So we’ve finally reached the end of this series. And this, to me, is the big one, looking at how supporters of any individual player viewed other guys on the ballot. This post will be filled with even more charts and numbers than last week (see below). Take some time to digest everything. I’ll try to point out what I see as highlights and lowlights, but if I miss anything you think is meaningful, please share in the comments below. I don’t think this was my strongest series of posts. Next year, I think I’ll look at this week’s and last week’s only, unless there’s something player-specific that just screams out for its own post.
You’re excused if you want to skip this one or if your less than bionic eyes won’t let you read it. It’s a big mess of numbers that I break down below when I discuss each player. I include it here because I put it together, and maybe you see something interesting in here than I don’t.
These two have to be linked together, and voters generally do. As I’ve whined in the past, I have no clue how someone can support one and not the other, but some voters do. This is the only chart that will be combined because I think the tiny nuances are interesting. Two things jump out. First, in only one of two cases in my entire study, we see a case of 100% of supporters of a player, voting for another. In this case, it’s Sosa supporters backing Clemens. How someone who thinks Sosa belongs in the Hall won’t vote for Bonds is beyond me. But so is people who think the earth is flat. I’ve got some blind spots, apparently. The other thing, and it’s a small one, is that there’s a decent separation between support for Clemens and Bonds among Rolen voters voters. But I suspect the gap is meaningless.
Two things jump out here. First, if you vote for PED users, you don’t like Helton. Second, the top three guys on the list likely have some significance. Helton belongs in the Hall, and if you believe Rolen does, you support Helton more than anyone else does. They’re both under-the-radar, no-brainer candidates in my mind. Walker is second on the list. That’s because if you’re willing to vote for a player whose career included a significant number of games in Coors, it’s harder to leave off Helton than if you’re not. And finally, it’s McGriff. More than one in five who supported him saw a better first baseman and just couldn’t leave his name unchecked. Of course, almost four in five could…
Not much to see here, but look who’s at the top once again.
In my fantasy baseball days, in only played in a league that had live auctions. We’d all get together in a room to spend about ten hours forming our teams. I was pretty successful overall, and I think I did a good gob reading the room. But there was one guy, Bart, who was on the lower side of owners in terms of player and game knowledge (or so I thought), yet I could never figure him out. Kent voters remind me of Bart. I don’t know why they do what they do. But check out the top three names – three guys who I don’t think you should support.
Like the supporters of a lot of non-PED guys, it’s the PED guys who are trailing here. And what do you know, 98.5% of voters who supported Rolen also supported Martinez.
This list generally makes sense. However, though I understand why McGriff supporters would support Helton, I don’t know why Helton supporters necessarily support McGriff.
Every public voter who checked Andy Pettitte’s name checked Mussina’s too. That makes sense, as Mussina was better. Looking down the list, supporters of Schilling and Halladay thought a little less of Mussina, which makes sense too. It’s easy to think Mussina was a lesser pitcher. Of course, Mussina is a clear Hall of Famer. Look where we find Rolen voters.
Given how few votes Pettitte garnered, there’s not much to see here. However, it’s no surprise that there are PED users occupying four of the top five spots on this list.
Nothing but guys associated with PEDs at the top of this list. There are no huge surprises here, though I’d have bet more than one in sixteen Wagner supporters would have thought Manny qualified.
I’m not surprised that Helton and Walker lead this list. I’m a little surprised to find Wagner this high. At the bottom, we see Sosa, Sheffield, and Kent voters. They likely want more power out of their Hall candidates.
While I wouldn’t have bet on Jones topping this list, I’m not surprised that the top eight are all guys who I think are deserving. As is normal, the bottom three guys all have a PED connection.
Once again, we see PEDs as a voting issue.
The thing we’ve seen almost as much as PEDs being a deciding factor is Scott Rolen voters being much better than average. Fewer Rolen voters supported Vizquel than voters of any other candidate. At the top of Vizquel’s list are a borderline Kent, a borderline Pettitte, and a below-the-line McGriff. Again and again and again, we are reminded that support for Vizquel is associated with understanding greatness less than support for any other player.
See my comments for Sheffield, Sosa, and others.
Ho hum, Rolen voters. And look for the presence of Vizquel voters throughout these lists. For deserving candidates, he’s often lowest on the list without a PED connection.
I’m typing this line just moments before the first pitch of the Yankee-Oriole Opening Day game. To me, it makes sense to finish with Hall coverage about this time. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, and even though the season will be more than three weeks old by the time you read this, I hope you enjoy the season too!
In a series that has gone on far longer than I anticipated, today I bring to you a review and a bit of analysis of votes per BBWAA ballot. Generally speaking, I believe ballots with more players are better than ballots with fewer. There were fifteen guys the voters were allowed to review who I support, and there were a handful of others who a reasonable person might. Thus, I would argue a ballot that included fewer than ten names was a mistake. Basically, the fewer the names, the bigger the mistake. I suspect you’ll see some clear trends below, and even if you don’t, I’ll be sure to point them out for you.
At this point, I don’t imagine you’ve missed any part of this series you want to see. But if you have…
We’re going to start with an overall chart. Yes, it’s big and not so easy to read. Alphabetical order doesn’t really make things easier either. The real thing I want to point out here is the public (8.25), private (6.72), and overall (8.01) average names per ballot. You might wonder why all of those numbers are lower than even the lowest number for any individual player. First, our individual players numbers are all public ballots, so we should focus only on the number 8.25. There’s a second reason too. There might be a mathematical term or explanation for this phenomenon, but I don’t know what it is. Let’s take an example though. There are 9.17 names on each public ballot that has Barry Bonds’ name checked. But for those 222 ballots, if you eliminated Bonds (as is the case with all ballots without Bonds’ name checked), there are only 8.17 names per ballot, or below the public average. In other words, the average of all ballots was 0.08 names higher than those ballots with Bonds’ name, minus the credit for Bonds. This little exercise doesn’t take into account that there are plenty of Bonds ballots that would include another name if they were allowed. That’s okay though. It tells us something.
