With the official release of the ballot, yesterday marked the beginning of Hall of Fame Season. This ballot is stacked, it has more depth and quality players than any other class in modern voting history (1966). On the ballot there are fifteen players with a WAR (Baseball-Reference) of 60 or higher, and that doesn’t include Mike Piazza (59.2), or Sammy Sosa (58.4).
Last year I predicted the shutout. This year I think there will be much more movement both with players getting into the Hall, and with several notables falling off the ballot altogether.
Below are my voting predictions for every player on the ballot with a career WAR of 50 or higher plus Jack Morris, Don Mattingly, and Lee Smith who all receive considerable support from the voters.
Greg Maddux should get 100% of the vote but no one actually does. There are still voters who refuse to vote for any player their first year on the ballot. Maddux might also lose votes from voters who don’t vote for anyone who played in the steroid era, and possibly from a few others who choose to omit him because they know he is a lock to get in. This is weird logic but the ballot is so overcrowded with deserving players, not voting for Maddux essentially gives these writers 11 slots because they know he will cruise past the 75% needed for induction. Prediction 93.2%.
Tom Glavine was roughly the same caliber of pitcher as Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling but the sniff test and Glavine’s career win total will tell voters otherwise. Glavine should have no problem getting in his first year on the ballot, deservedly so. Prediction 84.0%
Frank Thomas is an interesting case. His numbers suggest he’s an obvious Hall of Famer, but he was a big, muscular slugger who played in the steroid era. There is no evidence that Thomas used, in fact he was the only active player who cooperated with the Mitchell Report and he has been very vocal against known users. However, his body type and overwhelming numbers will be enough to cause some voters to leave him off their ballots entirely. Is that right? Of course not, however this is the world we live in. Thomas will also lose some votes because he played more than half of his games at DH, and as we’ve seen with Edgar Martinez the old establishment of the BBWAA loathes the designated hitter. I think Thomas will get in but it will be much closer than it should be. Prediction 77.6%
Historical trends would suggest Craig Biggio is a lock to get in this year but Biggio will likely suffer from the overcrowded ballot. I think he makes it in, barely, but I could also see him getting stuck in a holding pattern for the next few years until the ballot thins out a bit. Prediction 75.0%
Jack Morris is on the writers ballot for the 15th and final time. Advanced metrics (WAR, WAA, JAWS, ERA+) suggest that Morris is not a borderline candidate but more of a full fledged mistake. Luckily for him most Hall of Fame voters pay little to no attention to those numbers and hold a fair amount of disdain for those who do and continue to throw them in their faces. Morris will suffer from the crowded ballot and likely fall just short. Prediction 69.7%
Clearly a large percentage of voters think Mike Piazza used steroids or other PEDs and will not vote for him. There is another significant portion of voters that believe mere suspicion of use isn’t enough to pass on a player. Piazza’s vote percentage will likely inch closer but still fall short of the 75% needed for induction. Prediction 64.0%
Jeff Bagwell will fall short for the same reasons Piazza will. Objectivity is dead. Prediction 62.8%.
Tim Raines will also suffer from the crowded ballot. He’s a sabermetric darling who busts the sniff test with actual numbers. However, momentum for Raines’ case seems to have stalled a bit. Raines will likely have to wait several more years. Prediction 53.3%.
