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2016 Hall of Fame Election

Our Ballot Analysis, Battery

tim-wakefield

He’ll certainly get a vote in Miller’s heart.

It’s that time of year again. The Baseball Writers Association of America’s ballot is out. And we’re learning about ballots already thanks to the great Ryan Thibs. This year there are 19 new candidates and 15 guys returning, all striving for that magical 75% of the vote needed for enshrinement. For Lee Smith it’s his 15th and final ballot. For Tim Raines, because of a rule change a couple of years ago, it’s his 10th and also his final ballot. Raines was close last year, Jeff Bagwell even closer. And a third returner, Trevor Hoffman is poised based on last year’s vote to make a run this go-around.

As for the new guys, the names to watch are Vlad, Manny, and Pudge. An argument could be made for any of them, but there’s a decent enough counter-argument for all. The decent counter, the crowded ballot, and the high bar that is 75% makes it hard to predict any of them will go in this year. But read on today, Friday, and Monday. You’ll get our perspective on each of the candidates. As for predictions, we’re not quite there yet.

Today is the battery, Friday is the Infield, and Monday is the outfield.

Roger Clemens

Years on the ballot: 5

Commentary: I suspect this is the year he tops 50%. There will be fewer steroid haters voting, and the sentiment seems to be trending toward a softening. The numbers obviously aren’t in question. Not even the number of times the BBWAA takes a crack at him. I’m pretty confident we’ll chat about him for five more years, and then he’ll go by the way of whatever committee is working on players like Roger.

Best-case scenario: Probably 53-55%.

Worst-case scenario: I suppose there’s a shot he loses ground, though it’s not like losing ground even matters. We’ve never dealt with guys like Clemens and Bonds before, and their cases certainly won’t be settled when the BBWAA is done with them.

Trevor Hoffman

Years on the ballot: 2

Commentary: There’s no doubt that Hoffman was great at what he did on the baseball field. There’s little doubt, at least in my mind, that what he did wasn’t nearly valuable enough to earn him a Hall plaque. He’s roughly as valuable for his career as John Lackey and Joe Nathan. But saves. Why he couldn’t be the baby brother to Mariano as Raines seems to be to Rickey?

Best-case scenario: He sneaks over the line and joins the likes of Rollie Fingers and Bruce Sutter as incredibly questionable Hall selections.

Worst-case scenario: Lee Smith has gone up and down. Maybe the same happens with Hoffman. I suppose an argument could be made that says each year Hoffman doesn’t make it decreases the chances he will. That argument says that he’s unqualified, that voters are getting smarter, and that historical trends that show candidate support growing will turn in Hoffman’s case. Unlikely.

Mike Mussina

Years on the ballot: Too many (4)

Commentary: Instead of the annual screed about the Bert Blyleven of this generation, let’s just consider Mussina’s path to baseball immortality. For the last several years, he’s been stuck behind the Pedro, Big Unit, Glavine, Smoltz, Maddux, Schilling, and, yes, Jack Morris glut of pitchers. Last year, with all but Schilling cleared out, he leapt upward nearly 20% to 43%. So this year and next are crucial for Moose because Johan Santana is the best pitcher who will debut in 2017 and 2018, and we all know Santana hasn’t a chance in hell of seeing a second ballot with just 139 wins. But in 2019, we get Mariano, Andy Pettitte, and Roy Halladay. We know that Mussina will be slotted behind Mo. I’m not sure what to expect from HGH-dabbling Pettitte and Roy Halladay and his 203 wins. So that means that Mussina needs to climb as many rungs as he can so that they have to measure up to him and not him to them. It’s surely unlikely that he’ll grab another 20% this year. But even simply getting to 50% will start the inevitability talk rolling, and then it’s just a matter of time. If he can get to 60% by 2018, he’ll either be the leader in the clubhouse (by passing Schilling or by default if Schilling should be elected), or he’ll be right behind Bloody Soxman.

Best-case scenario: Mussina explodes up the ballot and gets near 60% this year.

Worst-case scenario: He’s stuck in the mid-40s and gets no traction.

Jorge Posada

Years on the ballot: 1

Commentary: I always thought the Core Four business was stupid. Namely because fans chose rhyming over truth. Bernie Williams should be in that group since he fits the same mold. But core doesn’t rhyme with five. As for Jorge Posada, so much depends upon how you view his defense. Either he’s pretty bad or he’s really bad. BBREF shows him as a -60 run defender. While not Jeteresque, it’s pretty bad. But they don’t account at all for handling pitchers and game calling. Max Marchi’s studies on this showed Posada as another 76 runs below average in the dark arts of handling pitchers. Even I don’t use those numbers at full strength at this juncture in statistical history. Even so, the addition of this information makes Posada a borderline, at best, option, falling behind Gene Tenace and Ernie Lombardi among others.

Best-case scenario: Being a catcher hurts his chances generally. Not being an MVP-level player pretty much ever will hurt his chances even more. The best case is that he stays on the ballot long enough to generate some small attention then when the Core Four Yankees are underrepresented in Cooperstown, the VC gives him another look.

Worst-case scenario: One and done. This may also be his most likely scenario owing to the fact that the ballot remains stuffed full of good candidates, and the backlog logjam remains with us.

