Rating the 2010 Hall Candidates by Win Shares

Five ex-St. Louis Cardinals are on the ballot, but none are forecasted to be elected into the Hall of Fame in 2010. They are Mark McGwire, Lee Smith, Ray Lankford, Todd Zeile and Pat Hentgen.

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 6, 2010.

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 2010 class of Hall of Fame candidates is a strong one. It consists of 11 holdovers and 15 players eligible for the first time. Seven holdovers have over 300 Win Shares, Tim Raines with 390, Mark McGwire with 342, Andre Dawson, 340, Bert Blyleven, 339, Dave Parker, 327, Alan Trammell 318 and Harold Baines with 307. Four newcomers also have over 300 Win Shares, Roberto Alomar 375, Barry Larkin 347, Fred McGriff 326 and Edgar Martinez 305.

In 2009, Rickey Henderson was elected with 94.8% of the votes in his first appearance on the ballot and Jim Rice was elected with 76.4% of the vote. Tommy John (31.7%) was unsuccessful in his last (15th) year and is not on the 2010 ballot. No newcomers, other than Henderson, received enough votes to remain on the ballot.

None of the holdovers experienced a significant increase in votes in 2009. The two holdovers with the most votes, Andre Dawson (up 3 votes) and Bert Blyleven (down 2 votes) remained virtually the same. Blyleven's last year on the ballot is 2012 so he needs to start moving up if he is going to make it.

Tim Raines and Mark McGwire both lost votes and received less than 25% of the total. McGwire is a special case. He 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 lost ground in 2009, receiving only 21.9% of the vote so it is likely to be a slow process.

Raines would appear to have the credentials for election but also lost ground in 2009 receiving only 22.6% of the vote. He should begin gaining but has a long way to go. Several newcomers on the 2010 ballot should receive enough votes to remain on the ballot.

Following is a list of Win Shares for the 26 players on the ballot. Players on the ballot for the first time are shown in bold. Voting results for 2007, 2008 and 2009 are shown for the holdovers.

Win 2007 2007 2008 2008 2009 2009
Shrs votes % votes % votes %
Tim Raines 390 132 24.3 122 22.6
Roberto Alomar 375
Barry Larkin 347
Mark McGwire 342 128 23.5 128 23.6 118 21.9
Andre Dawson 340 309 56.7 358 65.9 361 67
Bert Blyleven 339 260 47.7 336 61.9 338 62.7
Dave Parker 327 62 11.4 82 15.1 81 15
Fred McGriff 326
Alan Trammell 318 73 13.4 99 18.2 94 17.4
Harold Baines 307 29 5.3 28 5.2 32 5.9
Edgar Martinez 305
Dale Murphy 294 50 9.2 75 13.8 62 11.5
Robin Ventura 272
Don Mattingly 263 54 9.9 86 15.8 64 11.9
Ellis Burks 260
Andres Galarraga 251
Jack Morris 225 202 37.1 233 42.9 237 44
Ray Lankford 223
Todd Zeile 221
Lee Smith 198 217 39.8 235 43.3 240 44.5
Kevin Appier 189
Eric Karros 183
David Segui 130
Pat Hentgen 126
Shane Reynolds 94
Mike Jackson 92

The last 15 players elected by the Baseball Writers have averaged 353 Win Shares, a figure exceeded by only Raines and Alomar on the ballot this year.

Win
Hall of Famers Year Shrs
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
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) 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 26 candidates on the 2009 ballot:

Batters OPS+ Pitchers ERA+
Mark McGwire 162 Lee Smith 131
Edgar Martinez 147 Mike Jackson 125
Fred McGriff 134 Kevin Appier 121
Don Mattingly 127 Bert Blyeven 118
Ellis Burks 126 Pat Hentgen 108
Tim Raines 123 Jack Morris 105
Ray Lankford 122 Shane Reynolds 103
Dale Murphy 121
Dave Parker 121
Harold Baines 120
Andre Dawson 119
Andres Galarraga 118
Robby Alomar 116
Barry Larkin 116
Robin Ventura 114
Alan Trammell 110
David Segui 110
Eric Karros 107
Todd Zeile 103

The Win Shares system favors players with long productive careers like Raines, Dawson and Blyleven while OPS+ rewards strong offensive players who had shorter, more dominant careers like Martinez, Mattingly and Burks. 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 Barry Larkin will be elected in 2010.

2. None of the holdovers will be elected in 2010 although Dawson and Blyleven should pick up a few votes.

3. Mark McGwire will not come close but should gain some ground and could get elected in the future. He is the only eligible player with over 500 home runs not in the Hall.

4. Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff and Andres Galarraga should receive enough votes to remain on the ballot.

5. There will not be a groundswell of support for Todd Zeile and Mike Jackson.

If I had a ballot, I would cast votes for 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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