Dialing It Down a Notch: The Next Five Years of BBWAA Hall of Fame Elections by Jay Jaffe January 31, 2022 Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports 2022 BBWAA Ballot IntroTodd HeltonCrowdsource BallotScott RolenGary SheffieldDavid OrtizBilly WagnerAndruw JonesJimmy RollinsBonds, Clemens, Schilling, and SosaOmar VizquelBobby AbreuJoe NathanJeff Kent and Manny RamirezMark TeixeiraBuehrle, Hudson, and PettitteTorii HunterAlex RodriguezJay's 2022 BallotPrince FielderJustin MorneauRyan HowardA.J. PierzynskiCarl CrawfordJake PeavyTim LincecumJonathan PapelbonCrowdsource ResultsBBWAA ResultsCandidate-by-Candidate BreakdownThe Next Five Years The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2022 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. After last year’s shutout ended a remarkable run of 22 candidates elected over a seven-year span, this year the BBWAA got back to the business of electing players — or player, singular, given that David Ortiz was the 2022 cycle’s sole honoree. Even with Ortiz’s election, it seems clear that the upcoming years for the writers’ ballot will produce far fewer honorees than this recent stretch, which set all kinds of records even without Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa gaining entry due to the controversies attached to their respective candidacies. Even setting the issue of performance-enhancing drugs aside for the moment, the past decade has amply illustrated that the dynamics of a Hall of Fame candidacy have changed. As I noted last year, 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 1981), Don Drysdale (21.0% in 1975, elected in ’84) and Billy Williams (23.4% in 1982, elected in ’87). Since then, we’ve seen five players elected despite such slow starts, including three from 2017-20. From the 15-year eligibility period came Bruce Sutter (23.9% in 1994, elected in 2006) and Bert Blyleven (17.5% in ’98, elected in 2011), and then once the Hall unilaterally cut eligibility to 10 years — less to clean up the ballots than to move 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), and Larry Walker (20.3% in 2011, elected in ’20). Across the past two election cycles, three slow starters have crossed the 50% threshold, the point at which eventual election becomes a near-certainty, and another two have crossed the 40% threshold, the point at which the odds really start to tilt in a candidate’s favor: Slow Starters Gaining Ground Player Year Pct Year Pct Scott Rolen 2018 10.2% 2022 63.2% Todd Helton 2019 16.2% 2022 52.0% Billy Wagner 2016 10.5% 2022 51.0% Andruw Jones 2018 7.3% 2022 41.4% Gary Sheffield 2015 11.7% 2022 40.6% Every candidate who has reached 50% via the writers and is no longer on the ballot has eventually been elected save for this year’s “graduating” class of Bonds, Clemens and Schilling. Of the 43 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), 20 were elected by the writers and another 16 by small committees; that last count includes Gil Hodges and Tony Oliva, elected via the recent Golden Days Era Committee ballot. In other words, it’s reasonable 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-standstill caused by the debates over PEDs and character issues, though that isn’t to say those issues won’t (or shouldn’t) factor into future elections. With that preamble, it’s time to break out my crystal ball for my ninth-annual five-year election outlook. It’s an exercise that requires 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 those nine years raise the question of how valuable that history is from a prognostication standpoint. I’ve found that 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 – such as Ortiz, whom I’d spent the past few years projecting for a 2023 election — can have ramifications that won’t be felt for a few years. For the sake of this exercise, I am assuming that the Hall will keep the 10 votes per ballot system in place, 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. 