HOF Announcement Day: What to Watch

With the Hall of Fame announcement of the 2019 Class set for this evening, many baseball fans are eagerly awaiting the 6 PM EST arrival of results. We perused our Tracker and uncovered voting trends for most of the candidates on the ballot for you to enjoy while you’re waiting to pop the champagne. If you’re from Seattle or Toronto, we would suggest that you go ahead and book a Cooperstown hotel for July’s induction weekend as soon as you’re finished reading. If you’re a New Yorker, pack up the car and bring enough lawn chairs for 50,000 others. Here is a rundown of the vote through 226 ballots, ordered by current vote percentage in the tracker:

Mariano Rivera (226-of-226, 100%)

Spoiler alert: Mariano Rivera will be elected to the Hall of Fame later this evening. He almost certainly won’t be elected unanimously, but he could conceivably top Ken Griffey Jr.’s record-setting 99.32% share. In order to outpace Grifey’s 437-of-440 mark, Rivera can miss no more than two votes, since the number of ballots cast is expected to be be fewer than it was in 2016.

Highest BBWAA Vote Shares
Rank Inductee Year Vote %
1 Ken Griffey Jr. 2016 99.32%
2 Tom Seaver 1992 98.84%
3 Nolan Ryan 1999 98.79%
4 Cal Ripken Jr. 2007 98.53%
5 Ty Cobb 1936 98.23%
6 George Brett 1999 98.19%
7 Hank Aaron 1982 97.83%
8 Tony Gwynn 2007 97.61%
9 Randy Johnson 2015 97.27%
10 Greg Maddux 2014 97.20%
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Rivera will become the second relief pitcher elected by the BBWAA in as many years, following Trevor Hoffman’s induction a year ago – not to mention the Today’s Game Committee’s selection of Lee Smith just one month ago. In an interview for Mark Newman’s Yankee Legends, Hoffman said of Rivera, “He has been a great ambassador for the game and he’ll be a welcome addition here.”

Rivera is set to become to first pure reliever inducted into the Hall of Fame on his first opportunity. Dennis Eckersley received 83.2% in 2004, but he spent the first 12 seasons of his career predominantly working as a starting pitcher before shifting to the bullpen full-time in 1997.

Roy Halladay (210-of-226, 92.9%)

Roy Halladay stands a very good chance at posthumously becoming the 56th first-ballot Hall of Famer. All types of voters have taken to his candidacy, checking his name at least 85% of the time on every ballot size except zero-to-four player ones. The current estimate is that he will need a “yes” vote on 53.2% of the remaining ballots to clear the 75% threshold.

The most any candidate has ever dropped in his pre-announcement to post-announcement totals is Mike Mussina, who fell 11.0% in 2015. Halladay’s percentage could fall that far and he’d still be inducted with more than 80% of the vote.

Will 90% of voters vote for Halladay? A vote share that high for a starting pitcher is actually much rarer than you’d think.

Highest Vote Shares for SPs
Candidate Percentage
Tom Seaver 98.8%
Nolan Ryan 98.8%
Randy Johnson 97.3%
Greg Maddux 97.2%
Steve Carlton 95.6%
Bob Feller 93.8%
Jim Palmer 92.6%
Tom Glavine 91.9%
Pedro Martinez 91.1%
Christy Mathewson 90.7%
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

He could become the 11th starting pitcher in history to receive 90% of the vote if he stays above that mark.

Regardless of where his vote share ends up, it is a near-certainty he will be inducted into Cooperstown as one of the all-time greats, and next July will be a celebration of the life one of baseball’s best.

Edgar Martinez (204-of-226, 90.3%)

After falling 20 votes short in 2018, Edgar Martinez fans should be encouraged by the DH’s early returns. He’s seen 46 of his “no” voters from last year reveal their ballots and has received a “yes” vote from 26 of them. Incorporating one lost vote, he is currently at +25. There is always a degree of uncertainty in how the electorate will change from one year to the next, but he’s in great shape.

Since the BBWAA returned to annual voting in 1966, there have been seven instances of a candidate receiving at least 55% of the vote in their penultimate year on the ballot. All seven have been inducted eventually, though some needed help from a small committee to gain entry. Martinez is the third player in the last 15 years to reach 65% of the vote entering their final try. His situation compares well to the previous two.

