April 24, 2014

Rating the 2013 Hall of Fame Candidates Based on Win Shares

January 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

One of the first items of business in baseball each year is the announcement of players elected to the Hall of Fame.  This leads to lots of speculation and a little analysis prior to the announcement which is scheduled for January 9, 2013.

Many systems exist for evaluating player performance.  One such system, the Win Shares method, developed by Bill James in 2002, is a complex method for evaluating players which includes all aspects of performance – offense, defense and pitching.  James has stated that, “Historically, 400 Win Shares means absolute enshrinement in the Hall of Fame and 300 Win Shares makes a player more likely than not to be a Hall of Famer.  However, future standards may be different.  Players with 300-350 Win Shares in the past have generally gone into the Hall of Fame.  In the future, they more often will not”.

The 2013 class of Hall of Fame candidates consists of 13 holdovers and 24 players eligible for the first time.   Nine holdovers have over 300 Win Shares, Rafael Palmeiro with 394, Tim Raines 390, Jeff Bagwell 387, Mark McGwire 342, Fred McGriff 326, Alan Trammell 318, Bernie Williams 311, Larry Walker 307 and Edgar Martinez 305.  Five newcomers have over 300 Win Shares;  Barry Bonds  661, Roger Clemens 421, Craig Biggio 411, Sammy Sosa 311 and Mike Piazza 309.

In 2012, Barry Larkin was elected to the Hall with 86.4% of the vote. The 2012 ballot included 13 newcomers and 14 returning candidates.  The only newcomer who received the 5% of the votes required to remain on the ballot was Bernie Williams with 9.6%.  Juan Gonzalez dropped off the ballot after 2 years when he failed to get 5.0% of the vote.

With the relatively weak incoming class last year, most holdovers received an increase in votes.  Barry Larkin picked up 134 votes to put him over the top in his third year on the ballot.  Jeff Bagwell, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell picked up 70 or more votes and Tim Raines picked up 61.  Every holdover player on the ballot picked up votes except Mark McGuire (-3) and Juan Gonzalez (-7).

With the strong, but steroid tainted, incoming class this year, predicting the results is more difficult than usual.  Jack Morris with 66.7% of the votes in 2012 could get a boost and may reach 75%.  Dale Murphy is on the ballot for the 15th and last time, but with only 14.5% of the votes last year will likely get a boost but not enough to reach 75%.

Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have the numbers to be elected but remain tainted with the steroid cloud.  The same applies to newcomers Bonds, Clemens and Sosa. Voters are likely to wait until more is known about the extent of steroid usage before giving them a pass.  As power hitters in what is called the steroid era, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza’s vote totals may also be affected although there is no evidence that they used steroids.

Following is a list of Win Shares for the 37 players on the ballot.  Players on the ballot for the first time are shown in bold.  Voting results for 2011 and 2012 are shown for the holdovers.

Player Win Shares 2011 Votes 2011 Percent 2012 Votes 2012 Percent
Barry Bonds 661
Roger Clemens 421
Craig Biggio 411
Rafael Palmeiro 394 64 11.0 72 12.6
Tim Raines 390 218 37.5 279 48.7
Jeff Bagwell 387 242 41.7 321 56.0
Mark McGwire 342 115 19.8 112 19.5
Fred McGriff 326 104 17.9 127 23.9
Alan Trammell 318 141 24.3 211 36.8
Bernie Williams 311 55 9.6
Sammy Sosa 311
Mike Piazza 307
Larry Walker 305 118 20.3 131 22.9
Edgar Martinez 305 191 32.9 209 36.5
Dale Murphy 294 73 12.6 83 14.5
Steve Finley 286
Julio Franco 275
Don Mattingly 263 79 13.6 102 17.8
Kenny Lofton 261
Curt Schilling 227
Jack Morris 225 310 53.5 382 66.7
Ryan Klesko 222
Shawn Green 214
David Wells 202
Reggie Sanders 201
Lee Smith 198 263 45.3 290 50.6
Jeff Conine 180
Jeff Cirillo 156
Rondell White 149
Royce Clayton 148
Roberto Hernandez 138
Jose Mesa 118
Sandy Alomar Jr. 112
Todd Walker 111
Aaron Sele 105
Woody Williams 104
Mike Stanton 96

The last 19 players elected by the Baseball Writers have averaged 353 Win Shares, a figure exceeded by five players on this year’s ballot.