The thing to see here is pretty simple. At least as I would argue it, generally speaking, the more names that are on your ballot, the better you are as a voter. Jones and Rolen voters stand above others by this measure. Those who support Ramirez, Sheffield, Walker, Sosa, Bones, Pettitte, Wagner, Clemens, and Helton make us the next level. The third level includes those who voted for Schilling, Kent, and McGriff. I explain in a section below that I don’t give Schilling voters a hard time for finding themselves at this level. The fourth level sees only Vizquel. His supporters thought less of the candidates overall than the supporters of any other candidate.
This next chart, as with all that follow, shows the percentage of ballots with a particular player’s name checked. In this case, it’s those ballots that have the full compliment of ten names checked. You can see that over three-quarters of all Andrew Jones’ public votes have ten names checked. Almost three-quarters of Scott Rolen’s public votes also checked ten. There’s a sizable drop after those names. Five of the next six players on the list are players associated with PEDs. It’s not surprising that this group tops others because those who won’t vote for those associated with PEDs have fewer qualified candidates from whom to choose. Those who will have an easier time getting to ten names. To me, those facts speak very, very well of Jones and Rolen voters.
I think you also see some interesting stuff at the bottom of this chart. Andy Pettitte voters could only find nine other qualified names half the time. That’s a shame to me since Pettitte was associated with PEDs. What I mean is that if you vote for Pettitte, you must vote for Bonds and Clemens. Also, Pettitte was clearly a lesser pitcher than Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, and Curt Schilling. So we’re up to six now. Mariano Rivera makes seven. That means half of Andy Pettitte voters disagree with something above, or they thought Pettitte was better than all but two of of Ramirez, Sheffield, Sosa, Edgar, Walker, Rolen, Helton, and Kent. In other words, Pettitte voters struggled to do their jobs well.
The last thing I want to point out is the support Omar Vizquel voters give to other candidates. It’s below the average, which is just about impossible. For whatever reason, I’ve read a lot about the Dunning-Kruger Effect recently, and I think it applies here. Basically, those who have a lot of information doubt and question their information quite a bit. For example (patting myself on the back), I’ve wavered on Manny, Pettitte, Sheffield, Kent, and even Larry Walker in the past. (My Walker wavering was in the long ago past, and I understand my former arguments were poor). Dunning-Kruger goes on to hypothesize that those who know much less are far more assured in their opinions. Those who just know Omar Vizquel was a defensive genius on par with Ozzie Smith or that Jack Morris was the pitcher of the 80s are not influenced by facts to the contrary. (Note: I realize I might be bastardizing Dunning-Kruger to a degree, but I believe I am generally representing it correctly).
I am very happy to see on this chart that Andy Pettitte voters aren’t quite as bad as represented on the full ballot chart. Lots of them support exactly nine candidates. You also see the PED candidates continue to be bunched, the Jones and Rolen voters still at the top, and the Vizquel voters continuing to do a terrible job. Let me explain what Omar’s 60.4% number means. It means two in five of his supporters thought that there were six or fewer deserving candidates on this ballot other than the unanimous Mariano Rivera and their guy, Omar.
Continuing our journey, you see that more than 19 in 20 Rolen and Jones voters thought there were at least seven other worthy candidates. About nine in ten voters for eight other candidates thought there were at least seven worthies other than their guy. Then we see a drop. Fred McGriff voters, in my opinion, were wrong. He got a pop in his final year on the ballot that was inconsistent with his record. It makes some sense that Billy Wagner voters might be in this range. Some simply believe he was one of the very best closers of all-time, that closer is a position, and that there weren’t more than six others who were among the very best of all-time at their positions. I think that’s wrong, but it’s not illogical. I don’t mind that Curt Schilling voters are down here. I think there’s a real argument to be made that Schilling was the single best player on this ballot not associated with PEDs. A smaller Hall, non-PED supporter might stop not too many names after Schilling. Jeff Kent voters are just strange – or at least I can’t quite figure them out. And then we have Omar voters. More than a quarter of them think Omar, the unanimous guy, and five or fewer others are the only ones on this ballot who had careers worthy of enshrinement.
To me, these are bad ballots. I can make an anti-PED case for supporting only nine. It’s not a good case, but I can make it. I can make no such case for eight. And what do you know! Omar is at the top.
This is just the reverse chart of the one above showing support for 10, 9, or 8. Please excuse rounding errors.
Now this is just funny. Nearly one in five Omar voters find their guy, Mariano, and four or fewer others of Hall quality. Check out the Rolen voters. I’d have to call them the best voters of 2019.
If you’re not angry yet, your chances of dying from some stress-related malady are lower than mine.
In a week, we’ll close out this series, concentrating on the players you support if you support a particular candidate.
To have thought that we might actually be able to learn about the BBWAA by examining their actions was likely a fool’s errand at the start, and, frankly, not so much in this series has been illuminating. That doesn’t mean we should stop though. First, the review is fun, at least for me. Second, this series will culminate in a large-ish chart covering all we’ve looked at. Maybe, just maybe, that will be telling.
Of course, that chart is still a few weeks away, after we review support for Manny Ramirez, Jeff Kent, Omar Vizquel, and today’s candidate, Todd Helton.
