The votes are in and the lesser primates at the Hall of Fame have their big abacus ready to begin to tally. So at the Hall of Miller and Eric, it’s prediction time. The work of Ryan Thibs gives us a lot of advanced scouting about what to expect, but are there any surprises lurking in the collective will of the BBWAA?
[Editors’ notes: We updated the balloting information below on the evening of Tuesday the 5th around 9:00 PM with 171 votes known.]
Who gets in?
MILLER: Griffey obviously makes it. Piazza makes the jump from 69.9% last year. And Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines try to come all the way from 55.7% and 55.0% respectively to make the podium. Unfortunately, they both fall short. But they’re both beautifully positioned to make it in 2017, Raines’ final season on the ballot.
ERIC: Piazza and Bagwell would be a wonderful eff-you to the worst steroid moralizers. That is, the ones who won’t vote for someone based on a whisper and no actual proof. That wouldn’t even stand up in civil court.
MILLER: I love how polite you are. Even your cursing is proper. But I don’t think steroid moralizers are put in their place until Bonds and Clemens are rightfully put in theirs. And by the way, for all those who try to group Bonds and Clemens with Pete Rose, let me be very clear. The question of in/out in terms of the Hall has nothing to do with morality. It has to do with the integrity of the game. If some cheat to try to gain an edge, that’s a moral consideration, or not. If others gamble, the game itself could be destroyed. It has nothing to do with morality and everything to do with protecting the game.
ERIC: The sad part, as you say, is that Bagwell probably won’t happen. The math is working against him. With 171 ballots made public, he’s got 136 votes and 79.5%, which means he needs 202 of the 279 remaining votes. That’s 72% if you’re scoring at home, which isn’t going to be easy. Bagwell has three kinds of potential support left in the tank, and here’s where his path to victory lies:
- Soft support: Unannounced voters who survived the purge and whom we know checked Bagwell’s name last year. He got 84 votes from this batch of 144 electors in 2015. He has yet to lose anyone’s support this year. If that trend continues, those 84 votes plus the 136 he has add up to 220. That feels pretty safe.
- Conversion opportunities: Sixty of those 144 voters I just mentioned didn’t vote for Bagwell in 2015. Meanwhile, among the 149 we already know, he’s converted 22 of 52 ballots he didn’t appear on last year, which is 42%. If he converts the as-yet unannounced returning 2015 voters at the same rate, he’d gain another 25 votes. Now he’s got 245 and needs 93 more. This part of his path isn’t as solid as the first, but doesn’t feel too crazy.
- The silent plurality: With 149 returnees already known and 144 known but unannounced voters, there’s only around 160 ballots left. Those are the silent plurality of the electorate. Bagwell needs to pick up about 60% of them. He received 48.4% of their votes last year. Considering the nearly 20-point gain he’s making in the announced electorate, this is certainly possible, but we know so little about the mystery voters’ ballots that’s very hard to say what they will do. We do know they are generally stingier with their ballots (by nearly a full name per ballot). They are also widely thought to be more conservative about steroid-era players. This is where our scenario goes sideways.
There’s only three ways this can go.
Everything goes right, and Bagwell jusssssst squeaks over the line. Or the mystery vote comes through, but he doesn’t pick up enough conversions and falls just a few votes short a la Biggio in 2014. Or, finally, the silent plurality doesn’t herd up, and he ends up with numbers more like Piazza’s last year, in the 65% to 70% range.
MILLER: At this stage, your worst-case seems most likely. Both Bagwell and Raines fall short of 70%. Ugh!
Does Griffey get to 100%?
MILLER: Someone will take a ridiculous moral stance, or they’ll conflate Junior with his dad since they haven’t watched a baseball game since Senior played, or they’ll just forget, or maybe their fax won’t go through properly. They’re not still using just faxes, right?
ERIC: I don’t know that they are even allowed to use faxes. Or if they ever did use them. From the BBWAA website: “The elector shall sign and return the completed ballot within twenty (20) days.” The internet. That’s the thing with the email, right?
Does Griffey beat Tom Seaver’s 98.84%?
