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 2013 class of Hall of Fame candidates consists of 13 holdovers and 24 players eligible for the first time. Nine holdovers have over 300 Win Shares: Rafael Palmeiro with 394, Tim Raines 390, Jeff Bagwell 387, Mark McGwire 342, Fred McGriff 326, Alan Trammell 318, Bernie Williams 311, Larry Walker 307 and Edgar Martinez 305. Five newcomers have over 300 Win Shares; Barry Bonds 661, Roger Clemens 421, Craig Biggio 411, Sammy Sosa 311 and Mike Piazza 309.
In 2012, Barry Larkin was elected to the Hall with 86.4% of the vote. The 2012 ballot included 13 newcomers and 14 returning candidates. The only newcomer who received the 5% of the votes required to remain on the ballot was Bernie Williams with 9.6%. Juan Gonzalez dropped off the ballot after 2 years when he failed to get 5.0% of the vote.
With the relatively weak incoming class last year, most holdovers received an increase in votes. Barry Larkin picked up 134 votes to put him over the top in his third year on the ballot. Jeff Bagwell, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell picked up 70 or more votes and Tim Raines picked up 61. Every holdover player on the ballot picked up votes except Mark McGwire (-3) and Juan Gonzalez (-7).
With the strong, but steroid tainted, incoming class this year, predicting the results is more difficult than usual. Jack Morris with 66.7% of the votes in 2012 could get a boost and may reach 75%. Dale Murphy is on the ballot for the 15th and last time, but with only 14.5% of the votes last year will likely get a boost but not enough to reach 75%.
Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have the numbers to be elected but remain tainted with the steroid cloud. The same applies to newcomers Bonds, Clemens and Sosa. Voters are likely to wait until more is known about the extent of steroid usage before giving them a pass. As power hitters in what is called the steroid era, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza's vote totals may also be affected although there is no evidence that they used steroids.
Following is a list of Win Shares for the 37 players on the ballot. Players on the ballot for the first time are shown in bold. Voting results for 2011 and 2012 are shown for the holdovers.
|Sandy Alomar Jr.||112|
The last 19 players elected by the Baseball Writers have averaged 353 Win Shares, a figure exceeded by five 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 37 candidates on the 2013 ballot:
|Barry Bonds||182||Roger Clemens||143|
|Mark McGwire||162||Roberto Hernandez||131|
|Jeff Bagwell||149||Lee Smith||131|
|Edgar Martinez||147||Curt Schilling||127|
|Mike Piazza||143||Mike Stanton||112|
|Larry Walker||140||David Wells||108|
|Fred McGriff||134||Jack Morris||105|
|Rafael Palmeiro||132||Woody Williams||103|
|Ryan Klesko||128||Aaron Sele||100|
|Sammy Sosa||128||Jose Mesa||100|
|Sandy Alomar, Jr.||86|
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. Bagwell, Biggio and Piazza will be elected in 2013.
2. Other holdovers like Morris, Smith and Raines will move up but fall short of the 75% required for election.
3. 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 2013 class is very strong at the top, it is weak at the bottom. As many as 12 newcomers may not receive even one vote. As many as seven newcomers should receive enough votes to remain on the ballot.
5. The incoming class in 2014 is also exceptionally strong – Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, Frank Thomas and Jeff Kent. This will make it difficult for holdovers to get elected.
6. There will not be a groundswell of support for Mike Stanton, Woody Williams, Aaron Sele Sandy Alomar, Jr, Jose Mesa, Roberto Hernandez and Royce Clayton among others.
If I had a ballot, I would cast votes for Bagwell, Biggio, Piazza, Raines, McGwire and Trammell.
Bill Gilbert is a baseball analyst and writer and member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).