As always, you can check out the first posts in this series right below.
To me anyway, Todd Helton had an interesting career. He played for only one team, finished with the fun 3/4/5 triple slash line, and was the best player in the game from 2000-2004 other than inner circle guys Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. Plus, his season in 2000 is the likes of which we seldom witness, at least from a black ink standpoint. He won the hit title, the RBI title, the total base title, and the triple slash triple crown. He also won a doubles title while making what seemed to be an annual faux run at Earl Webb’s 1931 record. And though he was likely the best player in the NL that year, he finished just 5th in the MVP race.
Eric thinks Helton is the 15th best ever at first base, while I rank him two spots higher. A better proxy for how we see him is that we both rank Helton ahead of Bill Terry, Willie McCovey, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, and Mark McGwire. In other words, he’s an easy call. We confirmed that in February when we were given six spots to add to the Hall of Miller and Eric in 2019. Helton ranked third on both of our lists.
Helton received support from only 58 public voters. A relatively large percentage of his supporters, 62.1% voted for the maximum ten players. Let’s look at the percentage with the maximum support for all players in this series thus far.
We don’t see much here other than Scott Rolen voters know what they’re talking about.
As for other Helton voters, 10.3% voted for nine, 15.5% voted for eight, and the rest voted for seven (1), six (3), and five (2). Perhaps there are two types of Helton voters. The first might be the most informed folks who consider Helton one of the ten best on the ballot. The other might be those who don’t look beyond the .316/.414/.539 triple slash line. I must admit that I don’t know. And anyone who acts like they do should be reminded that we’re talking about just 58 known voters.
We normally start this section at the top of the ballot with Halladay and Martinez, but today we have to start with Larry Walker, right? After all, he and Helton have the same thing working against them, Coors Field. They also have the same thing working for them – they’re both well qualified. Since Walker has been on the ballot longer, I wouldn’t expect that Walker supporters would necessarily support Helton in big numbers, though they did support him 23.5% of the time 16.2% of known ballots. I would, however, expect a huge percentage of Helton supporters to also vote for Walker. Let’s see.
As with most parts of this series, most things concerning the BBWAA, and most candidates who fare poorly in their first ballot but make a second, it’s too early to draw conclusions. A year from now, I may think differently. If Larry Walker somehow bridges the huge gap of 20+ percentage points and gets elected by the BBWAA, that bodes very well for Helton’s eventual election. If he doesn’t, I don’t think that speaks to Helton’s future too much. Fingers crossed for Walker.
Next week, the Manny Ramirez voters enter our crosshairs.
A few years prior to the start of the Hall of Miller and Eric, I suggested that Wagner might be a hidden Hall of Famer. I wasn’t making an argument that he belonged, just that he would get a lot of support. This is a guy who was only ever great or injured. In 2000, his ERA was 6.18 in 27.2 innings. In no other season did it eclipse 2.85. He had a mark below 2.00 for the Astros in 1999 and 2003, for the Phillies in 2005, for the Red Sox (mostly) in 2009, and for the Braves in his retirement year of 2010. I don’t imagine any other pitcher can claim such marks for four different teams. And Wagner’s final season was a great one with a 4.73 K:BB mark and 2.5 WAR in 69.1 innings. He clearly retired; he wasn’t forced out of the game. I wonder what might have happened had he played a few more years.
Still to come in this series will be Jeff Kent, Manny Ramirez, Todd Helton, and my favorite, Omar Vizquel. And each week, I’ll have links to older posts in the series so you can check them out if you haven’t already.
I suspect I was wrong about Wagner being a hidden Hall of Famer. At this point, I don’t expect that he’ll ever get in. There’s no real momentum at just 16.7% through four chances on the ballot. Yes, Hoffman and Rivera are both in, but Wagner is a lesser player in the minds of most. And I kind of ignore the recent election of Lee Smith. The game is changing, moving away from the beloved closer. As the game changes, so will sensibilities. Even of the Era Committees, I hope.
What’s more, even though I absolutely love Wagner and appreciate all that he did in his 903 innings (that’s the problem!), I rank him just ninth all-time among relievers. With the caveat that I don’t love the way I rank these guys, let me explain. Clearly Mariano, Goose, and Wilhelm are better. Then there’s a tightly bunched group of nine guys, among which I have Wagner besting only Stu Miller and Dan Quisenberry. From fourth best on down, I have Joe Nathan, Trevor Hoffman, Tom Gordon, Jon Papelbon, Firbo Marberry, and then Wagner. Most will push Gordon aside, but you shouldn’t – unless you don’t call him a reliever given the 203 starts he made in his career. I classify him as a reliever here because he made more than three times as many appearances out of the pen as he did starting. Anyway, the basic reason he’s ahead of Wagner in my rankings is that he pitched more than double the innings. Yes, he was less great (Wagner wins by 2.8 WAA), but he was much more good (Gordon wins by 7.2 WAR).
If you’re wondering, Lee Smith (13), Bruce Sutter (15), and Rollie Fingers (22) also make the list.
In summary, Wagner is an interesting candidate to discuss, an unquestionably great pitcher, and someone who comes up a bit shy due to his relatively short career.
What we see here and what we’ll see later confirm that Wagner isn’t an easy candidate to understand. He receives votes only from those who will elect the fourth or seventh or eleventh best closer ever, something like that. He also receives some votes from those who simply think he’s better than Lee Smith and/or close to Trevor Hoffman. And I suspect he receives a few votes from writers who object to the use of advanced stats like WAR.
