A Look Ahead to Next Year’s Hall of Fame Ballot

While fully acknowledging the honor bestowed upon Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez yesterday evening by the voters, it’s also never too early to begin looking ahead to next year’s Hall of Fame ballot. The three who gained election this time around were certainly deserving — and will receive due recognition this summer in Cooperstown. That said, there were a lot of players worthy of the Hall who failed to earn the requisite 75% for entry — and those players will be joined by even more great players seeking induction on the next ballot.

During the eight-year period from 2006 to 2013, the writers selected just 10 players for enshrinement. Over the last four years, however, 12 players have been elected, suggesting that the voters have changed their standards a bit to compensate for a stingier time.

Unfortunately, the increase has done little to clear the backlog of worthy players. Consider: of the 12 players inducted over the last four years, eight of them were elected on their first ballot. So, while it’s nice to know that certain deserving players have been given due recognition, there actually hasn’t been as much activity as one might suspect to benefit the other players worthy of Cooperstown. The last four years have seen Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, and now Lee Smith age off the ballot, but the numbers of players who’ve exited from the ballot doesn’t compensate for the appearance of new qualified candidates.

Before getting to the newcomers, let’s take a quick look at the players coming back from this year’s ballot in order of their voting percentage this year. Information on the Hall of Fame points system can be found here, but if you’re familiar with Jay Jaffe’s JAWS at Baseball-Reference, the system works fairly similarly, except using FanGraphs version of WAR.

2018 Hall of Fame Ballot Holdovers
Trevor Hoffman 74.0% 6.0 26.1 16.1 22.3 18.7 22.3 18.7 24.0 34.0
Vladimir Guerrero 71.7% 33.0 54.4 43.7 63.1 51.5 85.0 71.8 50.2 58.1
Edgar Martinez 58.6% 44.0 65.5 54.8 57.3 52.6 71.9 75.3 56.0 55.0
Roger Clemens 54.1% 115.0 133.7 124.4 52.9 48.2 66.9 63.3 103.3 62.1
Barry Bonds 53.8% 173.0 164.4 168.7 55.7 49.7 62.7 52.5 117.6 53.3
Mike Mussina 51.8% 53 82.2 67.6 52.9 48.2 66.9 63.3 63.8 62.1
Curt Schilling 45.0% 65.0 79.7 72.4 52.9 48.2 66.9 63.3 64.5 62.1
Manny Ramirez 23.8% 37.0 66.4 51.7 55.7 49.7 62.7 52.5 54.6 53.3
Larry Walker 21.9% 44.0 68.7 56.4 63.1 51.5 85.0 71.8 58.6 58.1
Fred McGriff 21.7% 31.0 56.9 44.0 59.1 57.0 66.3 57.1 44.1 54.2
16.7% 32.0 56.1 44.1 59.8 52.8 77.1 65.4 45.4 56.9
Gary Sheffield 13.3% 41.0 62.1 51.6 55.7 49.7 62.7 52.5 49.1 53.3
Billy Wagner 10.2% 5.0 24.2 14.6 22.3 18.7 22.3 18.7 24.0 34.0
Sammy Sosa 8.6% 40.0 60.1 50.1 63.1 51.5 85.0 71.8 51.0 58.1
Players listed in order of 2016 voting percentage.
Those above the median Hall of Famer at their respective position are highlighted in blue.

This year’s voting points to a couple of interesting developments. The voters’ enthusiasm for Trevor Hoffman, is one of them. Despite possessing the second-most saves in history, Hoffman doesn’t compare so favorably to to the relievers in the Hall of Fame already. Likewise, the writers appear to have been wowed by Guerrero’s great hitting even as defensive metrics subtract some wins from his overall value.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have players like Sheffield and Manny Ramirez — each of whom has a solid case for the Hall of Fame, but who also possess ties to PED usage. In the middle, we have a big group of deserving players, six in total, with Larry Walker rounding things out. There are likely quite a few writers who wished they could have cast votes for Hoffman and Guerrero, but just couldn’t find room on their ballots for them. Given how close those two players were, it seems highly likely that they’ll cross the 75% threshold next year.

That’s likely going to hurt players like Ramirez and Walker — and perhaps Jeff Kent and Fred McGriff, as well. All four are vulnerable to getting pushed off of ballots next year as writers vote for Guerrero and Hoffman. Last year, Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza, Mark McGwire, and Alan Trammell came off the ballot. In their place came Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, and Ivan Rodriguez. Next year, Bagwell, Raines, Rodriguez, and Lee Smith will be absent from the ballot, theoretically clearing up more space so that more voters can move Guerrero and Hoffman into the Hall of Fame and create more room for Bonds, Clemens, Martinez, and Mussina to receive votes.

