Editor’s Note: In the run up to the January 22 Hall of Fame announcement, we were fortunate to feature a few pieces from Anthony Calamis and Adam Dore, members of Ryan Thibodaux’s excellent team that tracks public Hall of Fame ballot. This is the final such piece. Be sure to check out the ballot tracker, which is an indispensable tool for any Hall of Fame enthusiast.
Last month, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced their latest group of inductees. Mariano Rivera received a vote on 100% of the ballots cast, while Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay and Mike Mussina also cleared the 75% minimum.
Of the 35 players on the ballot, 11 got zero votes: Rick Ankiel, Jason Bay, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Travis Hafner, Ted Lilly, Derek Lowe, Darren Oliver, Juan Pierre, Vernon Wells and Kevin Youkilis.
The results for the other 24 players are summarized below:
With 425 ballots cast, the average ballot contained 8.01 names, down from 2018’s 8.46. 42.8% of voters used all 10 available votes, down from 50.0% last year.
Nearly half of the 3,404 total votes cast were awarded to candidates who are no longer on the ballot. 1,671 votes (49.1%) went to inductees Rivera, Martinez, Halladay, and Mussina, final-year candidate McGriff, and the quintet of players who failed to received the minimum 5% to remain on the ballot.
The result of having a four-man induction class – to go along with a swan song candidate who received a vote on nearly two fifths of all ballots – is that an average of 3.93 votes per ballot will be freed up come next year. Given 2019’s 8.01 votes-per-ballot overall average, the 2020 election cycle begins with just 4.08 returning candidates per ballot.
With nearly six open spots on the average ballot heading into next year, the 2020 results are bound to look quite a bit different than those we saw a month ago. For starters, there is a strong possibility of only a single new Hall of Famer earning election via the BBWAA.
Derek Jeter is expected to draw a vote share near 100%, but none of the other first-year eligible players are expected to garner significant support. Bobby Abreu should have a decent chance to clear the 5% minimum to be on the 2021 ballot, but it’s possible none of the rest of Jason Giambi, Cliff Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Paul Konerko, Josh Beckett, Adam Dunn, Rafael Furcal, and Eric Chavez do. That will leave a lot of room for returning candidates to either begin gathering momentum or continue building on it.
Full ballot voters may add multiple new candidates next year, since many who regularly check 10 boxes have indicated they would vote for 11 or more if the bylaws permitted it.
Following the BBWAA’s publishing of voluntary public ballots, we have collected 168 of the overall 182 10-player ballots cast in the Tracker. Looking specifically at the full ballots, the average number of votes for players making their final ballot appearance was 4.46, more than half a vote higher than the overall ballot average of 3.93.
If we assume that Jeter collects 100% of the vote (he will probably receive 99% – 100% of the vote anyway), then voters who submitted a ballot with the full allotment of 10 names have an average of only 6.54 spots filled in 2020, even after including Jeter.
Since the BBWAA returned to annual voting in 1966, the record for the largest year-over-year decrease in votes per ballot is 1.23, from 2007 to 2008; only two other times has votes per ballot decreased by more than 1.0. The 1.23 vote per ballot decrease (from 6.58 to 5.35) came following the elections of Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn, both of whom received over 97.5% of the vote. In 2008, Tim Raines (24.3%) was the only first-time eligible candidate to receive more than two votes, and his vote share was only slightly above 15th-year candidate Steve Garvey’s 21.1% showing the year prior.
The 14 players who got between 5% and 75% and will return to the 2020 ballot received an average of 4.08 votes per ballot. If voters tie the record for the largest decrease, there is still more than 2.5 votes per ballot to be spread out among newcomers and returnees next year.
There is a strong possibility that many of the 14 returning candidates receive at least a double-digit percentage increase from last year.
When we last checked in on public voting data the afternoon of the announcement, there were 227 ballots logged in the Tracker. A few more ballots trickled in over the ensuing hours, increasing the total number of tracked ballots to 232 when Jeff Idelson stepped up the podium to announce the results.
Since the announcement, another 125 ballots have been made public. The 357 known ballots account for about 84% of the ballots cast, a Tracker-era high water mark.
The latest results in the Tracker are summarized in the following table, which shows how each player has done on the total public ballots, ballots released before and after the announcement, and those ballots that have not yet been released.
|Player||Final % (of 425)||Public % (of 357)||Public Pre-Results % (of 232)||Public Post-Results % (of 125)||Private % (of 68)|
Among the interesting trends to emerge from the post-results data is Omar Vizquel receiving the sixth-most votes behind only the four inductees and Curt Schilling, Mussina receiving more than 75% of the vote on post-results public ballots, and Andy Pettitte tying Helton and outpolling Sheffield and others.
This marks the second consecutive cycle in which Vizquel finished markedly better in the final results than he was on track to. In 2018, he jumped from 33.5% to 37.0%, and this year he went from 38.4% to 42.8%.
