Big Comebacks and Easy Calls: The Next Five Years of BBWAA Hall of Fame Elections
The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2023 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. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.
For the second year in a row, BBWAA voters elected just one player to the Hall of Fame. While the results may feel underwhelming — at least, beyond the fact that Scott Rolen is a very solid addition to Cooperstown — the advances made by a handful of candidates who didn’t get to 75% this year bolster the likelihood that they will someday, whether it’s via the writers’ ballot or a small committee to be named later. Looking ahead, there’s nothing to suggest that we’re about to see another wave that brings to mind the record-setting 22 candidates the writers elected over the 2014-20 span, but the next few ballots will be more crowded than the last couple, and should make for some lively election cycles.
Underlying this is a change in the dynamics of Hall of Fame candidacies, one that I’ve been noting in this space in recent years. From 1966 to 2005, only three candidates recovered from debuts below 25% and eventually reached 75%, even with 15 years of eligibility: Duke Snider (17.0% in 1970, elected in ’81), Don Drysdale (21.0% in 1975, elected in ’84) and Billy Williams (23.4% in 1982, elected in ’87). Since then, we’ve seen six players elected despite such slow starts, including three from 2017-23. From the 15-year eligibility period came Bruce Sutter (23.9% in 1994, elected in 2006) and Bert Blyleven (17.5% in 1998, elected in 2011), and then once the Hall unilaterally decided to cut eligibility from 15 years to 10 — less to clean up the ballots than to try moving the intractable debate over PED-related candidates out of the spotlight, and give voters less time to soften their attitudes — Tim Raines (24.3% in 2008, elected in ’17), Mike Mussina (20.3% in 2014, elected in ’19), Larry Walker (20.3% in ’11, elected in ’20), and now Rolen, whose 10.2% in 2018 represents the lowest debut share of any modern candidate elected by the writers.
Notably, the four candidates just below Rolen in this year’s returns were also slow starters who could join this bunch. Either last year or this one, they crossed the 50% threshold, the point at which eventual election becomes a near-certainty, and this year, each of them gained at least 14 percentage points, the first time four players who were already above 40% did so in the same year, according to The Athletic’s Jayson Stark:
Every candidate who has reached 50% via the writers and is no longer on the ballot has eventually been elected save for last year’s “graduating” class of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling. Of the 44 candidates who reached the 40-49% range at least once since 1966 (the year voters returned to the annual balloting) and are no longer on the ballot (including the aforementioned trio and now Jeff Kent), 20 were elected by the writers and another 16 by small committees; that last count includes Gil Hodges and Tony Oliva, elected via the 2022 Golden Days Era Committee ballot. In other words, it’s not unreasonable to think about the aforementioned players finding spots in Cooperstown sometime in the near future, something that’s a lot more fun to consider than the near-paralysis caused by the debates over performance-enhancing drugs and character issues — though that isn’t to say those issues won’t factor into future elections.
With that preamble, it’s time to break out my crystal ball for my 10th-annual five-year election outlook. It’s an exercise that’s more art than science, requiring some amount of imagination and speculation, and while it’s grounded in my research into the candidates and the history and mechanics of the voting, the changes to the process that have occurred over the past decade raise the question of how valuable that history is from a prognostication standpoint.
Revising this annually is a necessity because every incorrect assumption has a ripple effect. The presence of a high-share holdover means less space for and less attention paid to the mid-ballot guys, so clearing one from the ballot can have ramifications that won’t be felt for a few years.
For the sake of this exercise, I am assuming that the basic mechanics of these elections will remain in place: 10 votes per ballot, with a 5% minimum to avoid falling off, and 10 years of eligibility for new candidates. Note that each ballot’s year refers to the year of induction; that ballot is released in November of the previous year, with ballots due on December 31. To be eligible, a candidate must not have played in the majors for five full seasons, but his eligibility year will actually be six years after his last appearance.
