Next Tuesday afternoon we’ll learn who will be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the baseball writers. For the third consecutive year I will try to predict the final outcome. I have had some modest success in the past. Here’s my prediction, and remember it takes 75% to be elected.
— Predicted Finish —
National Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot Projection for 2015
R. Johnson … 95.1%
P. Martinez … 94.5%
Smoltz … 82.0%
Biggio … 77.7%
Piazza … 68.7%
Bagwell … 59.6%
Raines … 51.8%
Schilling … 32.2%
Bonds … 28.0%
Clemens … 27.1%
L. Smith … 23.0%
E. Martinez … 22.7%
Trammell … 18.2%
Kent … 16.8%
Mussina … 13.8%
Garciaparra .. 10.6%
La. Walker … 10.1%
Mattingly … 10.0%
McGriff … 9.5%
McGwire … 9.0%
Sheffield … 7.8%
Delgado … 7.1%
Sosa … 4.4%
Percival … less than 1%
Giles and all others … less than 5%
I presume that the number of votes will lower this year to about 7.8 names per ballot as opposed to the 8.4 on last year’s ballot, which was the highest total since 1960. If I am off on that figure and the number of votes stays near 8.4, then we could see Piazza be elected, though I am very doubtful that five players would make it. I am even a bit skeptical that Smoltz will make it on his first try, but I compare him favorably to Eckersley, who received 81% in his first year of eligibility. Big Unit and Pedro will earn election along with at least one other player, whether it be Biggio, Smoltz or both. Piazza doesn’t really stand a chance to vault past Biggio.
Now I’ll comment on each of the players, starting with the prominent new candidates.
He won’t get quite the support that Greg Maddux did a year ago, but I suspect that Johnson will get somewhere around 95%. He was the best pitcher of his generation and time will show that. He had the peak dominance that Pedro Martinez had and he also had the longevity of Maddux and Roger Clemens.
For about three years Pedro was as great as any pitcher ever has been. Just as great as Lefty Grove or Walter Johnson or Bob Feller or Sandy Koufax and maybe even better. He wasn’t as durable (how can you be when you’re that little?) but Pedro was an amazing pitcher who was fun to watch. It’s likely that Martinez’s appearance on the ballot will siphon votes from fellow starting pitchers Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina, contemporaries who suffer by comparison. My prediction may be a little high, as some lesser educated voters could penalize Pedro for not having a high win total and for his headhunting reputation. For my money though, Pedro is what the Hall of Fame is all about.
A truly interesting case. Smoltz spent about 80% of his career as a starter and 20% as a closer, performing brilliantly in both roles. But, as others have pointed out, Smoltz’s success as a closer is really not surprising, since any great starter could be effective as a closer. The closer role is less demanding and easier to excel at. Still, Smoltz has several things going for him: (1) he is the first man to win 200 games and also save 150 and voters love that stuff, (2) he pitched on a great staff with two teammates who are already in the Hall and closely connected to him, (3) he appeared in and excelled in several postseasons, and (4) Smoltz is likable. From what we hear from voters who have released their ballots, Smoltz seems to be a shoo-in. At first thought that seems surprising, but not when you look at voting history. Dennis Eckersley was elected in his first year of eligibility and earned election easily. Eckersley was a lesser starting pitcher than Smoltz was but he had a much longer and heralded career as a closer, of course. However, it seems that many observers perceive Smoltz as being the equal of Eck in the closer role and when combined with his stellar resume as a starter, it makes Smoltz an obvious first-ballot choice. I wouldn’t be shocked if Smoltz just misses on his first try, but based on the public ballots I put him in this time.
He has 500 homers, which at one time would have meant automatic entrance into Cooperstown. But no longer. Whereas Smoltz has a bunch of things going for him, Sheffield has a lot of things going against him: (1) He never stayed in any one place for very long so he acquired the reputation of a nomad bat-for-hire, (2) He was a man without a position, a terrible shortstop, a bad third baseman, and a mediocre outfielder who seemed to be bored on the defensive side, (3) He was linked to Barry Bonds and BALCO and also named in the Mitchell Report on steroids, and (4) He was a horses ass. There’s no chance Sheffield is going to be elected, in my opinion. The specter of steroids hangs over his head and he was seen as a selfish player. I think he’ll get enough to stay on the ballot but he won’t last the 10 years that players get on the ballot now. I put him in a similar category with Rafael Palmeiro, he’s been convicted in the public court of opinion.