Arthur Rhodes

Years on the ballot: 1

Commentary: I used to love Arthur Rhodes pitch. He’s one of the only pitchers I remember who I thought might have scared batters. And through the first five years of his career when he was walking nearly five guys per nine, perhaps batters had reason to fear. Truth be told though, he hit just four batters in those first five seasons.

Best-case scenario: Maybe someone throws him a vote for his longevity. He is 25th in all-time tames, and five guys ahead of him are in the Hall. Add Hoffman and Mariano, and there are seven. But really, that’s a terrible reason to send him a vote.

Worst-case scenario: No votes. He returns to Texas, or wherever, to play with his family, or whoever. He made almost $40 million playing the game, so things can only be so bad for him.

Ivan Rodriguez

Years on the ballot: 1

Commentary: This is a somewhat better test case for whether the ongoing steroids witch hunt is calming down. Rodriguez has no official failed tests. His name was not leaked in the 2002–2003 testing. He was not a Congressional witness. He was only fingered by Jose Canseco, and his physique was slimmer one year after steroid testing began. In many voters’ courts that’s probably enough to convict. Aside from that, however, he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but because he was a catcher, he would otherwise require two ballots. Or three. Gun-to-head, I’d say he starts out lower than Piazza by as many as five to fifteen points.

Best-case scenario: I suppose there’s some chance he’s actually elected, like he ought to be, which would be amazingly helpful to every other candidate on the ballot.

Worst-case scenario: A total in mid-30s and cloggin’ up the old ballot.

Curt Schilling

Years on the ballot: 5

Commentary: Would be pretty cool if Schilling ran for Senate against Theo Epstein in Massachusetts…. Schill’s a Hall of Fame pitcher, clear and simple, even if he is a Hall of Shame blowhard. I feel pretty certain that his unfortunate Twitter habits and mouthbreather commentary have suppressed his vote totals. I don’t think that’s okay. I may disagree with Schilling on nearly every political issue of our day, but I also disagree with penalizing him for those comments on a ballot. We’re not voting for Senator Schilling, we’re voting for pitcher Schilling. There’s plenty of bad actors in the Hall of Fame, he’d just be another.

Best-case scenario: He picks up 10 or 15 points, positioning himself strongly for 2018 and 2019.

Worst-case scenario: Stagnation or only a very small gain.

Lee Smith

Years on the ballot: 15

Commentary: Our long national nightmare is almost over. This is Lee Smith’s final shot at the Hall. Schluffing him off will be a blessing since the ballot is more jammed than the George Washington Bridge when Chris Christie’s feeling vicious. Smith is not now and never has been a good candidate, and he’s going to join Gil Hodges and Jack Morris as the only men to reach 50% and never get elected. Well, that is, until the Veterans elect Morris and Smith in their infinite wisdom.

Best-case scenario: He gains some final-year pity-party votes.

Worst-case scenario: His support completely collapses because voters know he’s toast and don’t have enough ballot slots to waste on a lagniappe.

Jason Varitek

Years on the ballot: 1

Commentary: I admit that Varitek isn’t the kind of guy I like. He’s got that Brian McCann, drill sergeant, play the game right kind of thing. But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong about him. He’s not Hall worthy, and it’s not close.

Best-case scenario: A member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame.

Worst-case scenario: No courtesy votes.

Billy Wagner

Years on the ballot: 2

Commentary: While Wagner’s career was still going on, I talked to Eric about Wagner being a potentially hidden Hall of Famer. That was before I really understood enough about value and maybe still saw Fingers and Sutter as reasonable enough choices. Wagner was either hurt or awesome. Aside from when he was hurt in 2000 and posted only an 81 ERA+, he was never below 141. And when he was old, he was awesome, over his last six years his ERA was 1.98, and his ERA+ was 217. If he kept pitching until he lost effectiveness, maybe he’d still be in the game today. No, he doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall, but he does deserve an examination of his career from any major baseball fan.

Best-case scenario: His percentage stays around 10% and he gets another year on the ballot. Heck, maybe if Hoffman doesn’t get in this year but keeps momentum going in its current direction, and people compare the two, maybe Wagner can make a tiny run next year. Of course, such a run wouldn’t likely get him to even 20% of the vote.

Worst-case scenario: This might be his last try.

Tim Wakefield

Years on the ballot: 1

Commentary: I’ll never forget the phenomenal run in 1995. I’ll never forget his willingness to shuttle from rotation to pen and back again. I’ll always remember the indignity of being such an important part of a team making playoff runs but being left off playoff rosters. Wake is sixth in Red Sox pitcher WAR, behind five HoMErs. He’s first in innings and starts, second in strikeouts and games, and third in wins. He’s an incredibly important part of one of the game’s great franchises. And he’s a guy who took five minutes of his life to chat with a big fan the only time I ran into him.

Best-case scenario: I hope for him a few guys who aren’t good enough voters to fill their ballots shoot some support his way.

Worst-case scenario: Two rings and eternal fame in Boston.

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Our Ballot Analysis, Battery

  1. Baseball needs more guys like Wakefield. I hope he hangs on the ballot.
    v

    Posted by verdun2 | November 23, 2016, 8:59 am

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