Author Archive

A Candidate-by-Candidate Look at the 2020 Hall of Fame Election Results

For an unprecedented seventh year in a row, and as part of a still record-setting surge, the BBWAA elected multiple candidates to the Hall of Fame with the 2020 ballot. Derek Jeter and Larry Walker had very different playing careers and voting paths, but both gained entry via results that carried a fair bit of drama into Tuesday evening’s announcement, as the questions of whether the former would join former teammate Mariano Rivera as the second unanimous selection in as many years, and of whether the latter would end up on the right side of 75%, were both up in the air.

The Surge: BBWAA-elected Hall of Famers 2014-20
Year 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
2014 Greg Maddux (97.2%) Tom Glavine (91.9%) Frank Thomas (83.7%)
2015 Randy Johnson (97.3%) Pedro Martinez (91.1%) John Smoltz (82.9%) Craig Biggio (82.7%)
2016 Ken Griffey Jr. (99.3%) Mike Piazza (83.0%)
2017 Jeff Bagwell (86.2%) Tim Raines (86.0%) Ivan Rodriguez (76.0%)
2018 Chipper Jones (97.2%) Vlad Guerrero (92.9%) Jim Thome (89.8%) Trevor Hoffman (79.9%)
2019 Mariano Rivera (100%) Roy Halladay (85.4%) Edgar Martinez (85.4%) Mike Mussina (76.7%)
2020 Derek Jeter (99.7%) Larry Walker (76.6%)
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

We now know the answers, of course, and I’ve already delved into the ballot’s big take-home points. What follows here is my look at how each candidate fared, with a few lumped together for obvious reasons. Having written so much about the two honorees, I’m starting at the bottom of the results and working my way to the top, though of course I do hope you stick around to the end, if only to meet Robinson Canoe. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hall Calls: Two for 2020, Derek Jeter and Larry Walker

It’s back to business as usual for the BBWAA’s Hall of Fame voting, the results of which were announced on Tuesday evening. The messy and occasionally exasperating tradition of non-unanimity, which took an unprecedented one-year vacation when Mariano Rivera was elected with 100% of the vote last year, has returned. While Derek Jeter appeared on track to join Rivera in that exclusive club, one as-yet-unidentified voter from among the 397 ballots cast in this year’s election chose to throw a wrench in the works. No matter. Ol’ No. 2 will have to settle for the second-highest vote share in Hall history (99.75%) as well as the requisite bronze plaque in Cooperstown. He’ll have some company in the Class of 2020, as the writers also elected Larry Walker with 76.6% of the vote. Walker, the first Canadian-born position player ever elected, follows Tim Raines (2017) and Edgar Martinez (2019) as the third candidate in the last four election cycles to be chosen in his 10th and final year of eligibility.

With “only” two honorees this year, the writers’ unprecedented streak of electing at least three candidates annually has ended at three years; the last time they elected two was in 2016, when Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were chosen. Even so, this is the seventh consecutive election in which the BBWAA has tabbed multiple candidates; that breaks a tie with the 1951-56 span, which was bracketed by back-to-back shutouts on either side. The 22 candidates elected over the past seven cycles is a record, far outdoing the 16 from the 1950-56 or 1951-57 stretches.

What follows here is my big-picture look at this year’s results; I’ll be back with my candidate-by-candidate breakdown on Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »


The Envelope Please: Our 2020 Hall of Fame Crowdsource Ballot Results

Hey, remember the Hall of Fame voting? If your outrage over illegal sign-stealing — Banghazi, perhaps? — needs some redirection, the results of the voting on the BBWAA’s 2020 ballot will be announced later today. When they are, Derek Jeter may well become the second player in as many years to be elected unanimously by the 400-plus BBWAA voters, though FanGraphs readers did not accord the former Yankees shortstop quite the same level of Re2pect in our second annual Hall of Fame Crowdsource balloting. Of course, they did “elect” him with the highest percentage of any of this year’s candidates, and they were almost certainly more generous than the actual electorate will be when it comes to the ballot’s other top luminaries.

