Jay Jaffe’s 2024 Hall of Fame Ballot

© Georgie Silvarole/New York State Team via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2024 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.

“What if I voted for Bartolo Colon?” The thought crossed my mind on more than one occasion as I counted the number of candidates I intended to vote for on my 2024 Hall of Fame ballot on my fingers. Last year, I only voted for seven, which felt uncharacteristically stingy given the history of my advocacy. In the weeks and days leading up to my putting pen to paper, this time I had nine in mind. Why not top it off to a nice round number?

I’ll take you through my process in answering this pressing question soon enough. This is my fourth year with an actual ballot, but filling one out hardly feels like old hat, even with 23 years of analyzing Hall of Fame elections under my belt, and 21 years of doing so while armed with the system that became JAWS (the official 20th anniversary of the metric’s introduction is next week). While so many mentors, peers, and colleagues have come and gone in this racket, I’m grateful to have stuck around long enough to have earned the right to vote, and it’s a privilege I look forward to, even with the heightened scrutiny that comes with it.

In the weeks since the Hall unveiled this year’s 26-candidate slate, I’ve analyzed the top 19 candidates at length in my series. I’ve still got seven one-and-done stragglers to cover in early January, none of whom are in serious consideration for space on my ballot; indeed, none of those seven has secured a single vote from among the 62 ballots published in the Ballot Tracker as of 9 AM ET Friday, but their careers deserve a proper valedictory. While I’ve mostly known whom I planned to include, I went through my full process before finalizing its contents, just as I did with my virtual ballots. Particularly given my recent attempts to update the pitching side of JAWS, it never hurts to take another look.

With just four candidates elected by the writers over the past four cycles, and two over the past three, we’ve got a backlog of candidates within range of election to go with a strong crop of newcomers, though it’s nowhere near as crowded as before. Circa 2014, the ballot had 14 players who met or exceeded the JAWS standards at their respective positions, and 17 who had a JAWS of at least 50.0 (or 40.0 for catchers), thus requiring all but the most small-Hall-minded voters to perform some kind of triage in order to winnow the field down to 10 candidates who could fit on their ballots. This time around there are five candidates who meet or exceed the JAWS standards at their positions, two more who are within a point, and nine who are at 50.0 (or 40.0 for catchers). Those are the same totals as from the 2021 shutout; last year there were four of the former and seven of the latter.

Even with those numbers reduced relative to their recent peak, there’s still no such thing as a perfect ballot. With my annual exercise has always come an acknowledgement of the numerous subjective choices that go into selecting even the most objective-minded slate. How much leeway to grant if one is using WAR and JAWS? How much emphasis to put on postseason performance, awards, and less quantifiable considerations? Where to draw the line via performance-enhancing drugs or off-field issues, subjects that may or may not fall under the umbrella of the character clause? Perfection may be unattainable, but it’s still worth pursuing. If we don’t get there… well, we do the best we can.

With that ample preamble out of the way, here’s how the aforementioned 19 candidates stack up via JAWS:

2024 Hall of Fame Candidates by JAWS Margin
Player YoB Standards Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS Margin
Alex Rodriguez 3 3 117.5 64.3 90.9 35.5
Adrián Beltré 1 3 93.5 48.7 71.1 15.3
Joe Mauer 1 3 55.2 39.0 47.1 2.9
Manny Ramirez 8 2 69.3 39.9 54.6 1.2
Todd Helton 6 2 61.8 46.6 54.2 0.8
Chase Utley 1 1 64.5 49.3 56.9 -0.1
Carlos Beltrán 2 0 70.1 44.4 57.3 -0.8
Andruw Jones 7 1 62.7 46.4 54.6 -3.5
Billy Wagner 9 0 27.7 19.8 23.7 -4.8
Bobby Abreu 5 0 60.2 41.6 50.9 -5.8
Gary Sheffield 10 0 60.5 38.0 49.3 -7.4
Francisco Rodríguez 2 0 24.2 17.6 20.9 -8.6
Mark Buehrle 4 0 59.1 35.8 47.4 -9.4
Andy Pettitte 6 0 60.2 34.1 47.2 -9.6
David Wright 1 0 49.2 39.5 44.3 -11.5
Jimmy Rollins 3 0 47.6 32.7 40.1 -15.3
Torii Hunter 4 0 50.7 30.8 40.7 -17.4
Omar Vizquel 7 0 45.6 26.8 36.2 -19.2
Bartolo Colon 1 0 46.2 35.5 40.9 -20.5
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
For starting pitchers, standards and margin are relative to Peak WAR Adj. and S-JAWS. For relief pitchers, standards and margin are relative to R-JAWS. Yellow shading = meets standard at position.

