The Difference Between Ron Santo and Jim Rice is…?

Ron Santo‘s and Jim Rice‘s numbers are almost identical, so are the stat people who loathe Rice going crazy with their objective analysis over Santo’s Hall of Fame induction as they did when Rice was on the cusp, excluded and eventually voted in?

Or are they feeling sympathy for Santo’s illnesses, health problems and death and justifying Rice’s longtime battle to garner support because he was a jerk to reporters and finding statistical reasons to keep him out?

Let’s take a look at the tale of the tape:

Rice:

G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB Awards
60 223 223 57 9 5 5 .256 .256 .408 .664 91 WPT · NYPL
130 563 491 80 143 20 13 17 87 58 108 .291 .373 .489 .861 240 WHV · FLOR
129 463 460 7 148 27 4 31 10 3 7 .322 .326 .600 .926 276 BRI,PAW · EL,IL
117 470 430 69 145 21 4 25 93 38 84 .337 .391 .579 .971 249 PAW · IL
24 75 67 6 18 2 1 1 13 4 12 .269 .307 .373 .680 89 25
144 613 564 92 174 29 4 22 102 36 122 .309 .350 .491 .841 127 277 MVP-3,RoY-2
153 624 581 75 164 25 8 25 85 28 123 .282 .315 .482 .797 120 280
160 710 644 104 206 29 15 39 114 53 120 .320 .376 .593 .969 147 382 AS,MVP-4
163 746 677 121 213 25 15 46 139 58 126 .315 .370 .600 .970 157 406 AS,MVP-1
158 688 619 117 201 39 6 39 130 57 97 .325 .381 .596 .977 154 369 AS,MVP-5
124 542 504 81 148 22 6 24 86 30 87 .294 .336 .504 .840 122 254 AS
108 495 451 51 128 18 1 17 62 34 76 .284 .333 .441 .775 116 199
145 638 573 86 177 24 5 24 97 55 98 .309 .375 .494 .868 130 283 MVP-19
155 689 626 90 191 34 1 39 126 52 102 .305 .361 .550 .911 141 344 AS,MVP-4,SS
159 708 657 98 184 25 7 28 122 44 102 .280 .323 .467 .791 112 307 AS,MVP-13,SS
140 608 546 85 159 20 3 27 103 51 75 .291 .349 .487 .836 123 266 AS
157 693 618 98 200 39 2 20 110 62 78 .324 .384 .490 .874 136 303 AS,MVP-3
108 459 404 66 112 14 0 13 62 45 77 .277 .357 .408 .766 101 165
135 542 485 57 128 18 3 15 72 48 89 .264 .330 .406 .736 102 197
56 228 209 22 49 10 2 3 28 13 39 .234 .276 .344 .621 70 72
2089 9058 8225 1249 2452 373 79 382 1451 670 1423 .298 .352 .502 .854 128 4129
162 702 638 97 190 29 6 30 113 52 110 .298 .352 .502 .854 128 320
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2011.

Santo:

G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB Awards
136 573 505 82 165 35 3 11 87 56 54 .327 .390 .473 .863 239 SAN · TL
71 305 272 40 73 16 1 7 32 33 21 .268 .348 .412 .759 112 HSN · AA
95 382 347 44 87 24 2 9 44 31 44 .251 .311 .409 .720 96 142 RoY-4
154 655 578 84 164 32 6 23 83 73 77 .284 .362 .479 .842 121 277
162 679 604 44 137 20 4 17 83 65 94 .227 .302 .358 .659 74 216
162 687 630 79 187 29 6 25 99 42 92 .297 .339 .481 .820 128 303 AS,MVP-8
161 686 592 94 185 33 13 30 114 86 96 .313 .398 .564 .962 164 334 AS,MVP-8,GG
164 704 608 88 173 30 4 33 101 88 109 .285 .378 .510 .888 146 310 AS,MVP-18,GG
155 672 561 93 175 21 8 30 94 95 78 .312 .412 .538 .950 161 302 AS,MVP-12,GG
161 697 586 107 176 23 4 31 98 96 103 .300 .395 .512 .906 153 300 MVP-4,GG
162 682 577 86 142 17 3 26 98 96 106 .246 .354 .421 .775 126 243 AS,MVP-24,GG
160 687 575 97 166 18 4 29 123 96 97 .289 .384 .485 .869 131 279 AS,MVP-5
154 655 555 83 148 30 4 26 114 92 108 .267 .369 .476 .844 115 264
154 642 555 77 148 22 1 21 88 79 95 .267 .354 .423 .778 109 235 AS
133 547 464 68 140 25 5 17 74 69 75 .302 .391 .487 .878 139 226 AS
149 604 536 65 143 29 2 20 77 63 97 .267 .348 .440 .788 112 236 AS
117 417 375 29 83 12 1 5 41 37 72 .221 .293 .299 .591 69 112
2243 9396 8143 1138 2254 365 67 342 1331 1108 1343 .277 .362 .464 .826 125 3779
162 679 588 82 163 26 5 25 96 80 97 .277 .362 .464 .826 125 273
2126 8979 7768 1109 2171 353 66 337 1290 1071 1271 .279 .366 .472 .838 127 3667
117 417 375 29 83 12 1 5 41 37 72 .221 .293 .299 .591 69 112
2126 8979 7768 1109 2171 353 66 337 1290 1071 1271 .279 .366 .472 .838 127 3667
117 417 375 29 83 12 1 5 41 37 72 .221 .293 .299 .591 69 112
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2011.

Home and road splits? (One of the proffered reasons to exclude Rice.):

Rice:

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB IBB BAbip tOPS+
Home 1048 1036 4507 4075 681 1304 207 44 208 802 348 691 .320 .374 .546 .920 2223 50 .340 115
Away 1041 1023 4551 4150 568 1148 166 35 174 649 322 732 .277 .330 .459 .789 1906 27 .296 85
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2011.

Santo:

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip tOPS+
Home 1136 1127 4724 4075 659 1208 194 39 216 743 577 646 .296 .383 .522 .905 2128 .305 118
Away 1107 1083 4673 4069 479 1046 171 28 126 588 531 697 .257 .342 .406 .747 1651 .279 82
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2011.

If you’d like to start referencing defense, Rice was dealing with the Green Monster for which nuance and understanding quirks are more important than standard metrics; Santo was a Gold Glove winning third baseman whose defensive metrics were okay, but not close to Brooks Robinson, Graig Nettles or even Adrian Beltre.

Both men saw their careers end early, Rice at age 36 after 16 seasons; Santo at age 34 after 15 seasons. Both of their careers ended abruptly without a massive decline. They were good, then they weren’t; then they were done.

Santo made it in via the Veterans Committee so the writers who sought to keep him out on their ballots did so, but he’s in now and he’s in with Rice who made it through the conventional vote.

But if Rice—with six top 5 MVP finishes—was so fervently excluded based on supposed numbers, why wasn’t Santo? Where’s the anger?

Where’s the objectivity?

Does it really exist?

Both men should be in the Hall of Fame because both men belong in the Hall of Fame.

Those who seek to keep either/or out have to show consistency and not pay attention to such irrelevant issues as illness or perception because they shouldn’t matter one way or the other.

//

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  1. #1 by Jeff on December 6, 2011 - 3:51 pm

    Shaking my head. Are the writers listening?!?!?!?!?!

  2. #2 by sycasey on December 6, 2011 - 8:11 pm

    Seriously? The difference is that Ron Santo was a THIRD BASEMAN while Jim Rice was a LEFT FIELDER for most of his career (LF is one of the easiest defensive positions on the diamond). The standard for making the Hall as a 3B should be lower than for a LF, because 3B is harder to play.

    Santo’s stats put him somewhere in the Top 10 of all-time 3B. Rice’s stats don’t have him in the Top 10 all-time LF. That’s why Rice is a more questionable selection.

    • #3 by admin on December 6, 2011 - 8:16 pm

      Yes. Seriously.
      Again with the positional argument.
      Is playing left field adequately at Fenway Park easy? Carl Crawford, a good outfielder, was awful at it in 2011, so clearly it’s not easy.
      If you’d like to make an argument against Rice and for Santo, defense ain’t it. In fact, I dunno what the argument would be.
      I covered that in the piece.
      I’m not sure what the top ten business is about because it’s totally out of context and would need actual discussion of the players ahead of Rice and Santo to make it viable.