This is an interesting category for Wagner. On one hand, those who include players I don’t recommend are usually lesser voters, and lesser voters vote for fewer players than the average. On the other, you have to go pretty deep to get to Wagner. But I suppose that could be said of any player on the ballot who I don’t recommend. My prediction here is that Wagner voters might include more names than the average and still include fewer than our other candidates. Let’s remind ourselves of the number of names we’ve seen from the supporters of the other candidates.
And it turns out my guess was pretty much correct. The average number of names on revealed Billy Wagner ballots was 9.16, which is exactly the same (9.15625) for the 64 revealed Wagner voters as for the 32 revealed Pettitte voters. Numbers can be fun!
Wagner voters who included 10 names totaled 59.4%. Another 18.8% supported 9. There were four (6.3%) voters who checked 8 names, six (9.4%) who checked 7, and another four (6.3%) who checked 6.
What we see here is that Wagner voters, like those who vote for most any candidate, support more players than the voters overall. The big takeaway is what might be a connection between pro-closer and anti-PED guys. If that’s real, it likely isn’t surprising. So maybe it’s not a big takeaway at all.
What I’m walking away from this post thinking is that I’m going to need a post at the end of this series with an overall chart so you can see the numbers together and draw conclusions on your own.
Next week, we’ll take a look at the few, the proud, the Todd Helton voters.
I didn’t intend to make this a series, at least not at the start. But after looking at a few players, I’ve become really intrigued by how some simple numbers break down. And the more we do research like this, the easier it is to pick out future patterns and recognize when a candidate is gaining support or when he might be reaching a plateau.
As with other posts in this series, I’m not sure I’m revealing much, just putting some cool information in one place, like I have for the previous three candidates.
As you know, Larry Walker is a no-brainer HoMEr. Eric calls him the seventh best right fielder ever. I have him down at tenth, putting Paul Waner and Reggie Jackson ahead. Plus, I call Joe Jackson a RF, while Eric puts him in LF. Jay Jaffe agrees with us, ranking Walker tenth by Jaws. That’s the level of player we’re talking about.
We’re also talking about player quite likely to fall victim to the Hall’s decision to drop time on the ballot from fifteen years to ten. He enters his final ballot in 2020, never reaching 23% in his first seven chances, then climbing to 34.1% in 2018 and 54.6% a couple of months ago. If he adds another 20.5 percentage points next January, he’s in. But that’s an incredibly steep hill to climb.
These numbers are pretty frightening for Walker supporters. First, no constituency currently supports him as much as is necessary to get him elected. And second, those awful voters, the ones who never reveal, just don’t understand his candidacy.
Since wiser voters have Walker on their ballots and wiser voters tend toward ten names on this ballot, we should expect that there are more names on ballots with Walker than without them. Unsurprisingly, that is correct. Known ballots with Walker’s name on them contained 9.21 names, while overall there were just 8.25 per ballot.
We know about 213 Walker voters. Almost 65% of their ballots were full. More than 14% included nine. Nearly 11% included eight names. The same percentage had seven, six, or five names. And Rob Gillies reminds us that there’s an exception to every rule since his ballot had only Walker, Mariano, and Halladay.
Negatively (I believe)
It’s fairly well established that players get a bump in their last year on the ballot. However, the last three to age off the ballot didn’t completely support that claim. Fred McGriff moved from 23.2% to 39.8% last year. On the other hand, Lee Smith moved from 34.1% to only 34.2% in his fifteenth and final chance in 2017. A more hopeful gain occurred the previous year when Alan Trammell jumped to 40.9% from 25.1% in his penultimate try.
Whatever the case, I believe Walker will need almost all of the folks who added McGriff last year but didn’t vote for Walker. There are two big problems with that constituency. First, there are only 17 such voters, which is 70 short of what Walker needs. Second, not a single one of those voters supported Todd Helton, suggesting to me that there could be a bit of an anti-Coors bias among them.
Walker has quite an uphill battle coming next winter.
I had no intention of making this a series, at least not at the start. But after looking at Andy Pettitte voters two weeks ago, I looked at Scott Rolen voters last Monday, and I’m kind of hooked. In the coming weeks, I suspect to examine the support for Larry Walker, Todd Helton, Omar Vizquel, Billy Wagner, and possibly Curt Schilling.
Commenting on last week’s post, Big Klu wrote, “I wouldn’t be surprised if the pro-Rolen voters had the highest composite ballot grade of any player.” While I can’t exactly complete that work with simplicity, I can go through one player at a time to see is someone challenges Rolen. In the meantime, I’ll admit to suggesting that Andruw Jones voters might be just as good. Oops! That’s why we need to do the research, folks. I did it, and Klu wins, as you’ll see. Rolen voters seem clearly better than Jones voters.
For me, Andruw Jones is a relatively easy choice. He’s a short-career, peak-oriented defensive genius who had plenty of pop in his bat, as his 434 career home runs show. Think of him like Omar Vizquel with a plus bat, a better glove, and a retirement before the final six years of garbage. (In truth, Jones wasn’t good for his last five seasons, though admitting that wouldn’t fit my narrative, so I’ll skip it).
I rank him Jones in history in center field. Eric puts him in thirteenth, but we agree that he’s 16-17% above the HoME line. JAWS sees him in eleventh place, but voters don’t seem to care. After all, Ken Griffey and Mickey Mantle are Hall of Famers, and Jones was no Commerce Kid Comet.
Sadly, only 32 voters checked his name. His 7.5% is up ever so slightly from the 7.3% who supported him a year ago. At that pace, my math says he’ll age off the ballot before reaching the required 75% of the vote for induction. I think.
We have knowledge of 29 out of 32 Andruw Jones voters. And as a group, they had pretty stuffed ballots, suggesting in an election where more than ten players were deserving that they were on the ball more than the average voter.