As noted, I’ve used my experimental, workload-adjusted S-JAWS for starting pitchers (detailed here), which brings the above starters closer to the standard but still leaves the best of them, Buehrle and Pettitte, more than nine points off the pace. Likewise, I’ve used my experimental, leverage-adjusted R-JAWS for relief pitchers (explained here), and while that doesn’t push Wagner past the standard, it makes him the top reliever outside the Hall.

Of this year’s five candidates who meet or exceed the JAWS standards at their position, three top the career WAR and peak WAR standards as well, while the other two top one or the other but not both. Two more top only the peak standard. The tallies are represented in the “Standards” column in the table above, with the yellow cells highlighting the particular standards met. Among those who don’t meet any standards are four other players I classify as “candidates of interest,” namely Beltrán, Wagner, Abreu, and Sheffield, players who fall shy on JAWS but about whom I remain open-minded, for reasons explained below. That’s 11 for a first-cut list, which means I’ve got a bit of work to do.

Before I go deeper, it’s worth mentioning the “integrity, sportsmanship, [and] character” section of the voting rules. Until Mark McGwire landed on the 2007 ballot, that clause was never really used to exclude anyone; meanwhile, the various electoral bodies have admitted a parade of spitballers, sign-stealers, racists, cheaters, and abusers. The clause was the brainchild of Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who brimmed with such integrity that he spent his entire 24-year term as commissioner upholding the game’s shameful color line. The history of that hypocrisy and so many others — witness the election of Bud Selig, himself steeped in the collusion of the 1980s as well as the overseeing of the so-called Steroid Era — leads me to avoid putting any stock in the clause, which isn’t to say that I don’t have my own ways of dealing with the darker aspects of players’ candidacies.

As I’ve said repeatedly throughout this series and for over a decade, when it comes to candidates connected to performance-enhancing drugs, I draw a line between those whose allegations date to the time when the game had no testing regimen or means of punishment (i.e., prior to 2004) and those that came afterwards. With no means of enforcing a paper ban, and with players flouting such a ban being rewarded left and right amid what was truly a complete institutional failure that implicated owners, the commissioner, and the players union as well as the players, I simply don’t think voters can apply a retroactive morality to that period.

That keeps Sheffield in the clear on that front, but it also means I’ve crossed Ramirez and Rodriguez off my list. On a performance-only basis, both would get my vote, and likewise if their failing the supposedly anonymous 2003 survey test were their only PED-related transgression. A-Rod is one of seven players with at least 3,000 hits and 500 homers, and he ranks 12th in WAR among all position players, but his full-season suspension for using PEDs bought from the Biogenesis clinic from 2010–12 is a black mark I can’t overlook. Likewise with regards to Manny. He’s one of the greatest hitters of all time; his 154 OPS+ ranks 20th among players with at least 7,000 PA, but I still can’t get past the two failed tests, not when better players who never tested positive are being kept out. Every year, I consider whether it’s time to take a new approach with such candidates, but this isn’t the year I’m changing my mind.

Note that I have not used allegations of domestic violence to disqualify candidates from consideration, though such matters are far more serious than PEDs. I can certainly understand voters choosing to rule such candidates out.

As for who’s on my ballot, each of the bolded names below links to their profiles where I go into much greater detail than I can here. For the players that have gone unmentioned, likewise you can read about my reservations within their profiles linked in the navigation bar above.