As with last year, registered readers of our site (and participating staff, this scribe included) were allowed to choose up to 10 candidates while adhering to the same December 31, 2019 deadline as the actual voters, but unlike the writers, our voting was conducted electronically instead of on paper. This year, 1,440 users participated, a 19% increase relative to last year, our inaugural foray. Slightly over half of the participants (50.6%) used all 10 slots on their ballots, well down from last year’s 77.6% but still well ahead of the 29.5%% of actual voters who have published their ballots in Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker as of 12:01 AM Eastern on Tuesday morning. Our voters averaged 8.37 names per ballot, down a full notch and then some from last year’s 9.41, but again well ahead of the Tracker’s 7.30.

All of which provides an interesting window into our electorate. I’ll press my nose to the glass on such topics below, but chances are that you’re here because you really want to know who we actually chose. Getting back to Jeter, the ballot’s top newcomer, not only did he not receive 100% in our polling, he didn’t even break 90%, and barely beat out the second-best supported candidate, Larry Walker, edging him by just half a percentage point, 89.9% to 89.4% — seven total votes! The other two candidates we “elected” were the gruesome twosome, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who like Walker also cleared the 75% bar last year in our unfortunately non-binding poll. If that quartet seems like a lot, consider that last year, the FanGraphs crowd tabbed seven candidates, with the aforementioned trio of holdovers joining the four players the writers actually elected (Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, and Mariano Rivera, who got only 91.1% of our vote, compared to 100% of the real thing). Read the rest of this entry »


Out Before Reaching Home: Carlos Beltrán, Ex-Mets Manager

Carlos Beltrán won’t set foot in a Citi Field dugout anytime soon. In my conclusion to Thursday’s article on Beltrán’s place in the Astros’ 2017-18 sign-stealing mess — he was the only position player mentioned in commissioner Rob Manfred’s report, which positioned him as central to the improvements that resulted in “the banging scheme” — I noted that his status as Mets manager wasn’t “likely to remain in limbo much longer; he could be out of a job by sundown.” While admittedly not a stretch, that prognostication turned out to be correct.

As with the Red Sox and Alex Cora, Beltrán and the Mets “agreed to mutually part ways” on Thursday. With that, all three sitting managers implicated by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich in their November 13 report (a day after they broke the initial story) — three who previously were well-respected throughout the industry and understood to represent part of a shifting paradigm with regards to the input of front offices and an emphasis on the interpersonal aspects of managing a club rather than the X’s and O’s of tactics — are out of work, that within roughly 72 hours of the release of Manfred’s report.

The Mets named Beltrán as their manager on November 1, 12 days before The Athletic implicated him. At the time, Beltrán denied any wrongdoing via text messages to The Athletic and the New York Post (and perhaps others). Manfred’s report showed that he had lied to them, and not with the kind of little white lies and half-truths — on topics such as player availability — that managers routinely get away with. Read the rest of this entry »


Carlos Beltrán’s Job and Legacy Are in Limbo

This article was published before the Mets and Beltrán “agreed to mutually part ways” on Thursday. Jay’s follow-up is available here.

This has not been a good week for Carlos Beltrán. Though he evaded punishment from Major League Baseball for his involvement in the Astros’ 2017 electronic sign stealing scheme, as did every other player, Beltrán was the only one singled out by name in commissioner Rob Manfred’s report. What’s more, he’s now the only one of the three managers who were caught up in the scandal — or at least its initial wave — who still has a job, though he’s already on the hot seat before managing a single game. Suddenly, what appeared to be a very promising second act to his career is in jeopardy, as is the possibility that Beltrán will be elected to the Hall of Fame once he becomes eligible in 2023.

Per Manfred’s report, which I dissected on Tuesday, the Astros’ efforts to steal signs using electronic equipment — a practice broadly prohibited by MLB rules but not strictly enforced at the time — began early in 2017 and grew more elaborate as the season went on. “Approximately two months into the 2017 season, a group of players, including Carlos Beltrán, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams’ signs and communicating the signs to the batter,” wrote Manfred. The intent was to upgrade a system that had been rather simple to that point, with employees in the team’s video replay room viewing live footage from the center field camera, and relaying the decoded sign sequence to the dugout, where it was signaled to a runner on second base; the runner would then transmit the signs to the batter.

