Historical Hall of Fame Vote Comparisons
Congratulations to Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar for being voted into the Hall of Fame. A great honor for two deserving players. Of course I also want to send my best to Rich, who I am sure is also enjoying Wednesday's news. If you haven't already please read Sully's post from yesterday.
Last year's I ran a piece looking at BBWAA vote histories for players with similar first-year vote totals to first-year players on last year's ballot, and I will do that again here. This is not meant to be a sophisticated projection of the future. Folks like Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times have a good handle on the dynamics of HoF voting and the future ballot composition to make better prediction. This is more of a rough look at historical precedent.
First off we have Jeff Bagwell who was on 41.7% of the ballots. Here are the BBWAA votes histories for other players who received between 46.7% and 36.7% of the votes their first year.
There are a total of seven players, four of whom were elected to the HoF by the BBWAA sometime between the fifth and ninth ballot. Lee Smith is still on the ballot, but it is doesn't look too good for him. Jim Bunning came very close on his 12th year, but then lost support and was inducted by the Veterans Committee. Steve Garvey never made it. Jaffe thinks this is a good start and notes that Garvey is the only player not currently on the ballot to have received over 31% on his first ballot and not be elected. Craig Calcaterra is not as sanguine. He thinks the PED moralists will keep his total down; Mark McGwire has not seen any movement in his total — though McGwire has much more of a PED connection than Bagwell. In addition, as Rob Neyer notes, there is just an insane amount of talent coming on the ballot in 2013-2015. Writers usually do not like to vote for too many guys at once, the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective notes that even though talent fluctuates between ballots the average number of players on per ballot is roughly constant. Unless Bagwell makes a huge jump next year — in a weak 2012 ballot — it gets rough starting in 2013.
Larry Walker got 20.3%, here are the players who received between 22.8% and 17.8% on their first ballot.
One guy in this group made it through the BBWAA vote; Roger Bresnahan made it through the Old Timers Committee; Red Schoendienst through the Veterans Committee; three guys are still on the ballot; and then three others never really broke 40%. Given the talent that is coming on the ballot it is hard to see Walker having a Don Drysdale-like rise to induction.
After that you have Rafael Palmeiro at 11%, Juan Gonzalez at 5.2% and a host of guys below the 5% cutoff. There is not much interesting to see with their comps. Instead I will turn my attention to a couple of guys who have been on the ballot for a couple of years and look at comparable players based on multi-year data.
First off is Barry Larkin. Here are the three players who were within 5% of both his first year (51.6% last year) and second year totals (62.1% this year).
Things look good for Larkin. Ryne Sandberg and Fergie Jenkins made it on the next ballot while Robin Roberts on the one after that. It really seems like 2012 is Larkin's year, given his strong vote totals in the past two years and the weaker group of first-timers on the 2012 ballot (Bernie Williams is probably the best guy on the ballot).
Next up is Edgar Martinez, also a second-year guy. He saw a drop from 36.2% to 32.9%. Here are the players within a 7.5% of both of those totals (I had to make a bigger envelope to get a good number of players).
Three guys made it through the BBWAA votes; Pee Wee Reese got in on the Veterans Committee; Lee Smith is still on; and two guys didn't make it. Given the guys coming, Martinez's role as a DH, and his drop in vote share it does not look good for Martinez. I think this comparison group probably overstates his chances.
Here is Mark McGwire. His numbers have held fairly constant over the first five years on the ballot. I had to widen range to those within 10% of the five ballots to match up a big enough pool to McGwire.
Things don't look too good. Bresnahan and Jimmy Collins had big jumps in their BBWAA numbers and were inducted by the Old Timers Committee; Jack Morris and Dale Murphy are still the on the ballot; and then you have six guys who never got past 40%. Unless there is a sea change in how the voters view the PED issue I think these six guys are a pretty good guide for what McGwire's time on the ballot will look like.
Finally I will look at Tim Raines' numbers. The comps here didn't work out as well. I had to extend the window to 12.5% and even there I don't think it is a great group.
The group matches Raines over the first three years, but in year four they are all below Raines (through all years they are still within the 12.5%). This shows the limitation to this comparison method. Raines has had a good couple of years, from a low point in 2009 of 22.6%, to 30.4% last year, and then 37.5% this year. So he is moving in the right direction.
If there is anyone else you would like to see? Or do you have any suggestions for the graphs? If so mention them in the comments.