We love making predictions—especially Miller—and now’s the time of year when predictions are in order. It’s Hall of Fame election week, and with the official results just hours away, we’d like to share what we think the BBWAA will hand down.
We’re not going for exact percentages. The only thing more difficult than predicting generally how crazy people will act is predicting specifically how a body that’s prone to craziness will act (or not act). We’re looking at broad strokes here.
NOTE: We wrote this piece before Repoz’s Baseball Think Factory 2015 HOF Ballot Collecting Gizmo was launched. It would appear that Eric was very, very wrong on one account…but merely wrong on many others.
ERIC: You just got back from Vegas. What gives us better odds, craps or predicting the BBWAA?
MILLER: The pass line is nearly a 50% bet, but Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez are each getting in without any worry in the world, so I’ll take the wager on the writers.
ERIC: Although at least one voter has already managed to leave The Big Unit off his ballot. Crazy will crazy. As certain as we can be that some really weird ballots will come in reeking of either old-man smell or clickbaiting, we can also be certain that Tom Gordon, Darin Erstad, Jason Schmidt, Cliff Floyd, Jermaine Dye, Rich Aurilia, Troy Percival, Aaron Boone, Tony Clark, and Eddie Guardado will not reach the 5% required to stay on the ballot next year.
MILLER: I always find it fun to predict who among the dregs who really don’t deserve consideration will garner the most votes.
ERIC: Like Don Mattingly?
MILLER: Easy on Donnie Baseball. I’m talking first timers. Giles, Nomar, and Delgado don’t count. Someone could concoct an argument for any of those guys in a vacuum, though not with this crowded ballot. So my question is of the others, who’s the leading vote getter. My candidates are Darin Erstad (he was a punter donchaknow, football mentality and all) and the loquacious and always great interview Tony Clark. I’ll take Erstad. Awful baseball writers like football players.
ERIC: Aaron Boone has the flashbulb moment, so I’ll take him. Now onto the bigger fish. [Ed.’s note: Written before Hal McCoy revealed he was giving Boone a courtesy vote because the third baseman was nice to him.] Who’s getting in besides the top two dogs?
MILLER: In addition to Johnson and Pedro, three others are in a strong position: Biggio, Smoltz, and Piazza. I think there’s some chance they take four.
ERIC: I’m less optimistic than you are. The BBWAA did elect four or more in 1936, 1947, and 1955, but that’s like saying that Democrats and Republicans used to agree sometimes. In a more similar time, the 1999 electors somehow couldn’t get it together to add Fisk to Brett, Yount, and Ryan. In 1989 Perry, Bunning, and Jenkins couldn’t get over the line, so the BBWAA only elected Bench and Yaz. You can’t make this stuff up!
MILLER: Johnson and Pedro are automatic. Biggio is just two votes away. I think Smoltz has the “feel” thing going for him. He completes the set with Maddux and Glavine, he’s got an excellent October resume, he did the team-first thing by switching to relief, he’s now a broadcaster who maintains a public profile, he’s got no steroids allegations at all, and these guys voted him a Cy Young Award not all that long ago. Piazza’s got the longest shot, obviously, especially with bacne-gate, but candidates like Larkin, Sandberg, Drysdale, Mathews, and Boudreau have made the jump from similar percentages as Piazza’s, albeit on much, much sparser ballots.
ERIC: It’s hard to imagine Biggio not making it, right? He’d be the first person since Jim Bunning in 1987 and 1988 to reach 70% and not gain election the next year (if still eligible). Frank Chance is the only other incidence, and that was in the bygone 1940s. But this BBWAA electorate is nutty, so I can’t call him utterly automatic.
MILLER: I can, and I will. Biggio’s in. Smoltz is the wild card here.
ERIC: I’m very curious to see how they come out for Smoltz. Eckersley was a slam-dunk with 20 fewer wins but more than twice as many saves. Yet Smoltz also has “only” 217 wins. And there’s always the ridiculous first-year penalty for his not being Walter Johnson. I’m coming down on the side of his getting about 50–60%.
