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Making The Hall of Fame Case

January 15, 2022
There’s so much consternation about the Hall of Fame at this time of year that perspective on potential inductees can become a secondary story.

So let’s wade through the PED scandals and other transgressions and point to some Hall of Fame candidates for whom there is statistical support for Hall of Fame election, though not the popular support necessary for induction yet.

A few years ago, Bill James began calculating Hall of Fame Value, a player’s Win Shares plus his Baseball-Reference WAR times four.

He found that a score of 500 usually indicates a Hall-worthy candidate. There are four players on this ballot, not known to be tainted by scandal or other issues, who are well above that mark, standing at 550 or higher.

Bobby Abreu exceeds that total by a comfortable margin. His 356 Win Shares and 60.2 WAR give him an HOF-V of 597, just behind new Hall-of-Famer Larry Walker’s 599.

From 1998 to 2011, Abreu hit .295 with a .399 on-base percentage, and he averaged 20 home runs, 39 doubles, and 28 stolen bases per season. He’s one of seven players to record at least 250 home runs and 350 stolen bases in his career.

Abreu received just shy of 9% of the vote last year, up from 5.5% in his first year on the ballot.

Scott Rolen’s starting point on the Hall of Fame ballot was just over 10% of the vote in 2018. That’s increased five-fold to 52.9% last year. And early returns look favorable for this year.

It’s good to see Hall of Fame voters looking favorably upon Rolen, whose 304 Win Shares and 70.1 WAR give him an HOF-V of 584. Rolen ranks 10th among third basemen in Runs Created. He also ranks third at the position in Defensive Runs Saved despite that stat not tracking his performance until 2003, seven years after his career began. His eight Gold Glove Awards rank fourth among third basemen.

Todd Helton hit .316 with a .953 OPS and 369 home runs in a 17-year career, all with the Rockies. His support has spiked considerably, going from 16.5% in 2019 to just shy of 45% last season. Helton has an HOF-V of 565, with 318 Win Shares and 61.8 WAR. He ranks 22nd all-time in OPS and 20th in doubles.

Helton’s biggest obstacle is perception – that his home ballpark, Coors Field, inflated his stats to a level that he wouldn’t have come close to otherwise. Six of Helton’s eight most similar players by Bill James Similarity Score are in the Hall of Fame, including his former teammate Larry Walker.

Jeff Kent had a nine-year run as an elite offensive second baseman, averaging 28 home runs and 110 RBIs with an .895 OPS that was 32% better than MLB average when accounting for ballpark. His 351 home runs as a second baseman (among his 377 total) are the most all-time.

Kent is at an HOF-V of 561, with 339 Win Shares and 55.4 WAR. Now in his ninth year on the ballot, Kent’s peak voting share was the 33% he garnered last year. He’s been hurt by a lack of other dimensions to his game, as he doesn’t rate well in speed and defense.

Here’s a list of players on this year’s Hall-of-Fame ballot with an HOF-V score of 500 or higher.

Highest Hall of Fame Value
Among Candidates on 2022 Hall of Fame Ballot

Player HOF Value
Barry Bonds 1355
Roger Clemens 994
Alex Rodriguez 961
Manny Ramírez 685
Gary Sheffield 672
Bobby Abreu 597
Scott Rolen 584
Curt Schilling 570
Todd Helton 565
Jeff Kent 561
Sammy Sosa 555
David Ortiz 537
Andruw Jones 527

To see the Hall of Fame Value for your favorite player, go to Bill James Online.


COMMENTS (4 Comments, most recent shown first)

Brock Hanke
The method can work OK, but there are problems, related to the fact that the entire method is limited to being about Regular Season Accumulation. Bobby Abreu looks great to the method because Regular Season Accumulation is all Abreu has. Check out his lack of black ink, his poor similarity score comps, his lack of postseason excellence. His peak and prime aren't great. Do that, and you will see the wisdom of not just Win Shares, but the 20-year-old New Historical Ranking System, combining Regular Season Accumulation with peak, prime, and rate, plus, if you want them, timeline and subjectives. You try THAT system on Abreu, or Andy Pettite, or other accumulators, and you will see just how thin their credentials really are.

IMO, this is the curse of current analysis. We've gotten so worked up about what can be seen with unlimited replays that we've stopped trying to actually USE the info. The result is that player analysis has DEVOLVED, since 2001, into, all too often, just a recitation of whatever system's Regular Season Accumulation amount to (whether it's WS, WAR, LinWts, WPP, WAA, or any other system of Regular Season Accumulation isn't important compared to, you know, something reasonably approaching some sort of respect for sophistication). This is not really a good path for historical player evaluation to go down.
3:24 AM Feb 16th
- understanding that players not on the ballot get voted in other ways, although not sure what group of players are getting special consideration this year. It was a disappointment that he didn't go in at the same time as Alan Trammell. That would have been Sweetly appropriate.
12:55 PM Jan 16th
- understanding that he's not on the ballot.
12:52 PM Jan 16th
Lou Whitaker has a HoF value of 651.
12:52 PM Jan 16th
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