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 2014 class of Hall of Fame candidates consists of 17 holdovers and 19 players eligible for the first time. Thirteen holdovers have over 300 Win Shares: Barry Bonds with 661, Roger Clemens 421, Craig Biggio 411, Rafael Palmeiro with 394, 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. Five newcomers have over 300 Win Shares: Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Jeff Kent, Luis Gonzalez and Tom Glavine.
In 2013, no players received the necessary 75% of the vote for election by the Baseball Writers of America (BBWAA). The 2013 ballot included 24 newcomers and 13 returning candidates. The newcomers who received the 5% of the votes required to remain on the ballot were Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. Bernie Williams, with 3.3% of the vote, dropped off the ballot after only one year. Dale Murphy dropped off the ballot after failing to be elected for 15 years.
With the relatively strong incoming class last year, only four of the thirteen holdovers received more votes than in the previous year. Murphy received the biggest increase with 23 votes but was far short of being elected. Bagwell and Raines each picked up 18 votes and Jack Morris picked up only 3 votes in his next to last year on the ballot. With another strong, incoming class this year, predicting the results is more difficult than usual and holdovers will have a hard time picking up more votes.
Several players on the ballot have the numbers to be elected but remain tainted with the steroid cloud. 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. As a result, voters should vote for more than the typical 5 or 6 candidates each year. If they don't, some changes in the voting procedures may be in order.
Following is a list of Win Shares for the 36 players on the ballot. Players on the ballot for the first time are shown in bold. Voting results for 2012 and 2013 are shown for the holdovers.
The last 19 players elected by the Baseball Writers have averaged 353 Win Shares, a figure exceeded by eight players on this year's ballot.
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 36 candidates on the 2013 ballot:
|Barry Bonds||182||Roger Clemens||143|
|Mark McGwire||163||Greg Maddux||132|
|Frank Thomas||156||Curt Schilling||127|
|Jeff Bagwell||149||Mike Mussina||123|
|Edgar Martinez||147||Tom Glavine||118|
|Mike Piazza||143||Kenny Rogers||107|
|Larry Walker||141||Jack Morris||105|
|Fred McGriff||134||Hideo Nomo||97|
|Sammy Sosa||128||Relief Pitchers||ERA+|
|Moises Alou||128||Armando Benitez||140|
|Don Mattingly||127||Lee Smith||132|
|Tim Raines||123||Mike Timlin||125|
|Jeff Kent||123||Eric Gagne||119|
|Richie Sexson||120||Todd Jones||111|
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.
1. Maddux, Thomas and Biggio will be elected in 2014.
2. Morris will fail to win election on his final year on the BBWAA ballot.
3. Bagwell, Piazza and Raines will continue to move up but will fall short of 75%.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 2014 class is very strong at the top, it is weak at the bottom. As many as 12 newcomers may not receive even one vote. Five or six newcomers should receive enough votes to remain on the ballot.
5. The incoming class in 2015 is also very strong – Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez and Gary Sheffield. This will continue to make it difficult for holdovers to get elected.
6. There will not be a groundswell of support for Jacque Jones, Paul LoDuca, Richie Sexson, Hideo Nomo and Mike Timlin among others.
If I had a ballot, I would cast votes for Maddux, Thomas, Bagwell, Biggio, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Trammell, Glavine and Mussina.
Bill Gilbert is a baseball analyst and writer and member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).