Rating the 2017 Hall of Fame Candidates Based on Win Shares
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 18, 2017.
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 2017 class of Hall of Fame candidates consists of 15 holdovers and 19 players eligible for the first time. Ten holdovers have over 300 Win Shares, Barry Bonds with 661, Gary Sheffield 430, Roger Clemens 421, Tim Raines 390, Jeff Bagwell 387, Jeff Kent 338, Fred McGriff 326, Sammy Sosa 311, Larry Walker 307 and Edgar Martinez 305. Among the newcomers, there are three candidates with 300+ Win Shares, Manny Ramirez 408, Ivan Rodriguez 338 and Vladimir Guerrero 324.There are no new starting pitchers among the newcomers and only three starters on the list of 34 candidates.
In 2016, two players received the necessary 75% of the vote for election by the Baseball Writers of America (BBWAA). The 2016 ballot included 17 newcomers and 15 returning candidates. One newcomer, Ken Griffey Jr. (99.3%) was elected on the first ballot. Only two others, Trevor Hoffman (67.3%) and Billy Wagner (10.5%) received the necessary 5% of the votes required to remain on the ballot.
Only Mike Piazza (83.0%) among the holdovers was elected. The only other holdovers with over 50% of the vote in 2016 were Jeff Bagwell (71.6%), Tim Raines (69.8%), Hoffman (67.3%), and Curt Schilling (52.3%).
Several players on the ballot, notably Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, have the numbers to be elected but remain tainted with the steroid cloud. Many voters have been inclined to wait until more is known about the extent of steroid usage before giving them a pass. Both are in their 5th year on the ballot. Support for both is expected to increase this year but not enough for election. The reluctance to vote for players like Bonds and Clemens is likely to continue to diminish with time but it may not be soon enough for election by the writers. The ballot remains quite crowded. Some writers have advocated the removal of the restriction of 10 votes per ballot. A total of 440 ballots were cast in 2016 down from 549 in the previous year as writers who had not worked professionally for 10 years were removed from the voter rolls. Last year, voters cast an average of 8.4 votes, up from 5 or 6 votes in previous years. This increase is likely to continue since a reasonable case for election can be made for more than 10 candidates.
The Hall has made a significant change in the voting last 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. Raines and Lee Smith are in their last year on the ballot.
Following is a list of Win Shares for the 34 players on the ballot. Players on the ballot for the first time are shown in bold. Voting results for 2015 and 2016 are shown for the holdovers. Many of the candidates received fewer votes in 2016 but their percentages went up because of the reduction in the number of voters.
|Player||Win Shares||2015 Votes||2015 Percent||2016 Votes||2016 Percent|
The 28 players elected by the Baseball Writers since 2000 have averaged 350 Win Shares, a figure exceeded by six players on this year’s ballot.
|Player||2015 Votes||Win Shares|
|Ken Griffey, Jr.||2016||403|
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 34 candidates on the 2017 ballot:
|Larry Walker||141||Trevor Hoffman||141|
|Melvin Mora||105||Tim Wakefield||105|
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. ERA+ favors relief pitchers since their ERAs are generally lower because they are not charged with runs scored by inherited runners.
1. Two players will be elected in 2017, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines. Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman will come close. Manny Ramirez will not gain much support because of his two failed drug tests. Ivan Rodriguez will eventually be elected but not on the first ballot.
2. Lee Smith will fail to win election in his final year on the BBWAA ballot.
3. Guerrero, Ramirez, Rodriguez and Posada should receive enough votes to remain on the ballot.
4. There will not be a groundswell of support for Cabrera, Renteria, Sanchez, Mora, Cameron, Blake, Stairs, Wakefield and Rhodes among others.
5. If I had a ballot, I would cast votes for Bagwell, Raines, Schilling, McGriff, Kent, Guerrero, Walker and Mussina. I would also cast strategic votes for Wagner and Posada to keep them on the ballot for further evaluation.