Predicting the 2016 Hall of Fame Class

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The 2016 Hall of Fame ballot has officially been mailed to voters. This year the Hall of Fame trimmed its voting group requiring voters to have been active BBWAA members within the last ten years. This change removed about 20% of last year’s voters as 475 ballots will be mailed out this year compared to the nearly 600 sent out 2015 (549 were cast). The Hall of Fame has a tendency to stick to the status quo but this move is a positive step in the right direction for the change adverse museum. Besides removing many long retired writers who no longer keep in touch with the game or the numbers surrounding it, this change will also directly affect who gets in this year and next.

Mike Piazza would have likely fallen short this year without these changes. It would have been close but I saw him coming in around 72.5%, as he was completely dependent on the support of new voters and there simply are not enough of them to push him in. Now I’m predicting him to land at 78%. That gets him in which is great for him, he is obviously deserving but this also means he isn’t going in in 2017 which was the course he was on prior to 20% reduction of voters. With Piazza likely getting in this year this change unintentionally creates the realistic possibility of another BBWAA shutout in 2017. More on that in a bit.

The BBWAA also formed a committee to recommend changes to the current voting process. They formally suggested the Hall raise its 10-slot player limit to 12 but the Hall declined their suggestion and is sticking with the old 10-slot rule. Which is a shame.

The 2016 ballot itself features thirteen players with a WAR of 60 or higher, which is down from fifteen last year. Four players got in last year, which did alleviate some of the ballot clutter at least temporarily.

I like to make my predictions early before the ballot trackers pop up so here are my predictions for the 2016 Hall of Fame class. I will also link to my predictions from the last three years at the bottom of this post.

Ken Griffey Jr. is completely unaffected by the reduction of voters. He was getting a plaque in Cooperstown regardless. He finished his career with 630 home runs, 10 Gold Glove awards, a WAR of 83.6, and most importantly for many voters no suspicions of steroid use. Original Prediction: 95.5%. Final Prediction: 98%

Mike Piazza has been kept out of the Hall thus far because many writers suspect he used steroids and believe those suspicions alone are justification to keep him out. This is unfair, of course, however I believe many of the 20% of voters who were removed were in the anti-steroids camp. This helps Piazza.

I suspect that a large portion of the voters removed are the type of voters who would never consider voting for a player if they suspected him of using steroids, do not make their ballots public, pay little to no attention to advanced metrics, rely heavily on the sniff test to make their decisions, and won’t consider a player if it’s his first year on the ballot. Thanks to Ryan Thibodaux’s invaluable ballot tracker we know many players have had a big discrepancies in support from voters who make their ballots public and those who did not. Piazza had a -12.8% differential between public and private voters last year. Not all of the voters who have been purged voted against Piazza but his gap between public and private support will shrink. That coupled with his strong support among new voters will almost certainly get him in. Prediction 78%

Two other interesting things happened with Piazza this year. Rob Manfred publicly supported him for the Hall, kind of. For years many writers have been asking for some sort of guidance on what do with the steroid issue and the Commissioner basically said suspicion shouldn’t be enough to keep someone out. He didn’t name any specific players but it seemed clear he was referencing Piazza.

The other bit of news around Piazza this year is that his former teammate Pedro Martinez completely threw him under the bus in his autobiography. Pedro strongly implied he believed Piazza used steroids. He provided no actual proof and just reinforced some of the circumstantial evidence that has surrounded Piazza for years but his belief that Piazza used was one of the big takeaways I had from that book. Lots of people, including many Hall of Fame voters read this book and I bet Pedro’s comments about Piazza left an impression on them too. However, this won’t be enough to keep him out. Original Prediction: 78%. Final Prediction: 80%

Jeff Bagwell will see a nice bump up this year as the 20% reduction helps him too. I have him gaining nearly 10% of the vote going from 55.7% last year to 64% this year. If Piazza gets in this year that will certainly help Bagwell next year. It is not going to create a flood of PED players getting in but it will help those who have been kept out without any credible evidence they used. Bagwell is the best hope for someone getting in via the BBWAA in 2017. He will likely have to gain another 10% of the vote though, that will prove challenging. Original Prediction: 64%.  Final Prediction: 70%

Tim Raines will be on the ballot for the 9th time this year and he should see a nice bump up as well. Raines isn’t suspected of using steroids but the sniff test is still working against him even with the purge of voters. Original Prediction: 61.5%.  Final Prediction: 66.5%

Trevor Hoffman is new to the ballot this year and to be honest I find him to be the hardest to player predict. I can see him falling anywhere from 40-75%. The BBWAA has been tough on relievers especially those who are making their debut on the ballot. However, I suspect the voters view Hoffman as better than Lee Smith. Lee smith topped 50% of the vote in 2012 but has been on a steady decline since. He debuted with 42.5% of the vote in 2003 when the ballot was not as crowded with deserving candidates as it is now. Hoffman will get in sooner than later but he will likely have to wait at least another year. Original Prediction: 50%.  Final Prediction: 61%