The overall ballot average was 8.25 names. Known Jones voters put 9.59 names on each ballot. That’s a sliver better than the 9.58 names we saw last week among the known Rolen voters. So by the number of names per ballot, Jones and Rolen voters were about equal.
There were seventeen Jones voters who used every ballot spot. Four voted for 9, two supported 8, and Marty Noble voted for only 6. He should stop voting.
Well, they voted for Jones, so they couldn’t have been all that bad overall. Compared to the electorate as a whole, Andruw Jones voters supported Curt Schilling most, an increase of 15.0 percentage points over the BBWAA. After that, it was Mike Mussina, Roy Halladay, and Larry Walker with the biggest jumps. In other words, Jones voters did like the best candidates, but it’s not like they went crazy for Walker like Rolen voters did. You may remember that almost 90% of his supporters also backed Walker. Jones supporters were less than 2/3 likely to vote for Walker.
There’s a scenario whereby Andruw Jones could get elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA. See, I believe in climate change, so it’s possible hell will freeze over. In all seriousness though, Jones could make a late run if the ballot is as relatively sparse in 2023 as I think it could be. The realist in me, however, thinks it’s more likely he’ll join Charlie Bennett, Pete Rose, Bobby Grich, Ken Boyer, Jack Glasscock, Bill Dahlen, Jimmy Sheckard, and Joe Jackson as guys inside my positional top ten who never make it. I’m not giving up hope on Larry Walker yet!
For a few weeks now, I’ve been pondering writing a series on building your own Hall of Fame. It turns out that if you want to be thorough, there’s quite a bit to do at the start. Of course, most BBWAA members won’t put in the kind of time needed to determine what the Hall should look like from Aaron to Yount, and everyone in between. And maybe they shouldn’t. Still, it seems simple enough to just put players in order by position. If you’re particularly lazy, you can just start with JAWS lists and move guys around from there.
Sadly, the typical BBWAA writer won’t do even that. See, Scott Rolen ranks tenth all-time at 3B by JAWS. Perhaps you don’t count Paul Molitor there. Perhaps you won’t count the not-yet-eligible Adrian Beltre. That means just seven third basemen in history are better. Thus, Scott Rolen is a no-brainer Hall of Famer. (In fairness, Eric ranks him 11th, while I place him 16th – still an easy call for both of us).
Yet, the Phillie and Cardinal great garnered only 73 votes in 2019, good for a mere 17.2% of the electorate. The optimist will point out that he’s up from 10.2% in 2018. Maybe I’m not an optimist, I don’t know. What I am is someone who’s going to analyze Rolen’s support. Like my analysis of the Andy Pettitte voter last week, there’s nothing groundbreaking here. Still, it’s nice to have this information in one place.
Since pre-vote revealers tend to have the most names on their ballots (and be more forward-thinking, in general, than those who don’t reveal before the announcement), one should guess that Rolen voters exceeded the 8.25 names per ballot overall. Further, because Rolen is a candidate who takes at least a tiny bit of thought, something many writers won’t undertake, there’s more reason to expect that Rolen voters would have more names on their ballots than non-Rolen voters, as those who think through the ballot have had more names for the last several years than those who don’t. And that’s what happened. A very impressive 9.58 names were on the 67 public Rolen ballots. More suggestion that Rolen voters are smart voters – there are more than ten deserving players on the ballot. Rolen voters tended to find them. There were 50 Rolen supporters who filled their ballots, another eight voted for 9, seven supported 8, two checked 7 names, and not a single public Rolen voter supported fewer.
The Sabermetric darlings who got in this time around were Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina. Curt Schilling may not be far behind, while Todd Helton’s case has yet to be clearly defined. Next year, the prayers all head in Larry Walker’s direction. Up from just 34.1% in 2018, Walker moved to 54.6% last year, his penultimate on the ballot. Well, if we just got rid of those who don’t support Scott Rolen, Walker would be miles over the line. It was 89.6% of Rolen supporters who also backed Walker.
It’s not just that they supported Rolen, voted for the full ten, or supported Larry Walker. Scott Rolen voters showed wisdom up and down their ballots.
With the caveat that I change my mind about such things often, here’s how I see elections playing out over the next few years. In 2020, buoyed by Mike Mussina’s election, Curt Schilling gets in with Derek Jeter. Larry Walker’s support shoots up again, though not enough to get him in. Rolen continues to progress. With those three off the ballot and no great newcomers in 2021, Rolen has space to continue his march. And he will. Though certainly behind Omar Vizquel and possibly behind Billy Wagner and/or Jeff Kent. In 2022, Alex Rodriguez makes some waves, Bonds and Clemens leave the ballot one way or the other (they won’t get in), Omar takes the podium with David Ortiz, and others, including Rolen, continue to progress. In 2023, with only Carlos Beltran joining among guys with a prayer, it’s possible Scott Rolen will be seen by many as the best player on the ballot. I’m not saying it’s going to happen. Lots of things can go wrong in the next four years. What I am saying is that the light at the end of the tunnel for Rolen fans might not be that faint.
I’ve been all over the place these past few months regarding Andy Pettitte. Like most players who I think are beloved for reasons they don’t deserve, I’m no fan of Pettitte’s. I didn’t support him for the HoME. Now I kind of do. I separately predicted that he’d get way more votes than he deserves and that he could fall off the ballot. One really silly thing I thought might happen is that some anti-PED voters would support the case of the former Yankee, Astro, and PED user. About that, frighteningly, I was right.
