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2017 Hall of Fame Election, BBWAA, Hall Logic

What the 2017 BBWAA Hall of Fame vote might mean

Well, we got the easy two right…. And one of us, whose name starts with E, might have been a tad overconfident about Trevor Hoffman’s back-bench support. Still, the Hall’s results were very good, even if we rooted for a five-person election. Here’s your chance to eavesdrop on our conversation about this week’s results.

ERIC: Bagwell and Raines are in as expected. Bagwell’s path to glory was more conventional than Raines’. He started off at 42% and slowly gained steam. It was too long a wait for such a great player, but that’s the BBWAA for you. Raines on the other hand kicked things off in 2008 with ann uninspiring 24% of the vote. I’m frankly surprised he did that well. He slipped to 23% the next year, made halting upward progress and suddenly vaulted into position in year nine to reach the holy grail in his final election on the ballot. That’s pretty amazing.

MILLER: As is often the case with the BBWAA, I have a bit more faith than you. I don’t mind that Bagwell took a while, even though he’s one of the ten best first basemen ever, and on a career level probably better than Frank Thomas. As for Raines, I don’t want to call his rise amazing. Consensus among a body that doesn’t formally discuss players on the ballot can take a long time. And the electorate really is improving. Slowly they’re improving.

Before we get into deeper conversation about the guys who weren’t near-certainties before the election, I’d like to get your view on the stray votes for the Jason Variteks and Edgar Renterias of the world.

ERIC: While I disagree strenuously with actually voting for Varitek, at the least the voter, Jay Dunn, expressed a line of thinking about it. Namely that Tek was the catcher for a whole mess of really good teams, and that catching is a subtler art than any other fielding position. On the other hand, one could use that argument to elect someone like Bob Boone or Tim McCarver, both of whom should pay admittance fees to get into the Hall. At least Dunn had the good sense to vote for Posada and Rodriguez for consistency’s sake. On the other hand, he had the terrible sense to drop Edgar Martinez, keep Lee Smith, and keep Fred McGriff, and not vote for Mike Mussina or Larry Walker or Jeff Kent, all of whom could have had a place on his steroid-free ballot and are light years better than Varitek or Posada.

The vote for the other Edgar is simply stupid. Look, I get that courtesy votes are a kindness that writers give favorites, but look at Jim Molony’s ballot! He dumps Curt Schilling and Billy Wagner to accommodate Vlad, Manny, and I-Rod plus the added Jeff Kent. He fails to vote for Mussina and doesn’t vote for Bonds and Clemens despite other steroid-whisper players on his ballot. Oh, and he voted for Lee Smith. It beggars the mind why he wouldn’t check off the name of someone who clearly deserves it instead of this sycophantic/cronyistic throw-away vote. I guess he should have his children taken or something like that.

MILLER: Just his kids? Rob Gillies, a person who calls himself “Chief of Bureau for The Associated Press in Canada” voted for just Vladimir Guerrero and Larry Walker. He’s going to be thrown out of the country for not supporting Expo great Tim Raines as well.

ERIC: He must be the Dan Shaughnessy of the North. The kind of voter whose first priority is getting it right. Only “it” refers to getting as much attention as he can no matter what by being super contrarian. In other words, that’s a clown ballot, bro.

MILLER: Back to the subject at hand, Pudge is in. I’m happily surprised. Your thoughts?

ERIC: I’m surprised and impressed. The BBWAA has elected one first-ballot catcher (Johnny Bench) since the voting was reorganized four decades ago. But it has presided over at least four who should have been in the first time around: Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, and Mike Piazza. Absent any steroid whispers, I-Rod should have been right up their alley with the most hits of any catcher, a closet full of Gold Gloves, an MVP, a jillion All-Star appearances, and lots of narrative around that arm. That they converted on the opportunity despite Jose Canseco’s book says good things about the electorate’s more sophisticated understanding of what makes players great and the “value” of hearsay evidence.

MILLER: Or if the glass is half empty, it only really says that they value the narrative surrounding being the greatest at something they consider important. Rodriguez is widely considered the greatest defensive catcher ever. Perhaps that’s what did it. Piazza being the greatest offensive catcher ever didn’t cut the mustard since offense isn’t something the BBWAA values as much behind the plate. I don’t know. Again, glass half empty.

Glass full, and just as an aside, that one knucklehead who voted for Tim Wakefield gave me a little tiny bit of joy.

ERIC: Knucklehead. I see what you did there.

MILLER: Wake is a personal favorite, but I’m particularly happy about the big gain from Edgar Martinez. Moving from 27.0% to 43.4% to 58.6% suggests to me that he has a great shot of being elected in 2019, his final year on the ballot.