Top newcomers (ranked by JAWS): Adrián Beltré, Chase Utley, Joe Mauer, David Wright, Bartolo Colon
Top holdovers (by voting pct.): Todd Helton, Billy Wagner, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Beltrán
Most likely to be elected: Beltré, Helton
Falling off: Sheffield
This ballot will harken back to the recent boom times thanks to the strong crop of holdovers as well as the high-profile newcomers, a class that would have included Ichiro Suzuki as well if not for his two-game cameo at the start of the 2019 season. The top-shelf talent starts with Beltré, whose 3,166 hits, 477 homers, number two ranking in fielding runs at the hot corner and number four ranking in JAWS will set up an easy waltz into Cooperstown — a remarkable turn of events given that when he left Seattle after the 2009 season, he had never made an All-Star team, and his inability to live up to his big ’04 walk year marked him as a disappointment.
Mauer, a six-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner, three-time batting champion (the only catcher who can claim that) and former MVP winner himself, ranks seventh in JAWS among catchers. Forced off the position due to post-concussion problems, he spent the last five seasons of his career as a more or less league average first baseman, but even with that handicap, and with just 921 games caught, his seven-year peak — all from his years behind the plate — ranks fifth, behind only Gary Carter, Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, and Ivan Rodriguez. As the hometown success story and number one overall pick who lived up to his billing, he’s likely to get an extra bump in the character department, which is sure to stir up the faction of Twins fans still mad about his salary.
That said, just two catchers have been elected in their first year of eligibility, Bench and Rodriguez. Between the the late-career downturn and the incoming crowd, which includes Wagner heading into his ninth year and Sheffield his 10th, Mauer’s election could be delayed. He’ll be in Cooperstown in short order, but maybe not in 2024.
Less likely to wind up there via this ballot is Utley. Despite not drawing more than 300 plate appearances in a season until age 26, he ranks 12th in JAWS among second baseman (and ninth in peak) thanks to the tremendous impact of his fielding and baserunning. Alas, if voters’ failure to recognize him in the MVP races and Gold Glove awards didn’t already make it apparent that he’s facing an uphill battle, I fear that he’ll become a victim of the Rule of 2,000; due to injuries and his acceptance of a part-time role in his final years, he finished with just 1,885 hits, and even with the Era Committee election of Oliva, the writers have yet to elect anybody from the post-1960 expansion era who finished with fewer than 2,000. I’m hopeful that with an electorate sophisticated enough not to rely solely on career totals as a yardstick, he’ll receive substantial support, and we can hope he eventually gets his plaque. Still, I’m bracing for a first-year percentage in Rolen/Helton territory; in the Ballot Tracker team’s VIP poll, I estimated Utley with a first-year showing of 17% (and Mauer at 62%). I’d love to find out I’ve underestimated both.
With seven All-Star appearances and 50.1 WAR through his age-31 season (2014) — 11th among third basemen — Wright was on a path that conceivably could have carried him to Cooperstown, but spinal stenosis and other injuries derailed him and finally forced him into retirement in 2018. His 39.5 WAR peak score is short of the Hall standard (43.0), and his 1,777 hits leave him well short of 2,000. I wouldn’t be surprised if he sticks around a less crowded ballot than more recent short-career candidates such as Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt, and Lance Berkman faced, but I wouldn’t expect him to reach critical mass.
Colon spent 21 years in the majors and won 247 games thanks in large part to one of the great third acts in baseball history. After tearing his rotator cuff in the 2005 postseason, just after putting together a campaign that won him the Cy Young award, he spent four years coming and going from various rosters and was out of baseball completely in 2010 before re-emerging with the Yankees following a radical stem cell treatment. He put together some big seasons for the A’s and Mets, earning All-Star honors twice after age 40 and becoming an unlikely fan favorite despite getting pinched for PEDs in 2012. Sticking around past his 45th birthday, the rotund righty racked up 247 wins, and while his 40.8 S-JAWS merely ranks 131st, he might get token support as a nod towards the fun he brought to the game in the age of social media, never more so than when he hit one of history’s most unlikely home runs on May 7, 2016.