Edgar Martinez Compared To HOF History
Candidate Penultimate % Penultimate Yr Final Yr %
Jim Rice 72.2% 2008 76.4%
Tim Raines 69.8% 2016 86.0%
Edgar Martinez 70.4% 2018 TBD
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Like Raines, Martinez had a strong campaign elevate his candidacy. He went from 27% to 43.4% to 58.6% to 70.4% of the vote, and appears primed to hear his name announced today, becoming the second player in three years to earn election in their final year of eligibility.

One last note of intrigue concerns whether Martinez can set the record for the highest vote share for a player in their final year. Currently, Tim Raines holds that record with 86.0% in 2017. Can Martinez remain that high? He’s dropped more than that in previous years, but so too had Raines.

Edgar Martinez Compared To Tim Raines
Candidate Yr9 Final-Pre Yr10 Pre Yr10 Final Yr10 Final-Pre Diff (Yr10-Yr9 Split)
Tim Raines -5.6% 88.8% 86.0% -2.8% 2.8%
Edgar Martinez -6.9% 90.3% TBD TBD TBD
SOURCE: HOF Tracker

If the difference between his final and pre-announcement results increases by the same amount as Raines’ did, 90.2% would be the mark to target in order to beat Raines’ record.

Mike Mussina (184-of-226, 81.4%)

Mussina emerged early in this cycle as the ballot’s most interesting bubble candidate. He received 63.5% of the vote last year, just 49 votes shy of election.

A more detailed breakdown of Mussina’s chances was published here last week, but many ballots have been revealed since then.

He’s only received one additional vote on these new ballots, but it was from a voter who voted only for the four inductees last year, a “Small Hall, no PED” voter. That group still likely comprises the majority of remaining voters, so for Mussina to change a mind there bodes well for his chances.

This evening, Mussina fans should hope he once again experiences a post-announcement surge.

Mike Mussina’s HOF Progress
Year Yr0 ‘Pre’ % Yr0 ‘Post’ % Yr1 ‘Pre’ % Yr1 ‘Post’ % Pre’ Gain Post” Gain
2017 50.2% 35.9% 59.0% 42.5% 8.8% 6.6%
2018 59.0% 42.5% 70.0% 54.3% 11.0% 11.8%
2019 70.0% 54.3% 81.4% TBD 11.6% TBD
SOURCE: HOF Tracker

Since inactive voters began losing voting eligibility, Mussina’s post-announcement gains have by and large kept pace with his pre-announcement gains percentage-wise. He needs an overall gain of 11.5% to clear 75%. If the pattern holds, he’ll be agonizingly close to the votes he needs.

It’s also worth noting that players who have been in the 80% range have seen the differential between their pre-announcement and final share shrink. After drops of 6.7%, 6.3%, and 5.6% the year before they were each elected, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, and Raines saw their final shares decrease by only 1.4%, 3.3%, and 2.8% when they crossed 75%. If Mussina’s gap shrinks, that would help a lot.

Barry Bonds (161-of-226, 71.2%) and Roger Clemens (162-of-226, 71.7%)

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are grouped together here because their situations are virtually identical. One is arguably the greatest player of all-time; the other is arguably among the greatest pitchers of all-time. They would have been in the Hall of Fame years ago if not for their connections to performance-enhancing drugs. Instead, they have been passed over six times. Clemens reached 57.3% last year, while Bonds got to 56.4%.

Both men have seen virtually no change in support from 2017 to now; Bonds has netted just four public votes in the last two cycles, with Clemens gaining six. So is there any hope that these two make it to Cooperstown on the BBWAA’s ballot?

Well, both candidates are much closer to the 75% threshold now than they were just a few years back. After each landed in almost exactly the same spot from 2013 to 2015, the duo has seen a series of favorable events fall their way.

The Hall reduced the window of eligibility for players to be considered from 15 to 10 years prior to the 2015 election. While seemingly hurting their chances by allotting them fewer opportunities on the ballot, Bonds and Clemens may have actually benefited, as the 10-year limit has coincided with a number of players making large gains in an effort by voters to get worthy players inducted before their time runs out.