2023 Top newcomers (ranked by JAWS): Carlos Beltrán, John Lackey, Jered Weaver, Jhonny Peralta, Francisco Rodríguez Top holdovers (by voting pct.): Rolen, Helton, Wagner, Jones, Sheffield Most likely to be elected: Rolen Falling off: Jeff Kent With two-year and three-year gains that both rank as the fourth-largest of the modern voting era, Rolen has climbed within range of election, following a path that resembles that of Mussina, who gained entry in his sixth year in 2019, more so than those of Raines or Edgar Martinez, who took until their 10th (2017 and ’19, respectively). Granted, of the 42 times in modern history that a candidate has landed in the 60-66% range with eligibility remaining, only nine times has that player been elected the following year, but five of the whiffs belong to Bonds and Clemens, and we can’t count Rolen as missing out yet. What’s more, of the last four candidates to get to that point besides the Gruesome Twosome, Mussina (63.5% in 2018) and Barry Larkin (62.1% in 2011) both went in a year later, while Schilling (60.94% in 2019) and Mike Piazza (62.2% in 2014) might have if not for the controversies that held them back. As recently as three years ago, I believed that Beltrán would go in on the first ballot. He’s got a Hall-caliber resumé, with nine All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves, 2,725 hits, 435 homers, outstanding postseason numbers (.307/.412/.609 with 16 homers) and the number nine ranking among center fielders in JAWS. However, the 2020 report of Beltrán’s central role in the Astros’ 2017 illegal sign-stealing saga, which cost him his managerial job with the Mets before he’d even set foot in the dugout, is obviously a setback. I still don’t think we know the extent to which voters will hold it against him, even with fellow managers Alex Cora and A.J. Hinch welcomed back into the game almost immediately after their suspensions ended; as the PED saga has shown regarding Bonds and Mark McGwire, MLB employment does not equal BBWAA forgiveness, whether or not one was officially disciplined. Will Beltrán’s participation be regarded as a Rafael Palmeiro-level offense, from his final playing year but nonetheless viewed as disqualifying? Or will it be more like the Roberto Alomar spitting incident, a rare lapse that delays the celebration? Last week, a Ballot Tracker poll of “22 HOF voters, luminaries, and keen observers (plus ourselves)” yielded a mean of 53.2%, a median of 58%, and a range of 20% to 69%; I had 53% myself, but that was without looking at last year’s guess here, which was in the 40-50% range. Maybe my optimism stemmed from Ortiz landing about 21 points higher than my own one-year-out guess of 57%, but even if Beltrán lands in the 40% range, as noted that’s the kind of share that generally indicates eventual election. As far as the newcomers go, the rest of the ballot is slim pickings. Lackey is 207th in S-JAWS among starting pitchers (see here if you want the S-JAWS explanation), and he’s the best of the bunch. Rodríguez, who ranks fourth with 437 career saves, is 12th in R-JAWS (see here if you want the R-JAWS explanation), but after the eighth- and 10th-ranked relievers in the latter (Joe Nathan and Jonathan Papelbon, respectively) went one-and-done on this year’s ballot, I don’t think that’s a great spot to be. What’s more, K-Rod comes with significant baggage regarding multiple criminal charges, including a guilty plea to third-degree assault for attacking his girlfriend’s father in 2010, allegations of domestic violence against that girlfriend, and a ’12 arrest for a domestic abuse charge involving another woman. He’s not getting elected. Kent, whose lack of traction with voters has always surprised me even given his underwhelming WAR and JAWS, will be in his final year. While he won’t be close to election, his surpassing 20% in 2020 and 30% in ’21 already set him up for an Era Committee vote, and even after spinning his wheels this year, I think he could surge towards 40% in his finale, like Alan Trammell (elected via the Modern Baseball Era Committee in 2018) and Fred McGriff (a likely 2023 Today’s Game candidate) did. I expect Helton to top 60% here, following the Mussina/Rolen path. I think Wagner will lag a bit because of the electorate’s built-in resistance to relievers, making a 10th-year election (2025) more likely than a ninth-year one. But as noted in my candidate-by-candidate roundup, he’s ahead of where Raines, Martinez, and Walker were in year seven. Jones and Sheffield should push 50%, with the latter restored to many of the ballots from which he was dropped to make room for Ortiz and/or Alex Rodriguez. 2024 Top newcomers: Adrián Beltré, Chase Utley, Joe Mauer, David Wright, Bartolo Colon Top holdovers: Helton, Wagner, Jones, Beltrán Most likely to be elected: Beltré, Helton Falling off: Sheffield This ballot will harken back to the period we’ve just experienced 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 the 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 2004 walk year made him something of 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 impediment, 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. The hometown success story and overall number one 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, Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez, and I suspect the late-career downturn could delay Mauer’s entry. He’ll be in Cooperstown in short order, but maybe not in 2024. Less likely to wind up there, at least on 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, Utley finished with just 1,885 hits, and even with the recent 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. 