Rating 2006 Hall Candidates by Win Shares

Can players like Bruce Sutter and Willie McGee and at least four other ex-Cardinals make the Hall of Fame in 2006?

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 10.

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. 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 2006 class of Hall of Fame candidates is not strong. It consists of 15 holdovers and 14 players eligible for the first time. No one on the list has even 350 Win Shares. Four holdovers have over 300 Win Shares, Andre Dawson with 340, Bert Blyleven, 339, Dave Parker, 331 and Alan Trammell with 318. Will Clark heads the list of newcomers with 331 Win Shares. None of the other newcomers on the ballot have 250.

With the weak incoming class, the holdovers should gain votes. Last year, with another weak class, twelve of the holdovers gained votes with Ryne Sandberg getting enough to make it. The three that lost ground were Steve Garvey, Dave Concepcion and Don Mattingly, none of whom are serious candidates.

The leading vote-getter among the 15 players who were on last year's ballot is Bruce Sutter who ranks last in Win Shares among the holdovers. With 66.7% of the votes last year, he has a chance to get the necessary 75% this year. Of the four holdovers with 300+ Win Shares, Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven are the only serious candidates. Dawson has been right around the 50% mark for three years so he is unlikely to make the jump all the way to 75% this year. Blyleven, by far the most deserving pitcher on the list, has been gaining about 5 percentage points per year as voters appear to be slowly realizing how good he was. A jump to 45-50% is about all he can expect this year, but he could eventually make it.

The only other holdovers with more than 50% of the votes last year were Jim Rice (59.5%) and Goose Gossage with 55.2%. Rice has been in the 52-59% range the last 3 years. He doesn't seem to have enough momentum to make the jump to 75% this year. Gossage, like Blyleven, was largely overlooked by voters in his early years on the ballot but jumped from 40.7 to 55.2% last year. He should move up some more this year but not to 75%.

Other than Wade Boggs, last year's class was even weaker than this one. Willie McGee was the only other newcomer with enough votes to remain on the ballot and he barely sneaked in with 5.0%. Clark is the only newcomer on the ballot this year that is a serious contender and most of the other newcomers will likely drop off the ballot next year as a result of getting less than 5% of the votes.

Clark's career did not follow the path that was expected after his strong start. In his first 7 years with the Giants, he appeared to be a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer. However, the 7 years in the American League, in what should have been some of his prime years, were good but not great, and not up to HOF standards. His main attributes were his batting average (.303) and especially his on-base percentage (.384). However, he did not have the power expected of a first baseman. He hit 35 home runs in his second year in the major leagues and never again hit 30. He never had a .300-30-100 season, and after he left the Giants, he never hit more than 23 home runs. He did have a strong finish when he returned to the National League for a half season with the Cardinals. However, his record doesn't appear strong enough to get in on the first ballot.

The only other newcomer on the list that merits mention is Albert Belle. Belle had some HOF caliber years but not enough of them. His total of 243 Win Shares reflects his relatively short career which ended at the age of 34. This, combined with his charming personality, won't be enough for the Baseball Writers to give him significant support.

All of this leaves open the real possibility that no one will be elected in 2006.

Following is a list of Win Shares for the 29 players on the ballot. Players on the ballot for the first time are shown in bold. 2004 and 2005 voting is shown for the holdovers.

    Win 2004 2004 2005 2005
  Player Shares Votes Percent Votes Percent
             
1 Andre Dawson 340 253 50 273 52.3
2 Bert Blyleven 339 179 35.4 211 40.9
3 Will Clark 331        
4 Dave Parker 327 53 10.5 65 12.6
5 Alan Trammell 318 70 13.8 87 16.9
6 Dale Murphy 294 43 8.5 54 10.5
7 Tommy John 289 111 21.9 123 23.8
8 Jim Rice 282 276 54.6 307 59.5
9 Steve Garvey 279 123 24.3 106 20.5
10 Dave Concepcion 269 57 11.3 55 10.7
11 Don Mattingly 263 65 12.9 59 11.4
12 Gary Gaetti 249        
13 Albert Belle 243        
14 Jack Morris 225 133 26.3 172 33.3
15 Willie McGee 224     26 5
16 Rich Gossage 223 206 40.7 285 55.2
17 Orel Hershiser 210        
18 Lee Smith 198 185 36.6 200 38.8
19 Dwight Gooden 187        
20 Bruce Sutter 168 301 59.5 344 66.7
21 Greg Jefferies 162        
22 Ozzie Guillen 148        
23 Rick Aguilera 147        
24 Doug Jones 146        
25 John Wetteland 127        
26 Walt Weiss 123        
27 Alex Fernandez 110        
28 Hal Morris 104        
29 Gary DiSarcina 65        

The players elected by the Baseball Writers since 2000 have averaged 360 Win Shares, well above all of the players on the ballot this year.

Player Year Win Shares
     
Carlton Fisk 2000 368
Tony Perez 2000 347
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
     
Average   360

 

Conclusions: 

 

1.      No players will be elected by the Baseball Writers this year.

 

2.      Despite receiving 66.7% of the votes last year, Sutter will not get the necessary 75% because many writers will realize he is not the most deserving relief pitcher on the ballot.

 

3.      Dawson will again be held back by his career .323 OBP.

 

4.      Blyleven and Gossage will continue to move up but will fall short.

 

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

 

6.      Clark will get the most support of the newcomers but will fall short.  No other newcomers will come close.

 

7.      There will not be a groundswell of support for Gary DiSarcina.

 

8.      All others – no chance. 

 

If I had a ballot, I would cast votes for Blyleven, Trammell and Gossage.  If I were on the Veterans Committee, I would vote for Gil Hodges, Ron Santo and Minnie Minoso.  If I had a vote for the Ford Frick Award, it would be for Gene Elston.

 

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

 

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