To begin, three newcomers get my nod:

Adrían Beltré (4th among third basemen in JAWS)

The choices don’t get any easier than this. Beltré’s 3,166 hits and 477 homers give him the traditional numbers for a waltz into Cooperstown, and his number two ranking in fielding runs (216) at the hot corner and number four ranking in JAWS are similarly impressive when it comes to the advanced statistics. It’s remarkable that when he left Seattle after the 2009 season, Beltré had never made an All-Star team, and even now both his four ASG selections and five Gold Gloves feel a bit light for a Hall of Famer. Had defensive metrics and WAR(P) been more widely circulated during his stay in Seattle, those numbers would both have been higher; he had ranked among his league’s top 10 in WAR three times by the time of his so-called “pillow contract” in Boston. His move to more hitter-friendly environments and maturation as a hitter certainly changed perceptions of his skills, and social media raised his profile as well, particularly during his run with the Rangers, when he became one of the game’s most popular players. He’s been left off of just two out of 73 ballots thus far in the Tracker, and I doubt we’ll get too many more.

Joe Mauer (7th among catchers in JAWS)

He’s the hometown success story and number one overall pick who lived up to his billing. Mauer spent his entire career with the Twins while making six All-Star teams, winning three Gold Gloves and three batting titles (the only catcher who can claim that) as well as an MVP award. He was forced to stop catching due to post-concussion problems and 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. That doesn’t even account for the fact that he was an above-average pitch framer as well; this is an all-time great.

Unfortunately, BBWAA voters have not treated catchers very well, electing just two to the Hall in their first year of eligibility (Bench and Rodriguez) and embarrassing themselves when it came to the candidacies of Carter, Piazza, Yogi Berra and a few others. We’ll have to see what happens with Mauer, who’s polling at 80.8% in the Ballot Tracker. There’s no doubt he’ll be in Cooperstown soon, but I dearly hope it’s this year.

Chase Utley (12th among second basemen in JAWS)

Despite not drawing more than 300 plate appearances in a season until age 26, Utley is just 0.1 points shy of the JAWS standard at they keystone, and ninth in peak as well thanks to the tremendous impact of his fielding and baserunning, which reflected his high baseball IQ. Alas voters’ failure to recognize him in the MVP races and Gold Glove awards — he was bypassed in favor of teammates Rollins and Ryan Howard in the former and somehow never won the latter — make it apparent that he’s facing an uphill battle for election. What’s more, he finished with just 1,885 hits, and even with the Era Committee election of Tony 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 on traditional career totals as the sole yardstick, Utley will receive substantial support and eventually get his plaque. I’m bracing for a meager first-year percentage; in the Ballot Tracker team’s VIP poll, I estimated Utley with a first-year showing of 17% (and Mauer at 62%), though right now he’s at 46.6% in the Tracker. That would be a solid start, at least.

Moving on, these guys have been on my past three ballots and at least two virtual ballots. They’re easy calls to return:

Todd Helton (15th among first basemen in JAWS, 72.2% in 2023)

The 2020 election of former teammate Larry Walker opened up the road to Cooperstown for this denizen of Coors Field. An exceptional hitter who served as the face of the Rockies franchise, Helton put up very big numbers in the first half of his career, numbers that hold up once we adjust for his park and league scoring environment. Injuries caused him to fade away, as he had just one good season out of his last four, but it’s not out of the question that his time at altitude had something to do with that. His peak score ranks 10th among first basemen, nearly five wins above the standard, and the recent elections of Gil Hodges, Fred McGriff, and David Ortiz — all with a JAWS about nine to 15 points lower – have increased that margin.

After polling at 16.5% in his first year of eligibility, Helton banked big gains on the 2020 and ’21 ballots, crossed the 50% threshold in ’22, and missed by just 11 votes last year. Candidates this close almost always get in on the next ballot, but this one could be a close call; Helton is polling at 80.8% right now but is net -1 among returning voters.

