Winfield, 4 (3rd)
  5. George Brett, 2 (7th)

RBI

  1. Mike Schmidt, 10 (1st four times)
  2. Jim Rice, 9 (1st twice)
  3. Dave Winfield, 8 (1st once)
  4. Reggie Jackson, 5 (4th)
  5. George Brett, 3 (2nd)

Extra Base Hits

  1. Mike Schmidt 11 (1st five times)
  2. George Brett, 9 (1st once)
  3. Dave Winfield, 7 (4th)
  4. Jim Rice, 6 (1st once)
  5. Reggie Jackson, 4 (1st once)

Jim Rice was obviously not the most feared hitter of his era. Mike Schmidt was. Likewise, the three players who appear most often with Rice in the 12 years in question all were first-ballot Hall of Famers because they did what Rice could not. Brett was roughly equivalent to Rice for those 12 years, then kept it up for nearly another decade. Winfield put up consistently excellent numbers for 20 years, even if they never rose to the level of Rice’s. Schmidt only played two more seasons than Rice, but he was unquestionably dominant in every facet of the game for nearly every one of his 18 years.

So I’m not saying Rice’s career was the equal of those three’s respective careers. What I am saying is that for 12 years, Rice was on par with or better than three first-ballot Hall of Famers renowned for their offense. No one else that era came close. Rice was clearly better than Winfield, and about even with Brett (more power, less patience). That’s more than a decade of alternating with George Brett as the premier bat in the American League. Add in position — Brett and Schmidt were infielders — and it should be an easy choice.

Jim Rice was the best-hitting outfielder in the game for more than a decade. That is deserving of the Hall of Fame.

12 comments… add one

  • You forgot the key item: Jim Ed was the official spokesman for a Boston bacon company, Colonial, and did TV commercials for them in the early 80s, IIRC. That creates the separation from the other players and clinches it for me.

    SF November 28, 2007, 7:53 pm
  • Great post. Wish I said it that well yesterday.

    attackgerbil November 28, 2007, 8:27 pm
  • Thanks, Gerb. It’s all about the bacon.
    .
    .
    .
    Oh, wait, did you mean Paul’s post?

    SF November 28, 2007, 8:33 pm
  • A really strong case made here.

    YF November 28, 2007, 8:53 pm
  • I see now, you were in the middle of this research and didn’t want all that hard work go to waste. Too bad you left out the most damning numbers:
    Rice – Career
    Home: .320 .374 .546
    Away: .277 .330 .459
    Needless to say, no one else on any of those lists comes close to benefiting as much from their home park, and being so mediocre away from it.

    Mike YF November 28, 2007, 9:26 pm
  • Best argument for Rice that I’ve read. I had been on the fence but after reading that I would vote for him.

    Adam (SF) November 28, 2007, 10:26 pm
  • I did forget that caveat in the rules where if a hitter is good enough to use his home field to his advantage, he must be penalized for it. Good catch, Mike.

    Paul SF November 28, 2007, 10:32 pm
  • George Brett
    Home: .320 .383 .506
    Away: .290 .356 .469
    That’s pretty drastic. Not quite as drastic as Rice, but surely it suggests that Brett greatly benefited from the artificial hops in KC.

    Tyrel SF November 28, 2007, 11:15 pm
  • I have been a Red Sox fan for over 40 years, as a kid Tony C was my first sports hero (Bobby Orr was my second) I remember the feeling of optimism as ’75 rolled along. I remember marveling at TWO huge rookies who were a large part of the Sox sucess that year.
    I remember how bummed I was that Jim Rice wasn’t going to play in the world series.
    Over the years I remember how unbelievably strong Jim Ed was (three check swing broken bats in his career).
    But much as I loved Jim Rice, and as great as he was for the Sox all those years, the two things that stick in my mind are THE DANM DOUBLE PLAYS! that and the fact that close and late he seemed to SHRINK.
    That is merely an observation but according to one source Rice had 11 years in a row where his numbers close and late got worse.
    I was probably never so pessimistic as a Sox fan as when Jim came to the plate with the Sox behind late in a game.
    My take on Jim Rice: he was great if the Sox needed a run anytime during the game anytime BUT close and late. Oh, and it is best to hit a double or triple in front of him because of those DAMN DOUBLE PLAYS!
    That’s just the way I saw it, this may have been viewed through disappointed eyes, but it’s what I remember.

    Brian November 29, 2007, 12:53 am
  • Kids, do you want some REALLY damning numbers?
    Mike YF – Career
    Being realistic about Sox players: .000/.000/.000
    Being realistic about Yankee players: .000/.000/.000
    Mike YF is a Hall of Famer. No splits whatsoever.

    QuoSF November 29, 2007, 2:05 am
  • Brian: Your memory does not deceive you. Rice’s career line “close and late” is .274, .337, .453.
    I’m not sure the dp stat is that meaningful, though. A good contact hitter in a good lineup is going to hit into a lot of double plays. It’s just a reality.

    YF November 29, 2007, 9:38 am
  • The argument that Rice was a creation of Fenway Park is tired and more than half empty. Ever look at Yaz’s splits? Boggs’s? (Strange that folks always point to Rice’s splits in arguing against his HOF induction but not to those of others presumably believed to be clear-cut HOFers.) And does no one believe that playing in a park like Fenway has its disadvantages? If, as we’ve heard for years, players try to take advantage of that short porch in left, theirs is a game of constant adjustment; what works at Fenway (e.g., Boggs waiting to bang a fly off of the Monster for an easy double) doesn’t work elsewhere.
    Another thing to consider about the splits is that while during his three-year run in the late 1970s there were noticeable discrepancies between the home and road stats–not, mind you, on a par with those of Larry Walker or Todd Helton–the splits for the rest of his career are pretty well balanced. And that includes two near-miss MVPs in 1983 and 1986, not to mention several Winfield-esque seasons besides.
    No question that the brevity of Rice’s career dampens some of the enthusiasm for the player. And that’s not unfair. Likewise, Rice did play in a hitter-friendly park. So have many other great players. But it’s misleading, and just plain wrong, to argue that without Fenway Rice would have been just an average or good player.

    tedsaidgo December 27, 2007, 10:51 am

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