The recent history of players getting 40-45% in their first five years has been a mixed bag, but Vizquel seems better positioned to make a slow climb than some of the others who have been in this range.
Jeff Bagwell began in a similar place to Vizquel but needed until 2017, his seventh year of eligibility, to gain the necessary 75%. It took Mussina a total of six years, with three coming after he entered the 40% range. Schilling and Barry Bonds, on the other hand, are still waiting and conceivably may never get there.
|Player||Percentage||Year on Ballot||Year||Years to Election|
|Curt Schilling||45.00%||5th||2017||2 and counting|
|Barry Bonds||44.30%||4th||2016||3 and counting|
Encouragingly, 32 voters who did not vote for Vizquel in 2018 added him this year, the fourth-most among all returning candidates and the most among those with multiple years of eligibility remaining.
Nine voters withdrew their support for his case, but some of that could be temporary. One voter who “dropped” Vizquel cited ballot management, preferring to support Sheffield, while another added back Bonds after a temporary hiatus. Both of those voters chose 10 players. Nonetheless, the nine lost votes were tied with Manny Ramirez for the most in the cycle, and could be a sign of things to come for Vizquel.
Mussina got 76.7% of the votes overall, and was the only interesting bubble candidate heading into the announcement. The other 34 players were essentially guaranteed to either exceed 75% or fall short.
Moose was at 81.5% at the time of the announcement, and saw a drop of 6.5% from his pre-announcement public ballots to final percentage in 2018. That drop off shrank this year, however, leading to his induction. It is interesting to update data originally included in our piece from the day of the announcement.
The year before they were elected, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, and Tim Raines saw their pre-announcement public percentages fall 6.7%, 6.3%, and 5.6%, respectively. When they cleared 75%, those figures dropped to 1.4%, 3.3%, and 2.8%, respectively. Mussina benefitted from this phenomenon as well; the aforementioned 6.5% turned into a 4.8% decrease this year.
Are Walker and/or Schilling, who each saw their percentage drop by around 10% this year, be next in line? It is entirely possible both spend much of the 2020 cycle above 75% on public ballots.
Besides Mussina and the question of Rivera’s unanimity, the most interesting topic leading into the announcement was probably Pettitte and how the post-results ballots would treat him. After getting under 7% support on pre-announcement public ballots, Pettitte received a vote on about 13% of the post-results public ballots, and is on more than 14% of the private ballots. Helton had a better overall debut, but the two were similarly well-received on these later ballots.
Pettitte could stand to be a huge beneficiary of the ballot logjam easing in 2020 and 2021, as he is on just 16 of the 168 known 10-player ballots.
The only drama concerning Rivera was whether or not he’d become the first unanimous Hall of Fame choice by the BBWAA. Now that one player has been elected unanimously, will more follow? Derek Jeter could do it next year, and perhaps Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Ichiro Suzuki, and others could in the years that follow.
Rivera’s induction breaks one of the more bizarre baseball traditions and permanently puts an end to the notion that no candidate can be a unanimous baseball Hall of Famer since nobody before him was. That a relief pitcher became the first player ever to receive every single vote speaks volumes about Rivera’s stature in the game and quiets complaints of an “anti-closer” bias.
Martinez, as expected, easily cleared the 75% threshold in his final year of eligibility after falling just 20 votes short in 2018.
In so doing, he became only the seventh candidate in the annual voting era to miss induction in each of their first two years and then subsequently be elected with a vote share of greater than 85%, following Raines (86.0% in 2017), Bagwell (86.2% in 2017), Barry Larkin (86.4% in 2012), Rich Gossage (85.8% in 2008), Billy Williams (85.7% in 1987), and Duke Snider (86.5% in 1980).
He just barely missed breaking Raines’ record for highest percentage of votes received in a player’s last year of eligibility, but did break Paul Molitor’s record for the highest percentage for any player who played a plurality of their games at DH has gotten. Molitor got 85.2% in his first year of eligibility in 2004, a hair behind Martinez’ 85.4% share.
Halladay missed out on a top 10 share for a starting pitcher, but still finished with the 16th highest percentage of any starter ever.
The inductions of both Halladay and Mussina could bode well for Schilling and make him a down-to-the-wire case next year along with Walker. Two starting pitching contemporaries making it to Cooperstown may increase consideration Schilling receives among his current holdouts. With Schilling, however, there will always be the matter of his off-field persona to contend with.
Among public 2019 voters, 27 did not vote for Schilling after having done so at least once previously. A handful of voters have been on record stating they will no longer vote for him due to his vitriolic comments, but it is unclear how many of the aforementioned 27 withdrew their support for these reasons.
Considering that Schilling lost just one vote he had received in 2018 – on a ballot that included just three names this past year – it’s fair to speculate that Schilling won’t be getting many of those 27 votes back.
Mussina’s induction continues the recent trend of players receiving under 25% of the vote before subsequently earning induction. He is the fifth player to be elected by the BBWAA after getting under 25% of the vote at some point, following Tim Raines, Bert Blyleven, Bruce Sutter, and Duke Snider.