Billy Wagner (6th among relievers in R-JAWS, 68.1% in 2023)

The holder of the all-time records for strikeout rate and opponent batting average, albeit at just a 900-inning threshold, Wagner is short of the admittedly slapdash standard established by the eight enshrined relievers. Since I’ve never been entirely satisfied with how JAWS handles that small group, I’ve remained open-minded, seeking alternate ways to evaluate relievers; by my experimental R-JAWS, which incorporates Win Probability Added (WPA) and situational or context-neutral wins (WPA/LI) as well as WAR, he’s the top reliever outside the Hall, trailing only Mariano Rivera, Dennis Eckersley, Hoyt Wilhelm, Rich Gossage, and Trevor Hoffman. After debuting at 10.5% in 2016 and gaining little ground in the next three cycles, his support has more than quadrupled over the past four. At this point he’s polling at 74%, and is just net +2 among returning voters, suggesting that he may have to wait until next year, his final one on the ballot.

Andruw Jones (11th among center fielders in JAWS, 58.1% in 2023)

If 2018 Hall of Fame honoree Chipper Jones was the Braves dynasty’s offensive cornerstone, Andruw Jones was its defensive one, an elite flychaser who won 10 Gold Gloves and ranks first at the position in fielding runs (+235). He could hit, too, bopping 434 career homers. His career collapsed at age 31, however; he played just 435 games over his final five seasons, disappearing from the majors at age 35, and so while he’s well above the peak standard, he’s short on the career one and in JAWS. I’m not so bothered by that, given his relative ranking and the fact that the standards in center and right field are a few points higher than every other position. After two years in the mid-7% range, he’s added more than 50 percentage points over the past four cycles, and while he doesn’t appear to be gaining additional momentum this year, he appears to have a very good shot at eventual election by the writers.

Those are the slam dunks among my holdovers. Next comes a pair whom I’ve included on my three official ballots, personal favorites whose JAWS is in the neighborhood of 50. I don’t see any reason to leave them off now.

Bobby Abreu (21st among right fielders in JAWS, 15.4% in 2023)

A five-tool player with dazzling speed, a sweet left-handed stroke, and enough power to win a Home Run Derby, Abreu was a stathead favorite thanks to his otherworldly plate discipline. He posted on-base percentages of .400 or higher eight times (.395 for his career) thanks to his ability to take a walk (100 or more eight years in a row). Yet despite routinely reaching traditional seasonal plateaus — a .300 batting average (six times), 20 homers (nine times), 30 steals (six times), 100 runs scored and batted in (eight times apiece) — he was ridiculously underappreciated by the mainstream, making just two All-Star teams and winning one Gold Glove. He barely scraped by in his 2020 ballot debut with 5.5%, but last year broke into double digits for the first time.

Gary Sheffield (24th in JAWS among right fielders, 55% in 2023)

There’s no denying Shef’s skill with the stick. His total of 561 batting runs above average (the offensive component of bWAR) ranks 28th all-time, while his 140 OPS+ is tied for 49th; he’s either alongside or ahead of numerous no-doubt Hall of Famers in those categories, and to that he added an aesthetic quality of sheer menace in the batter’s box thanks to his lightning-quick reflexes and violent swing. It’s his defense (-195 runs, second-lowest all time ahead of only Jeter), not his BALCO connection or his penchant for controversy — two areas that require some digging in order to get a full and fair picture — that kept me from putting too much stock in his candidacy, as it knocks him more than seven points below the position standard. Yet I’m troubled by the extent to which those outlying defensive stats, which are largely estimates from the pre-batted-ball-type era, nuke Sheffield’s value, and that goes double when they’re compared to his defensive numbers via alternative methodologies. What’s more, it’s worth noting that 65% of his plate appearances came in the NL, where he didn’t have the chance to serve as a DH. If he had DHed like Ortiz, would he be in?