ERIC: Incredibly, yes. Not Maddux, Johnson, Rickey, or someone like that, but Ken Griffey Jr. I guess because he’s the clean one.
MILLER: I love Griffey, I really do, but he managed 7.5 WAR over the last decade of his career. He topped that number in 1993 alone. And in 1997. Also, because everything in my world has a little something to do with Mike Trout, the Angel great has topped Griffey’s final decade in each of his first four seasons.
Does Raines set himself for a final year run?
ERIC: It is my fondest wish for Tim Raines that his long national nightmare will end with the 2017 election. Because Lord knows, whatever iteration of the Veterans Committee exists in 2020 is no guarantee.
MILLER: Aside from the doubt we all have about the BBWAA, where Raines will sit when the results are announced today will virtually assure his election a year from now. His competition next year is really flawed. Manny certainly isn’t getting the support of this electorate. Piazza reminds us how hard it’ll be for fellow catcher Ivan Rodriguez. And Vlad, to me, is very much a borderliner, though I think the electorate likes him more than I do. That leaves Bagwell, Hoffman, the other holdovers, and Jorge, who’s sure to be overlooked. So even if he doesn’t make the grand leap this year he’s going to have a fairly open ballot next year.
ERIC: I can’t believe you just said a ballot with Bonds, Clemens, Mussina, Schilling, Edgar, Kent, Manny, Vlad, Pudge, Walker, Edmonds, Sheffield, Sosa, and Kent is open. Why am I so polite about this stuff?
MILLER: And don’t forget Wagner.
Do Bonds and Clemens reach 50%?
MILLER: What I don’t understand is how they don’t have exactly the same people supporting and not supporting them. Both are jack-holes who used PEDs, and both are among the very best players ever. No, they’re not going to top 50%, but they’ll both put up their best numbers in four years. And some naïve people such as myself will say they’re on their way to 75% between now and 2022. They probably aren’t.
ERIC: They’ve gained 11 and 9 votes so far respectively. That’s more than I would have figured. I thought they would remain static. In reality, they are just bobbing up and down with the current. The returning players (excluding Nomar), are averaging about 13 conversions. The median is 11. So electing four players last year and a shallow ballot this year is allowing people to vote for their 11th and 12th and 13th and 14th names. Bonds and Clemens just happen to be those names for some people.
MILLER: Hey, now you’re doing it, calling this a shallow ballot.
Do Edgar, Schilling, and Mussina keep building momentum?
MILLER: Heck yes for Edgar! I don’t know that he’ll ever get to 75%, and I don’t think he’s as impressive a candidate as either of the other two in this question, yet he’s building a coalition. Maybe, just maybe, he gets there in his final three tries.
ERIC: Dude is on fire! He leads all returnees with 30 no votes converted to yeses. He’s nearly doubled his percentage of the public vote in the process. Not bad.
MILLER: Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling had different shapes to their careers, and they’re about equally well supported. I think that’s because Schilling has the perfect Hall profile and questionable, at best, interpersonal skills, and Mussina is a really good guy who didn’t do the important thing for non-Catfish pitchers over the last 40 years, win 300 games. How dare he! Anyway, they’ll build some momentum. Next year, hopefully, will be their time to take a big leap forward.
ERIC: Curt Schilling is almost certainly being hurt by his reactionary glibness. He’s lost seven voters this year despite a shallower ballot. (He’s gained 16 for a net of +9.) His stats and on-the-field heroics haven’t changed at all in one year’s time; the only new information on him besides his unfortunate bout with cancer is his bout with foot-in-mouth disease. Not that I think it will ultimately kill his chances and shouldn’t, but he ought to learn to keep his trap shut on matters of race, ethnicity, and religious affiliation.
