Hey, remember the Hall of Fame voting? If your outrage over illegal sign-stealing — Banghazi, perhaps? — needs some redirection, the results of the voting on the BBWAA’s 2020 ballot will be announced later today. When they are, Derek Jeter may well become the second player in as many years to be elected unanimously by the 400-plus BBWAA voters, though FanGraphs readers did not accord the former Yankees shortstop quite the same level of Re2pect in our second annual Hall of Fame Crowdsource balloting. Of course, they did “elect” him with the highest percentage of any of this year’s candidates, and they were almost certainly more generous than the actual electorate will be when it comes to the ballot’s other top luminaries.
As with last year, registered readers of our site (and participating staff, this scribe included) were allowed to choose up to 10 candidates while adhering to the same December 31, 2019 deadline as the actual voters, but unlike the writers, our voting was conducted electronically instead of on paper. This year, 1,440 users participated, a 19% increase relative to last year, our inaugural foray. Slightly over half of the participants (50.6%) used all 10 slots on their ballots, well down from last year’s 77.6% but still well ahead of the 29.5%% of actual voters who have published their ballots in Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker as of 12:01 AM Eastern on Tuesday morning. Our voters averaged 8.37 names per ballot, down a full notch and then some from last year’s 9.41, but again well ahead of the Tracker’s 7.30.
All of which provides an interesting window into our electorate. I’ll press my nose to the glass on such topics below, but chances are that you’re here because you really want to know who we actually chose. Getting back to Jeter, the ballot’s top newcomer, not only did he not receive 100% in our polling, he didn’t even break 90%, and barely beat out the second-best supported candidate, Larry Walker, edging him by just half a percentage point, 89.9% to 89.4% — seven total votes! The other two candidates we “elected” were the gruesome twosome, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who like Walker also cleared the 75% bar last year in our unfortunately non-binding poll. If that quartet seems like a lot, consider that last year, the FanGraphs crowd tabbed seven candidates, with the aforementioned trio of holdovers joining the four players the writers actually elected (Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, and Mariano Rivera, who got only 91.1% of our vote, compared to 100% of the real thing).
Here are the full results as well as a comparison to the results from the 210 reported ballots in the Tracker as of 12:01 AM Eastern on Tuesday morning:
Remarkably, all 32 candidates received at least one vote from our crowd, which — wait, really? While it’s amusing to imagine a single user filling out a completely rogue ballot with the 10 lowest-polling candidates, I can tell you from poring over the reports of each combination that the breadth of support appears to be more a matter of voters running out of what they believed to be strong candidates and using the remaining space to throw a bone to a personal favorite or two — or to be a stick in the mud. For example, the lone ballot that included Penny, apparently cast by somebody unwilling to include most of the PED-linked candidates, also had Abreu, Helton, Kent, Rolen, Sheffield, Walker… and Furcal, but not Jeter. Dunn popped up on two of the most deliberately bizarre ballots, one in which he flew solo (the ol’ One and Dunn) and then a ballot that also included Ibañez and Furcal alongside Helton, Jones, Ramirez, Rolen, Sheffield, Vizquel, and Wagner — but no Jeter or Walker, and of course no Bonds or Clemens. Okay, bud.
Unlike last year, we had blank ballots — two of ’em, likely from voters who simply wanted to ensure that Jeter wasn’t unanimous in our poll. No, I did not get access to voter IDs, but let’s face it, if that was noted blankety-blanker Murray Chass, you’d think he might be a bit more inclined to vote for Jeter.
The biggest surprise below the top four in voting share is Rolen — who’s making enough headway among the writers that he’s poised to at least double last year’s actual share of 17.2% — handily outpolling Schilling. Now that I look back, though, the same was true last year: Rolen had a 61.1% to 59.0% edge on the Big Schill. Relative to the 2019 crowdsource, Jones leapfrogged Ramirez while Helton and Sheffield closed the gap on both; last year, their respective shares here were 44.1% for Manny, 43.3% for Andruw, 26.5% for the Toddfather, and 20.8% for Shef. Billy Wags more than doubled last year’s crowdsource share of 17.3%, and has a shot at doing the same regarding his actual share of 16.7%. That’s a possibility for Helton (16.5%), Sheffield (13.6%), and Jones (7.5%), too.
While Jeter is the only one of this year’s 14 newcomers who is a sure thing to receive more than 5% of the actual vote, our crowd felt that both Abreu (who could make the cut) and Lee (who won’t) were as well. In the real world, that would mean they retain their eligibility, but of course, our results are non-binding.
As to where our voters differed the most relative to the ballots published ballots thus far, the elite defenders who carried big sticks also carried the day. Jones, a 10-time Gold Glover who leads all center fielders in fielding runs (+236), had the largest positive gap between his crowdsource share and his Tracker one, followed by Rolen, an eight-time Gold Glover who’s third in fielding runs (+175) among third basemen. The pattern kind of falls apart after that, given that Ramirez, Helton, and Abreu, the three other candidates who outdid the Tracker by at least 10 points, were a decidedly mixed bag defensively.