Sheffield’s support has more than quadrupled from 2019 (13.6%) to ’23, but while he’s closer to election heading into the final year of eligibility than Walker was (54.6% in 2019), the BALCO connection is probably enough of a drag to keep him below 75%. He’s at 72.6% in the Tracker, with a net of +5 votes, but he’s about 10 points below where Walker was in the early public voting. His odds of eventual election have certainly improved, but it remains to be seen if the Hall stonewalls him with its Contemporary Baseball Era Committee makeup, as was the case for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

That’s eight spots filled on my ballot. Number nine is one who should have been a slam dunk.

Carlos Beltrán (ninth among center fielders in JAWS, 46.5% in 2023)

The quintessential five-tool player, Beltrán is one of eight with at least 300 homers and 300 steals, and owns the highest stolen base success rate (86.4%) of any player with at least 200 attempts. He’s a bit below all three standards at a very top-heavy position but the best eligible center fielder outside the Hall.

Beltrán might already be enshrined if he hadn’t been at the center of the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scandal, so central that it nipped his managerial career in the bud. While his own performance didn’t benefit, he did something against the rules, and it continued through a postseason in which his team won a championship. Not every player was comfortable with it, but if we’re to believe the various reports, nobody stood up to him, and so he saw no need to stop. But given that manager A.J. Hinch reportedly destroyed two monitors, it’s worth questioning both his leadership capability and the convenient scapegoating of Beltrán as a lone actor, and it’s also worth noting that like spitballing/ball-doctoring, sign-stealing is a behavior that exists along a continuum of baseball history that stretches back nearly a century and a half. The fan in me empathizes with that great 2017 Dodgers team being cheated out of a title, but the industry professional in me knows that the Astros were merely the most extreme example of a team stealing signs electronically, some of which were ultimately reported and others just whispered about.

I went into last year thinking I would withhold my vote for Beltrán for a year but likely include him in the future, treating his transgression more like Roberto Alomar‘s spitting on the umpire, an out-of-character incident that cost him the honor of first-ballot induction, rather than Rafael Palmeiro’s failed PED test, a late-career mistake that banished him from all serious consideration. After spending hours talking about it with friends and fellow writers (some of them voters), I returned to the framework of my PED policy: if the commissioner couldn’t punish him for what he did, I’m not going to play the vigilante and administer frontier justice on behalf of MLB or the Hall.

Beltrán made a decent debut last year and seems to be gaining some momentum, albeit not enough to parallel Alomar’s second-year election. He’s at 65.8% in the Tracker, with the highest net vote total at +6.

I could easily call it a day by voting for nine candidates, but the presence of Colon led me to think about the possibility of loosening up a bit to cast a vote for a personal favorite, or at least someone who fell below my analytically-based cutoff. Such gestures were once quite common among actual voters but went out of vogue during the ballot crunch of the past decade.

Colon, whose career was exceptionally entertaining and carried some personal resonance — I saw him carry a no-hitter further than any other pitcher I’ve witnessed firsthand, and my in-utero daughter acquired a nickname in his honor in the wake of his 2016 home run — was the first candidate I considered for this spot. However, voting for him in light of his PED suspension while not voting for Manny or A-Rod opened one can of worms, and doing so instead of considering either Buehrle or Pettitte, both of whom have stronger cases based on run prevention, WAR, and JAWS, opened another. So that was out.

I considered Wright, who was plausibly on a Hall of Fame path before spinal stenosis wrecked his career in his early 30s. I thought about Rollins, who would pair well with Utley in a salute to the Lou WhitakerAlan Trammell tandem that should have entered the Hall together a couple decades ago.

In the end, given how much I’ve written about starting pitching standards, I decided to go with Pettitte. By WAR and S-JAWS, he and Buerhle are very similar, pitchers whose S-JAWS falls in the 27th and 28th percentiles relative to those already enshrined, but there’s a clear separation when it comes to their bodies of postseason work. Buerhle helped win one championship with the White Sox in 2005 but owns a career 4.11 ERA in 30.2 postseason innings, while Pettitte helped the Yankees win five championships, pitched in eight World Series (including 2005 with Houston), and put up a 3.81 ERA in a record 276.2 innings. Pettitte is further along in his candidacy than Buerhle and has been better supported by voters (17% to 10.8% las year). As for his admission of using human growth hormone in 2002 and ’04 after he turned up in the Mitchell Report, both of those came before MLB banned it in ’05, putting his infractions in the Wild West era.

