FanGraphs readers want their Hall of Famers, and they want ’em now! That’s the take-home message from the results of our inaugural Hall of Fame Crowdsource Ballot, for which we invited registered users of our site to partake in our version of the real thing. To an even greater degree than the Baseball Writers Association of America — which over the past five years has elected 16 candidates, more than any other five-year stretch in the institution’s history, while using more slots per ballot than at any time since 1966 — our voters went deep, and they weren’t shy about honoring the ballot’s best.
A total of 1,213 users (including some of our staff) cast their electronic ballots (something the Hall of Fame currently does not yet have); they could vote for up to 10 candidates while adhering to the same December 31, 2018 deadline as the voters. Remarkably, more than three-quarters of our voters — 77.6% — used all 10 slots, well above the rate in the @NotMrTibbs Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker (55.8% of the 217 ballots as of midnight ET on Monday), and well beyond the modern BBWAA record of 51%, set in 2015. Our voters averaged a generous 9.41 votes per ballot, again ahead of both the current Tracker (8.61) and the modern BBWAA record (8.46), set last year.
Oh, you want to know who we elected? No fewer than seven of the 35 candidates received at least 75% of the vote from our crowd. Keep in mind, that’s two more than in any actual Hall of Fame class, and three more than in any class besides the 1936 inaugural one (Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner). Not only did our users anoint the three candidates who appear to be locks this year (Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, and Mariano Rivera) and the man on the bubble (Mike Mussina), they waved in the slate’s two most controversial candidates, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, and still had ample room to include Larry Walker as well.
Here’s the full breakdown, as well as how our results square up with those in the Tracker as it stood at midnight ET on Monday:
In an electorate roughly triple the size of the actual one, and 5.6 times the number published in the Tracker, Rivera was not only not unanimous, he wasn’t even the top vote-getter. Meanwhile, Mussina outdistanced Halladay, and all seven candidates cleared the 75% bar with considerable room to spare.
As for where our voters differed most from those in the Tracker, defense carried the day, at least to a point. Rolen, who ranks third among third basemen in both fielding runs (+175) and Gold Gloves (eight), received about triple the support he’s gotten in the Tracker, and Jones, who’s tops among center fielders in fielding runs (+236) and won 10 Gold Gloves, got nearly five times as much support. On the other hand — and I swear I’m not making this up — the 11-time Gold Glove-winning Vizquel, who’s 18th in fielding runs among shortstops (+129), fell below the 5% mark. Don’t worry, we’re not going to Five Percent him off our crowdsource ballot next year. Our voters were generally much more forgiving of candidates linked to PEDs, whether they were actually suspended by MLB (Ramirez) or not (Bonds, Clemens, and Sheffield). Even Pettitte and Sosa did better with our electorate than they are in the Tracker.
Besides Vizquel, our voters were not as keen as the actual electorate on McGriff or Schilling, and to a lesser but still significant extent, the same was true for both Halladay and Rivera. None of the 217 published ballots excluded the latter (one voter kept his dissent in his pocket, so we can stop talking about it), but 108 of our voters did so.
According to FanGraphs developer Sean Dolinar, who deserves a hat-tip for building our ballot and providing me with the data, there were 660 different ballot combinations, of which 532 appeared just once. The five most frequent combinations all included the seven candidates who topped 75%, as well as Rolen — the “Big Eight,” if you will — with these variations:
Just below that, tied at 13 ballots, was our top nine-candidate slate (Schilling plus eight) and a 10-candidate ballot that omitted Rolen but included Ramirez, Jones, and Schilling. Only one voter in the Tracker, the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff, actually had our top combination, but six had our number two choice (you can see the other combinations in the Tracker here). While only one voter in the Tracker (Tracy Ringolsby) matched my virtual ballot, which included Helton and Wagner plus the eight, six of our voters did so.
Here’s our breakdown of ballots by the number of slots used, and how it compares to the Tracker:
Neither the Tracker nor our crowdsource included a blank ballot, thankfully. One was submitted for realzies last year by a voter who remained anonymous, while Bill Livingston and Murray Chass did so in 2017. Speaking of what we might charitably call “former Spink Award Winners who take great joy in presenting exceedingly minimal ballots,” the Rivera-only vote of Dan Shaughnessy was matched by one voter in our crowdsource, though I don’t believe “The Shank” is a registered user here.
As for ballots that used two slots, while the Tracker contains Rivera-Halladay and Rivera-Martinez combinations, we had a Rivera-McGriff, a Rivera-Mussina, and — here’s an outlier for you — a Schilling-Walker. We had one crossover with the Tracker when it came to three-ballot combos (Halladay-Rivera-Martinez). The rest of ours all included Halladay, with Rivera-Mussina, Rivera-Helton and Schilling-Wagner combos, while those in the Tracker had Halladay-Rivera-Walker, Halladay-Rivera-Schilling, Bonds-Clemens-Rivera and Martinez-Rivera-Vizquel.
When Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson opens that envelope on MLB Network on Tuesday evening, he certainly won’t be calling out seven names. By now, most of the suspense boils down to whether Rivera will be the first unanimous selection (probably not, but it’s newsworthy until somebody dissents), and which side of the coin comes down for Mussina; Jason Sardell (@sarsdell) projected his chance of topping the 75% threshold at 63%. Whether three or four candidates are elected this year, just remember that you, the FanGraphs crowd, are the ones who really got it right.
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.