My Two Cents On The 2015 Hall of Fame Voting

Well, the 2015 Hall of Fame voting results rolled in Tuesday, and just about every member of the baseball media has already checked in with his or her opinion. With any luck, I’ll have the last word — at least chronologically. What are we to make of the election of Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio, and its resulting future impact upon the holdovers? Let’s take a look at some trends, and hone in on a couple of players most significantly impacted by this week’s proceedings.

First, let’s take a look at some big-picture trends, to see how today’s ballot logjam formed, and what — if anything — this year’s results might accomplish towards its eventual clearance:

2000 5.63 Fisk T.Perez Gossage (J.Morris)
2001 6.33 Winfield* Puckett* (Mattingly) (Whitaker)
2002 5.95 O.Smith* Dawson Trammell
2003 6.60 Murray* G.Carter Sandberg L.Smith
2004 6.55 Molitor* Eckersley* None
2005 6.31 Boggs* Sandberg None
2006 5.64 Sutter None
2007 6.58 Ripken* Gwynn* McGwire
2008 5.36 Gossage Raines
2009 5.38 R.Henderson* Rice None
2010 5.67 Dawson R.Alomar Larkin E.Martinez McGriff
2011 5.98 R.Alomar Blyleven Bagwell L.Walker (Palmeiro)
2012 5.10 Larkin (Be.Williams)
2013 6.60 None Biggio Piazza Schilling Clemens Bonds Sosa (Lofton)
2014 8.39 Maddux* Glavine* F.Thomas* Mussina Kent
2015 8.42 R.Johnson* P.Martinez* Smoltz* Biggio Sheffield Garciaparra (C.Delgado)
* = 1st time on ballot ( ) = No longer on ballot

In a nutshell, BBWAA voters, jaded by a fairly lengthy period at the beginning of the century that featured a dearth of exceptional Hall of Fame candidates, fell into a habit of placing an average of five to six names on their respective ballots. Enter a massive group of Hall-worthy talents beginning in 2010 — many of them tarred with the brush of the steroid era — and the BBWAA initially reacted by… continuing to place an average of five to six names on their respective ballots. Hilariously, in 2010, the average number of players per ballot plunged to a 21st Century low of 5.10. That, despite the initial eligibility of Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez and Fred McGriff.

In 2013, the crunch began in earnest, with the largest influx of talent ever to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, among the very best at their respective crafts, appeared for the first time, along with Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa and Kenny Lofton, the latter of whom was unable to garner 5% of the vote necessary to remain on the ballot. Now this was a problem, and the BBWAA responded by matching their highest votes per ballot rate of the century, at 6.60.

Of course, with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra and Carlos Delgado all slated to appear on ballots in 2014 and 2015, no relief was in sight, and many started to blame the 10-player ballot limit, instead of the voters themselves for their refusal to use even two-thirds of the 10 ballot slots already allotted to them.

To the voters’ credit, they did respond a bit in 2014, electing Maddux, Glavine and Thomas immediately, and nudging Biggio to the doorstep of the Hall while increasing their average votes per ballot to 8.39. This was progress. With Jack Morris falling off of the ballot, there was plenty of capacity to accommodate the deep incoming Class of 2015.

Many are applauding the BBWAA for stopping the bleeding and electing four members. But let’s take a step back. The average votes per ballot remained almost completely steady at 8.42. This is preposterous. Any voter who looked at this year’s ballot and could not find 10 legitimate Hall of Famers really ought to have their privileges reviewed. Conservatively, I saw 15 players on this year’s ballot who I deemed worthy. If you want to take a stand on a couple of steroid guys, that number slips to 12 or 13. Any writer submitting a blank ballot, or even a less than half-full ballot is nothing more than a barrier to the essential purpose of the process: elect the worthy.

There clearly seems to have been an awful lot of coordination among groups of writers this year. The studies of Tom Tango and others document this quite well. There were those who threw Pedro Martinez and/or Randy Johnson overboard to make room for players who “needed” their votes more. Overall, I can’t get too worked up about this, as at least such writers were trying to get players elected. On the other hand, the gridlocked ballot wouldn’t be such an acute issue if the writers had done a better job a few years back when they decided Jim Rice and Andre Dawson were better players than Tim Raines or Alan Trammell.

This coordination of votes seems to have directly benefited John Smoltz. I really like Smoltz, and consider him a Hall of Famer. Is he better than Curt Schilling? Maybe. Is he better than Mike Mussina? No way, in my opinion — but we’ll get back to that. They still didn’t cast more votes overall, which remains the crux of the problem.

