High Win Shares, Low Hall of Fame Votes

For those who have been living under a rock for the last week or so, the Hall of Fame vote for the class of 2009 was announced on Monday. At the top of the list were leadoff hitter extraordinaire and Man of Steal Rickey Henderson and “the most feared hitter” of his day Jim Rice. They’ll be finding themselves at Cooperstown’s doorstep come July. It’s not the top of the list that I’m interested in, however. After all, we’ll be remembering who topped the vote for the rest of eternity.

But that’s not the case for those on the bottom of the list. For players like Mo Vaughn or David Cone, who fell off the ballot this year for receiving less than 5% of the vote, their time in the Hall of Fame spotlight is over. And while it’s probably an accurate reflection of their career – does anyone really believe that David Cone is a Hall of Famer? – that doesn’t mean that they had bad careers. In fact, if you look at their careers as a whole, those two actually had productive careers. Despite that, they fell off the HOF ballot this year because of very low vote totals. Which got me thinking, what player had the best career while receiving the lowest Hall of Fame support?

First off, players like Harold Baines or Dale Murphy are disqualified from this discussion because, even though they’re getting low vote totals every year, they’re still getting enough votes to stay on the ballot. Any player who gets enough support to stay on the ballot for even one additional year is getting too much support for the purpose of this list. Second, we need to decide on a metric to use to measure the player’s career. For ease of use, I’ll be using Win Shares. I understand that there are limitations and biases with Win Shares, but it’s a solid enough stat and helps us get at what we need right now.

What I’m looking for, then, is which players had the highest career Win Shares while receiving the fewest Hall of Fame votes. The data gets a little cluttered when you look at it because the “<5% and you're out" rule didn't exist originally (in fact, I'm a little unclear about when it showed up because, for example, George Foster only received 3.5% of the vote in 1994 but stayed on the ballot). It can still produce some good lists, though.

I’m using the Lahman database and a spreadsheet compiled by Keith Hemmelman at the Baseball Databank Yahoo Group to create these lists. I’m also only looking at voted from 1950 and on, since the voting in the prior years is so scattered.

Let’s start out with players who were on the ballot and received zero votes:

Most Career Win Shares by Players Receiving Zero HOF Votes (since 1950)
Player…………..Year..Win Shares…Votes

Jimmy Wynn……….1983….305……..0
Ken Singleton…….1990….302……..0
Amos Otis………..1990….286……..0
Ron Fairly……….1984….269……..0
Roy White………..1985….263
……..0
Gary Matthews…….1993….257
……..0
Wally Joyner……..2007….253
……..0
Cecil Cooper……..1993….241
……..0
Dick McAuliffe……1981….241
……..0
Frank Tanana……..1991….241
……..0

In 1990, both Jim Palmer and Joe Morgan were elected into the Hall, and in 1993 Reggie Jackson was voted in. Those slam-dunk candidates could explain why a few players from these years dropped off the ballot so quickly.

Most Career Win Shares by Players Receiving a Single HOF Vote (since 1950)
Player…………..Year..Win Shares…Votes
Sherry Magee……..1950*…354.…….1
Stan Hack………..1956….316……..1
Fielder Jones…….1950*…290……..1
Bob Elliott………1962*…287
……..1
Bob Johnson………1956….287
……..1
Jack Quinn……….1956*…287
……..1
Toby Harrah………1992….287
……..1
Dixie Walker……..1962*…278
……..1
Rocky Colavito……1975….273
……..1
Heinie Groh………1954*…272
……..1
* indicates received low-tally votes in multiple years

Hank Greenberg and Joe Cronin were both elected into the Hall in 1956. There were no further BBWAA inductions until Bob Feller and Jackie Robinson in 1962. Clearly, there was something going on at this time in the Hall. I’ll need to look into that. It doesn’t affect our lists though.

Most Career Win Shares by Players Receiving a Two HOF Votes (since 1950)
Player…………..Year..Win Shares…Votes
Jose Cruz………..1994….313……..2
Brian Downing…….1998….298
……..2
Cesar Cedeno……..1992….296
……..2
Brett Butler……..2003….295
……..2
George Burns……..1950*…290
……..2
Joe Judge………..1955*…270……..2
Bobby Bonilla…….2007….267
……..2
Bill Freehan……..1982….267……..2
Wilbur Cooper…….1952*…266
……..2
Augie Galan………1968….263……..2
* indicates received low-tally votes in multiple years

A number of players who appeared on the “Single HOF Vote” list, like Sherry Magee, Fielder Jones, and Bob Elliott, also qualified to appear on the “Two HOF Votes” list since there wasn’t a “drop off” rule back then. I only included those players on one of the two tables, however (whichever list they appeared on first).

And now, since I can’t put up a table like this for every single-digit HOF vote, here’s a list of some other players with low-tally votes and large career Win Share values.

Notable Low HOF Votes for Players with Large Career Win Share Values
Player…………..Year..Win Shares…Votes
Bill Dahlen………1938….394……..1
Darrell Evans…….1995….363……..8
Lou Whitaker……..2001….351……..15
Dwight Evans……..1999….347……..18
Dick Allen……….1983….342……..14
Bobby Grich………1992….329……..11
Jack Clark……….1998….316……..7
Norm Cash………..1980….315……..6
Ted Simmons………1994….315……..17
Willie Randolph…..1998….312……..5

Bill Dahlen is actually the player with the highest career Win Shares, non-Pete Rose or non-Shoeless Joe Division, who is not in the Hall that I could find. He isn’t on any of the other lists, though, because he received his vote in 1938, well before my 1950 cut-off.

There’s likely an interesting story for each player on this last list about why he was dropped from Hall consideration so soon. Dick Allen has his attitude problems. Norm Cash had one great season and probably seemed sub-par every other year because of that. Ted Simmons was neither Johnny Bench nor Carlton Fisk. But then there’s Dwight Evans and Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker, all great players with great careers who were ignored anyway. I’m not even going to try to go into their stories – there are other people on the internet much more knowledgable about each of them than me.

Whatever the case was that caused each of these players to fall from consideration so quickly, I think it’s a good thing to go back and consider their careers every now and then. Sure, none of them are Hank Aaron or Willie Mays, but they’re not Mario Mendoza or Joe Schlabotnik either. In fact, it’s pretty likely that a lot of these players had some big fans in their day who were quite devastated when their hero was dropped so unceremoniously. With that kind of support, it’s only fair that we try to keep their memories alive, if even for just a little bit.

Larry Granillo

About Larry Granillo

Larry Granillo has been writing Wezen Ball since 2008 and has dealt with such touchy topics as Charlie Brown's baseball stats and Ferris Bueller's day off. In 2010, he got the bright idea to time every home run trot in baseball; he has been missing ever since.

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