As for the holdovers, Helton’s now a gimme putt away from gaining entry, and one has to think he’ll get over the top. Wagner is within striking distance, but just under half of the candidates in the 65–70% with eligibility remaining get to 75% on the first try, and he does have a second year to get there, whereas Sheffield needs a Larry Walker-like last-ditch effort; Walker’s 22% gain from 54.6% in 2020 was the second-largest one-year gain resulting in election since 1966, helping him get over the line by just six votes. On a suddenly-crowded ballot, I just don’t know whether that’s realistic for Sheffield even given his comparability to Ortiz, and the relatively minimal nature of his PED connection. My guess is that he falls short but quickly becomes a strong candidate on a crowded Era Committee ballot. I’d love to see Wagner gain entry here, but I think he’ll join the list of 10th-year honorees in 2025 instead.
A bit further down, I expect Jones to cross the 60% threshold and Beltrán, who debuted with 46.5%, the 50% mark.
Top newcomers: Ichiro Suzuki, CC Sabathia, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Félix Hernández, Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Zobrist, Russell Martin, Brian McCann,
Top holdovers: Wagner, Mauer, Beltrán, Jones
Most likely to be elected: Suzuki, Mauer, Wagner
As a subset of the already-annoying “first ballot” distinction, the debate surrounding electoral unanimity is silly. A Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer, and they don’t put a special ribbon or even a mention of getting 100% of the vote on the plaque. But if any upcoming candidate has a shot, it’s Ichiro, who racked up 3,089 hits stateside despite not debuting until age 27. The former MVP, two-time batting champ, 10-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner, and international ambassador of baseball would have been eligible for the 2024 ballot, but his season-opening two-game cameo in Japan in 2019 pushed his eligibility back a year. Whether or not he runs the table among BBWAA voters, he’ll be a first-ballot honoree. As RJ McDaniel wrote in 2019, “There are few players in the history of organized baseball who have brought this joy to more people — spanning continents, crossing decades — than Ichiro.” That’s the kind of impact that propelled Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter towards unanimity (the former made history, the latter was prevented from doing so by one as-yet-unidentified troll), and it will do the same for Suzuki.
Sabathia has a strong pair of traditional milestones — 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts — to go with his Cy Young award (plus five other top-five finishes in the voting) and his championship ring. He’s a little light on S-JAWS, in that his 50.8 points ranks 55th all-time, six points below the standard, but that’s by far the highest ranking of any recent retiree; by comparison, Mark Buehrle and Andy Pettite, the current top pitchers on the ballot, rank 78th and 81st, respectively, 3.4 and 3.6 points lower. Between Sabathia’s standing and the second act of his career, which saw him confront his alcoholism and remake himself as a finesse pitcher after his mid-90s fastball had faded, his candidacy offers a compelling narrative that will appeal to voters; note that there were a considerable number of “future Hall of Famer” tributes in his final season. I think he’ll be elected, but not on the first ballot given both the traffic and the need to convince some segment of the voters.
Sabathia’s resilience stands out particularly when juxtaposed with Hernández, a six-time All-Star with a Cy Young award, two other runner-up finishes, and two ERA titles. Worked even harder than the Sabathia in his 20s, Hernández once appeared Cooperstown-bound, but he fell apart in his early 30s, and could not write a happier ending, finishing with just 169 wins, 2,524 strikeouts, and 2,729.2 innings. His 44.1 S-JAWS ranks just 96th overall (one rung below Sandy Koufax, whose ranking falls a bit once I dial down the impact of those 300-inning seasons), and his adjusted peak of 38.5 WAR is 65th. If I’m looking for a case to make for a short-career starter, that of the aforementioned Santana (69th in S-JAWS at 48.3) with his two Cy Youngs is a far more convincing one even in about 700 fewer innings.