In today’s post, we’re going to investigate the Andy Pettitte voter. There’s little herein that can’t be gleaned from a perusal the great work Ryan Thibodaux and friends over at the Tracker, where they’ve shared a record 84% of all ballots. Still, I think it’s useful to put all of this in one place. So I have.
In his first year of eligibility, the lefty pickoff artist (balker?) was named on 42 of 425 ballots, good for 9.9% of the vote.
Given my perception that 2019 saw 13-15 better players than Pettitte on the ballot, I’d expect that those voting for him would support more than the average number of candidates. And this expectation turned out to be correct. Overall, revealed ballots totaled 8.25 names. Those including Pettitte reached 9.16. Of the 32 Pettitte ballots we know, 16 of them contained ten names, another 12 contained nine, one had eight, one had seven, and two fools had only five. Yeah, fools. I can’t help but be angry.
Let’s pretend not a single person knew (or believed they knew) anything about who used or who didn’t use PEDs. If that were the case, it would be nearly unanimous that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are most deserving of enshrinement.
However, some writers think they know about PED use, and some opt not to vote for PED users.
To those voters, I must say unequivocally – Andy Pettitte used performance enhancing drugs! How do we know? Pettitte admitted it!
Don’t misunderstand. I don’t really care that Pettitte used HGH. Also, I make no distinction between his claimed reason for its use, recovery from injury, and anything else. To recover from injury more quickly is clearly a subset of “performance enhancing”. Nor do I care about the number of times he claims to have used, twice. Once, twice, seven hundred times. It doesn’t matter to me.
What I care about is a level of internal consistency by voters. That is, if you’re a never PED voter, you must be a never Andy Pettitte voter.
If you will vote for Pettitte, on the other hand, that means you will vote for PED users. To vote for Pettitte and not Bonds, Clemens, or both, as an incredible 31% of Pettitte voters did, you have to do some implausible mental gymnastics. To do so, one of the following must be true.
To be honest, I think it’s primarily the third point and secondarily the fourth. I hope it’s not the other way around. Some writers are just awful. Virtually anything is possible.
Reiterating the point, more than 31% of Pettitte voters either are so unfamiliar with his career, or they decided that one PED user was worthy of their vote, but Bonds, Clemens, or both weren’t. Simply, that is unconscionable.
For me, putting Pettitte’s name on my ballot, even if I thought he was over the line, would have been very difficult in 2019. According to my MAPES+ rankings, it’s very clear that Roger Clemens (#3), Curt Schilling (#22), Mike Mussina (#25), Roy Halladay (#30), and Mariano Rivera (#44) were more valuable on the baseball diamond than Andy Pettitte (#75) was. Reasonable people might also place Roy Oswalt (#83) above Pettitte. Let’s see how Pettitte voters supported the other major pitcher candidates.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that’s extremely revealing here. It is, sadly and amazingly, yet another data point showing that many voters are incredibly bad at their jobs. Mark Bradley, Sadiel Lebron, Tery Pluto, Eduardo Almada, Steve Kornacki, Richard Shook, Jay Dunn, Hideo Kizaki, Juan Vené, and Jim Street all voted for Andy Pettitte but left off at least one of the two best players on the ballot. They should be ashamed of themselves.
Trying to understand what wacky thoughts bounce between the ears of a BBWAA Hall of Fame voter can make a person a little nutty. Trust us, we’ve gotten nuttier and nuttier since we hung our electronic shingle in 2013. Nonetheless we have come to understand a few things about this motley mess of baseball messengers.
Those three go a long way to understand the Hall electorate, and this year’s vote was no exception.
ERIC: We figured Mariano Rivera might set a new record for the highest percentage of the vote BBWAA vote. Individually, I thought he had little chance at hitting the unanimity jackpot what with the cranky retirees and the blank-balloteers out there. Does it mean anything that a relief pitcher did this well?
MILLER: The most exciting thing for me is that it means Derek Jeter won’t be the first player elected to the Hall unanimously. But more seriously, it doesn’t mean much. There are so few players across the game’s history who are universally considered the best at anything. In fact, a higher percentage of people call Mariano the game’s best reliever ever than call Ruth or the Big Train the best hitter or pitcher ever. The reason I seriously considered unanimity a possibility is because EVERY SINGLE WRITER believes Rivera is the single best guy doing what he did. Do you think that matters?
ERIC: Their agreement about his being the best at what he did matters in as much as it means they pass a very low-level test of baseball understanding. But it feels, nonetheless, like a tall-dwarf situation. Rivera is way off to the right side of the curve and he is about as good as a reliever could possibly be over a lengthy career. Which means a reliever must be ridiculously good for ridiculously long to have a shot. That said, Rivera is the perfect combination of SAVES! and NARRATIVE! I still don’t personally rank him above Roy Halladay whose bittersweet election was well deserved.
MILLER: The question of Halladay versus Rivera is an interesting one. If we could only elect one, I would give my vote to Rivera, not because I rank him above Halladay, but because they’re close enough, and one is the absolute best in the game’s history at what he did. I can’t imagine anyone reaching his level. We’re splitting hairs here though. They’re both going to be HoMErs as soon as our election takes place.
Halladay belongs in the Hall, there’s no doubt. I suspect his death garnered him a bunch of votes, perhaps getting him into the Hall before he’d have gotten in otherwise. Whatever the reason, I’m happy when justice is served.
And I’m delighted for fans of the Seattle Mariners and of the DH. It’s possible that Edgar’s champions, like myself, overrate the great righty. For ten years, we’ve been backing his candidacy, so the emotion invested might cloud our judgment. Like the ranking of Halladay versus Rivera, it doesn’t matter though. He belongs.
