Rating the 2014 Hall candidates by Win Shares
Greg Maddux should make plans for Cooperstown
Greg Maddux should make plans for Cooperstown

Posted Jan 5, 2014


The numbers make a case for Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Craig Biggio, but others may fall short.

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 8, 2014.

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.

  Win 2013 2013 2012 2012
Player Shares Votes Percent Votes Percent
Barry Bonds 661 206 36.2    
Roger Clemens 421        
Craig Biggio 411 388 68.2    
Frank Thomas 405        
Greg Maddux 398        
Rafael Palmeiro 394 50 8.8 72 12.6
Tim Raines 390 297 52.2 279 48.7
Jeff Bagwell 387 339 59.6 321 56.0
Mark McGwire 342 96 16.9 112 19.5
Jeff Kent 338        
Fred McGriff 326 118 20.7 127 23.9
Alan Trammell 318 141 24.3 211 36.8
Luis Gonzalez 318        
Tom Glavine 314        
Sammy Sosa 311 71 12.5    
Mike Piazza 309 329 57.8    
Larry Walker 307 123 21.6 131 22.9
Edgar Martinez 305 204 31.2 209 36.5
Moises Alou 277        
Mike Mussina 270        
Don Mattingly 263 75 13.6 102 17.8
Ray Durham 231        
Curt Schilling 227 221 38.8    
Jack Morris 225 385 67.7 382 66.7
Kenny Rogers 206        
Lee Smith 198 272 47.8 290 50.6
J.T. Snow 170        
Sean Casey 156        
Richie Sexson 154        
Armando Benitez 128        
Paul LoDuca 127        
Mike Timlin 124        
Jacque Jones 124        
Todd Jones 119        
Hideo Nomo 108        
Eric Gagne 86        

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.

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
     
Average   353

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:

Batters OPS+ Starting Pitchers ERA+
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
Rafael Palmeiro 132    
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
Luis Gonzalez 119    
Craig Biggio 112    
Alan Trammell 110    
Sean Casey 109    
J.T. Snow 105    
Ray Durham 104    
Jacque Jones 98    
Paul LoDuca 97    

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.

Conclusions:

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).


Related Stories
In memory of former St. Louis Cardinals: 2013
 -by TheCardinalNation.com  Jan 2, 2014
Trio of St. Louis Baseball Men of the Year
 -by TheCardinalNation.com  Dec 30, 2013
Shelby Miller: 2013 Cards rookie of the year
 -by TheCardinalNation.com  Dec 27, 2013

PREMIUM SUBSCRIPTION INCLUDES
> Members-only Forums
> Insider Information
> MiLB &
   MLB Draft News
> Expert Chats

Sign Up Today!

Free Email Newsletter
Don't miss any news or features from TheCardinalNation.com. Subscribe to our newsletter to have our newest articles emailed to you on a daily or weekly basis.
Click here for a list of all Team Newsletters.

Add Topics to My HotList
Get free email alerts with news about your favorite topics. Click link to add to My HotList.
Baseball > St. Louis
[View My HotList]