November 18, 2017

Rating the 2016 Hall of Fame Candidates Based on Win Shares

January 3, 2016 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 6, 2016.

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 2016 class of Hall of Fame candidates consists of 17 holdovers and 15 players eligible for the first time.   Twelve holdovers have over 300 Win Shares, Barry Bonds with 661, Gary Sheffield 430, Roger Clemens 421, Tim Raines 390, Jeff Bagwell 387, Mark McGwire 342, Fred McGriff 326, Alan Trammell 318, Sammy Sosa 311, Mike Piazza 309, Larry Walker 307 and Edgar Martinez 305.  Two newcomers have over 300 Win Shares, Ken Griffey Jr. 403 and Jim Edmonds 301.

In 2015, four players received the necessary 75% of the vote for election by the Baseball Writers of America (BBWAA).   The 2015 ballot included 17 newcomers and 17 returning candidates.  Three newcomers, Randy Johnson (97.3%), Pedro Martinez (91.1%) and John Smoltz (82.9%) were elected on the first ballot.  Only two others, Gary Sheffield (11.7%) and Nomar Garciaparra (5.5%) received the necessary 5% of the votes required to remain on the ballot.

With the strong incoming class last year, only Craig Biggio (82.7%) among the holdovers was elected.   The 2016 class is not as strong which should allow some holdovers to move up.  The only holdovers with over 50% of the vote in 2015 were Mike Piazza (62.2%), Jeff Bagwell (55.7%) and Tim Raines (55.0%).

Several players on the ballot have the numbers to be elected but remain tainted with the steroid cloud.  Many voters are likely to wait until more is known about the extent of steroid usage before giving them a pass.  This, along with the number of strong newcomers on the ballot the last two years has resulted in the ballot becoming quite crowded.  A total of 571 ballots were submitted last year and each voter could vote for up to 10 players.  The number of ballots will be reduced this year as writers that have not actively covered the sport for the past ten years will no longer be able to vote. It will be interesting to see how this will impact the results.  Over the years, voters have typically voted for 5 or 6 candidates but last year they voted for an average of 8.4.  This increase is likely to continue since there are at least 20 candidates on the ballot for which a reasonable case can be made for induction.

The Hall has made a significant change in the voting for this year.  Players are now kept on the ballot for 10 years rather than 15 years.  Players that had already been on the ballot for 10 or more years stay on for 15 but those with less than 10 years will be removed after their 10th year. Alan Trammell is in his last year in 2016 (15th) as is Mark McGwire (10th).  Lee Smith (14th) and Tim Raines (9th) are in their next to last years on the ballot.

Earlier this year, the Pre-Integration Era Committee consisting of a panel of Hall of Fame players, sportswriters and baseball executives voted on a group of ten players and executives for induction.  None received 75% of the votes from the 16-member Committee.

Following is a list of Win Shares for the 32 players on the ballot.  Players on the ballot for the first time are shown in bold.  Voting results for 2014 and 2015 are shown for the holdovers:

 

Player Win Shares 2015 Vote 2015 Percent 2014 Vote 2014 Percent
Barry Bonds 661 202 36.8 198 34.7
Gary Sheffield 430 64 11.7
Roger Clemens 421 206 37.5 202 35.4
Ken Griffey, Jr. 403
Tim Raines 390 302 55.0 263 46.1
Jeff Bagwell 387 306 55.7 310 54.3
Mark McGwire 342 55 10.0 63 11.0
Jeff Kent 338 77 14.0 87 15.2
Fred McGriff 326 118 20.7 67 11.7
Alan Trammel 318 138 25.1 119 20.8
Sammy Sosa 311 36 6.6 41 7.2
Mike Piazza 309 384 69.9 355 62.2
Larry Walker 307 65 11.8 53 10.2
Edgar Martinez 305 148 27.0 144 25.2
Jim Edmonds 301
Mike Mussina 270 135 24.6 116 20.3
Jason Kendall 245
Garrett Anderson 230
Curt Schilling 227 215 39.2 167 29.2
Nomar Garciaparra 219 30 5.5
Luis Castillo 201
Lee Smith 198 166 30.2 171 29.9
Troy Glaus 189
Trevor Hoffman 188
Mark Grudzielanek 186
Mike Lowell 185
Billy Wagner 182
Randy Winn 171
Brad Ausmus 169
Mike Sweeney 162
Mike Hampton 144
David Eckstein 143

 

The 26 players elected by the Baseball Writers since 2000 have averaged 356 Win Shares, a figure exceeded by six 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
Frank Thomas 2014 405
Greg Maddux 2014 398
Tom Glavine 2014 314
Craig Biggio 2015 411
Randy Johnson 2015 326
John Smoltz 2015 289
Pedro Martinez 2015 256

 

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.

Batters OPS+ Pitchers ERA+
Barry Bonds 182 Roger Clemens 143
Mark McGwire 163 Curt Schilling 127
Jeff Bagwell 149 Mike Mussina 123
Edgar Martinez 147 Mike Hampton 107
Mike Piazza 143
Larry Walker 141
Gary Sheffield 140 Relief Pitchers
Ken Griffey, Jr. 136 Billy Wagner 187
Fred McGriff 134 Trevor Hoffman 141
Jim Edmonds 132 Lee Smith 132
Sammy Sosa 128
Nomar Garciaparra 124
Tim Raines 123
Jeff Kent 123
Troy Glaus 119
Mike Sweeney 118
Alan Trammell 110
Mike Lowell 108
Garrett Anderson 102
Randy Winn 99
Jason Kendall 95
Luis Castillo 92
Mark Grudzielanek 90
David Eckstein 87
Brad Ausmus 75

 

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

Conclusions:

  1. Three players will be elected in 2016, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell.
  2. Trammell and McGwire will fail to win election in their final year on the BBWAA ballot.
  3. Raines will gain significant support but will not receive enough votes for induction. However, he should be in a good position for election next year.
  4. Edmonds, Wagner and Hoffman should receive enough votes to remain on the ballot.
  5. There will not be a groundswell of support for Randy Winn, Luis Castillo, Mark   Grudzielanek, Jason Kendall, David Eckstein and Brad Ausmus, among others.
  6. If I had a ballot, I would cast votes for Griffey, Jr., Piazza, Bagwell, Raines, Schilling, Trammell, McGriff, Kent, Wagner and Mussina.

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