Player Year Win Shares
Dave Winfield 2001 415
Kirby Puckett 2001 281
Ozzie Smith 2002 325
Gary Carter 2003 337
Eddie Murray 2003 437
Paul Molitor 2004 414
Dennis Eckersley 2004 301
Wade Boggs 2005 394
Ryne Sandberg 2005 346
Bruce Sutter 2006 168
Cal Ripken 2007 427
Tony Gwynn 2007 398
Goose Gossage 2008 223
Rickey Henderson 2009 535
Jim Rice 2009 282
Andre Dawson 2010 340
Roberto Alomar 2011 375
Bert Blyleven 2011 339
Barry Larkin 2012 347

Win Shares are fundamentally a quantitative measure of a player’s accomplishments.  A measure of the quality of a player’s offensive performance is OPS+ which compares his OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging average) adjusted for park effects and era with the league average during his career.  An OPS+ of 120 suggests that his performance is 20% better than that of a league average player.  A similar approach (ERA+) can be used to compare a pitcher’s ERA against the league average during his career.

Following is a rank order of OPS+ and ERA+ for the 37 candidates on the 2013 ballot:

       Batters           OPS+         Pitchers            ERA+
Barry Bonds 143 Roger Clemens 143
Mark McGwire 162 Roberto Hernandez 131
Jeff Bagwell 149 Lee Smith 131
Edgar Martinez 147 Curt Schilling 127
Mike Piazza 143 Mike Stanton 112
Larry Walker 140 David Wells 108
Fred McGriff 134 Jack Morris 105
Raphael Palmiero 132 Woody Williams 103
Ryan Klesko 128 Aaron Sele 100
Sammy Sosa 128 Jose Mesa 100
Don Mattingly 127
Bernie Williams 125
Tim Raines 123
Dale Murphy 121
Shawn Green 120
Reggie Sanders 115
Craig Biggio 112
Julio Franco 111
Alan Trammell 110
Rondell White 108
Kenny Lofton 107
Jeff Conine 107
Steve Finley 104
Jeff Cirillo 102
Todd Walker 98
Sandy Alomar, Jr. 86
Royce Clayton 78

The Win Shares system favors players with long productive careers like Raines, Palmeiro and Biggio, although it appears to under-rate pitchers, while OPS+ rewards strong offensive players who had shorter, more dominant careers like Martinez and Mattingly.  ERA+ favors relief pitchers since their ERAs are generally lower because they are not charged with runs scored by inherited runners.

Conclusions:

1.  Bagwell, Biggio and Piazza will be elected in 2013.

2.  Other holdovers like Morris, Smith and Raines will move up but fall short of the 75% required for election.

3.  In the past, I haven’t paid much attention to whether or not a player is elected in the first year he is eligible.  However, it may be a bigger issue this year.  Bonds and Clemens obviously have the credentials to be elected in their first year and will eventually be elected but their involvement with steroids will prevent their election this year.

4.  While the 2013 class is very strong at the top, it is weak at the bottom.  As many as 12 newcomers may not receive even one vote.  As many as seven newcomers should receive enough votes to remain on the ballot.

5.  The incoming class in 2014 is also exceptionally strong – Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, Frank Thomas and Jeff Kent.  This will make it difficult for holdovers to get elected.

6.   There will not be a groundswell of support for Mike Stanton, Woody Williams, Aaron Sele Sandy Alomar, Jr, Jose Mesa, Roberto Hernandez and Royce Clayton among others.

If I had a ballot, I would cast votes for Bagwell, Biggio, Piazza, Raines, McGwire and Trammell.

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