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 this past fall. 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, but 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. 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 JAWS merely ranks him 132nd in S-JAWS, he’ll probably 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, a year ago I believed that the structural resistance to relievers and Coors Field denizens would split up Helton and Wagner, and tossed a coin in favor of the latter gaining entry here; this time I’m going with Helton based on the conversations I’ve had with voters and a look at the Tracker. As for Sheffield, his comparability to Ortiz, and the relatively minimal nature of his PED connection are reasons for optimism about his electoral chances. But after losing a year to ballot traffic, with voters setting him aside at least temporarily to include Ortiz and Rodriguez, adding another 34.4% in two years is a very tall order; only five candidates have done so, though Rolen (+35.7% from 2019 to ’21) and Larry Walker (+42.5% from 2018 to ’20) offer recent examples. My bet is that Sheffield ages off the ballot, albeit with over 50% of the vote, and becomes a strong candidate on a crowded Era Committee ballot. 2025 Top newcomers: Ichiro Suzuki, CC Sabathia, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Félix Hernández, Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Zobrist, Russell Martin, Brian McCann, Top holdovers: Mauer, Wagner, Beltrán, Jones, Utley, Alex Rodriguez Most likely to be elected: Suzuki, Mauer, Wagner Falling off: Wagner (if not elected) 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 Rivera and Jeter towards unanimity, 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 (50.9, 55th all-time), but by far the highest ranked among recent retirees. Between that and the second act of his career, which included him confronting his alcoholism and remaking 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 the traffic. Kinsler, who retired with 1,999 hits (!!!), ranks a very respectable 20th in JAWS. He isn’t the equal of Utley, at the plate (107 OPS+ to 117), on the bases, or in the field (118 DRS to 141, 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 ages 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 though a near-standard peak score of 40.2 (he’s 3.0 points below, while Pedroia is 3.5 below and Kinsler 6.4 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. 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 wore down significantly after age 32, playing in just 245 games over his final three seasons. Martin caught for 10 playoff-bound teams and was a pivotal player 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. A year ago it was unclear whether any of these players were less motivated to seek work for 2020 due to the pandemic and might return for ’21, but only Hernández even tried, and he wound up requesting his release after suffering an elbow injury while in camp with the Orioles. A six-time All-Star with a Cy Young award, two other runner-up finishes, and two ERA titles, he fell apart in his early 30s, finishing with just 169 wins, 2,524 strikeouts, and 2,729.2 innings. If Santana and his two Cy Youngs couldn’t break through, I don’t see King Félix doing so. Amid the crowd, I think Wagner join the ranks of the year-10 honorees, and Mauer will build on a strong first-year showing and gain entry as well. Jones should be climbing towards 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. 2026 Top newcomers: Ryan Braun, Cole Hamels, Alex Gordon, Shin-Soo Choo, Edwin Encarnación, Nick Markakis Top holdovers: Sabathia, Beltrán, Jones, Alex Rodriguez, Utley Most likely to be elected: Sabathia, Jones Falling off: Manny Ramirez The 2020 season left us short in many areas, quite possibly including the retirement department. Perhaps it’s the case that few players wanted to end their careers following such a strange campaign. At this writing, Braun owns the highest WAR (47.1) of any player who’s officially retired, while Hamels (59.3) is on the showcase-to-draw-interest treadmill after triceps and shoulder injuries limited him to a single start in 2020 and a thwarted comeback attempt this past year. Meanwhile, the presumption is that Robinson Canó (69.6) and Justin Verlander, neither of whom has played since 2020, will return as they’re under contract though ’23 (the latter via a player option, after re-signing with the Astros). 