Of much greater aid to Bonds and Clemens was the Hall’s decision to dramatically decrease the voter pool prior to the 2016 election, which meant revoking the voting rights of honorary BBWAA members who had not held active status within the last 10 years. This rule change preceded jumps of 7.7% and 7.5% for Clemens and Bonds, respectively, in 2016.

The very next year, the Today’s Game Committee inducted Bud Selig to the Hall of Fame, nearly unanimously. Pandamonium ensued following the selection of the man who presided over the Steroid Era and chose to ignore what was happening in the sport, and as a result, a large number of voters began supporting Bonds and Clemens, feeling as though there is no reason they should be kept out if Selig was already enshrined. Clemens tacked on an additional 8.9% and Bonds increased his share by 9.5%.

As already mentioned, the support for these two has hit a wall in the two years since. Support will continue to grow slowly due to voter turnover as new voters enter the pool and older voters lose eligibility. Since the election of Bud Selig, public first-time voters have overwhelmingly supported both – Clemens at 31-of-35 and Bonds at a 30-of-35 clip.

Still, some chips have to fall the right way for Bonds and Clemens to have a shot at BBWAA induction. Much like with Curt Schilling, the first hurdle is clearing 60% of the vote. It may not be as dramatic as with other candidates, but it is likely that there are voters who will begin to support Bonds and Clemens if, say, a 60-65% majority of their peers have already done so.

It is also conceivable that a handful of voters are simply waiting until 2022 – the final time Bonds and Clemens will appear on the writers’ ballot – to check those two boxes.

A lot can happen over the course of three years. Perhaps there will be yet another referendum by the Hall that, whether intentionally or inadvertently, will present a more favorable outlook for the two of the arguably most widely debated candidates in history.

Curt Schilling (158-of-226, 69.9%)

After Schilling praised a photo of a t-shirt that advocated the lynching of journalists, his support dropped from 52.3% to 45.0%. He recovered most of that lost support in the 2018 cycle, rising to 51.2%, but along the way lost two valuable years of eligibility. At +17, he’s been among the big gainers so far this cycle, but it might be too little, too late.

The most important benchmark for Schilling’s eventual candidacy is clearing 60%. Only Gil Hodges has cleared that mark with the BBWAA and failed to later make the Hall of Fame. Schilling has three more tries left before his Hall fate is left in the hands of small committees. If Mussina is elected this year, Schilling will be the top returning candidate without a hard link to performance-enhancing drugs, though his offensive and inflammatory public persona persists. In recent years, top returners without a tie to PEDs have usually been inducted in short order.

Top Ballot Returners
Year #1 Returnee Percentage #2 Returnee Percentage
2016 Mike Piazza (69.9%) 83.0% Jeff Bagwell (55.7%) 71.6%
2017 Jeff Bagwell (71.4%) 86.2% Tim Raines (69.9) 86.0%
2018 Trevor Hoffman (74.0%) 79.9% Vladimir Guerrero (71.7%) 92.9%
2019 Edgar Martinez (70.4%) TBD Mike Mussina (63.5%) TBD
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference and the HOF Tracker

Piazza, Raines, Hoffman, and Vladimir Guerrero were all inducted in their first try as one of the top two returning clean candidates. Martinez is expected to follow suit, and Mussina might as well.

At 60%, Schilling would need to average a gain of just 5% per year to make it to 75%. If he does better, his chances increase that much more. He won’t be elected today, but the important thing to look at when assessing his future candidacy will be whether or not he can clear into the 60s and whether Mussina is elected.

Larry Walker (149-of-226, 65.9%)

A breakdown of Larry Walker’s candidacy was explored in full last week, with some of the findings updated below following the influx of 49 ballots since then.

After seeing a huge uptick in public ballot support (+47 net gained votes so far) and appearing on 75.8% of all ballots of at least seven votes cast, Walker appears primed for a huge vote increase this year. Come 2020, there is a chance Walker is in a very similar position to where Mussina finds himself now. Ballot space will be cleared as four or five candidates – including Fred McGriff – who received a sizable vote total will exit the ballot in advance of next year. As with McGriff and Martinez, it is quite common for candidates to receive an additional boost in their final year of BBWAA eligibility.