(For some thoughts about Hall-bound pitchers, Baseball Prospectus‘ Patrick Dubuque has a great piece here that has me thinking about my next installments in my S-JAWS series).
Moving to the other end of the battery, McCann and Martin are two of the era’s top pitch framers, and so long as a good portion of the baseball public insists that Yadier Molina is a Hall of Famer based on his own ability in that area, I’ll push the other two into the conversation as well, though they didn’t quite have Molina’s staying power. McCann caught for eight playoff-bound teams in his 15-year career and bashed 282 homers, but he wore down significantly after age 32, playing in just 245 games over his final three seasons. Martin caught for 10 playoff-bound teams and played a pivotal role in ending the playoff droughts of both the Pirates and Blue Jays. Both are far short of 2,000 hits, and are probably doomed as far as the writers ballots are concerned, but I’m going to make my point by including them nonetheless. This table, which incorporates the framing metrics of both FanGraphs (from 2008 onward) and Baseball Prospectus (for 1988-2007 using Max Marchi’s Retroframing methodology) shows how closely clustered they are with Mauer and Molina:
|Player||Career||WAR||FG Fram||BP Fram||WAR Adj||fWAR||fPeak||fJAWS|
It’s also worth pointing out in this context that Martin had just 6,648 plate appearances in his career and McCann 6,850 to Molina’s 8,554 — the two eligibles here packed a lot of value into much shorter careers.
Kinsler, who retired with 1,999 hits (!), ranks a very respectable 20th in JAWS. He wasn’t the equal of Utley at the plate (107 OPS+ to 117), on the bases, or in the field (87 DRS to 131, in more playing time), though, and given a shortish career, I don’t see him making electoral headway. The same is true for Pedroia, who’s 19th in JAWS, and had fewer hits (1,805) to go with a 113 OPS+ and 99 DRS in his career, which was derailed by left knee woes stemming from a 2017 collision with Manny Machado; he played just nine games in 2018 and ’19, his age-34 and 35 seasons. While he played a prominent role in two championships and won MVP and Rookie of the Year Awards, through his age-33 season, his 52.3 WAR ranks 16th, five spots below Bobby Grich (60.1), three below Lou Whitaker (55.5), two below Utley (55.0) and one below Willie Randolph (53.7), which is to say that he might have come up short (sorry) of Cooperstown even if he hadn’t been injured. Jackie Robinson is the only BBWAA-elected second baseman with a lower WAR at that stage, and obviously, his was a special case.
On the shortstop side of the bag, Troy Tulowitzki didn’t come close to sticking around long enough to have a real case for the Hall, accumulating “only” 1,391 hits but a near-standard peak score of 40.2 (he’s 3.0 points below, while Pedroia is 3.4 below and Kinsler 6.3 below). At best, that makes him Nomar Garciaparra Lite as far as the voters will be concerned. Ben Zobrist, a superutility player with an emphasis on super, had just 1,566 hits but played a pivotal role on eight postseason teams, winning rings with both the Royals and Cubs; he was the World Series MVP for the latter. It won’t be enough for the voters but it’s enough for a lifetime.
Amid this bumper crop of candidates, I see Wagner joining the lineage of year-10 honorees, and Mauer building upon on a strong first year showing and gaining entry as well. Jones should be nearing election, and Beltrán, by this point, should be pulling in a good amount of support; the pair will benefit from comparisons reminding voters just how highly they rank among center fielders.