Let’s take a quick look at the recent vote trends for the remaining players on the ballot, and what they might mean for their chances of future induction:

Piazza 69.9 7.7 4.2 7
Bagwell 55.7 1.4 -5.3 5
Raines 55.0 8.9 -6.1 2
Schilling 39.2 10.0 -9.6 7
Clemens 37.5 2.1 -2.2 7
Bonds 36.8 2.1 -1.5 7
L.Smith 30.2 0.2 -17.8 2
E.Martinez 27.0 1.8 -10.7 4
Trammell 25.1 4.3 -12.8 1
Mussina 24.6 4.3 8
Kent 14.0 -1.2 8
McGriff 12.9 1.2 -9.0 4
L.Walker 11.8 1.6 -11.4 5
Sheffield 11.7 9
McGwire 10.0 -1.0 -5.8 1
Sosa 6.6 -0.6 -5.3 7
Garciaparra 5.5 9

Tally up the 2015 vote totals for the holdovers, and there were 4.74 votes per ballot cast in 2015 for the holdovers who will appear on the 2016 ballot. Toss in another .97 or more for newcomer Ken Griffey Jr., and probably another .77 for Trevor Hoffman, who is likely to be next year’s Smoltz. Expect Jim Edmonds and Billy Wagner to get enough votes to remain on the ballot moving forward, maybe .30 between them. It’s doubtful anyone else will survive until 2017, and the whole crew might earn .08 between them. We’re now at 6.86 votes per ballot, with no growth projected upon the 2015 actual vote totals. This means there is 3.14 votes of ballot capacity remaining — but only 1.56 if the voters maintain their 2015 8.42 vote per ballot average. The truth is somewhere in between, but unfortunately, much closer to the latter figure.

Mike Piazza is getting in next year. He went up 7.7% in 2015, when the ballot was tighter, and only needs a 5.1% increase in 2016 to get over the top. Jeff Bagwell oddly has lost votes since 2013, and is very unlikely to get all he needs next year. The 2017 or 2018 ballots could be his chance to get in. Tim Raines made a big move this year, almost guaranteeing his eventual success. My best guess is he won’t quite make it next year, but he’ll move into striking distance to make it in his last year of eligibility in 2017. Curt Schilling’s big 2015 move greatly increases his eventual chance of induction. He’ll absorb quite a bit of Smoltz’ ballot space next year and move into strong contention for induction by 2018.

Clemens and Bonds? This is where a critical mass of the electorate is making their stand on performance enhancers. It’s silly to me, as these two are inner circle guys who would have easily been Hall-worthy with or without the “help” they are likely to have received along the way. Draw the line at Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, for whom performance enhancers may have been the different between really good and truly great, I get it. Draw it at two of the best players any of us will ever see, I don’t. Best guess: 2019 is their year, when the BBWAA can conveniently pass their vitriol over to the potentially newly eligible Alex Rodriguez.

Trammell has no chance, at least until his case passes to the Veterans Committee — or whatever they call it these days. In my mind, this leaves three very interesting cases in the lower reaches of the 2015 list of vote-getters. Gary Sheffield is one. I’m on the fence about his Hall-worthiness, but he is a unique offensive player for his time. A power hitter who didn’t strike out. What a concept. He wasn’t a very good defensive player, but man: 509 homers, .393 OBP, 140 career OPS+, 300 more walks than whiffs, 253 steals. Oh, and he quietly had 202 postseason plate appearances, posting a .401 OBP and winning a World Series with the Marlins.

The two other very intriguing cases belong to Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina. Edgar’s timing really couldn’t have been worse, showing up on the ballot right before the massive talent influx, and then having five years of eligibility shaved off at the back end of his eligibility period by a rule change that really hurts no one but him. Anyway, check out this list of all-time leaders in the career combined number of standard deviations above league average in OBP and SLG:

