Rating the 2011 Hall Candidates on Win Shares

Mark McGwire has the stats but a stigma

Four ex-St. Louis Cardinals are on the ballot, but none is forecasted to be elected into the Hall of Fame in 2011. They are Mark McGwire, Lee Smith and first-timers Larry Walker and Tino Martinez.

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 5, 2011.

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".

First-timer Larry Walker expected to fall short, but receive enough votes to remain on the ballot
The 2011 class of Hall of Fame candidates is a large one. It consists of 14 holdovers and 19 players eligible for the first time. Ten holdovers have over 300 Win Shares, Tim Raines with 390, Roberto Alomar 375, Barry Larkin 347, Mark McGwire 342, Bert Blyleven, 339, Dave Parker, 327, Fred McGriff 326, Alan Trammell 318, Harold Baines 307 and Edgar Martinez 305. Four newcomers also have over 300 Win Shares, Rafael Palmeiro 394, Jeff Bagwell 387, Larry Walker 307 and John Olerud 301.

In 2010, Andre Dawson was elected with 77.9% of the votes in his ninth appearance on the ballot. The 2010 ballot had a strong newcomer class and 4 of them, Alomar, Larkin, McGriff and Martinez received enough votes to remain on the ballot.

Most of the holdovers experienced an increase in votes in 2010. The most significant increases were by Bert Blyleven from 62.7% of the votes to 74.2% and Jack Morris from 44.0% to 52.3%. Tim Raines started to make a move in his third year on the ballot with an increase from 22.6% to 30.4% but he has a long way to go.

Mark McGwire 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 received only 23.7% of the vote in 2010 compared to 21.9% in 2009.

Several newcomers on the 2011 ballot should receive enough votes to remain on the ballot.

Following is a list of Win Shares for the 33 players on the ballot. Players on the ballot for the first time are shown in bold. Voting results for 2008, 2009 and 2010 are shown for the holdovers.

Win 2008 2008 2009 2009 2010 2010
Player Shares Votes Percent Votes Percent Votes Percent
Rafael Palmeiro 394
Tim Raines 390 132 24.3 122 22.6 164 30.4
Jeff Bagwell 387
Roberto Alomar 375 397 73.7
Barry Larkin 347 278 51.6
Mark McGwire 342 128 23.5 128 23.6 118 21.9
Bert Blyleven 339 336 61.9 338 62.7 400 74.2
Dave Parker 327 82 15.1 81 15 82 15.2
Fred McGriff 326 116 21.5
Alan Trammell 318 99 18.2 94 17.4 121 21.4
Harold Baines 307 28 5.2 32 5.9 33 6.1
Larry Walker 307
Edgar Martinez 305 195 36.2
John Olerud 301
Dale Murphy 294 75 13.8 62 11.5 63 11.7
Don Mattingly 263 86 15.8 64 11.9 87 16.1
Marquis Grissom 248
Kevin Brown 241
Juan Gonzalez 234
B. J. Surhoff 231
Jack Morris 225 233 42.9 237 44 282 52.3
Tino Martinez 216
Bret Boone 208
Lee Smith 198 235 43.3 240 44.5 255 47.3
Benito Santiago 190
John Franco 183
Raul Mondesi 182
Carlos Baerga 160
Bobby Higginson 156
Al Leiter 153
Charles Johnson 130
Lenny Harris 86
Kirk Rueter 85

The last 16 players elected by the Baseball Writers have averaged 352 Win Shares, a figure exceeded by only Raines, Palmeiro, Alomar and Bagwell 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 2007 427
Tony Gwynn 2007 398
Goose Gossage 2008 223
Rickey Henderson 2009 535
Jim Rice 2009 282
Andre Dawson 2010 340
Average 352

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) 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 33 candidates on the 2011 ballot:

Batters OPS+ Pitchers ERA+
Mark McGwire 162 John Franco 138
Jeff Bagwell 149 Lee Smith 131
Edgar Martinez 147 Kevin Brown 127
Larry Walker 140 Bert Blyleven 118
Fred McGriff 134 Al Leiter 113
Rafael Palmeiro 132 Jack Morris 105
Juan Gonzalez 132 Kirk Rueter 98
John Olerud 128
Don Mattingly 127
Tim Raines 123
Dale Murphy 121
Dave Parker 121
Harold Baines 120
Robby Alomar 116
Barry Larkin 116
Bobby Higginson 113
Raul Mondesi 113
Tino Martinez 112
Alan Trammell 110
Bret Boone 101
Carlos Baerga 100
B.J. Surhoff 98
Charles Johnson 97
Benito Santiago 93
Marquis Grissom 92
Lenny Harris 80

The Win Shares system favors players with long productive careers like Raines, Palmeiro and Blyleven 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. Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven will be elected in 2011.

2. Jeff Bagwell will lead the newcomers but will fall short of election on the first ballot. Barry Larkin will gain additional support to put him in position for election in a few years.

3. Mark McGwire will again not come close but should gain some ground and could get elected in the future. Rafael Palmeiro will probably follow the same path as McGwire.

4. Among other newcomers, Larry Walker, Palmeiro, and Kevin Brown should receive enough votes to remain on the ballot.

5. There will not be a groundswell of support for Kirk Rueter and Lenny Harris.

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



Bill Gilbert is a baseball analyst and writer and member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

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