Looking at things from the other direction, there should be little surprise that the largest underperformer among our voters was Vizquel, who despite his defensive excellence does not fare very well via WAR or JAWS and who actually received just 4.9% from our crowd last year, which would have disqualified him on the real ballot. He more than doubled that meager level of support from our voters, but that’s not saying much; his gap relative to the Tracker is over 24 points greater than that of any other underperformer, with Schilling and Kent closely bunched together, followed by Jeter.
Per developer Sean Dolinar, who deserves a hat-tip not only for building our crowdsource ballot but also providing me with the voting data in several shapes and forms that I didn’t even know I wanted, there were 861 different ballot combinations including the blank, 201 more than last year. A whopping 676 of them appeared just once, while 13 appeared at least 10 times. All of the combinations within that baker’s dozen had our top five vote-getters, all but one also included Schilling, and all but two used the full 10 spots. Here are the variations, ranked:
|Helton, Jones, Ramirez, Schilling, Sheffield||28||1.94%|
|Helton, Jones, Ramirez, Schilling, Wagner||22||1.53%|
|Jones, Ramirez, Schilling, Sheffield, Wagner||20||1.39%|
|Helton, Jones, Wagner, Schilling, Sheffield||20||1.39%|
|Helton, Jones, Ramirez, Schilling, Sosa||19||1.32%|
|Jones, Ramirez, Schilling, Sheffield, Sosa||18||1.25%|
|Abreu, Helton, Jones, Schilling, Wagner||14||0.97%|
|Helton, Ramirez, Schilling, Sheffield, Wagner||13||0.90%|
|Jones, Pettitte, Ramirez, Schilling, Sheffield||12||0.83%|
|Abreu, Helton, Jones, Ramirez, Schilling||10||0.69%|
|Helton, Jones, Ramirez, Sheffield, Wagner||10||0.69%|
While there’s a bit of a lag time in the Tracker’s “Ballot Twins” section, which logs each individual combination of choices, through the 186 ballots recorded there as of 9 AM ET on Tuesday, our most popular ballot is tied for the second-most popular one there, where it’s been cast four times. The Tracker’s most popular ballot to that point is a cross between small-Hall and PED-agnostic in its orientation, a four-candidate slate containing Bonds, Clemens, Jeter, and Schilling; that combo has been cast five times by actual voters but chosen just three times by our readers. Advantage, FanGraphs.
As for my virtual ballot, which relative to the most popular one swaps out Ramirez (on the grounds that he was suspended twice for PED violations) in favor of Wagner, it’s tied for third among FanGraphs readers — some of whom clearly have exquisite taste — but was matched just twice by actual voters.
— Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs) December 29, 2019
Here’s our breakdown of ballots by the number of slots used, and how it compares to the Tracker:
As noted above, our voters were far more inclined to use all 10 spots than the actual voters reporting to the Tracker. Unsurprisingly, the latter group’s reluctance to do so created a trickle-down effect, as they were more likely than the crowd to use any other number of slots except zero. Three actual voters did turn in Jeter-only ballots, up from two revealed before last year’s results were announced; the BBWAA’s post-election ballot release — the elective publication of one’s ballot two weeks after the results are announced — revealed two more. Like clockwork, one of this year’s three one-candidate ballots came from former Spink Award winner Dan Shaughnessy, whose ballot release might as well be called Shanksgiving given its potential effect on any candidate who could really use that extra vote.
If there’s any consolation when it comes to the stray one-candidate ballots, it’s that our voters got slightly more creative. In addition to half a dozen Jeter-only ballots and the aforementioned One and Dunn, we had a Bonds-only ballot, a Clemens-only one, and a Ramirez-only one. I’m not sure how any of those voters thought that such hair-splitting made actual sense given that all three have some icky non-baseball stuff alongside their outstanding stats; perhaps I’m simply rewarding their look-at-me grandstanding by mentioning this. I will note that a honkin’ 64 crowdsource voters (4.4%) submitted ballots of any size with either Bonds or Clemens but not both; Bonds had the edge there, 41 to 23. Among actual voters, just two split the baby like that, with both including Bonds but not Clemens.
Anyway, it’s all food for thought as we await Tuesday night’s results. Despite the relative weakness of this year’s newcomer class besides Jeter, and the fact that we’ve already seen roughly half of the ballots that will be cast, there’s no shortage of suspense regarding the outcome. No, it doesn’t really matter whether Jeter is unanimous so long as he gets that 75%, and he certainly will. There’s far more intrigue when it comes to which side of the line Walker winds up on; I’m guessing that he’s within eight votes — about 2% — on either side of 75%, and won’t stop sweating bullets until I know that answer, for better or worse. The momentum of Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling is of great interest, and the sizable surges of Rolen, Helton, Sheffield and others will be something to ponder as well. Of course, I’ll be here to break down the results, both with regards to the big picture on Tuesday night and candidate by candidate on Wednesday. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
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. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.