Rating the 2007 Hall Candidates by Win Shares

Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken are locks

Using Bill James' Win Shares, Bill Gilbert forecasts who will be in and who will miss out on Hall of Fame recognition in 2007.

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 9, 2007.

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 2007 class of Hall of Fame candidates is the strongest in several years. It consists of 15 holdovers and 16 players eligible for the first time. Four holdovers have over 300 Win Shares, Andre Dawson with 340, Bert Blyleven, 339, Dave Parker, 327 and Alan Trammell with 318. Four newcomers on the list have over 300 Win Shares; Cal Ripken, Jr. 427, Tony Gwynn 398, Mark McGwire 342 and Harold Baines 307. One of the newcomers last year, Will Clark, had 331 Win Shares but failed to receive the 5% of votes required to remain on the ballot. The only 2006 newcomers with enough votes to remain on the ballot were Orel Hershiser (11.2%) and Albert Belle (7.7%).

With the weak incoming class last year, all but one of the 15 holdovers gained votes. The only one that didn't was Willie McGee who lost 14 votes and dropped below 5%, eliminating him from further consideration by the Baseball Writers. The big gainers were Bert Blyleven (66 votes), Bruce Sutter (56 votes) and Goose Gossage (51 votes). Sutter's total of 400 votes (76.9%) was enough for election to the Hall. Jim Rice (64.8%, Gossage (64.6%), Andre Dawson (61.0%) and Blyleven (53.3%) are now within striking range of the 75% required for election but with the incoming class being so strong, they will probably not gain enough votes to make it this year. They will have a much better chance next year with a very weak class becoming eligible.

In the 2007 class, Ripken and Gwynn are certain to be elected on the first ballot. McGwire has the numbers to be elected but is tainted with the steroid cloud and many writers have indicated they will not vote for him. He may make it eventually but not this year. The only other newcomer that is likely to receive significant support is Baines but he is not a serious candidate for election since he was not a dominant player and was primarily a designated hitter for much of his career. Jose Canseco has the numbers that would ordinarily make him at least a marginal candidate but his sordid past may prevent him from getting enough votes (5%) to stay on the ballot.

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. 2005 and 2006 voting is shown for the holdovers.

Win 2005 2005 2006 2006
Player Shares Votes Percent Votes  Percent
------- -------- ------- --------- ------- ---------
Cal Ripken, Jr. 427
Tony Gwynn 398
Mark McGwire 342
Andre Dawson 340 273 52.3 317 61
Bert Blyleven 339 211 40.9 277 53.3
Dave Parker 327 65 12.6 76 14.4
Alan Trammel 318 87 16.9 92 17.7
Harold Baines 307
Dale Murphy 294 54 10.5 56 10.8
Tommy John 289 123 23.8 154 29.6
Jim Rice 282 307 59.5 337 64.8
Tony Fernandez 280
Steve Garvey 279 106 20.5 135 26
Jose Canseco 272
Dave Concepcion 269 55 10.7 65 12.5
Bobby Bonilla 267
Don Mattingly 263 59 11.4 64 12.3
Paul O'Neill 259
Wally Joiner 253
Albert Belle 243 40 7.7
Ken Caminiti 242
Jack Morris 225 172 33.3 214 41.2
Eric Davis 224
Goose Gossage 223 285 55.2 336 64.6
Orel Hershiser 210 58 11.2
Devon White 207
Lee Smith 198 200 38.8 234 45
Bret Saberhagen 193
Jay Buhner 174
Dante Bichette 168
Scott Brosius 111
Bobby Witt 102

The last 10 players elected by the Baseball Writers have averaged 342 Win Shares, a figure exceeded by only Ripken and Gwynn 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
------
        Average 342

Conclusions:

1. Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn will easily be elected by the Baseball Writers this year. Some have speculated that Ripken might set the record for the highest percentage of votes, now held by Tom Seaver with 98.84%. His .340 career on-base percentage could be an obstacle to voters that place special emphasis on first ballot election.

2. Mark McGwire will not come close but will remain on the ballot and could get elected in the future. If he is not elected, he will be the only eligible player with over 500 home runs not in the Hall.

3. None of the holdovers will receive enough votes for election.

4. Blyleven and Gossage will continue to move up but will fall short. They could be positioned for election next year when Tim Raines is the only strong new candidate.

5. Rice will continue to fall short because of his relatively short career.

6. Some other newcomers (Baines, Bonilla, O'Neill) could get enough votes to remain on the ballot. However, a stronger candidate last year, Will Clark, did not get enough votes to remain on the ballot.

7. There will not be a groundswell of support for Scott Brosius and Bobby Witt.

If I had a ballot, I would cast votes for Ripken, Gwynn, Blyleven, Trammell and Gossage. If I were on the Veterans Committee, I would vote for Gil Hodges, Ron Santo and Minnie Minoso and I would try to figure out some way to get Buck O'Neil in.



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

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