If Curt Schilling wasn’t such a buffoon he likely would have seen the biggest percentage increase of anyone on the ballot this year. However, he was recently suspended by ESPN for comparing Muslims to Nazi’s, he publicly denounced evolution as a thing, and he posted several insensitive memes on his Facebook page about Syrian refugees. He is also still involved in litigation with the state of Rhode Island over the video game company he led to bankruptcy while operating there. Curt Schilling is not a sensible human being but he is one of the top twenty-five pitchers ever to play the game and should have coasted into the Hall of Fame several years ago. His epic douchebaggery will certainly cost him some votes. Personally I think that’s wrong. I think the Hall should be a reflection of the best players ever to play the game and some of those players were ignorant dolts and degenerates of all kind. Some cheated, some gambled, some have committed violent crimes. Put the best players in and acknowledge who they are on the field and off. Original Prediction: 42.5%.  Final Prediction: 48%

Roger Clemens will see modest upward movement this year but he will still finish far from the 75% needed for induction. Neither he or Barry Bonds is ever going to get voted in via the BBWAA but they both appear to eventually be headed for the 50% mark. This is significant because as all but one player (Gil Hodges) who has passed 50% of the BBWAA vote has eventually gotten in. Original Prediction: 41%.  Final Prediction: 41%

Barry Bonds will continue to fall short and the moral goon squad will continue to celebrate. Original Prediction: 40.5%.  Final Prediction: 41%

Edgar Martinez has a loyal group of supporters that will continue to vote for him regardless of how crowded the ballot gets. Unfortunately, the detractors outnumber the supporters roughly 3-1. He will pick up a few votes though as some of the anti-DH crowd has been eliminated. Original Prediction: 33%.  Final Prediction: 42.5%

Mike Mussina is another victim of a huge split of support between public and private ballots (-14.9%). He fails the sniff test for some reason, and the sniff test is still king. He will continue to inch forward but it’s unlikely he will ever get in via the BBWAA. Original Prediction: 31%.  Final Prediction: 43%

Alan Trammell deserved better than this. This is his final year on the ballot and he never really had a chance. He was unfairly labeled as a compiler and he clearly fails the sniff test. Trammell will see a modest bump up as many players on their final ballot do but he will still fall significantly short of 75%. Original Prediction: 30%.  Final Prediction: 39%

Lee Smith’s support will likely continue to dwindle as he nears the end of his time on the ballot. He is perhaps most adversely affected by the purge of older voters. Those guys love saves. Original Prediction 20%.  Final Prediction: 32%

Mark McGwire is on the ballot for the 10th and final time this year. He has no chance of getting in but might see a small upward tick. Original Prediction: 12.5%.  Final Prediction: 13%

Jeff Kent will likely hover between 10-20% for the next eight years. I see him lasting the full ten years allowed but never really making any significant strides forward. He’s the type of player that has a good chance with the Veterans Committee. Original Prediction: 12.5%.  Final Prediction: 16%

Larry Walker is stuck in the same ballot purgatory Kent is. He was a better player than Kent but he fails sniff test and is perceived by many to be nothing but a Coors Field creation. Original Prediction: 12%.  Final Prediction: 14%

Gary Sheffield was implicated in the BALCO scandal and named in the Mitchell Report for allegedly purchasing illegal steroids. This means he has no chance of getting in the Hall of Fame anytime soon. Original Prediction: 10%.  Final Prediction: 12%

Fred McGriff  will be hurt by the change in voters. He wasn’t getting in anyway but this change puts him in jeopardy of falling off the ballot within the next year or two. If neither the steroid era or the 94-95 players strike happened McGriff would likely already be enshrined. Original Prediction: 9.0%. Final Prediction: 16%

Sammy Sosa has managed to stay on the ballot for three years now, which is admittedly longer than I thought he would last. He might even see a small tick upward this year but his time on the ballot is running out. Original Prediction: 7.5%.  Final Prediction: 8.5%

Jim Edmonds is a 60-win player on both Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. He won eight Gold Glove awards and hit 393 home runs. He falls short on JAWS but that’s because Mays, Cobb, Speaker, and Mantle distort the averages at the position. The Hall of Fame isn’t just for players of that caliber otherwise it would only have fifty people in it and that’s not viable. Edmonds will struggle to stay on the ballot for more than a few years but for now he clears the 5% threshold. Original Prediction: 7.0%.  Final Prediction: 4.5%

Nomar Garciaparra surprisingly cleared the 5% threshold last year and is back for his 2nd time on the ballot. Nomar’s peak was Hall worthy but he lacks the overall career production needed for enshrinement. This will likely be his last year on the ballot. Original Prediction: 4.5%.  Final Prediction: 2.5%

Billy Wagner is making his debut on the Hall of Fame ballot this year and unfortunately he will likely be one and done. Inning for inning Wagner was as good as any retired reliever not named Rivera but he only pitched in 903 innings which is 139 fewer than Sutter. He fails the sniff test, will be overshadowed by Hoffman, and his relatively brief career will make his time on the ballot short lived. Fun side note Trevor Hoffman pitched in 186 more innings than Wagner but Wagner struck out 63 more batters than him 1196-1133. Original Prediction: 4.0%.  Final Prediction: 7.0%

For the visually inclined here are the predictions in spreadsheet form.