Bonds 21 1986-2007 54.26 48.93 103.19 182
T.Williams 17 1939-1960 51.31 49.95 101.26 190
Ruth 17 1918-1934 43.07 55.36 98.42 206
Cobb 22 1906-1928 47.02 46.03 93.05 168
Musial 21 1942-1963 38.29 38.61 76.89 159
Hornsby 15 1916-1931 35.10 38.60 73.70 175
Speaker 19 1909-1927 36.08 32.77 68.85 157
Mantle 17 1951-1968 34.55 33.27 67.82 172
Aaron 22 1954-1975 23.75 40.91 64.67 155
Ott 18 1928-1945 31.91 31.86 63.77 155
F.Robinson 19 1956-1974 30.40 33.17 63.57 154
Mays 19 1951-1971 25.85 35.19 61.03 156
M.Ramirez 16 1994-2009 28.25 31.77 60.02 154
Gehrig 14 1925-1938 26.75 32.30 59.05 179
Foxx 14 1928-1941 24.56 32.13 56.69 163
Thome 16 1994-2010 26.08 27.67 53.75 147
H.Wagner 16 1901-1916 22.93 30.72 53.66 151
Pujols 14 2001-2014 23.54 28.62 52.17 162
F.Thomas 14 1991-2007 27.60 23.78 51.38 156
Schmidt 16 1973-1988 20.59 29.97 50.57 147
Yastrzemski 23 1961-1983 30.16 19.97 50.13 130
A.Rodriguez 17 1996-2012 20.55 28.94 49.49 143
E.Collins 19 1908-1926 32.90 15.08 47.98 142
Brett 20 1974-1993 20.35 25.32 45.67 135
Kaline 21 1954-1974 23.13 22.30 45.43 134
C.Jones 18 1995-2012 26.04 19.06 45.11 141
D.Ortiz 16 1998-2014 18.17 26.19 44.36 140
S.Crawford 16 1901-1916 15.18 28.78 43.97 144
E.Martinez 14 1990-2004 27.56 15.72 43.29 147
Killebrew 16 1959-1975 19.13 24.01 43.14 143

While a statistical purist would rightly state that summing standard deviations is generally not a wise idea, this method is quite good at measuring greatness. In this case, it also isolates on-base and slugging ability, enabling us to find truly comparable great players. Martinez ranks 29th on this list of 30, and there are basically nothing besides slam-dunk Hall of Fame talents surrounding him.

There are a couple of unfortunate pieces of information here that might hurt Edgar’s case, though. With only 14 qualifying seasons, Martinez is tied for fewest on this list, with Frank Thomas, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig and, for now, Albert Pujols. On one hand, this underscores his greatness, as it took him only 14 qualifying seasons to accumulate a bit more offensive value than, say, Harmon Killebrew did in 16. Only 18 of the other 29 players on this list have a higher OPS+ than Martinez. That is way above the Hall of Fame line, DH or no DH.

The irony of the whole DH thing — beside the fact the Mariners kept Edgar in the minors years more than they should have because they were set at third base with Jim Presley — is David Ortiz in 2014 moved past Martinez on the above list, and now has at least a realistic claim to the “greatest DH” title that has always fueled Martinez’ candidacy. I’m afraid Edgar’s going to slip through the cracks, at least from the writers’ perspective, through no fault of his own. Hopefully he’ll be easy pickings for the next phase of the process in the Veterans Committee.

Then there’s Mussina. And here’s another chart of all-time cumulative standard deviation totals, this one for K/BB rate, relative to the league:

W.Johnson 18 1908-1926 43.94 147
Mathewson 15 1901-1915 40.89 135
Grove 14 1925-1939 34.66 148
G.Maddux 21 1988-2008 33.66 132
Vance 11 1922-1932 32.72 125
F.Jenkins 18 1966-1983 32.31 115
Cy.Young 10 1901-1910 29.56 138
R.Roberts 15 1949-1964 29.17 113
Schilling 12 1992-2006 29.05 127
Blyleven 18 1970-1989 28.58 118
GC.Alexander 17 1911-1928 27.96 135
Hubbell 14 1929-1942 27.15 130
Sutton 22 1966-1987 26.04 108
Mussina 16 1992-2008 25.86 123
Clemens 19 1986-2005 24.00 143

Mussina ranks 14th on this rather esoteric list. Now there’s quite a bit more to a pitcher’s job than maximizing strikeouts and minimizing walks. Much of my recent work on contact management ability would attest to that. Still, running a strong K/BB is central to being an exceptional pitcher, and Mussina was a solid contact manager, as well. As with Martinez, these are Hall of Famers accompanying Mussina on this list. You want to say Mussina doesn’t have the counting numbers to be in the Hall? Then how is he present on a list like this, which is based on excellence over the long haul? You want to say it’s lack of quality, rather than quantity, that should exclude him? Then why is his ERA+ better than Fergie Jenkins, Robin Roberts, Bert Blyleven and Don Sutton?

Blyleven is actually a pretty good case to consider here. Like Mussina, the voters short shrifted him for myriad reasons, one likely being the fact his best years were pitched in a relatively small market. Over time, voters grew to accept the valid, largely statistically-based arguments that supported his candidacy, and his vote totals surged late in the eligibility period, just in time to beat the buzzer. Mussina crucially separated himself from Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff and Larry Walker in this year’s voting, and could blow by Martinez and Lee Smith next year.