It might not be that easy, though. Look at next year’s class.

2018 Hall of Fame Ballot Newcomers
Chipper Jones 62.0 84.6 73.3 57.3 52.6 71.9 75.3 65.8 55.1
46.0 68.9 57.5 59.1 57.0 66.3 57.1 57.2 54.2
53.0 70.1 61.6 57.3 52.6 71.9 75.3 56.8 55.1
Andruw Jones 53.0 67.1 60.1 64.6 49.2 92.1 77.1 54.6 57.8
Johan Santana 30.0 45.4 37.7 52.9 48.2 66.9 63.3 48.1 62.1
Johnny Damon 19.0 44.5 31.8 64.6 49.2 92.1 77.1 44.4 57.8
Omar Vizquel 16.0 42.6 29.3 55.0 52.5 62.0 57.8 36.0 54.8
Those above the median Hall of Famer at their respective position are highlighted in blue.

Apologies to Chris Carpenter, Livan Hernandez, Kevin Millwood, Jamie Moyer, Ben Sheets, Kerry Wood, and Carlos Zambrano for their omissions: they’re unlikely to receive the requisite votes, though. Orlando Hudson, Hideki Matsui, and Jack Wilson are also technically eligible. (See the full list here.)

Chipper Jones is a first-ballot no-doubter, so let’s say he gets Bagwell’s votes. On the MLB Network broadcast of this year’s voting, there was general consensus that Thome would be selected in his first year of eligibility. He does have 600 homers and is clearly deserving. If he’s inducted, then he’ll basically have taken Raines’ votes. That leaves many just Rodriguez’s spot for voters to select new player without dropping someone for whom they voted in this most recent election. The writers are going to be faced with some difficult decisions. Johan Santana seems like an afterthought among this group, and he won two Cy Young awards. Same for Johnny Damon, despite his two World Series rings and nearly 2,800 hits.

Three of the newer players on the ballot — Andruw Jones, Rolen, and Vizquel — earned a decent share of their value in the form of defense. We don’t yet know how the voters will consider the 28 Gold Gloves collected between those three players. Rolen was a good offensive player with a career that looks just like Ron Santo’s. Andruw Jones has more than 400 homers and debuted at 19, while Omar Vizquel was a very poor offensive player who, by the metrics, isn’t close the Hall. He wasn’t reasonably close to Ozzie Smith on either offense or defense, no matter what the current narrative says.

Writers will be faced with some difficult decisions. If they didn’t vote for Hoffman or Guerrero, do they add that pair to make sure they’re elected? Do they remove a player from their 2016 ballot, like Manny Ramirez or Larry Walker, because they’re worried that Andruw Jones or Scott Rolen will fall off the ballot? Many voters will be faced with the choice of voting for something different than the 10 most eligible players if they want to maximize the effect of their vote. The Hall of Fame is a great honor, but many more players are deserving.

The 5% rule and the 10-player limit are serving to squeeze deserving players at both ends of the ballot and provide impossible choices for writers. The writers previously asked for the option to vote for 12 players and there’s a precedent for putting players back on the ballot after failing to get 5% of the vote. Both of those remedies should be considered this next year, as the ballot is likely to be as full as it’s ever been and writers are not being allowed to decide whether a player is a Hall of Famer, but rather being tasked with casting strategic votes to get deserving players elected.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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7 years ago

I have two thoughts:

1. I have a feeling Thome doesn’t get in first ballot. Thome certainly has better numbers and ratings than Vlad, but Vlad felt like a much shinier option than Thome. If Vlad didn’t get in first ballot, I don’t quite see Thome doing it.

2. ‘ve been thinking about this a lot since yesterday. Prior to yesterday, I felt pretty good about that answer being yes. Prior to the announcement, @NotMrTibbs had his public exit polling at a strong 66%. My own projection methodology had him finishing at 64%, while others had him somewhere around 62-64%. Final projections put him at 58.5%, which doesn’t seem like much, but represents one of the largest public to private differentials this year at 16%. All and all, this means he would need to flip about 75 ballots in the next two years to get in or to put it in percentage, rougly 40% of remaining voters who did not vote for him this year.

Of course, it isn’t quite that cut and dry. Over the next two years there will be new voters on the roll, as well as older voters being taken off of it. Such an instance would likely favor his odds of getting in, but the extent of that shift is unknown. Not to mention, while Tim Raines received 100% of first time votes this year, Edgar only received 71%. Unlike Raines candidacy, there is also the DH issue. I just don’t see many voters who are steadfast on the No DH’s in the HOF narrative budging in the next two years.

I guess it’s starting to not feel as safe of a bet as I once thought.