      • #4 by sycasey on December 6, 2011 - 8:41 pm

        The point is that when Santo is compared to other great 3B, he actually compares favorably.

        When Jim Rice is compared to other great LF, he does not compare as favorably.

        And yes, again with the positional argument because it’s legit. Teams put up with less offense from certain positions because it’s harder to find players who can field them, so that’s why it’s relevant to say that Santo is in the Top 10 all-time 3B, but Rice is not in the Top 10 all-time LF. Playing LF at Fenway may be harder than in other parks (though I’d argue that if you are on the Red Sox for many years you should eventually be used to the Monster and able to play it well anyway), but it’s still not harder than playing 3B, all things considered.

      • #5 by TC on December 6, 2011 - 11:28 pm

        Not only that, but Santo played in an excruciatingly difficult era for hitters, while Jim Rice play most of his career in a significantly better era for pitchers. This fact, plus the positional adjustment, are why Santo, while having “similar” numbers to Rice, is seen as the much better player.

        You’re probably not a WAR guy, but WAR does take those things into account, and it puts Rice at 41.5 rWAR, while Santo sits at a very comfortable 66.4 WAR, above the accepted “threshold”, and 7th among alltime 3B. If you’re more of an fWAR guy, like me, Santo produced a monstrous 79.3 WAR in his career, while Rice put up a much-close-to-HOF-worthy 56.1. Either way, they’re not even close.

      • #6 by sycasey on December 7, 2011 - 3:49 pm

        I am a WAR guy, and I totally agree. Santo clearly provided more value in his career than Rice did, and yes it absolutely does come down to the position he played.

      • #7 by admin on December 7, 2011 - 5:36 pm

        Actually, I do get what you’re saying; it looks like you had this response ready regardless of what I said and are ignoring my points in the response. Players have been shifted to third base and learned to play the position. So if Rice was moved to third, would that have made him a viable Hall of Famer in your eyes?
        Johnny Bench, Joe Torre, Todd Zeile and Pedro Guerrero all shifted to third—were mostly below average—but played the position within reason to leave them there since there was no other option. If Rice had done that and been one of the few, proud third baseman, would his numbers have been acceptable in your eyes? It’s an non-argument argument because there’s no answer I can give you for which you’re going to admit the possibility of being wrong.
        You’re sliding right past my case that Rice was punished for his defensive deficiencies because he waited so long. A first ballot Hall of Famer gets that placed in any discussion of his career—Rice will have the 15 year wait attached to him. Santo will have the Veterans Committee enshrinement attached because that’s how they achieved their enshrinement. And it’s fitting given the holes in their games whether they’re based on longevity, WAR, positions or whatever you use to justify it.
        I also happen to disagree with the shifting of the goalposts to a totally different—and fluctuating—argument using the absurd “saw him play” stuff which is one of the reasons that people who grew angry at Rice’s constant exclusion used as justification for his enshrinement. It’s either you’re using numbers or you’re not using numbers. Don’t give me the “saw him play” stuff unless you want it back with Rice being a “feared” hitter—which he was. The people against whom he played will tell you that he’s a Hall of Famer, but you won’t want to hear that either.

      • #8 by Joe on December 7, 2011 - 4:30 pm

        That’s a good point.

        I wonder if those that don’t think Santo belongs in the HOF actually saw him play? I did. He was at least comparable to Brooks Robinson. He was not quite the fielder that HOFer Robinson was, but Santo a better hitter. And he played most of his career in the dead ball era, so that should be considered when looking at his hitting stats. ( I remember the 1968 AllStar game final was 1-0. That was the last straw. After that year, MLB lowered the mound, so pitchers wouldn’t have such a big advantage ). If Santo played when Rice did, he’d have better hitting stats.

      • #9 by sycasey on December 7, 2011 - 6:38 pm

        Yes, Rice was punished fairly by having to wait so long. The point is that Santo was more qualified and shouldn’t have had to wait so long.