That Mussina received 24.6% just four years ago and is now in Cooperstown offers hope to a number of candidates who have struggled to earn support in the last number of years. Multiple down-ballot candidates could be primed for a huge breakthrough in 2020 following 11 inductees in the last three elections. Any number of candidates currently in the 10% – 20% range could begin the long climb to 75% à la Martinez or Mussina
The most intriguing situation on next year’s ballot will be Walker’s push for 75% in his final year of eligibility. If he were to get there, he’d be the third player in the last four years to cross 75% in their last chance.
Walker received 232 votes on the 425 ballots cast this year, 87 votes away from the magic threshold. With 193 “no” votes, he needs a bit less than half of the people who didn’t vote for him to change their minds.
Walker has at least 33 chances to gain a vote on ballots containing 10 names, and at least 42 additional chances to gain a vote on ballots containing eight or nine names with Bonds or Clemens, or seven, eight or nine names without them.
|Ballot Size||Number of Ballots||Number w/ Bonds and/or Clemens||Number w/out Bonds and/or Clemens|
Those three groups were all ones with which Mussina excelled this year as he made the climb from below 64% to above 76%, and will be key for Walker as well.
Mussina gaining entrance this year also makes it more likely that some of the 69 ballots not included above could add him as they lose anywhere from 1 to 5 players on their ballots.
The cat is already out of the bag that Walker will be the most fascinating story to follow nine months from now. Schilling has an outside chance at election as well. Beyond those top two returning vote-getters from last year, there is plenty of room for growth for numerous other candidates who will appear on the 2020 ballot.
Bonds and Clemens received the next highest vote shares of any returning candidates after Walker and Schilling, but are once again unlikely to gain much ground in 2020. After Clemens reeled in 54.1% and Bonds 53.8% in 2017, the two have seen only marginal vote increases in the two years since. Clemens increased 3.2% in ‘18 and 2.2% in ‘19, while Bonds gained 2.6% followed by 2.7% in the same timeframe.
Both will surpass 60% next year but probably not by more than a couple percentage points. It is possible that they gain some new support from voters who are typically stingier with awarding votes. Perhaps after seeing the ballot logjam rapidly clearing, voters would prefer to vote for this pair rather than return a ballot with only two or three names checked.
Expanding on the earlier exploration of his candidacy, Vizquel finds himself in a favorable position with a 42.8% share in 2019. Already more than 5% past the halfway point to election, Vizquel has another eight years to pick up an additional 32.2% – which would require right around a 4.0% annual increase. Most candidates in a similar position have historically been elected, often sooner rather than later, as the rate of increase tends to increase rapidly once a candidate holds a majority of the votes.
Overall, there are 168 public 10-player ballots. Of them, eight voters will have at most four holdovers, 71 will have five holdovers, 80 have six holdovers, and nine will have seven or eight holdovers.
|Number of Open Spots||Holdovers Already on Ballot|
|Player||6+||5||4||2/3||BB+RC||CS/LW/OV||BB/RC, 2 of CS/LW/OV|
Source: HOF Tracker
Each of these candidates has at least 100 add opportunities on full ballots, and all except Ramirez and Scott Rolen have at least 95 chances to gain a vote on full ballots that already have Bonds, Clemens, and two or more of Schilling, Walker and Vizquel.
From 2018 to 2019, the percentage of voters using all 10 spots decreased from 50% to 42.8%, and a similar decrease this year would still leave a lot of space for these candidates to pick up considerable ground.
In that vein, it is worthwhile to look at how holdovers did in the following year recently.
|Year 0||Year 0 Average Holdovers||Year 1||Votes for Returning Holdovers||Change / “Gained Votes”||Year 0 Inductees|
The lower total of gained votes per ballot for returning candidates in 2018 can be explained by a very strong showing from first-time candidates that same year. Chipper Jones and Jim Thome both sailed into Cooperstown on their first try, with 97.2% and 89.8% of the vote, respectively. Both of those marks were higher than all three 2017 inductees – Bagwell, Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez.
Vizquel’s healthy 37.0% debut accounted for a higher share than Lee Smith’s final year showing of 34.2% the prior year. Rolen and Jones each received enough support to remain on the ballot.
The average votes gained jumped to more than one full vote per ballot in 2019, despite two first-ballot inductees. The big difference was that this past election followed a four-player induction class, whereas 2018 followed up a three-man class.
It is pretty much a guarantee that the 1.06 mark will improve substantially in 2020 after another four inductees and McGriff are off the ballot, and with Jeter the only newcomer likely to earn much support.
With ballots for 168 of the 182 10-player ballots, and 357 of the 425 total ballots, it is possible to get a good sense for how voters will react to the downturn in first-ballot locks over the next three cycles and better spot trends. We’re excited to pick it up again next year.
Anthony Calamis and Adam Dore are part of Ryan Thibodaux's Hall of Fame Ballot Tracking team. The tracker can be found here.