Top newcomers: Cole Hamels, Ryan Braun, Alex Gordon, Shin-Soo Choo, Edwin Encarnación, Nick Markakis
Top holdovers: Sabathia, Beltrán, Jones, Utley, Alex Rodriguez
Most likely to be elected: Sabathia, Jones
Falling off: Manny Ramirez
The 2020 season left us short in many areas, including the retirement department. Perhaps it’s the case that few players wanted to end their careers following such a strange campaign. From this group, Braun owns the highest WAR (47.1) of any player who’s officially retired. Braun made six All-Star teams, won the NL Rookie of the Year and MVP awards, and hit 352 homers, but he was caught violating MLB’s drug policy twice. The first time, an arbitrator overturned his suspension, that after Braun publicly smeared the sample collector — alleging anti-Semitism — in an unparalleled bit of ugliness within the annals of baseball’s efforts to fight PEDs. Countless players have denied knowledge of how illegal substances got into their bodies, and some (Rafael Palmeiro comes to mind) tried to cast blame elsewhere, but nobody else took a page from the Lance Armstrong playbook by trying to ruin the reputation of an innocent bystander in such a manner. The second time Braun was caught, via the Biogenesis investigation, he served a 65-game suspension. He’s nowhere near as strong a candidate as Ramirez, who will be in his final year; Hall-wise, both are toast.
Speaking of PED users, I haven’t mentioned Rodriguez yet. Maybe he’ll be gaining some ground by this, his fifth year, but I strongly suspect his ceiling is lower than those of Bonds and Clemens because of his well-earned full-year suspension. Ramirez, who just broke 30% for the first time in year seven (33.2%), might get a late push but I’d be shocked if he even surpassed Jeff Kent’s 46.5% from this year.
Back to the official retirement distinction, Hamels (59.3 WAR) hasn’t made the move, and he just returned to the showcase-to-draw-interest treadmill after triceps and shoulder injuries limited him to a single start in 2020, a thwarted comeback attempt the following year, and a November ’21 shoulder surgery. In what has up to this point been a 15-year career, he made four All-Star teams, spun one complete-game no-hitter and did the heavy lifting of a combined one, and won a World Series while helping the Phillies to another pennant as well. His 48.4 S-JAWS is just an eyelash ahead of Santana, and he doesn’t have any Cy Youngs; meanwhile, his 163 wins are well short of the 200-plus for Buehrle, Pettitte, and the no-longer eligible Tim Hudson. In light of what I noted above, however, I think this is a candidacy worth getting on board for; we’ll see where this notion takes me regarding the ones leading up to it.
Encarnación, with 424 homers and some big postseason moments, might seem to have a case as the next designated hitter after Ortiz. His career didn’t really take flight until his late 20s, however, and his 35.5 WAR is about 20 fewer than Ortiz, plus he hit just .216/.324/.360 in the postseason overall. It’s not happening for him any more than it is for Choo, Gordon, or Markakis, who fell 622 hits short of 3,000, finally laying a perennial hypothetical question to rest.
With no newcomers likely to be elected, this should be the opening for Sabathia, and possibly Jones. Given the scarcity of starting pitchers being elected, Sabathia’s milestones will carry the day. I think Jones, in the ninth year of his candidacy, will gain entry before Beltrán, though I expect the latter will be gathering some momentum by this point.
Top newcomers: Buster Posey, Jon Lester, Brett Gardner, Kyle Seager, Ryan Zimmerman
Top holdovers: Beltrán, Utley, Hamels, Rodriguez
Most likely to be elected: Posey, Beltrán
Falling off: Omar Vizquel
Posey’s sudden retirement at age 34, after his strongest offensive performance in at least half a decade, left him with just 1,500 career hits, but his seven All-Star appearances, three championships, MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Gold Glove awards and 129 OPS+ make for a full enough resumé for Cooperstown; all that’s missing is watching him break down, and who really needs to see that? By JAWS, his 36.6 peak score is ninth all-time, nearly two full wins above the standard, and that’s without considering the impact of his elite pitch framing; he’s fifth in our version of the metric for the 2009-21 period, and second in that of Baseball Prospectus; in both, he’s just ahead of Molina, who caught roughly twice as many innings (though only 44% more in the window covered by our metric). Short career and all, I believe he’ll join Bench and Rodriguez on the ridiculously small list of catchers elected on their first ballot.