In the wake of Beltrán’s intervention, bench coach Alex Cora arranged for a monitor showing the center field feed to be placed in the tunnel near the dugout. After decoding the sign from that monitor, “a player would bang a nearby trash can with a bat to communicate the upcoming pitch type to the batter,” according to the report. The practice continued through the end of the regular season and the postseason, and into 2018, even after Manfred issued a stern warning to all 30 teams on September 15, 2017, in the wake of separate allegations regarding the Red Sox engaging in their own abuse of the system. At that point, Manfred said that he would hold general managers and managers accountable for their teams’ efforts to subvert his prohibition on using electronic means to steal signs. Read the rest of this entry »


Josh Donaldson Upgrades Already-Potent Twins Lineup

The Twins won 101 games last year, set a major league record with 307 homers, and ranked second in the American League in scoring at 5.80 runs per game, yet they found a way to improve that juggernaut of an offense by signing Josh Donaldson to a four-year, $92 million deal. The just-turned-34-year-old slugger will man the hot corner, while incumbent third baseman Miguel Sanó will take over first base duties. It’s a risky move given Donaldson’s age and injury history, but it’s a bold one that improves the Twins’ chances of winning another AL Central title and returning to the postseason for the third time in four years.

Donaldson spent the 2019 season with the NL East champion Braves, and stayed healthy for the entire year for the first time since 2016, playing 155 games; by comparison, he played a combined 165 games for the Blue Jays and Indians in 2017-18 while battling shoulder and calf injuries. He hit a robust .259/.379/.521 (132 wRC+) with 37 homers, up from eight in 2018, and won NL Comeback Player of the Year honors.

Donaldson finished with 4.9 WAR thanks to above-average defense that resulted in his being a Gold Glove finalist. By UZR, he was 2.4 runs above average at the hot corner, by DRS he was second among all third baseman at 15 runs above average (trailing only Matt Chapman), and by Statcast’s new Outs Above Average, he was third at eight OAA (trailing only Nolan Arenado and Chapman). Read the rest of this entry »


Rob Manfred Hammers the Astros

Consider the book thrown at the Astros. On Monday, commissioner Rob Manfred announced the results of MLB’s investigation into allegations pertaining to the Astros’ electronic sign-stealing efforts in 2017, the year they won the World Series, and handed down a set of sanctions that together form the most severe punishment administered to a single team since Judge Landis banned eight White Sox players for life in 1921. In this instance, no players were banned or even suspended; instead, Manfred took aim at the Astros’ braintrust, suspending both president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch for the 2020 season but deferring punishment for bench coach Alex Cora, the most directly involved non-player, pending the results of a similar investigation into the 2018 Red Sox’s actions. Additionally, the team was stripped of four high draft picks and fined $5 million, the maximum amount allowed under MLB’s constitution. Finally, former Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman was placed on baseball’s ineligible list.

In announcing his decision via a 10-page report (PDF here), Manfred confirmed and elaborated upon a November report by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich that the Astros systematically used their video replay system in an attempt to decode opposing teams’ signs and relay them to the team’s hitters via a trash can-based system of signals. The report was based on interviews with 68 individuals as part of this investigation plus an additional nine interviews related to Taubman’s inappropriate conduct towards female reporters during the team’s ALCS victory celebration.

As I wrote last week, MLB’s failure to anticipate the consequences introduced by the creation of video replay rooms in connection with the adoption of the instant replay review system in 2014 has echoes of the league falling behind in addressing the influx of performance-enhancing drugs in the 1990s. Both issues centered around highly competitive players crossing into gray areas while looking for that extra edge, but because of the key differences in the two issues — mainly the protection of the players’ union and the need for a collectively bargained system of testing and suspensions when it came to PED usage — commissioner Bud Selig never had the chance to bring the hammer down on PED users with the force that Manfred applied here. This is a hefty and impactful set of punishments that asserts the commissioner’s authority and is designed to deter other teams from similar behavior, but it won’t be the last set of them given the investigation into the Red Sox and the possibility of further inquiries. Various decisions within Manfred’s purview on this won’t please everyone, but since when has any commissioner managed to do so?