With the addition of Delgado to the ballot we know have five former first baseman, the others being Bagwell, McGriff, McGwire, and Mattingly. Delgado isn’t going to take votes away from any of them, with the possible exception of McGriff, who might suffer in comparison on peak value. It’s interesting: both Delgado and McGriff starred for the Blue Jays and if we could take the peak value of Delgado and combine it with the career value of The Crime Dog, I think voters would put that player in, but separate they don’t quite make it. With the ballot so top heavy, Delgado will struggle to stay above the 5%, which is a shame because he’s every bit as good as a few first basemen in the Hall, namely Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez.
Had we taken a straw poll in 1999 Garciaparra would have been an easy choice for the Hall of Fame, and would have gotten more votes than Derek Jeter. But you have to play after the age of 26, and Garciaparra had only three seasons after the age of 26 in which he had at least 300 at-bats. As a result he’ll be much like Mattingly: he’ll get some peak value support but it won’t be nearly enough and given the stacked ballots he faces, Nomar probably won’t every get as much support as Mattingly did. I feel very uneasy about where I have Garciappara, I think I could be off on him by the largest margin. He could get 20% (not likely, but I suppose he could), and he could fall below 10%. I’m not hearing much about his candidacy, which makes me think he’ll be right around 10%, which means about 60 writers will throw a vote his way.
Percival pitched about as long as Bruce Sutter and each started their careers relatively late, Percival at the age of 25 and Sutter at 26. Both missed entire seasons late due to injury and both were key figures on pennant-winning teams. But Sutter had a trick pitch and he pitched about 100 innings a season, while Percival pitched 65 or so. Of course Percival also pitched in the same league at the same time as Mariano Rivera, which can’t help. But, regardless, he’s not a great Hall of Fame candidate. He was putting together a Hall of Fame type career up until he was 32 years old, but then his arm basically went dead. He’s got no chance and I think he’ll drop off the ballot immediately.
Prediction: Less than 1%
Now I’ll turn my attention to the holdovers, and get back to some lesser newcomers toward the bottom of this article.
The writers almost got him in last year, he missed by two votes. This will be his time, the only debate is whether ior not he;ll be one of four inducted or three. I have Smoltz ahead of him, but wouldn’t be surprised if the writers gave Biggio a jolt and he rocketed up near 80%.
Only two candidates (who are not on the ballot currently) have ever reached 50% and NOT been elected by the writers (Gil Hodges and Jack Morris). Raines was over 50% two years ago and I think he’ll get back there again this year. The rule change that limits players to 10 years on the ballot (instead of 15) will impact Raines the most because voters realize they have just three more tries to vote for him, this being his 8th year. It could work against him. Raines is clearly the best (clean) outfielder on the ballot right now but starting next year when Ken Griffey Jr. arrives it’ll get more crowded, especially if Smoltz is still on the ballot with Bagwell and Piazza. In 2017 Pudge, Manny, and Vlad are added to the ballot, so I think if Raines is going to get in it’s next year but he’ll have to gain some momentum in 2015.
As I’ve written before, I think Piazza was a clean player, but who the hell knows? He’ll get in eventually, but it won’t be this year because there are two first-year guys on the ballot and Smoltz could make it three, in addition Biggio had a head start on Piazza. But it’s obvious that voters aren’t penalizing Piazza for any steroid rumors and he’s clearly the best hitting catcher of his (or maybe any other) generation. I think he’ll inch up another 5-7%.
Like Raines, Bagwell is caught in a crunch because he’s been on the ballot with a lot of worthy candidates and some steroid guys who suck away some votes. This is his 5th year on the ballot so he has five more shots after this, and he’s been over 50% three straight years so his chances are very, very strong. If he gets a big push this year he might get elected in 2016, otherwise he might have to wait until 2018 after other names are cleared away.
He altered himself, he altered the record books, and now Barry Bonds has altered the Hall of Fame voting procedures. It;s his controversial and embarrassing presence on the ballot that caused the Hall to change the rules so players can only be on the ballot for 10 years instead of 15. The powers-that-be in Cooperstown do not want Bonds (or Clemens, McGwire, etc.) to be muddying up the ballot for years and years. As a result some worthy candidates will not gain election from the BBWAA, but the Hall will get what it wants — the steroid guys will wither on the vine and fall away.
For both Bonds and Clemens it’s hard to tell if their falling percentage in last year’s voting was a sign that their supporters are abandoning them or because the ballot was so top heavy. Probably the latter. But I wouldn’t be surprised if both Bonds and Clemens lose another 5% or more in their third year on the ballot.
He started his HOF candidacy in better shape than a lot of other pitchers who eventually got in, like Bert Blyleven, for example. He took a step backward last year but unlike Bonds and Clemens, he’s going to rebound and inch his way up. There won’t be very many starting pitchers for him to compete with for a while either. I think eventually he’ll get in.