(Remember above where I said the first-ballot distinction is annoying? Some of that is because the BBWAA voters lost credibility in this area by not electing Yogi Berra, Gary Carter, and Piazza on the first go.)
Of the rest, the one who will generate significant discussion is Lester. With his 200 wins, three championship rings, and big-game reputation (9-7, 2.51 ERA in 154 postseason innings), his candidacy will get some attention, but his 43.4 WAR is about 15-17 lower than the Buehrle/Hudson/Pettitte trio; he’s 152nd in S-JAWS, 96 spots (and 12 points) below Sabathia. Gardner, Seager, and Zimmerman each spent their careers with one franchise and deserve their spots in the hearts of fans, but none had the value, the accomplishments, or the staying power to make a dent in Hall voting.
Though I undershot Beltrán’s first-year estimated share by about 10 percentage points in a poll conducted by the Ballot Tracker folks last year and thus bumped my estimate back a year in my candidate-by-candidate breakdown, the landscape here suggests this will be his time to gain entry. Meanwhile, you may have noticed that I made no mention of the trajectory of Vizquel. Allegations of multiple incidents of domestic violence against his wife and sexual harassment of an an autistic batboy led to him setting a modern record with a 25.2% drop on the 2022 ballot, from 49.1% to 23.9%, and he slipped to 19.5% this year. His situation is without parallel in the annals of Hall of Fame voting, and so given the lack of precedent, I have stuck to an assumption that he will remain a lower-tier candidate through his remaining eligibility, unable to regain the ground or the respect that he lost.
The relatively weak ballot will open an opportunity for all kinds of holdovers who have clung to the ballot in the lower reaches to take steps forward. I’d be surprised if any of them gets to 75% from the writers at all, but getting above 40% and creating some appeal as an Era Committee candidate is more attainable. Pettitte will be in his ninth year, Abreu his eighth, Buehrle his seventh, A-Rod and Jimmy Rollins their sixth. Utley, in his fourth year, and Hamels, in his second (barring a comeback), should be setting faster paces that give them hopes of bigger things from the writers… eventually.
Top newcomers: Albert Pujols, Robinson Canó, David Price, Yadier Molina
Top holdovers: Utley, Hamels, Pettitte, Buehrle, Rodriguez
Most likely to be elected: Pujols, Molina
Falling off: Pettitte
The list of newcomers here assumes Zack Greinke returns to pitch either for Kansas City or for another team for 2023; either way, he’s generating some interest [Update: Shortly after this went live, Bob Fescoe of 610 Sports Radio in Kansasy City reported that the Royals would indeed sign him]. On the other side of the coin, I’d be surprised if the 40-year-old Canó makes it onto another major league roster after hitting a combined .150/.183/.190 in 104 PA while netting -1.5 WAR for three teams in 2022. He’ll make $24 million in the 10th and final year of his $240 million megadeal, most of it to be paid by the Mets, so I wouldn’t expect him to officially retire without collecting the money. An eight-time All-Star who collected 2,639 hits and 335 homers, he ranks seventh in JAWS among second basemen, but whether he debuts on the 2027 ballot or not, his Hall of Fame chances are as dead on arrival as those of Ramirez given his two PED suspensions, and 80-gamer in 2018 and a full season in ’21.
As for the other player who signed a 10-year, $240 million deal once upon a time, Pujols took one of the greatest victory laps in major league history in 2022, once his was done. Returning to St. Louis, the 42-year-old slugger hit 24 homers, his highest total since 2015, producing a 154 OPS+, pushing his career WAR back into triple digits (101.7), and making his 11th and final All-Star team. His big year helped him become just the fourth player to reach the 700-homer plateau (he finished with 703) and along the way, he climbed to 10th in hits (3,384). While it won’t erase all memories of his nine-plus years of diminishing returns in Anaheim, going out on a high note should goose Pujols’ share of the vote into the 98-99% range.