In the report, Manfred laid out a timeline for the Astros’ gradually more elaborate efforts to steal signs using electronic equipment, a practice broadly prohibited by MLB rules but not strictly enforced at the time, and one that arose with the introduction of reviewable replays. The Astros’ efforts “with the exception of Cora [were] player-driven and player-executed,” and began early in the 2017 season, with a simple system where employees in the team’s video replay room viewed live footage from the center field camera, then decoded and relayed the sign sequence to the dugout. From there it was signaled to a runner on second base, who would transmit the signal to the batter. Soon Cora began calling the replay review room to obtain the signals, and on some occasions the information was delivered via text messages on smart watches or cell phones. Read the rest of this entry »


Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 1/13/20

12:01
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Hey hey folks, happy almost mid-January. Welcome to today’s chat. I’m going to give the queue a few minutes to get stocked. Hot Stove and Hall of Fame questions, ask away

12:03
Larry Walker: Can I snatch victory from the JAWS of defeat?

12:05
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I certainly hope so! But I’m nervous because this doesn’t look like the election days of Raines and Edgar, both of whom sailed in with like 85% in their final years. The recent projections I’ve seen based upon the tracker and various models have gone both ways — just over the line and just short, but with the odds tilting towards the former. I have to admit I’m quite nervous

12:05
Dave: Hi Jay, what does your crystal ball say about next week’s announcement of the HOF voting results?

12:06
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Aside from the nailbiter with Walker, I do think jeter will be unanimous, that Schilling will be in high 60s and Bonds/Clemens in the low 60s.

12:06
Travis: The number of ballots tracked by the HoF Tracker is behind last year’s pace – do you sense a reticence from some voters to reveal their choices before the big reveal itself? Is there a reaction by writers with votes to the vitriol on social media? (The Purdy ratio immediately comes to mind)

Read the rest of this entry »


JAWS and the 2020 Hall of Fame Ballot: One-and-Dones, Part 6

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2020 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

When I sketched out a plan to tackle the 14 one-and-done candidates on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, I found unifying themes to group them together even as the profiles themselves expanded: oft-injured infielders, sluggers who finished their careers concurrently with the White Sox, Dominican-born players who took unorthodox routes to the majors, starting pitchers for the 2003 champion Marlins, late-blooming relievers. When I reached the final pair, reliever José Valverde and slugger Raúl Ibañez, I was ready to concede that they were simply leftovers — but I had momentarily forgotten that during the 2012 ALCS, I had witnessed a moment firsthand that permanently tied them together:

2020 BBWAA One-And-Done Candidates, Part 6
Player Pos Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS H HR SB AVG/OBP/SLG OPS+
Raúl Ibañez LF 20.4 20.1 20.2 2034 305 50 .272/.335/.465 111
Player Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS W-L S IP SO ERA ERA+
José Valverde 11.5 12 11.7 27-33 288 630.1 692 3.27 133

In addition to that moment from the 2012 ALCS, both of these players seemed to have nine lives as they kept their grips on baseball — or vice versa, to invoke Jim Bouton’s famous line — for a long, long time. Read the rest of this entry »


JAWS and the 2020 Hall of Fame Ballot: One-and-Dones, Part 5

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2020 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

Batch five hundred thirty-seven — no, wait, it’s just batch five, the rest of that was my daughter’s drawing — of my completist series features a pair of hard-throwing relievers who took a long time to get a shot at the majors, and even longer to become closers. Not much went right for either of them as Mets, and by the time they crossed paths in Arizona, both had seen better days, but somewhere in the middle of all of that, they became All-Stars. We could quibble as to whether they should be on this ballot, but why not celebrate two guys who made the most of their relatively brief careers?

2020 BBWAA One-And-Done Candidates, Part 5
Player Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS W-L S IP SO ERA ERA+
Heath Bell 7.1 8.8 8.0 38-32 168 628.2 637 3.49 112
J.J. Putz 13.1 12.9 13.0 37-33 189 566.2 599 3.08 138
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Heath Bell

It took Heath Bell until he was nearly 27 years old to reach the majors, and he turned 31 before he claimed the closer’s job. Big-bodied (6-foot-3 and as much as 275 pounds) and with a big personality, he radiated joy on his best days, showing his exuberance with his signature sprints to the mound, making three straight All-Star teams, converting 41 straight save opportunities at one point, and netting a big deal in free agency — not too bad for a guy who was a 69th-round draft pick by the Devil Rays. Read the rest of this entry »