ERIC: I tend to think in the case of relievers that we still don’t quite have enough information baked into our decision making. For example, I recently posted elsewhere that in his entire career, the three spots in the batting order that Mariano faced the most were 8, 7, and 6, and they hit for a .501 OPS against him. The least were 3, 2, and 4, who hit .657 against him. That’s the same OPS difference as Lance Berkman and Jeffrey Hammonds’ careers. But that information hasn’t made its way into the evaluation of relief pitchers yet, and it’s important information because relievers are used electively. So it seems likely to me that the gap between Halladay and Rivera is more likely wider than how I perceive them now by using the uberstats. But as you point, out, them’s nits I’m picking.
Of course, it would be hard for the two of us to agree more on the justice done by the election of Edgar Martinez. Not much to say other than I’m looking forward to seeing whether Martinez’s election, in turn, improves David Ortiz’s chances when Papi’s turn comes up. While Molitor and Thomas are technically DHes [editor’s note: And Harold Baines—bwah ha ha ha…oh that’s so rich!], Edgar is the first Hall of Famer elected by the BBWAA whom we can truly refer to as a career DH without couching our language in by plurality or but his best years were at first base. Martinez’s election can only help Big Papi and his ultra-narrative candidacy.
MILLER: Regarding Mariano, I love your stat! Share more, please! Write a post! While you may be right that Rivera is a bit less good than we perceive, let me quibble with a premise leading you to that conclusion. First, a .657 OPS is equal to the career mark of Zoilo Versalles, Kitty Bransfeld, and George Browne. They’re the top three guys in terms of plate appearances with that exact OPS. Yuck! Less good? Perhaps. But still amazing.
And to be fair, you’re right that relief pitchers are used electively, but more accurately, they’re used formulaically, at least in the regular season. Up three, two, or one, they pitch the ninth. Essentially, that’s their only job. It’s not like Mariano was held back in the same way Whitey Ford was under Stengel. Mariano was neither protected nor saved. He was used in the ninth. Nothing more or less (until the playoffs).
Still, to the point you’re making, he faced the 6-8 hitters about 300 more times than the 2-4 hitters during his relief career. To break things down a little more, I looked at the career of Mike Mussina, a contemporary guy in the same division who had only one career relief appearance. He faced the 2-4 batters 35.5% of the time and the 6-8 hitters 31.1% of the time. With the same percentages for Rivera, that means he’s missing 253 plate appearances for 2-4 and has 267 extra for 6-8 in his career. That certainly feels like a big deal. And you’ve convinced me, Mariano Rivera is a shade overrated.
Mussina Mariano Batting 1st 12.8% 10.6% Batting 2nd 12.3% 10.1% Batting 3rd 11.8% 9.9% Batting 4th 11.4% 10.5% Batting 5th 11.0% 11.4% Batting 6th 10.7% 12.0% Batting 7th 10.3% 12.1% Batting 8th 10.0% 12.2% Batting 9th 9.6% 11.2%
Finally, when we talk about Ortiz, I actually think Edgar has been helped by him rather than the other way around. When Ortiz retired, many writers considered him to be a Hall of Famer. Taking that thought into account, they (re)looked at Edgar, and the choice became obvious. As a “voter”, I need to think more and more and more about the post-season in terms of player evaluation. But until I do, and then change my point of view, Ortiz will be a bad(ish) add to the Hall. Also, regarding Ortiz, I hardly think Edgar matters. It’s Baines! I suspect that if his election year were 2020, more than 70% of voters who support Ortiz would offer Baines as a point of comparison. And pretty amazingly, Bill Ballou offered Ortiz as a reason he voted for Rivera. Hey, in a case like this, I’ll take the awful logic.
ERIC: If I were Inspector 12, I’d tell the writers that they don’t say Baines until I say they say Baines. Alas, I wield no such power….
I love your point about Ortiz helping Edgar. I tend to think of cause and effect running in the same direction as the passage of time. As a language-using animal, we formulate our thoughts this way: This happened, which caused that to happen. So I naturally see the trend as If this guy gets in now, that other guy will get in later. But my subject was actually the predicate. And vice versa.
Before we leave the honorees, I’d like to interject, MIKE MUSSINA!
MILLER: MIKE MUSSINA!
ERIC: So we’ve talked about the honorees, let’s talk about a few of the down ballot results, starting with Fred McGriff. Nice rally by the Crime Dog in his final outing on the slate of candidates. He picked up a lot of last-year sympathy votes and about 40% of the writers checked his name. Is this his launchpad to VC glory a la Trammell?
MILLER: It’s strange how self-assured we become when we get invested in something. I’ve argued against McGriff for years, which wasn’t so necessary because the writers essentially argued against him too. And then this year, grading ballots, I decided to penalize writers for supporting McGriff, both because there’s a better first base candidate on the ballot (Helton) and because voting for him might mean taking a ballot spot from someone who both deserves and could use a vote. Now, I’m overly anti-McGriff.
Is this the launchpad for the Crime Dog? I don’t know. When you get 16 people in a room who are motivated to say “yes” to someone, strange things can happen. I continue to hope that the Hall will one-day give actual experts the right to vote. If that happens, McGriff may be looked at differently.
ERIC: He’ll have the possibility of a strong constituency in the VC: John Scheurholz, Pat Gillick, Bobby Cox, Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, plus little bits of Phil Niekro, Rickey Henderson, and Trevor Hoffman. I have a feeling he’ll make it relatively quickly, as in one to three tries. Trammell took a big jump in his final year with the writers and got a plaque the next year from the VC, so there’s some recent precedent for McGriff’s position. Now let’s pick on a fave of yours: Omar Vizquel. Picked up some votes, but may not as many as I’d have thought. How about you?
