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2017 Hall of Fame Election, Hall Logic

Hall Logic: Examining Reliever Ballots

lee-smith-1985Frequent readers I’m sure understand our position on relief pitchers here at the HoME. Basically, they don’t pitch enough innings to accrue the value needed to be worthy of enshrinement. Even when we account for leverage, there’s just not enough value there. A recent post at Beyond the Box Score says, basically, that pitchers who do the only job they’re asked to do, and do it better than almost anyone, should be enshrined in the Hall. We disagree. We think that they just don’t accrue the necessary value compared to other pitchers. We believe that the elections of Rollie Fingers and Bruce Sutter were pretty problematic. We can live with the election of Hoyt Wilhelm, though he’s not in the HoME. We support the election of Rich Gossage. And we don’t think Dennis Eckersley should be classified as a reliever.

That brings me to the relievers on the 2017 ballot – Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith, and Billy Wagner. Like most relievers in the game’s history, the Hall should be out of reach for them. Smith is off the ballot now, so we appear to be safe there. At just 10.5% and 10.2%, Wagner seems to have little hope. But Trevor Hoffman at 67.3% and 74.0% looks certain to be enshrined, probably next year.

What I’m going to look at today are the public ballots that included one or more of these relievers, which were collected and sorted by the great Ryan Thibodaux. My theory is that these ballots, on average, are those I’d consider to be lesser ballots than those without relievers (even if we remove the relievers from the pro-reliever ballots, if you can follow that…). As the theory goes, writers who make mistakes in one area, are more likely than the average writer to make mistakes overall.

Ballot Depth

On one hand, it’s good to hear that ballots with at least one reliever contained 8.59 versus 7.88 for those without relievers. Writers who include relievers might seem like they’re doing a better job than other writers in filling their ballots. However, if you feel the way I do about these relievers, you actually don’t think so.

You see, on these 240 ballots, there were a bunch of, um, relievers, enough to take the total non-reliever numbers from 8.59 per to 7.06, which means those ballots without relievers actually included a higher number of players who might have deserved election.

Here’s how things looked.

Just Hoffman             119
Just Smith                 4
Just Wagner                4
Hoffman and Smith         83
Hoffman and Wagner        15
Smith and Wagner           1
All three                 14

Supporting Three Relievers

Supporters of all three relievers would have elected five guys to the Hall! Of course, three of them would have been relievers. Those voters would have elected only Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines. Vlad at 71.4% topped Pudge at 64.3%.

As I’d expect, not a huge portion of these writers explained their ballots.

Paul Hagen of wrote this: “The philosophy here has been consistent for years. Hall of Fame votes are too important to guess who did or didn’t use PEDs. Voters should either vote for the best players or don’t vote for anyone. Also, I’m still skeptical about DHs, but I think closers have been largely shortchanged.”

C’mon, Paul! Designated Hitter has been a position for over 40 years! There is no such position as closer. It’s a role made up to support a statistic. It’s not even as if a statistic was made up to support a role.

Also, if PED use to you doesn’t matter, Vlad over Manny is just silly.

       WAR   OPS+  R    HR   RBI    BA  OBP  SLG
Vlad   59.3  140  1328  449  1496 .318 .379 .553
Manny  69.2  154  1544  555  1831 .312 .411 .585 

Manny wins in every category but one. And if you consider a .006 difference in BA greater than the rest of what’s presented above, well, then you can finish the rest of this sentence.

Kevin Cooney voted for Bonds and Clemens after seeing Selig go in. Silly!

Jeff Schultz whined his way out of voting for the Hall of Fame in the future. This is the equivalent of a nine-year-old taking his ball and going home. Except the kid might be missed. He gave no reasoning for withholding a vote, except for “PED suspicion”. Ivan Rodriguez got caught in that net. For the first year, Jeff Bagwell didn’t. Mr. Schultz, your vote will not be missed.

All three writers from the Belleville News-Democrat (yeah, what I think is the paper with the 18th highest circulation in Illinois has three Hall of Fame votes) voted for Hoffman and Smith. Two, Warren Mayes and David Wilhelm, also added Wagner. None offered an argument in support of the relievers.

John Hickey is one of those odd writers who supports Bonds but not Clemens, and not for a good reason. He had a Hall post but didn’t explain his votes.

Basically, none of these writers explained their reliever votes. And as a group, they couldn’t get Ivan Rodriguez into the Hall.

Supporting Two Relievers

Those who supported two relievers would have voted Hoffman, Smith, Bagwell, Raines, and Pudge into the Hall. That’s a good thing. On the other hand, while voting for 8.86 per ballot, they only voted for 6.86 non-relievers.

These ballots were similar enough to ballots overall, though they include the votes for Edgar Renteria and Jason Varitek. And Mike Mussina seems to get hit by these voters. Otherwise, there’s not a lot to see.

Supporting One Reliever

Hoffman, Bagwell, Vlad, Raines, and Pudge would have gotten in among these voters. Again, not bad. They also gave Edgar, Mussina, Bonds, and Clemens over 60% of the vote. It was 8.30 per ballot for this group, which means 7.30 non-relievers, obviously.


While I don’t endorse voting for any of the three relievers on this ballot, unless you voted for all three, your ballot wasn’t really ridiculous. And if you voted for exactly one, there was a 93.7% chance you voted for Trevor Hoffman. If just the Wagner and Smith solo voters voted for Hoffman instead, we’d be a little closer to getting out of the ballot glut.




4 thoughts on “Hall Logic: Examining Reliever Ballots

  1. Howard,
    Thanks as always for your thoughtful posts. But I gotta say you lose me here. To wit,referring to closers ” It’s a role made up to support a statistic. It’s not even as if a statistic was made up to support a role.” I assume the statistic you reference is SAVES. True? Surely, we agree that that stat only began being counted sometime in the 70s. That was because baseball people felt the need to quantify the ability get outs in high leverage situations, something that had been going on for decades (see Casey Stengel’s use of Johnny Sain, Ryne Duren and Luis Arroyo). It was why Goose Gossage and Sparky Lyle made good money after 1974. Doesn’t that then mean that, in fact, the SAVES stat was made up to support a role? Not vice versa, as you would have it.

    Gerry Monroy

    Posted by Gerry Monroy | March 15, 2017, 9:24 am
    • Thanks for the comment, Gerry! Unfortunately the detailed reply I tried to send from my phone indicated my technological ineptitude. I’ll have a reply in the next week in the way of a post.Thanks again!

      Posted by Miller | March 19, 2017, 9:13 am
  2. “…pitchers who do the only job they’re asked to do, and do it better than almost anyone, should be enshrined in the Hall.”

    I totally agree with your disagreement with this statement. If this were the case, where are all the votes for Jesse Orosco, Tony Fossas and all those LOOGY’s out there? 🙂

    Posted by Lucas | March 15, 2017, 4:32 pm


  1. Pingback: On Relievers, Saves, and Closers | the Hall of Miller and Eric - March 29, 2017

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