November 12, 2019

Rating the 2009 Hall of Fame Candidates Based on Win Shares

January 4, 2009 by · 8 Comments 

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 12, 2009.

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 2009 class of Hall of Fame candidates is not a strong one. It consists of 13 holdovers and 10 players eligible for the first time. Seven holdovers have over 300 Win Shares, Tim Raines with 390, Mark McGwire with 342, Andre Dawson, 340, Bert Blyleven, 339, Dave Parker, 327, Alan Trammell 318 and Harold Baines with 307. The only newcomer on the list with over 300 Win Shares is Rickey Henderson with 535. Henderson ranks 15th on the all-time Win Shares list, slightly ahead of Frank Robinson, Rogers Hornsby and Lou Gehrig, and is certain to be elected on the first ballot. The only other newcomer who is even close to 300 win shares is Mark Grace with 294.

In 2008, Goose Gossage was elected with 78% of the votes and Dave Concepcion (16%) was unsuccessful in his last (15th) year and is not on the 2009 ballot. No newcomers were elected and only Raines had enough votes to remain on the ballot (25%).

With Raines the only strong candidate on the 2008 ballot, most of the holdovers gained ground. The biggest gainers were Bert Blyleven (76 votes), Andre Dawson (49 votes) and Jim Rice (46 votes). Rice’s total of 392 votes (72.2%) puts him within striking distance of the 75% required for election and makes it very likely he will make it in 2009, his last year on the BBWAA ballot. Dawson (65.9%) and Blyleven (61.9%) have also moved into position for a run at election in the next couple of years.

Mark McGwire is a special case. He has the numbers to be elected but remains tainted with the steroid cloud. Voters are likely to wait until more is known about the extent of steroid usage before giving McGwire a pass. He failed to gain ground in 2008 so it is likely to be a slow process.

Raines would appear to have the credentials for election but received only 24% of the votes in his first year on the ballot. He should gain significantly in 2009 but has a long way to go. On the 2009 ballot, no newcomers, other than Henderson, are likely to receive the 5% required to remain on the ballot next year.

Following is a list of Win Shares for the 23 players on the ballot. Players on the ballot for the first time are shown in bold. Voting results for 2006, 2007 and 2008 are shown for the holdovers.

Player Win
Shares
2006
Votes
2006
%
2007
Votes
2007
%
2008
Votes
2008
%
Rickey Henderson 535
Tim Raines 390 132 24.3
Mark McGwire 342 128 23.5 128 23.6
Andre Dawson 340 317 61.0 309 56.7 358 65.9
Bert Blyleven 339 277 53.3 260 47.7 336 61.9
Dave Parker 327 76 14.4 62 11.4 82 15.1
Alan Trammell 318 92 17.7 73 13.4 99 18.2
Harold Baines 307 29 5.3 28 5.2
Dale Murphy 294 56 10.8 50 9.2 75 13.8
Mark Grace 294
Tommy John 289 154 29.6 125 22.9 158 29.1
Jim Rice 282 337 64.8 346 63.5 392 72.2
Don Mattingly 263 64 12.3 54 9.9 86 15.8
Jay Bell 245
Matt Williams 241
Jack Morris 225 214 41.2 202 37.1 233 42.9
Ron Gant 206
David Cone 205
Mo Vaughn 201
Greg Vaughn 199
Lee Smith 198 234 45.0 217 39.8 235 43.3
Jesse Orosco
141
Dan Plesac
113

The last 13 players elected by the Baseball Writers have averaged 344 Win Shares, a figure exceeded by only Henderson and Raines on the ballot this year.

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 Jr. 2007 427
Tony Gwynn 2007 398
Goose Gossage 2008 223
Average 344

Win Shares are fundamentally a quantitative measure of a player’s accomplishments. A measure of the quality of a player’s performance is OPS+ which compares his OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging average) 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 23 candidates on the 2009 ballot:

Batters OPS+ Pitchers ERA+
Mark McGwire 162 Lee Smith 131
Mo Vaughn 132 Jesse Orosco 125
Jim Rice 128 David Cone 120
Rickey Henderson 127 Bert Blyleven 118
Don Mattingly 127 Dan Plesac 117
Tim Raines 123 Tommy John 110
Dale Murphy 121 Jack Morris 105
Dave Parker 121
Harold Baines 120
Andre Dawson 119
Mark Grace 119
Ron Gant 112
Greg Vaughn 112
Matt Williams 112
Alan Trammell 110
Jay Bell 101

The Win Shares system favors players with long productive careers like Raines, Dawson and Blyleven while OPS+ rewards batters who had shorter, more dominant careers like Mo Vaughan, Rice 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. Rickey Henderson will be elected easily in 2009 and will give a unique acceptance speech.

2. Jim Rice, a borderline candidate, will be elected in his final year on the ballot.

3 Mark McGwire will not come close but will gain some ground and could get elected in the future. He is the only eligible player with over 500 home runs not in the Hall.

4. No newcomers other than Henderson will receive enough votes to remain on the ballot.

5. BBWAA voters typically average voting for about 5 candidates on their ballots. With the lack of attractive new candidates on the ballot, the leading holdovers are likely to pick up more votes. In addition to Rice, players like Blyleven and Dawson could achieve significant gains to put them in position for possible election in the next two years.

6. There will not be a groundswell of support for Jesse Orosco and Dan Plesac.

If I had a ballot, I would cast votes for Henderson, Raines, Blyleven, McGwire and Trammell.

Comments

8 Responses to “Rating the 2009 Hall of Fame Candidates Based on Win Shares”
  1. Ted Leavengood says:

    I’m not much of a win shares fan, but it got you to a bottom line I agree with totally. Hence I think Andre Dawson deserves it more than Trammel despite Tram being one of my favorite players. I cannot see him over “the Hawk,” who in addition to his win shares endorsement signed an autograph for my daughter, “Listen to your Dad, Claire” Great stuff, Bill.

  2. Rickey is one of the best players ever. No doubt about him getting in!

  3. John Lease says:

    I’ll gladly wager any amount you’d like that McGwire will never be elected to the HOF.

  4. David in Toledo says:

    Good article! Two additional points. Win shares, unlike OPS+, takes into consideration a player’s defensive contribution. Also, it’s easier to get a large career win share total as a corner outfielder than it is as a catcher. Maybe that’s because the best athletes aren’t allowed to catch. Maybe it’s because catchers never play a full season. Whatever, if you have 300 win shares as a catcher, you should be in. If you’re a left fielder, 370 is a more appropriate presumption number.

  5. David in Toledo says:

    OPS+ also fails to give any credit to Tim Raines’s historic success rate of base stealing.

  6. SJ says:

    Will you do this for 2010?

    thanks.

  7. Mike Lynch says:

    SJ,

    I’ll be posting Bill’s 2010 HOF piece soon. Stay tuned.

  8. SJ says:

    Thanks very much.

    Merry Christmas.

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