Consider this: Mussina won 57 more games than Smoltz and 54 more than Schilling. His winning percentage is far superior to both, and his ERA+ narrowly trails both (Smoltz 125, Schilling 127). He logged more innings than either. The cumulative K/BB standard deviation exercise above speaks highly of both Schilling and Mussina, and a very strong case can be made that both were somewhat better pitchers than Smoltz. They’re all Hall of Famers, and as Schilling absorbs Smoltz’s vote capacity in 2016, Mussina is likely to do with Schilling’s after his induction.

In summary, the smoke has started to clear ever so slightly, and the Hall logjam has a chance to eventually clear if the BBWAA addresses the component of its membership that is failing to do its job, resulting in a further increase of votes per ballot in the near term. They don’t need a 12-vote limit; they just need to use the 10 votes they have, when there are 10-plus viable candidates in play. Oh, and in 2017, Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero say “Hi.”

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Detroit Michael
7 years ago

There really isn’t much of a case that David Ortiz has had a more productive career than Edgar Martinez. Inventing a new metric based that (1) weights standard deviations in OBP and SLG equally and (2) ignores everything else probably is not shedding new light on the situation.

This comparison seems fairly clear to me:,745. I doubt that the conclusion gets any more murky if one used b-ref WAR or BP WARP.

7 years ago

I imagine there is going to be a lot of gnashing of teeth when Ortiz gets voted in on the 2nd or 3rd ballot while Edgar has to await a Veteran’s Committee decision.

Jason B
7 years ago
Reply to  Phillies113

Will also be interesting to see what tortured logic they use to justify voting for someone named in the Mitchell Report then, too. (Not that it’s definitive proof of anything, but it’s certainly more than we have with Piazza, Bagwell, or even Edgar himself for that matter.)

7 years ago
Reply to  Jason B

I doubt Ortiz gets voted in at all and definitely not on the 2nd or 3rd ballot.

Detroit Michael
7 years ago
Reply to  Jason B

Ortiz failed an anonymous drug test, it was later leaked. He wasn’t named in the Mitchell Report:

7 years ago

I sorta realized Edgar was the better player based on WAR totals, but that WAR by Age chart is crazy how similar their career arcs were. They both had an unexpected dip for a year or two and then came back very strong. With Edgar being stronger, of course. Yeah, I hope he gets in before his clock runs out.

7 years ago

Edgar never got red flagged for failing a drug test, either, but I guess that’ll go unmentioned when David Ortiz’ time comes.

Fergie's boys
7 years ago

Ortiz’ career is indistinguishable from Carlos Delgado right now. Its hard for me to believe he’s a hall of famer whereas Delgado fell off on the first ballot, especially since Ortiz has a PED anchor.

7 years ago
Reply to  Fergie's boys

Postseason, man: he was there for the Sox ending the curse. There are plenty of douches who will overvalue this kind of thing.

7 years ago
Reply to  wiggly

In fairness, it IS the Hall of Fame and being a big part of ‘The Curse’ being broken adds to the Fame part of it. I’m not saying I’d vote for him because of it, but I don’t think it’s douchie to take that into some consideration.

7 years ago
Reply to  wiggly

Ortiz wasn’t just “there” for the Sox ending the curse. Ortiz has a career .962 OPS in 357 playoff plate appearances. That should count, to some degree, for his HoF candidacy. It’s probably somewhere around 5 playoff WAR, maybe more due to the higher level of play. I don’t know that that should put him over the top for the Hall, but to act like seeing value in playoff performance makes you a douche is just . . . weird.

7 years ago

David Ortiz isn’t a vastly better candidate than Carlos Delgado (basically post-season appearances make Ortiz better) who got dropped off the ballot.

7 years ago
Reply to  Preston

‘David Ortiz isn’t a vastly better candidate than Carlos Delgado (basically post-season appearances make Ortiz better) who got dropped off the ballot.’

And one has to wonder whether Delgado actually playing a position his whole career should help even the post-season part out.

Here’s the thing, though. If you are telling the story about the history of the game, which is a major part of what the HOF is about, the Red Sox finally breaking ‘The Curse’ is going to a be a discussion point, whether it really warrants it or not. ‘The Curse’ narrative was so big, that the breaking of will be discussed. Ortiz was a huge part of why that happened. Obviously he didn’t do it by himself, no one player in baseball does that, but he excelled. He was a key component, for sure. That’s where the Fame part comes in.

Delgado, overall, every bit the player Ortiz is. Didn’t deserve to get booted so quickly.