ERIC: Edgar’s improvement is wonderful, and it’s mirroring Tim Raines’ ascension. Raines got into the fifties in year eight than made two sizable leaps to get his plaque. I’m concerned that the back benchers are unduly penalizing Edgar for being a full-time DH, but having recently voted in Frank Thomas, and with David Ortiz now primed for election, that line of thinking could be fading a bit. Of course, Ortiz and Thomas have vastly more narrative than Edgar, but his climb has been swift. He’s got no DH in front of him to block his way. The only thing that can stop him is, you guessed it, the ballot glut. But you know, Mike Mussina gained 11% too. His rise isn’t as meteoric, but he’s making exactly the kind of progress that should result in near-term election.

MILLER: I also feel good about Mussina’s eventual election now. His movement is actually a decent amount like Edgar’s – from 24.6% to 43.0% to 51.8%. Unlike Edgar, he still has six more shots at it, so even if his move isn’t quick, it is coming.

ERIC: Moose also has very little competition ahead of him. Besides Roger Clemens, who has his own issues, and Curt Schilling’s Twitter self-immolation the next few years bring only Dandy Andy Pettitte, Doc Halladay, Mo, and Tim Hudson.

MILLER: Don’t forget Johan Santana. You’ve already laid out why he has a legitimate case.

ERIC: I haven’t but the writers will. None of these guys, however, is necessarily a barrier to Mussina’s election, especially given his current level of support, the fact that eight voters said they’d vote for him if they had more room on the ballot, and another four who voted for 10 players dropped him from their ballot this year. So there’s 12 more low-hanging-fruit votes out there that we already know about and surely many more once the herding really takes hold.

MILLER: You know, I kind of wish the guy with 270 wins had the post-career political tweetstorm rather than the guy with only 216. I fear that writers will hide behind 216 as a reason not to vote for someone so fully qualified as Curt Schilling. Plus, he has narrative for days!

ERIC: Lately most of Schilling’s narrative is pretty bad…well, he’s dug his own grave. Or maybe it really is a conspiracy of failed liberal media elites to muzzle him? Sad!!! Anyhoo, being a jerk has given parts of the electorate cover of a sort and has changed his narrative from Bloody Sock to Red Meat Bigot. As you say he’s fully qualified for the Hall. But he’s woefully qualified for public life.

Switching gears, some of the biggest election news is steroid related. Bonds and Clemens both gained nine points for the second straight year after stalling in the 30s for a while. They have both breached the 50% mark. Manny Ramirez, who twice failed a PED test, didn’t get Palmeiroed, and is outpolling Slammin’ Sammy Sosa. Is this real movement? Is there some new standard in play?

MILLER: I’d be careful to equate Manny with Palmeiro and Sosa. Manny’s just better. I think we can make the argument that’s why he did better. With that said, I agree that the movement is a real thing. In the past two years they’ve elected two catchers who have some PED speculation. And there’s Bud, whose election, for one reason or another, is inspiring voters to support Bonds and Clemens. I can’t predict whether they’ll follow a typical trajectory though. There are some voters who are so staunchly against their election on moral grounds. That’s different from not coming around to Bagwell or Raines, for example, for a number of years.

ERIC: Downballot, we saw relatively little action. Larry Walker remains screwed. Fred McGriff remains where he should be, which is essentially no where. Jeff Kent, Sosa, Gary Sheffield, and Billy Wags simply remain. Jorge Posada’s remains have been carted away. Do any of them (excepting Posada, of course) have hope to build a case before their shot clock runs out?

MILLER: Wagner and McGriff don’t, which I’m glad about. Kent, Sosa, and Sheffield don’t, which I’m okay with even though I support all three. Walker is the troubling one. The fact that he played about 30% of his career games in Coors and that 70% of writers don’t seem to understand pretty simplistic advanced statistics means there’s a 100% chance he’s doomed. And that’s awful.

So that brings us to Lee Smith. He received 34.2%, the 11th best he did in 15 years. Again, though Hoffman is very close, Smith’s decline over time gives me hope, at least relatively speaking. Despite peaking above 50%, Smith is off the ballot next year, but a bunch of new guys are on. Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that Hoffman, Vlad, Chipper Jones, and Jim Thome will all get in. I’m not as hopeful. Vlad and Chipper will go. I really think Hoffman will too, but unlike many who are against non-Mo relievers, I think there’s a tiny shot Hoffman takes a step back. And I don’t think Thome gets in on the first try.

What are you thinking for next year?

ERIC: For the Bayesians among us, my current p-values for these guys are

Chipper: 0.98
Hoffman: 0.97
Vlad: 0.95
Thome: 0.70

Everyone else is well below 50% in my current thinking. But if some huge pro-Edgar movement starts, why not. The more damning question is will Omar Vizquel reach 40%? The question I’m scared to know the answer to is how likely the qualified trio of Scott Rolen, Johan Santana, and Andruw Jones is to even make it to the 5% cutoff. At this point, I. Can’t. Even.

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