MILLER: I’d put it at more like 60–77%. The math is against the electorate finding that much agreement on a ten-slot ballot, but because of how close Biggio is to election, there’s something of an inevitability about it that will lead many to thoughtlessly herd for him and blithely turn their attention to Smoltz.
ERIC: Clearing out this friggin’ ballot is the most important thing. I truly hope you’re right. No one will make any progress until we get rid of the top of the backlog.
MILLER: Which leads to Piazza. I think we agree that he has about a 1–5% chance of making it. What needs to happen for a Piazza election?
ERIC: Murray Chass forgets he has a blog and a vote?
MILLER: No one listens to him anyway. They know he’s just an old crank.
ERIC: Seriously though, do you know how many catchers have been elected on their first go-round? Johnny Bench. That’s it! The voters have never properly adjusted catchers’ offensive contributions to match the difficulty of the position. So it just takes catchers longer. Especially when Piazza has an undeservedly poor defensive reputation due to his issues with throwing out runners. For him to be elected this time would require a lot of guys to fill in all ten ballot slots who didn’t last year. The jump is possible, but incredibly unlikely with three strong newbies plus Biggio ahead of him.
MILLER: So you’re predicting Johnson, Pedro, and Biggio?
ERIC: And praying for Smoltz and/or Piazza. And you’re going with Johnson, Pedro, Biggio, and Smoltz?
ERIC: How about big gainers?
MILLER: Can I vote for nobody? Mattingly might gain about 50% because it’s his 15th and final try. But another 50% would only be another two-dozen votes. I’d like to think that the presence of Smoltz will help Schilling and Mussina, but I won’t make such a prediction. My only other real candidate is Piazza. I think he can get to 70% or very near this time.
ERIC: I’ll take Piazza as well. Biggest losers?
MILLER: As with gainers, I don’t think anyone’s going to lose tremendous ground. It’s possible Bonds and Clemens get hit again in an effort by writers to keep non-PED guys on the ballot. If there’s hope for Piazza, it’s because there’s nothing but a made-up reason to assert he used PEDs, while it’s been proven or nearly so for others. I don’t think writers will give up the ghost on Smith or McGriff, so I think they’ll stay relatively similar. The biggest drops might be toward the end of the ballot – in 5%ville, the point of no return.
ERIC: I’m saying Sosa. And those getting 5%ed?
MILLER: I don’t like to see anyone who has a great argument for election fall off the ballot, but that’s what we’re faced with this year. I want to guess that not one of Giles, Nomar, and Delgado reaches that level. But I’ll admit that I could be wrong on all three. As for the backlog, Sosa is in trouble. At only 7.2%, writers might well give up on him. I’d expect Walker at 10.2% to be safe. It takes a special kind of voter to see the greatness in Walker. I don’t imagine Walker voters will turn away in large numbers given that his constituents have been fighting the good fight for four years. McGwire voters, on the other hand, might go away. He’s dropped from 20% to 17% to 11% in recent elections after starting at 24%. The writing is on the wall for Big Mac. He’s not going to make it, and I’d expect some writers to head in another direction.
But my prediction is that Sosa falls off and is replaced by one of our low-hanging newbies. Since Nomar did have a Hall of Fame peak, and since he’s at least as good as a few Hall shortstops, I’ll say he stays in Sosa’s place.
ERIC: I think Sosa falls off, and if so I hope no one replaces him. To break this logjam they have to elect people. So I’d hope that his 20 to 30 votes might be concentrated on fellows who do have a chance. I’m also curious to see if Gary Sheffield gets Kevin Browned.
So that’s our predictions for the 2015 election. Chris Jaffe will do much better than we will with his annual ballot-assessment and predictions at The Hardball Times. Our biggest hope, however, is that we are wrong and five guys end up on the rostrum come next August. Crossing our fingers for Piazza!
—Miller and Eric