As writers begin releasing their Hall of Fame ballots, things are looking up for Tim Raines in his 10th and final year of eligibility.
Raines has seen his vote total steadily rise over the years, and his name appeared on 69.8 percent of the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballots last year, a big jump from 55 percent the year before.
But a lot could change before final results are revealed on Jan. 18 (live at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 3 p.m.), which could make for a nerve-wracking week for Raines and his supporters.
In advance of the Hall of Fame class of 2017's announcement, MLB.com looks at the case for Raines and the other players on the election bubble.
Tim Raines, LF, 1979-2002 Career stats: .294/.385/.425, 2,605 H, 170 HR, 980 RBI, 1,571 R, 808 SB, 123 OPS+, 69.1 WAR
HOF case, traditional stats:
• Raines was one of the best, most efficient basestealers ever. His 808 steals rank fifth in Major League history, trailing only Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, Billy Hamilton and Ty Cobb. But Raines' 84.7 percent stolen-base success rate isn't just the best of the bunch, it's the best of all time by any player with 400-plus attempts. And he had 954.
• Raines' .385 career on-base percentage would rank 56th among Hall of Famers, just ahead of Willie Mays, above the .376 Hall of Fame average and better than outfielders like Duke Snider, Carl Yastrzemski, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr. and Roberto Clemente. Raines reached base safely 3,977 times in his career -- more than contemporary Tony Gwynn, who cruised into the Hall of Fame with 97.6 percent of the vote on his first ballot.
• Raines' 2,605 hits would tie for 58th among Hall of Famers -- more than the Cooperstown average of 2,402, and players like Ozzie Smith, Barry Larkin, Willie Stargell and Willie McCovey. His 1,330 walks would rank 24th, just ahead of Griffey.
• Raines' .294 career batting average would tie him with Frank Robinson and Jimmy Collins for 101st among Hall of Famers -- slightly below the Hall of Fame average of .302, but ahead of players like Craig Biggio, Henderson and Joe Morgan.
HOF case, advanced stats:
• Raines' 69.1 WAR would place him 54th among Hall of Fame position players, a hair above the average of 69 and one spot ahead of Gwynn. His WAR is also better than that of such outfielders as Andre Dawson, Dave Winfield, Rice and Brock.
• By Jay Jaffe's WAR score, which combines career and peak WAR to compare a player to Hall of Famers at his position, Raines rates better than the average Hall of Fame left fielder, 55.6 to 53.3. In fact, both his career and peak WAR are above average.
• Raines' 123 OPS+ would rank 96th out of those in Cooperstown, ahead of players like Ernie Banks, Paul Molitor, Ryne Sandberg and Cal Ripken Jr. (Raines' unadjusted OPS of .810 ranks 99th, ahead of Dawson, Biggio, Sandberg, Ripken, Brock and others.)
Most similar player in the HOF: Brock. By Baseball Reference's similarity scores, which use traditional stats, Brock had the most comparable career to Raines. Another speedy left fielder and leadoff man, Brock was a .293 hitter with 776 extra-base hits, 1,571 runs and 938 steals; Raines hit .294 with 713 extra-base hits, 1,571 runs and 808 steals (but was much more efficient). The advanced stats give Raines a clear edge, thanks to his getting on base at a much higher clip: Raines' 69.1 WAR is well above Brock's 45.2, and his 123 OPS+ beats Brock's 109.
Most similar player not in the HOF: Kenny Lofton. The center fielder was arguably more similar to Raines than Brock. Lofton's career arc paralleled Raines' -- his peak years came earlier on, when he led the league in steals five times (Raines did it four) and made six straight All-Star teams (Raines made seven). Lofton had 68.2 career WAR, a 107 OPS+, a .299/.372/.423 slash line, 2,428 hits, 1,528 runs and 622 steals. Raines had 69.1 WAR, a 123 OPS+, a .294/.385/.425 slash line, 2,605 hits, 1,571 runs and 808 steals. But Lofton was snubbed in the Hall of Fame voting, knocked off the ballot after his first year of eligibility.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.