All of which is to say that I now view Pettitte as a more plausible candidate than I once did, and that’s even before applying a bonus for the way that voting for him takes me back to my days as a fan. I spent more time watching him and covering him than any other candidate on this ballot, and I have a great deal of respect for what he meant to the Yankees’ success in that period. So, for the first time, he gets my X. I remain open to including Buerhle at some point, but it won’t be this year.

So that’s another imperfect ballot in the books and, by the time you read this, in the mail.

I don’t entirely love the way this came out, the extent to which my self-imposed rules prevent me from simply voting for the 10 best players on the ballot. But I still think the line I’ve drawn with regards to PEDs is a reasonable one, and I won’t lose site of the bigger picture: I’m gratified that after covering baseball and analyzing Hall of Fame elections for so long on the outside, I get to cast a ballot. It’s still just one vote from among nearly 400, less impactful than my work to sway actual voters and help the likes of Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Larry Walker, Scott Rolen and others find homes in Cooperstown, but it’s also symbolic.

I say this every year but it bears repeating: I’m standing on the shoulders of giants in the field of baseball analysis, people who entered this industry without going through the traditional newspaper outlets and who either were never admitted to the BBWAA or didn’t last long enough within it to vote. People such as John Thorn, Bill James, Rob Neyer, Joe Sheehan, Christina Kahrl, and Steven Goldman were among those who opened my eyes to different ways of viewing baseball decades ago, and their thoughts on the Hall of Fame and its processes inevitably seeped into my own views of the institution and who is worthy of admission. Of that group, only the trailblazing Kahrl is a BBWAA voter. I’d prefer a voting process that found room for all of the above and other experts from beyond the mainstream, but so long as it doesn’t, I’ll do my best to represent.

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, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky @jayjaffe.bsky.social.

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kick me in the GO NATSmember
3 months ago

Very cool analysis, but I would have voted for Buerhle

3 months ago

Same here but the Pettitte-Buehrle decision is a tossup. Pettitte wins on postseason success, Buehrle wins on individual achievements (PG, no hitter, 14 consecutive 200IP seasons).

3 months ago
Reply to  olethros

If it’s a toss-up statistically, then the guy who didn’t use PEDs should get the vote, no?

Side note: good lord every Yankee from that period was juicing, except Jeets (Yeah Jeets!) and Posada?

Like most other commenters, Jay presents this as an individual choice, and decides that since MLB wasn’t testing — failing to mention that MLBPA was opposed to testing for a long time — there should be no consequences now. I understand that mentality and it’s definitely justifiable.

But IMO when entire teams of the sport’s most famous franchise, the last dynasty in the sport, looks more like organized criminal activity to me. These guys were all getting rich, and it seems very unlikely that they weren’t coordinating. I doubt we’ll ever get a full accounting because everyone involved has incentives to keep it under the rug as much as possible, but I can’t brush this off as easily as Jay. This whole episode stinks worse and worse in retrospect.

So I’m not giving the benefit of the doubt to Sheffield and Pettitte, I’d rather boost the Buerhles and Abreus, who couldn’t accumulate as much because their bodies had a normal aging curve.

3 months ago
Reply to  olethros

I don’t really buy the “won a lot of championships” argument in a team game. Tino Martinez won four championships with those same Yankees teams and nobody is arguing that should bolster his HoF case.

Pettite had many more opportunities in the post season than Buehrle. The fact that Kenny Williams couldn’t put together a team good enough to win as often as the Yankees did (or that Jerry Reinsdorf wouldn’t give him the same resources) doesn’t make Buehrle a lesser player