The sudden, dramatic increase Walker has experienced is rather unprecedented, and it should allow him to clear 55% with relative ease. He’d be hard-pressed to see such a jump next year, but then again, nobody foresaw his current trends as a possibility either.

Fred McGriff (89-of-226, 39.4%)

Three years ago, Alan Trammell entered his final year of eligibility with the BBWAA with just 25.1% support. He went +39 among public, returning voters en route to surpassing 40%, then was promptly elected his first try in front of a small committee.

Smith didn’t enjoy the same final-year bump, in no small part due to the presence of Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and Guerrero all debuting alongside him, but he had previously cleared 50% in 2012. He was elected unanimously by the Today’s Game Committee last month.

McGriff’s best path towards induction is to follow in their footsteps and clear 40%. If he can do that, he might be viewed favorably when his name is put before a committee in a few years. Right now, he’s trending in the upper 30s, but has typically fared better with later ballots than earlier ones. Whether that holds now that he has been getting additions from voters who vote for 10 players remains to be seen.

His meteoric rise is one of the biggest stories of the cycle, however, and it will be extremely interesting to see if he ends up over 40%.

Largest Swings On Public Ballots
Rank Year Candidate Net +/- (Public Ballots)
1 2018 Vladimir Guerrero +56
2 2016 Edgar Martinez +51
3 2017 Edgar Martinez +48
4 2019 Larry Walker +47
5 2019 Fred McGriff* +45
6 2018 Larry Walker +40
T7 2016 Alan Trammell* +39
T7 2016 Mike Mussina +39
T9 2018 Edgar Martinez +37
T9 2017 Tim Raines* +37
11 2017 Jeff Bagwell +33
12 2016 Jeff Bagwell +32
T13 2018 Mike Mussina +31
T13 2016 Tim Raines +31
T13 2016 Curt Schilling +31
T16 2017 Barry Bonds +27
T16 2017 Roger Clemens +27
T18 2017 Mike Mussina +26
T18 2017 Trevor Hoffman +26
20 2019 Edgar Martinez* +25
*Final Chance on Ballot
Elected by BBWAA
SOURCE: Ryan Thibodaux

Omar Vizquel (85/226, 37.6%)

In just his second year of eligibility, Omar Vizquel has received the third-most “+1s” of any candidate, with 23. It seems unlikely that he can cross 50%, though if he does, eventual induction would seem to be assured; only one candidate not on the current ballot has ever received 50% of the BBWAA vote and not made the Hall of Fame, though some have needed help from the committees.

Even if Vizquel settles in around 46 to 48%, he has eight more years of eligibility to get the required remaining votes. With fewer players coming onto the ballot in the coming years who are expected to draw significant support, Vizquel could quickly emerge as a candidate for rapid increases.

Only a small handful of players have ever cleared 40% and not gotten into the Hall of Fame, namely Hodges, Marty Marion, Maury Wills, Roger Maris, Tony Oliva, and Steve Garvey.

Vizquel fans should look to 45% as a reasonable target this year, as that’s where most of the above names stopped making further progress.

Manny Ramirez (58-of-226, 25.7%)

Unfortunately for Ramirez, he remains stuck in PED-tainted purgatory on the Hall ballot. After collecting a vote share of 23.8% as a first-time eligible candidate in 2017 and dipping slightly to 22.0% in 2018, he appears set to land right around those two marks yet again. The reasoning behind both why his vote total has been stagnant and is unlikely to change much year-to-year is simple: he is the only player discussed here to be handed a suspension by MLB for a positive PED test, an event that occurred multiple times. For a player who most would agree statistically merits enshrinement, the PED stain is a major obstacle to overcome. One positive sign for Ramirez is that a number of voters may begin to consider him as ballot space permits, holding to the philosophy that he deserves a vote, but not at the expense of another worthy candidate who was never disciplined by MLB for PED usage.

Scott Rolen (48-of-226, 21.2%)

Scott Rolen has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the ballot logjam easing. Of those candidates who received under 20% of the vote last year, he has seen the biggest net increase in votes from returning voters, at +16.