Mike Mussina will debut strong but the stacked ballot and sniff test will cause him to linger on the ballot for a decade or more. I think he will eventually get in but he is realistically looking at the Blyleven route to enshrinement. Prediction 45.3%
Curt Schilling’s candidacy suffers for the same reasons Mussina’s does, plus he has to overcome his career win total of 216. Brian Kenny’s kill the win movement is alive and well but not among Hall of Fame voters who value the win more than anything else. Prediction 40%
Lee Smith’s support will likely drop significantly this year. With so many great players on the ballot it’s tough to continue to endorse Smith. Prediction 39.6%
Roughly 40% of voters have made it clear they will not vote for anyone linked to steroids; Roger Clemens has that link and will not get in. I’m not buying the theory that voters were just punishing Clemens and Bonds for one year, as long as the current voting system and voters remain in place, neither will get anywhere near enough support for induction. Prediction 39%
Barry Bonds is the best player on the ballot (162.5 bWAR), however he has become the face of the “steroid era” and he has no chance of getting inducted, and he may never. Prediction 38%
Edgar Martinez has a loyal group of supporters that will continue to vote for him despite the crowded ballot, however his detractors feel just as strongly that he shouldn’t get in. Unfortunately, the detractors outnumber the supporters roughly 2-1. Prediction 35.9%
Alan Trammell will likely start to see his support dwindle. He realistically has no chance of getting enshrined via the writers and with the over populated ballot some may see voting for him as a wasted vote. Trammell will eventually get in, deservedly so, but he will have to rely on the Veterans Committee to get there. Prediction 32.9%
Larry Walker has the Coors Field advantage working against him as well as the crowded ballot, and the sniff test. Prediction 16.7%
Jeff Kent will probably see modest support his first year on the ballot. I think he comes in around 15% and hovers around that mark for the next decade or so. Prediction 14.4%
From a Hall of Fame stand point, perhaps no player was hurt more by the “steroid era” than Fred McGriff (assuming he was clean). The crowded ballot will almost certainly cause him to lose several votes and possibly fall off it altogether. Prediction 8.4%.
The anti PED voters and the overpopulated ballot will likely push Mark McGwire off altogether. Fellow PED users Bonds and Clemens will linger for the full fifteen years, but the more borderline PED users will start to drop fast. Prediction 4.9%
Don Mattingly probably should have fallen off the ballot several years ago, this is likely the year it happens. Prediction 4.9%
Despite the overwhelming amount of deserving players on the ballot a handful of writers will find an excuse to vote for Luis Gonzalez and or Kenny Rogers. Both players had fifty win careers but both fall well short of Hall of Fame standards at their positions. One interesting side note; Rogers actually tops Jack Morris in career WAR (51.1-43.8), WAA (20.0-9.6), JAWS (43.5-38.4), and ERA+ (107-105). Somehow, I doubt he will be given the same consideration. The sniff test works wonders.
Historically speaking if four players actually get elected that would be a lot . The last time the BBWAA voted four players in was in 1947 (Cochrane, Frisch, Grove, Hubbell). The only time more than four players were selected by the writers was the inaugural voting class of 1936.
So, if four players get in, especially four deserving players, we should consider that a victory. Yes, the voting process has become a farce. Deadspin actually purchased a vote from a BBWAA member and is actively looking to acquire more. That should embarrass the Hall and the BBWAA which was entirely their point. Hopefully it forces an overhaul to the process and to the voters who partake in it. However, 2014 has the potential to be a great year for the Hall. Not only do Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, and Biggio meet or exceed Hall of Fame standards by sabermetric measures, they also have the traditional counting numbers in their favor as well.
The anti PED voters can also claim victory. If McGwire, Sosa, and Palmeiro all fall off the ballot this year that’s a huge win for them and those who would rather see a Hall of Fame full of great character guys rather than great players. Plus Bonds and Clemens will still fall significantly short as well.
The crowded ballot should get considerably less crowded after this year. I think four players go in, four notable players will fall off, and this is Morris’ last year regardless. That’s nine players who will likely be off the ballot next year. That’s a big difference. Yes Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, and Gary Sheffield will join the ballot next year but Pedro and Johnson will get in right away. Once they do, I expect Mussina, Schilling, and Smoltz to begin their surge forward.
I’ll take a class of Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, and Biggio. Yes the system is flawed and I think there are a dozen or more players that should also go in (including the PED guys) but after last year this would certainly be better than nothing.
Those are my predictions for the 2014 Hall of Fame class. What are yours?
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