Download (XLSX, 33KB)

*The chart above represents my predictions before Ryan Thibodaux’s ballot tracker went live. The chart below reflects my updated predictions (12/18/15) using data from the tracker (61 ballots at time of post). My big correction is with Hoffman. I originally had him coming in around 50% but I’ve now adjusted him up to 63%. Jeff Bagwell has already picked up ten votes and is trending upward but he still likely falls short this year. However, my fears of another BBWAA shutout in 2017 will likely not come to pass as both Bagwell and Hoffman should clear the 75% threshold next January.

Download (XLSX, 33KB)

*The results will be announced one week from today. Here’s an update of my predictions (12/30/15). There are currently 121 ballots tracked on the tracker.

Download (XLSX, 35KB)

The results get announced tomorrow night. Here are my final predictions (1/5/16). There are currently 166 ballots on the tracker.

Download (XLSX, 35KB)

I still only have two players (Griffey, Piazza) getting in though Bagwell is making up a ton of ground and has an outside chance of clearing 75% as well. He does not get the same kind of support among voters who keep their ballots private which is why I still think he falls short this year. He will come insanely close either way. If he misses this year he will headline the class of 2017. It’s looking like Tim Raines will join him. The purge of voters is helping both of those guys.

Last year four players got in which means this year many voters had three or four available slots on their ballot. The voters are using those spaces on other players most notably Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, and Alan Trammell who have all picked up fifteen votes or more. The 10-slot player limit was hurting all of these guys. Curt Schilling could have been the biggest gainer but his bigoted political views have cost him votes. So far he has lost seven votes from voters who voted for him last year, only one of those voters used all ten slots which suggests to me that Schilling’s insensitive remarks have definitely hurt him.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are both picking up votes as well. They will never get enough support to hit 75% from the BBWAA but in the next few years they will each cross the 50% threshold. This is significant because all but one player (Gil Hodges) who has ever received 50% of the BBWAA vote has eventually gotten into the Hall of Fame either by the writers themselves or a Veterans Committee.

I have talked on the podcast and written on this site before about the possibility of another BBWAA shutout in 2017. I don’t see that happening now. Bagwell, Raines, and Hoffman all have a reasonable chance of getting in next year. I think at least one of them will.

The notable newcomers to the ballot next year are Vlad Guerrero, Ivan Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, and Manny Ramirez.

Vlad Guerrero has the best chance of any of the newcomers but he finds himself in a bit of tough spot. Guerrero passes the sniff test, which is huge but he does fall just short of some big counting numbers finishing his career with 449 home runs and 1496 RBI. His poor defense and baserunning cuts into his overall value making him much more borderline than his offensive numbers alone would suggest. His peak value is in line with Hall of Fame standards but his career value is not. The analytically inclined voting members perhaps view him as overrated. I think he will eventually get in but realistically he might have to wait a few years.

Posada was a good catcher on a great team. He will get some support but he will likely find himself in the Jim Edmonds-Jeff Kent range, which means he has no chance.

Piazza getting in will not create a chain reaction of other PED guys getting in. PED hysteria is still rampant and there are hundreds of active voters that will not vote for anyone with a direct link to steroids. Manny Ramirez was suspended twice for his steroid use and also tested positive on the initial survey test in 2003. He will likely fall off the ballot his first year on it. Ivan Rodriguez will be helped by Piazza getting in however there is more circumstantial evidence he used steroids than there is against Piazza or Bagwell. Jose Canseco, Rodriguez’s former teammate claims to have used steroids with him. Canseco has proven to be truthful at times but also that his opinion can be bought and manipulated. When asked if he failed the survey test in 2003 Rodriguez replied, “only God knows.” This doesn’t seem like the kind of thing someone who didn’t test positive would say, at least not to me. Plus let’s be honest, we all saw Rodriguez add a tremendous amount of muscle mass to his frame only to lose a significant chunk of it when penalties for using were put in place. There is a lot of circumstantial evidence against him. I think he will eventually get in but he is going to have to wait several years as many voters will want see if his name actually appears on the survey list or if any credible evidence against him surfaces.

Key dates:

Monday, December 7th: Pre-Integration Veterans Committee results announced

Wednesday, January 6th: BBWAA results announced.

You can see how my predictions have fared against the actual results here 2015, 2014, 2013

Follow me on Twitter @RossCarey

 

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