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, while the second, via the Biogenesis investigation, he served a 65-game suspension. He’s not even as strong a candidate as Ramirez, who will be in his final year; Hall-wise, both are toast. Maybe A-Rod will be gaining some ground, but I suspect his ceiling is lower than those of Bonds and Clemens because of his lengthy suspension. Hamels made four All-Star teams and won a World Series, but 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 short of the 200-plus for Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson, and Andy Pettitte, and aside from sticking around near the bottom of the ballot, none of them made any real headway towards election. Encarnación, with 424 homers and some big postseason moments, might seem to have a case as the next designated hitter after Ortiz, but his 35.5 WAR is about 20 fewer than Ortiz, and 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. With no newcomers likely to be elected, this should be the opening for Sabathia, whose milestones will carry the day amid a scarcity of starting pitchers being elected. I think this could be the opening for Jones, in the ninth year of his candidacy, and I expect Beltrán will be gathering some momentum by this point. 2027 Top newcomers: Buster Posey, Jon Lester, Kyle Seager Top holdovers: Beltrán, Utley, Alex 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 since his debut in 2009, and second in that of Baseball Prospectus. Short career and all, I believe he’ll join Bench and Rodriguez on the short list of catchers elected on their first ballot. Due to the lockout, we’re still waiting to hear about the plans of Albert Pujols (an obvious first-ballot honoree), Zack Greinke (a likely first-ballot guy as well), and Ryan Zimmerman (a key player in Nationals history, but no Hall of Famer), but it’s possible they could land here. Until then, the best of the official retirees 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 44.2 WAR is about 14-16 lower than the Buehrle/Hudson/Pettitte trio; he’s 149th in S-JAWS, 96 spots (and 11.5 points) below Sabathia. Seager had a nice career but it was just 11 seasons, with one All-Star appearance and no postseason games. I think this will be Beltrán’s opening, but I may very well be under- or over-estimating the extent to which the sign-stealing scandal affects his candidacy; we’ll know more in a year. Meanwhile, you may have noticed that I made no mention of the trajectory of Vizquel. In the wake of allegations of multiple incidents of domestic violence against his wife and sexual harassment of an an autistic batboy, both of which surfaced in the past 15 months, he set a modern record with a 25.2-point drop, from 49.1% to 23.9%. 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 final five years of eligibility, unable to regain the ground that he lost. All told, that’s 10 candidates elected over the five-year cycle, the same number that I came up with last year, albeit in a slightly different configuration, with Jones and Posey swapped in for Sheffield, and Ortiz getting elected before he could become a holdover. Either way, that’s down from the 11 actual honorees over the 2018-22 span, and up from nine — a very tentative nine, counting Bonds and Clemens — when I ran this exercise following the 2020 election. The post-2020 and post-’22 forecasts have just four players in common (Beltré, Mauer, Rolen, and Suzuki); the picture can change just that much with a couple of elections that shuffle things around, though shifting the time horizon is a factor as well, as I’ve got players such as Jones and Beltrán sticking around for awhile but getting in eventually. Beyond the numbers, the graduations of Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling from the BBWAA ballot should provide some relief. Yes, the debates over whether they got what they deserved will continue to smolder, and the trio will resurface on the Today’s Game ballots in 2023 and ’25. The subject of PEDs will still loom thanks to A-Rod and Manny, and the topic of other character-related matters will stick around thanks to Vizquel. Even if Beltrán becomes a new focal point, I don’t think any of those conversations will be as charged as they’ve been in recent years, and that will be a refreshing change.