Saturday, April 26, 2003
Victories can matter more than statistics
Inside The Park Baseball Column
By Bill Deane
I thought it might be interesting to use Bill James' "Win Shares" to identify the best players not in the Hall of Fame. Win Shares (WS) is an objective system used to identify which players have contributed the most in batting, baserunning, fielding, and/or pitching toward team victories.
Babe Ruth is the all-time leader with 756 WS; only 18 others have as many as 500. The score for 50th place is 394; for 100th place, 340, and for 150th, 313.
There are 191 members of the Hall who were voted in for their major league playing accomplishments; the 191st-best WS total among retired players is 286. Thus, we might say that anyone with at least 286 WS has legitimate Hall of Fame credentials. Of course, there are a lot of Hall of Fame players with fewer than that total; the lowest appear to be Dizzy Dean (181), Lefty Gomez (185), Chick Hafey (186), Rollie Fingers (188), Ray Schalk (191), Addie Joss (191), Fred Lindstrom (193), George Kelly (193), and Sandy Koufax (194).
But I digress.
I'll list all the non-Hall of Famers with at least 286 WS (through 2001) in five separate categories:
NOT YET ELIGIBLE (21): Pete Rose (547), Rickey Henderson (530), Barry Bonds (523), Cal Ripken (427), Tony Gwynn (398), Wade Boggs (394), Tim Raines (390), Roger Clemens (352), Roberto Alomar (345), Craig Biggio (342), Mark McGwire (342), Rafael Palmeiro (334), Will Clark (331), Barry Larkin (320), Jeff Bagwell (318), Greg Maddux (317), Fred McGriff (316), Ken Griffey, Jr. (313), Frank Thomas (308), Harold Baines (307), Joe Jackson (294).
Most of these players are still active, some haven't completed their five-year wait periods, and Rose and Jackson are on baseball's so-called "ineligible list."
ON THE 2004 BASEBALL WRITERS' ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA BALLOT (11): Paul Molitor (414), Ryne Sandberg (346), Andre Dawson (340), Bert Blyleven (339), Dave Parker (327), Alan Trammell (318), Keith Hernandez (311), Dennis Eckersley (301), Brett Butler (295), Dale Murphy (294), Tommy John (289).
Molitor and Eckersley are eligible for the first time in 2004.
ON THE 2003 VETERANS' COMMITTEE BALLOT (5): Dick Allen (342), Ron Santo (324), Vada Pinson (321), Joe Torre (315), Bobby Bonds (302).
The other 21 players on the Vets' ballot had fewer than 286 WS.
IN LIMBO (17): Darrell Evans (363), Rusty Staub (358), Lou Whitaker (351), Dwight Evans (347), Bobby Grich (329), Reggie Smith (325), Graig Nettles (321), Jack Clark (316), Ted Simmons (315), Jose Cruz (313), Willie Randolph (312), Al Oliver (305), Buddy Bell (301), Brian Downing (298), Cesar Cedeno (296), Toby Harrah (287), Amos Otis (286).
These guys have been eliminated by the BBWAA, but have not been retired long enough (22 years) to qualify for the Vets. Smith becomes eligible in 2005.
OUT OF LUCK (26): Tony Mullane (399), Bill Dahlen (394), Sherry Magee (354), George Van Haltren (344), Jimmy Sheckard (339), Bob Caruthers (337), Jim McCormick (334), Tommy Leach (328), Willie Davis (322), Stan Hack (316), Jimmy Ryan (316), Norm Cash (315), Jimmy Wynn (305), Ken Singleton (302), Frank Howard (297), Mickey Vernon (296), Kid Gleason (294), Dave Foutz (292), George Burns (290), Fielder Jones (290), Larry Doyle (289), Bob Elliott (287), Bob Johnson (287), Ed Konetchy (287), Jack Powell (287), Jack Quinn (287).
These men were all eliminated by the BBWAA and the screening committees preparing the Veterans' ballot, so they realistically have no way of getting elected.
Bill James notes that his system tends to overvalue nineteenth-century pitchers, a flaw he is striving to fix. So, take the WS figures for Mullane, Caruthers, McCormick, Gleason, and Foutz with a grain of salt.
I am NOT suggesting that all these guys deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. However, I would say they all have better credentials than a lot of people already enshrined, and that those involved in the Veterans' Committee elections are woefully uninformed.
Bill Deane writes a weekly baseball column for The Daily Star.