Rating 2018 Hall of Fame Candidates Based on Win Shares

photo: Chris Carpenter, Scott Rolen, Jason Isringhausen, Larry Walker (Getty Images)

By Bill Gilbert

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 24, 2018.

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 2018 class of Hall of Fame candidates consists of 14 holdovers and 19 players eligible for the first time. Ten holdovers have over 300 Win Shares, Barry Bonds with 661, Gary Sheffield 430, Roger Clemens 421, Manny Ramirez 408, Jeff Kent 338, Fred McGriff 326, Vladimir Guerrero 324, Sammy Sosa 311, Larry Walker 307 and Edgar Martinez 305. Among the newcomers, there are four candidates with 300 Win Shares, Chipper Jones 416, Jim Thome 383, Johnny Damon 307 and Scott Rolen 304.

In 2017, three players received the necessary 75% of the vote for election by the Baseball Writers of America (BBWAA). The 2017 ballot included 19 newcomers and 15 returning candidates. One newcomer, Ivan Rodriguez, (76.0%) was elected on the first ballot. Only two others, Guerrero (71.7%) and Ramirez (23.8%) easily exceeded the necessary 5% of the votes required to remain on the ballot.

Only Jeff Bagwell (86.2%) and Tim Raines (86.0%) among the holdovers were elected. The only other holdovers with over 50% of the vote in 2017 were Hoffman (74.0%), Martinez (58.8%), Clemens (54.1%), Bonds (53.8%) and Mike Mussina (51.8%).

Several players on the ballot, notably Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, have the numbers to be elected but remain tainted with the steroid cloud. Many voters have been inclined to wait until more is known about the extent of steroid usage before giving them a pass. Both are in their 6th year on the ballot. Support for both is may increase this year but not enough for election. The reluctance to vote for players like Bonds and Clemens is likely to continue to diminish with time but it may not be soon enough for election by the writers. The ballot remains quite crowded. Some writers have advocated the removal of the restriction of 10 votes per ballot. A total of 442 ballots were cast in 2017 essentially the same as the 440 in the previous year. Last year, voters used an average of 8.1of their 10 votes

Following is a list of Win Shares for the 33 players on the ballot. Players on the ballot for the first time are shown in bold. Voting results for 2016 and 2017 are shown for the holdovers.

Win 2017 2017 2016 2016
  Player Shares Votes Percent Votes Percent
Barry Bonds 661 238 53.8 195 44.3
Gary Sheffield 430 59 13.3 51 11.6
Roger Clemens 421 239 54.1 199 45.2
Chipper Jones 416
Manny Ramirez 408 105 23.8
Jim Thome 383
Jeff Kent 338 74 16.7 73 16.6
Fred McGriff 326 96 21.7 92 20.9
Vladimir Guerrero 324 317 71.7
Sammy Sosa 311 38 8.6 31 7
Johnny Damon 307
Larry Walker 307 97 21.9 68 15.5
Edgar Martinez 305 259 58.8 191 43.4
Scott Rolen 304
Omar Vizquel 282
Andrew Jones 278
Mike Mussina 270 229 51.8 189 43
Carlos Lee 249
Jamie Moyer 225
Curt Schilling 227 199 45 230 52.3
Trevor Hoffman 188 327 74 298 67.3
Billy Wagner 182 45 10.2 46 10.5
Johan Santana 171
Aubrey Huff 166
Orlando Hudson 164
Hideki Matsui 150
Kevin Millwood 150
Livan Hernandez 147
Chris Carpenter 142
Carlos Zambrano 142
Jason Isringhausen 117
Kerry Wood 107
Brad Lidge 89

The 34 players elected by the Baseball Writers since 2000 have averaged 352 Win Shares, a figure exceeded by six 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
Frank Thomas 2014 405
Greg Maddux 2014 398
Tom Glavine 2014 314
Craig Biggio 2015 411
Randy Johnson 2015 326
John Smoltz 2015 289
Pedro Martinez 2015 256
Ken Griffey, Jr. 2016 403
Mike Piazza 2016 309
Average 352

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 33 candidates on the 2018 ballot:

Batters OPS+ Starting Pitchers ERA+
Barry Bonds 182 Roger Clemens 143
Manny Ramirez 154 Johan Santana 136
Jim Thome 147 Curt Schilling 127
Edgar Martinez 147 Mike Mussina 123
Larry Walker 141 Carlos Zambrano 120
Chipper Jones 141 Kerry Wood 117
Gary Sheffield 140 Chris Carpenter 116
Vladimir Guerrero 140 Kevin Millwood 106
Fred McGriff 134 Jamie Moyer 103
Sammy Sosa 128 Livan Hernandez 95
Jeff Kent 123
Scott Rolen  122
Hideki Matsui 118
Aubrey Huff 114 Relief Pitchers ERA+
Carlos Lee 113 Billy Wagner 187
Andruw Jones 111 Trevor Hoffman 141
Johnny Damon 104 Brad Lidge 122
Orlando Hudson 97 Jason Isringhausen 115
Omar Vizquel 82

The Win Shares system favors players with long productive careers like Sheffield and Kent, although it appears to under-rate pitchers, while OPS+ rewards strong offensive players who had shorter, more dominant careers like Edgar Martinez. ERA+ favors relief pitchers since their ERAs are generally lower because they are not charged with runs scored by inherited runners.


  1. Four players will be elected in 2018, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman.
  1. Bonds and Clemens will make slight gains but will remain well short of election.
  1. Ramirez and Sheffield have numbers worthy of election but will gain only limited support because of past the steroid cloud.
  1. Martinez and Mussina will gain votes and be in a position for possible election next year. It will be the final year on the ballot for Martinez.
  1. There will not be a groundswell of support for Hudson, Huff, Damon, Matsui, Millwood, Moyer, Hernandez, Isringhausen and Lidge among others.
  1. Rolen and Andruw Jones and possibly Johan Santana will receive enough votes to remain on the ballot next year.
  1. If I had a ballot, I would cast votes for Thome, Chipper Jones, Schilling, McGriff, Kent, Guerrero, Walker, Martinez, Mussina and Wagner.

Editor’s note: I asked Bill, an admitted Houston Astros fan, his impression of Scott Rolen’s candidacy. Here is his reply.

“Rolen has 304 win shares which puts him at the borderline for the HOF. I place him just below but I may be biased because of the big hit he had in the 2004 NLCS against the Astros. He didn’t have a high enough peak or a long enough career to accumulate HOF numbers.”

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

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