His initial vote share of 10.2% would be historically low for a candidate eventually elected by the BBWAA, but the recent past provides more reason for optimism if Rolen can see a jump to around 19%. In his fifth year of eligibility, Walker received votes on 11.8% of ballots cast and is now expected to clear 50% handily. Martinez bottomed out with 25.2% in his fifth year, and is now on the doorstep of Cooperstown.

Walker and Martinez are but two examples. Mussina went from 20.3% to 63.5% in four years and is expected to receive yet another large jump. If Rolen can quickly distinguish himself from other candidates, he could ride a similar wave of momentum and avoid languishing at the bottom of the ballot for too long.

In that vein, it’s worth watching where he lands relative to Ramirez, Todd Helton, Jeff Kent, and Billy Wagner this year. With four or five of the top candidates exiting the ballot either by election or the expiration of their eligibility, some of these candidates could enter into the top 10 next cycle, which has served as a good indicator of future enshrinement in recent years. From 2007 to 2016, 33 different players ranked in the top 10 of a ballot share at least one time, though Mark McGwire, Bonds, and Clemens all have ties to performance-enhancing drugs. If Martinez and Mussina are both elected, 26 of the 30 candidates without ties to PEDs will already have been elected, and three of the remaining four will be top 10 on this ballot.

Todd Helton (40-of-226, 17.7%)

Todd Helton is perhaps the most intriguing candidate that nobody is paying attention to. In his first ballot appearance, he is performing significantly better than Rolen did pre-announcement a year ago, and the two are within a handful of votes. As touched on last week, the number of votes on any particular ballot has had minimal correlation with the frequency of Helton’s votes. Through 226 public ballots, he has gotten the nod on 25 of 127 (19.7%) ballots on which the maximum 10 spots were utilized. That figure has dropped marginally to 15.2% on all other ballots, and Helton’s name has actually been included most frequently on ballots in the 7-8 vote range (20.6%).

Why is this the case? Helton’s supporters are negatively correlated with Bonds and Clemens voters. On 160 ballots with both Bonds and Clemens, Helton has just 18 votes (11.3%), and just one on a ballot that did not feature 10 checkmarks. However, that ratio has nearly tripled when Bonds and Clemens aren’t chosen; he is 22-for-66 here, a 33.3% share.

The catch here is that, when Bonds and Clemens are excluded, there is the same amount of space available for a Helton vote as there is on a full ballot that includes them. In fact, there may be as much space on a six or seven-player ballot in the former category, as many Bonds and Clemens supporters also vote for Ramirez and/or Sammy Sosa, whereas they are almost always out of consideration for voters who exclude Bonds and Clemens from their ballots.

Since post-announcement reveals have been notoriously unkind to those accused of PED usage, it is very possible that Helton will be the rare candidate who winds up finishing ahead of where he currently tracking.

Jeff Kent (38-of-226, 16.8%)

Kent might be the best example of a candidate who has been lost in the shuffle on the ballot. A player known more for his consistency than anything else, Kent suffers from sharing a ballot with others who were perceived as consummate superstars. He won the 2000 NL MVP Award, but did not record any other top-five finishes.

With just four years of eligibility remaining after 2019, Kent probably won’t ever sniff election by the writers. He does seem like a prime candidate for serious consideration by a small committee somewhere down the road, though.

Billy Wagner (37-of-226, 16.4%)

The time has come for Wagner to make some headway on the ballot. He has flipped 12 voters from a “no” vote to a “yes” vote and has received a checkmark on 16.4% of ballots. Closers typically see a slight boost in the final results, so it is possible that Wagner could wind up at around 20% of the final vote. With the ballot logjam easing, Wagner is a prime candidate to make up a ton of ground in the next few years. He should benefit from a ballot that won’t feature Rivera, Hoffman, or Smith for the first time since Wagner’s 2016 ballot debut.

In theory, Rivera’s tremendous support could draw more attention to the career Wagner authored. Among pitchers to debut in the live-ball era and throw at least 500 innings, Wagner ranks at or near the very top of the leaderboard in virtually every rate stat there is. It stands to reason that Wagner could benefit reasonably well from an internet push, much like Tim Raines was likely aided by Jonah Keri spearheading an artfully-crafted campaign in his honor.

Former Hoffman and Smith voters may well begin to offer some newfound support to Wagner once he is the primary reliever in the spotlight next year.