His 13th year on the ballot, he’s been over 50% once and 40% seven times. I think his base support is abandoning him, realizing he doesn’t have enough traction to get to the 75%. With the pitchers being added this year, I think Smith falls back once again.
Why is it that closers can be elected to the Hall of Fame but designated hitters somehow cannot? That’s been the knock against Edgar, that he was a one-dimensional player who never (or rarely) picked up a glove. But a closer like Bruce Sutter would face on average about 435 batters per season and Goose Gossage averaged about 490. A full-time DH like Martinez had about 625 plate appearances per season. I don’t understand how one is more important than the other? Plus it’s not like we haven’t inducted players into the Hall of Fame who were basically one-dimensional. Ralph Kiner, Harmon Killebrew, hell even Rabbit Maranville, they were basically one-way players who were elected for one aspect of their game. Why is there this stubborn attachment to only inducting players who are well-rounded? Was Reggie Jackson a great outfielder? Had Reggie come into the league as a 21-year old in 1987 instead of 1967 he would have most likely spent most of his career as a designated hitter. we also have to account for the glaring fact that Paul Molitor is in the Hall of Fame and he spent half of his career as a Dh and accumulated about 40% of his career WAR in that role. Martinez was one of the best right-handed hitters of his era, really just a tick or two below Frank Thomas, who by the way was mostly a glorified DH his entire career. He rates among the best hitters of the post-expansion era in many rate categories and was a far better offensive player than many first basemen or corner outfielders in the Hall already. In about 8-9 years we’ll have David Ortiz on the ballot and then we’ll have to deal with this DH issue again. If Martinez isn’t in the Hall by then (which he likely won’t be), how can we justify keeping one out and putting the other in?
This is his 14th try and I think he’ll get lost in the shuffle again among all the great candidates above him. But he’s obviously worthy (if you don’t think Trammell is a Hall of Famer I’m not sure I even want you reading this column). It will be appropriate for him to fall off the ballot after next year and then be eligible via the “Eras Committee” where he can be elected by Lou Whitaker. But it’ll probably take decades because that electorate is snobbish.
I still think there are enough writers who will stubbornly cast a vote for Kent. He really doesn’t seem to have a chance and what I wrote last year, when he was on the ballot for the first time, still stands:
“I just don’t think most baseball writers view Kent as a Hall of Famer, even though his career numbers in homers, RBI, hits, and runs scored rate him among the very elite of second basemen. He was never a great defender, he wore out his welcome nearly everywhere he played, he had his best seasons when he hit behind Barry Bonds, and he did it all during one of baseball’s best eras for offense. His peak (if measured by WAR7) is not that great for a middle infielder – it’s far lower than that of Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, for example. I don’t think Kent will fall off the ballot (he slugged 377 homers at second base), but he won’t even sniff respectability in his first year.”
Garnered 20.3% support in his first year. I think he takes a big step back because he’s in direct competition with Johnson, Pedro, and Schilling this year. I still think he could eventually rise to 40-50% but he may run out of time with only 10 years on the ballot.
This is his 9th year on the ballot and we’ll see if his dwindling supporters still insist on using a vote on him. He’ll be gone after next year regardless.
He’s always gotten more support than McGwire but he’s at a point now where voters are going to abandon him because he’s a lost cause. This is his 6th appearance on the ballot and I wouldn’t be surprised if McGriff got a bump next year and the year after and eventually drifted up above 35%.
Last year Palmeiro, a 3,000-hit guy, fell off the ballot, this year it will be Sosa, a 600-homer guy. Good riddance.
This is his final year and he only reached 20% twice — in his first two years on the ballot. I have him getting a modest little bump in his 15th try, but he might not get that either.
He lost more than half of his support last year and I’m not sure he can get it back. He’s going head-to-head with contemporaries like Piazza, Bagwell, and very soon Junior and Chipper and even Vlad Guerrero. It’s going to be difficult for Walker to build to where he needs to get, which is 50-55% for a chance in his last two years on the ballot. As it is this is his 5th year on the ballot and if he keeps languishing at 10%, he could just fall off or never get back to 20% by the time his ten years is up. It’s too bad because Walker was a great player and in my opinion, he deserves a plaque.
Other Newcomers on the ballot
Appearing for the first time are Rich Aurilia, Aaron Boone, Tony Clark, Jermaine Dye, Darin Erstad, Cliff Floyd, Brian Giles, Tom Gordon, Eddie Guardado and Jason Schmidt. None of these players deserves, nor will they receive the 5% to remain on the ballot. The best Hall of Fame candidate from this group is Giles, a patient power hitter who received MVP votes in five seasons.
What do you think will happen? Tell me in the comments section.