Meanwhile, no modern pitcher remotely like Mussina has ever been denied the Hall of Fame. Using the BBREF Play Index, I looked up pitchers whose careers started after 1893 (when the mound moved back to 60’6”) and who are in the Hall with 250 to 299 wins and have an ERA+ above 100, while noting their WAA. This is his Hall of Fame cohort:
NAME WINS ERA+ WAA =================================== Bert Blyleven 287 118 52.3 Robin Roberts 286 113 38.7 Fergie Jenkins 284 115 42.6 Red Ruffing 273 109 15.1 Burleigh Grimes 270 108 14.2 Mike Mussina 270 123 48.6 Jim Palmer 268 125 32.8 Bob Feller 266 122 34.1 Eppa Rixey 266 115 21.7 Ted Lyons 260 118 28.1 Red Faber 254 119 29.1 Carl Hubbell 253 130 38.8 Bob Gibson 251 127 47.0
Mussina fits in perfectly well here, doesn’t he? His ERA+ is third in this group, and his WAA is second. I love Fergie Jenkins and Jim Palmer as comps for Mussina, just a shame that the voters don’t see it. He’s going to make it eventually. It’s only a question of when and how. He’s got to get through fellow pitchers Schilling, Pettitte, and Halladay in the next several years. As of this writing, he’s runner up to Edgar with 25 no-to-yes conversions to push him over 50%. If he can maintain that, he’s going in very soon. If he just reaches 40% this year, he’s well on the path considering he dropped to 25% last year during pitchergeddon.
Do Edmonds, Kent, Sheffield, Sosa, and Walker stay on the ballot?
ERIC: Edmonds is a goner. What a strange, strange world we live in. But Walker made the likely 5% mark around ballot 165. The rest will hang on since the newbies to the ballot are relatively few.
MILLER: Kent is also over the expected 5% line with just public ballots. I believe Sosa and Sheffield will make it too. But like you, I’m way less confident about Jim Edmonds. The BBWAA standard in CF is so bizarre. Forget Kenny Lofton and Jimmy Wynn. Let’s elect Kirby Puckett though. Yeah, Edmonds is one and done.
ERIC: Maybe the weirdest thing about these guys is that Sheffield has more conversions than any of them save Walker. Color me shocked.
Will the three relievers on the ballot receive more combined votes than ballots submitted?
MILLER: First, we agree that none of Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith, and Billy Wagner deserve to go into the Hall of Fame. But writers love saves! Let’s say 55–58% for Hoffman, 32–35% for Smith, and another 10% for Wagner. My call is that it’ll be really close. Let’s say 462 votes on 455 ballots.
ERIC: The love for saves is so super weird. Three relievers appearing on one voter’s ballot: amazing in the same way as a guy who can kiss his own butt, but it is happening. The save fetish leads to absolutely freakish ballots like these:
- Jeff Schultz: Griffey, Hoffman, McGriff, Raines, Smith, Trammell, and Wagner.
- Steven Marcus: Griffey and Hoffman.
I think I feel a migraine coming on. I do, however, predict that the relievers will beat the number of ballots. And that I will gnash my teeth about it for years to come.
Any other predictions?
ERIC: The sum of blank ballots and ballots with Pete Rose’s name on them will be greater than the sum of Jim Edmonds’ total votes.
MILLER: The culling of voters who haven’t covered the game in over a decade that occurred between last election and this will give a boost to almost all candidates. Even if we can’t get baseball experts the vote, it’s a great thing that those who think about the game less, on average, than those covering it today have been purged. I expect Griffey and Piazza will make it. Despite my early hope, Bagwell and Raines will have to wait another year. It’s a virtual certainty, however, that if either Bagwell or Raines gets in, it’s because of the purge.
Also, even though we had a purge,we’re going to stop inching closer to full ballots. It was 5.10 in 2012, 6.60 in 2013, 8.30 in 2014, and then 8.42 last year. This year’s crop of Griffey, Hoffman, and Wagner is weaker than last year’s of Pedro, Unit, and Smoltz, so voters will pull back a little in terms of total names listed. Still, there’s progress for a lot of candidates.
Next year we get Bagwell and Raines! Edgar, Schilling, and Mussina get closer. And good ‘ol Fred McGriff makes a run. I don’t feel good about Pudge. About Vlad, I don’t know that I care so much. And about Manny, part of me wants him at 100%, and part of me wouldn’t even vote for him. Tough call.