Gary Sheffield (31-of-226, 13.7%)

As many others have already written, Gary Sheffield has been a victim of the deep pool of candidates throughout his tenure on the ballot. In his first four years of eligibility, Sheffield reeled in 11.7%, 11.6%, 13.3%, and 11.1% shares. Despite 509 home runs and 62.1 WAR, he’s yet to gain much traction with the voters.

Sheffield does have a small link to steroids, but it is unclear how much that suppresses his reputation with the voters. A few other factors may very well be equally (or more) responsible for his lack of support. Like Walker, Sheffield was oft-injured, particularly earlier in his career.

He wore eight different uniforms – none for more than parts of six seasons – and played his most games for the Marlins, a franchise that has lacked the attention paid to to larger-market clubs. The lack of association with one single franchise has likely inhibited his votes to an extent.

Sheffield also comes with a less-than-stellar defensive reputation, one not offset by despite being one of baseball’s most feared hitters – by pitchers and third-base coaches – of his era.

Sheffield probably won’t gain much ground this year, but perhaps when the ballot opens up we will have more knowledge of what exactly has kept his support depressed to this extent. His 18.1% showing on 10-player ballots is up from the 13.3% he sported last year, and going forward that number should continue to trend upward, in all likelihood.

Sammy Sosa (25-of-226, 11.1%)

Sosa was one of four players – along with Kent, Sheffield, and Wagner – who lost support in 2018 from returning voters who had also publicly revealed their ballot the previous year. He did, however, post a decent 4-for-13 showing among public first-time voters and is 3-for-8 so far this year. He has also rebounded slightly from last year, earning back two votes he lost in 2018. He is assured of remaining on the ballot yet again, and he is likely to finish somewhere between 8-10%.

There doesn’t appear to much to look forward to here for Sosa, but perhaps he can eventually surpass the 12.5% high-water mark that he received way back in 2013, his first year of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot. If nothing else, he’s the last candidate guaranteed to return to the 2020 ballot and should stay on for all 10 years before his candidacy moves on to a committee.

Andruw Jones (19-of-226, 8.4%)

One of the biggest questions leading up to the 2018 announcement was whether Andruw Jones would receive the requisite number of votes to remain on the ballot for a second year. He ended up seeing a boost on the ballots which did not reveal prior to the announcement and finished with 7.3%. So far, he has been checked on 19 ballots, with just 12 of his 2018 voters revealing. Nine of those voters voted for him again, and he has also received votes from six voters who did not vote for him in 2018 and four voters who are new to the voting bloc.

He could see modest gains when the results are announced this evening, but if nothing else, he should once again remain above the 5% cutoff for another year.

Andy Pettitte (15-of-226, 6.6%)

Every year, there seems to be one candidate who is in serious danger of being removed from the ballot for further consideration. In 2016, Jim Edmonds fell off the ballot despite 393 home runs and eight Gold Gloves, while in 2017, five World Series rings couldn’t keep Jorge Posada’s candidacy afloat. Last year, the aforementioned Jones skated by with 31 votes, nine above the minimum. With 15 votes on the 226 publicly revealed ballots, Andy Pettitte would appear to be safe at first glance. His vote share has been steadily declining, however; he was on eight of the first 48 ballots and has been on just seven of the last 178. That latter vote share of under 4% has corresponded with more voters from chapters other than New York revealing their ballots, which doesn’t help Pettitte’s chances of clearing the 5% threshold. He only needs six more voters to reach 5%, however, so it is not a reach.

Others

Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Miguel Tejada, and Michael Young each have two or three votes among published ballots, but none is even at 1.5%. The only candidate in Tracker history to clear the 5% minimum to remain on the ballot with less than 4% at announcement time is Nomar Garciaparra in 2015. He received 5.5% of the vote despite being on only 2.0% of pre-announcement ballots. He gives these four a small amount of hope.

We hoped you liked reading HOF Announcement Day: What to Watch by Anthony Calamis and Adam Dore!

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Anthony Calamis and Adam Dore are part of Ryan Thibodaux's Hall of Fame Ballot Tracking team. The tracker can be found here.

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Eck moved to the bullpen in ’87, not ’97. (Remember Gibson?)