MILLER: He’s picking up an insane number of votes! This is the bandwagon groupthink I’m talking about. Very few are looking into the fact that he was a terrible hitter or that the advanced metrics don’t support the idea he’s among the best defenders in history. Rather, they’re coalescing around Gold Gloves, magic, and doing what their friends are doing. I find it pretty gross and extremely sad. Eric, the guy’s going to be a Hall of Famer. And it’s not even going to take too long.
ERIC: I was figuring him to do about as well as Walker in the conversions category, so I’m pleased he didn’t do as well as I’d thought. He won’t grow his support as much next year with Jeter on the 2020 ballot, but, as you say, he’s already well on the path. You mentioned earlier that the voters have improved. It feels as though that improvement always comes with a retrenchment. Almost an unconscious quid pro quo. You people get to have your statsy plaques, but we still get to stick it in your eye with one of our old-time lullaby story guys. You get Blyleven, but not until we get our Rice. You get Raines, but not without Morris. You’ll get Walker, but not without Omar. You get your Edgar, but first we get some saves candy from Trevor Hoffman. Perhaps this is the elder voters going kicking and screaming into the long dark night?
MILLER: While I want to reiterate (especially for myself) that the BBWAA doesn’t quite operate as a group, I can’t help but agree with your retrenchment point. Some voters hold a certain amount of animosity against those who use information gleaned from statistical analysis rather than just feel and clubhouse talk. As I often put it, they want desperately to avoid learning. But I wanted to end on something positive. Please end on something positive!
ERIC: So let’s wrap this up. Ballotgeddon passes its peak with the 2019 class. For the next several years, there’s wide open territory for backloggers to find some daylight. Here’s an estimate that shows what I mean.
COMING (likely to receive >5%): Derek Jeter (+400 votes)
GOING (expiring eligibility or likely induction): Walker (-300 votes), Jeter (-400)
COMING: Tim Hudson (+50), Mark Buehrle (+50)
GOING: Schilling (-300)
COMING Alex Rodriguez (+100), David Ortiz (+300)
GOING: Ortiz (-300), Barry Bonds (-200), Roger Clemens (-200), Sammy Sosa (-50)
COMING: Carlos Beltran (+200)
GOING: Jeff Kent (-50)
COMING: Adrian Beltre (+400), Ichiro Suzuki (+400, unless he plays in the Japan openers this year), Joe Mauer (+200) Chase Utley (+50), David Wright (+50)
GOING: Gary Sheffield (-50), Beltre (-400), Suzuki (-400)
After 2024, the only current backloggers left will be Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Andy Pettitte (maybe), Scott Rolen, Omar Vizquel, and Billy Wagner. Actually, Omar might well get a plaque by 2024. As we noted previously, this looks great for Scott Rolen. It also looks great for everyone who has hated the gnashing of teeth around the Hall of Fame debate. Of course, it’s only taken the writers a thousand years to get through this mess, and they’ve gotten much of it wrong. But nature is finally taking its course.
What ever will we do without the January sturm and drang?
‘Twas the night before the Hall call, and all over the nets,
Watchers were wondering what names would be next.
Predictions were posted to websites with care
In hopes the writers’ picks would be worthy and fair.
The players were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of Cooperstown danced in their heads;
They hoped around 6:00 they’d arise to a clatter,
The telephone ringing with news of great matter.
Away to New York they’d fly like a flash
For photo-ops and pressers—a big baseball bash.
But now all was quiet, like new-fallen snow
The great, the chosen, still yet to be known.
On newsfeeds the winners’ names would soon trend
While others didn’t have the careers to contend
More rapid than eagles, their eligibility fast spent,
With nary a chance to reach five percent:
Off Freddy! Off Wells! Off Lilly and Hafner!
Off Garland and Bay—be gone forever!
Back to obscurity for Youk, Young, and Lowe!
Pierre and Polanco—you just have to go.
Off Oliver! Off Ankiel! Peace out to you all.
None of your lot gets a plaque on the wall.
For others a mere twinkling, a dangling hope,
That they might not be judged for taking the dope.
Tejada was cited in the Mitchell Report
“It was vitamin B12!” he said in retort.
Pettitte was doleful in his public confession
Then took off a year to avoid all the questions.
Sammy hablo no ingles at the hearing
Sheff’s Balco connections aren’t so endearing.
What about Manny, the hitting savant?
Thrice-busted users aren’t what voters want.
And Barry and Roger pay the costliest price
For difficult interviews—for not being nice.
Next come the guys of lesser import
Whom starry-eyed writers can’t help but support.
Billy the Kid thinks his chances are hefty—
If Sutter, Smith, and Rollie why not the lefty?
For the Crime Dog the case is simple and keen
Don’t ever forget, he’s the one who stayed clean!
The one with a chance was a flashy Gold Glover;
Vizquel’s crack cocaine for a narrative lover.
What of the worthies overlooked, out of mind?
That’s Jones, Kent, and Rolen near the cutline,
Pity the great Walker and his teammate Todd Helton
The Coors Field effect overshadows their beltin’,
And poor aggrieved Curt calls the press a big racket
Putting his electors in a deplorables basket.
To our final four, I say, don’t not sleep overlong!
Your call may come in just before dawn.
It’s been far too long for Edgar and Moose—
the voters have had a few screws come loose.
There’s Mariano, a man of few words and great work;
He should be unanimous, but there’s always some jerk.
So let’s hope tomorrow we say, “The voters got it right.”
Happy Halladay to all, and to all a good night!