The celebration may well help Molina get to 75% by riding his coattails. A 10-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove winner, he earned a reputation as one of the game’s best pitch framers and staff handlers. We have metrics to back up the first of those assertions, in that he’s third in our version of framing runs dating back to 2008 (151), and fourth in BP’s version that goes back to 1988). As for the second, we have a lot of anecdotes as well as a count showing that he was a part of 13 playoff teams, the starter on two World series winners and one more pennant winner, but we don’t have a real means of quantifying that value in runs. He’s just 22nd in JAWS among catchers, well below all but three Hall of Famers, but as with Martin, McCann, and Posey above I don’t think off-the-shelf JAWS is the right thing to use; as noted above I have him fifth in my FanGraphs Framing-Inclusive JAWS. Combine that with the industry consensus of his future in Cooperstown and I think he’ll have enough momentum to get in.
As a former Cy Young winner (and two-time runner-up) who made five All-Star teams, pitched for nine playoff teams, and helped the Red Sox win a championship in 2018, Price certainly packed a lot into his 14-year career. Elbow problems and the pandemic limited him to just one 30-start season past his age-30 campaign, however, leaving him with 157 wins, a 123 ERA+, 40.1 WAR, and the no. 178 ranking in S-JAWS.
I don’t think anyone else will be close enough to gain entry in 2028, which leaves us with a total of 11 candidates elected over the five-year cycle, up one from last year’s outlook and the one before, though the names changed (I had some hope of Sheffield getting to 75% two years ago, and Posey wasn’t on the radar yet.
Either way, my projection includes three more honorees than the eight elected by the BBWAA from the 2019-23 span, and up from nine — a very tentative nine, counting Bonds and Clemens — when I ran this exercise following the 2020 election. The picture can change quickly with a couple of elections that shuffle things around.
Beyond the numbers, the relief of Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling no longer being the BBWAA’s problem should keep this process a bit more pleasant, and even make it downright exciting as we embrace and celebrate members of the 3,000 hit club, great backstops, and a few more comebacks from ballot oblivion. I’d still like to find a way to get more starting pitchers into the Hall, but we may have to wait for Greinke and his contemporaries to call it a day. Still, there’s fun to be had over the next five years.
Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and Mastodon @jay_jaffe.
I could be wrong but I think Colon will get more support than expected.because of the 247 wins. There are not going to be many guys with substantially more wins than him any time in the near future and if he can stay on the ballot he is only going to look better and better as the years pass. I don’t think the writers ever put him in, but it isn’t impossible that they set him up for a good chance in some future committee because he isn’t worse than Baines or Kent, who many seem to think will get in.
No one can argue that I do look better and better as the years pass.
I think it would be an interesting case, but the PED suspension makes any marginal candidate dead on arrival.
Jamie Moyer didn’t have the decent peak that Colon had, but he won 269 games and was by all accounts a great character guy (Roberto Clemente Award) and he got 2.4%. I could see Colon beating that, but on a crowded ballot I can’t see him getting 5%. Has any marginal candidate with a PED suspension against him survived the first ballot?
Because he was a bit of a curiosity at that point and his PED suspension didn’t draw the same outrage, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Colon stick around on the ballot for several years, a la Andy Pettite and Mark Buehrle. Those 247 wins will definitely swing some voters to stick with him for much longer than you’d expect otherwise.
I think he’d be the only marginal candidate with an actual PED suspension, since Pettitte wasn’t actually suspended, and nor was Ortiz.
Considering how the non-Ortiz PED guys have fared, I just can’t see him getting any support.
He wasn’t anywhere near as good as the guys in the PED (Bonds, Clemens, etc. and really I feel silly putting Bonds and Colon in the same parentheses), nor was he as good as the other compiler types like Buehrle and Pettitte. I don’t think he gets 5%
Bartolo also has the most wins in MLB history for a Latin American-born pitcher, which may not carry him into the hall but deserves and warrants mention in every analysis of his career.
From 2004-2012 he also led the league in visits to Ryan’s Steakhouse for a Latin American-born player which also bears mentioning