        And yes, if Rice had played 3B I would have said he was a much more qualified Hall of Famer. But he didn’t, and I don’t think it was because he was being unselfish; it was because he wasn’t good enough to play that position. If the Red Sox could have gotten away with playing him at 3B they definitely would have; it would have made him a more valuable player.

        Players like Torre and Bench shifted from a harder defensive position (C) to an easier one (3B) when they got older, which is very common. Todd Zeile did the same, only much earlier in his career. Guerrero was moved around a lot (3B/1B/OF), so you couldn’t call him a true career 3B, and anyway the numbers suggest that he was much worse at 3B than at other positions. This doesn’t strengthen the case for Rice’s potential at the hot corner.

  3. #10 by Alex Perlin on December 6, 2011 - 10:56 pm

    Both of these players were entirely worthy of being voted into the hall of fame.
    Career statistics are however sometimes hard to compare and although the total numbers for these two may be similar there was a time when Rice was the monster of the A.L. His best years far outshine Santo’s

    • #11 by PS on December 8, 2011 - 4:57 am

      Rice’s best seasons outshine Santo’s by what measure? Rice’s best OPS+ seasons were: 157, 154, 147, 141, 136. Santo’s were: 164, 161, 153, 146, 139. Rice looks a little behind to me.

  4. #12 by B Kamm on December 6, 2011 - 11:46 pm

    Pretty simply the positional argument. You really aren’t serious are you? Santo compares favorably with all but Matthews and Schmidt offensively and all but Robinson defensively. He’s easily among the top 8 or ten 3rd basemen in baseball history.
    Rice as for left fielders? he wouldn’t make the top 25.

  5. #13 by Brendan on December 7, 2011 - 3:48 am

    Neither Rice nor Santo deserve induction into the Hall based solely on their merits as players. Both were very good, were standouts for a few years, but not long enough to be placed among the greats. But I could see Santo’s combined body of work as a player and beloved broadcaster pushing him over the bar.

  6. #14 by admin on December 7, 2011 - 9:38 am

    I replied in my new posting.

  7. #15 by Nat76 on December 7, 2011 - 9:26 pm

    The concept of Rice’s value if he had hypothetically played 3B is an interesting one, but I think it largely ignores how difficult 3B is. At a minimum, a third basemen needs quick hands (fielding hands not batting hands)/reflexes, a decent arm with pinpoint accuracy to first and a head for making instinctive decisions re: baserunners. Range/mobility and a very strong arm are secondary nice to haves.

    It is preferrable to find a fielder with this attributes who doesn’t totally kill you offensively than it is to find a bat who doesn’t kill you defensivley, and a quick look through history supports this. Guys converted to 3B overwhelmingly start their careers in the middle infield or at catcher. There are very few who start in the OF or 1B who move to third. Buddy Bell is the only guy in the post war era who began his career with regular time in OF or at 1B who made his career at 3B. The list of “name” players who even played a year or two at 3B after starting at OF/1B is short: Pujols, Minoso, Perez, Cabrera, Guerrero, Bobby Thomson, Bonilla, George Scott, Kevin Mitchell, and Tommy Harper are the only 25+ WAR guys out of hundreds.

    It would seem to me that if Rice had the fielding attributes to allow another bat at LF, then he would have joined these players in shifting to third for at least a stint, but again, that ability from an outfielder is exceedingly rare. The personnel in Boston for the first half of his career would seem to support this notion. There wasn’t a decent bat at third base until Lansford showed up for a couple of years in the early 80s. If Rice has the ability to play 3B, he would have taken Petrocelli or Hobson’s place in the 70s. Hobson had that one year where he hit for power, but that came with a ton of strikeouts. At the very least, Rice might have had a couple games at some point at third if he had the ability, but he never played a single game there.

    I get the total production argument, but again, that kind of hitting from a LF or DH isn’t nearly as rare as it is at 3B. Actually, it’s more common than anywhere else on the field outside of maybe 1B.

  8. #16 by nutballgazette on December 13, 2011 - 6:15 am

    Well written and thought out, Good Job

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