2018 Modern Era Hall of Fame Ballot
On November 6, 2017, the National Baseball Hall of Fame released the 2018 ballot for the Modern Era of the Veterans' Committee. The ballot included nine players whose careers were centered around the time period from 1970 to 1987 as well as the longtime head of the players' union (the MLBPA), Marvin Miller. Player won-lost records are obviously of no help in evaluating Marvin Miller's Hall-of-Fame case.
The first table of this article looks at the 9 players on the ballot as measured by Player won-lost records. In a separate article, I looked at players already in the Hall of Fame and Hall of Merit and how their careers look measured by Player won-lost records. In that article, I identified Willie Stargell as perhaps the most typical Hall-of-Famer as measured by Player won-lost records. I have included Stargell in the table below to give some sense of how this year's candidates compare to existing Hall-of-Fame standards. Keep in mind that, in my estimation, Stargell represents an "average" Hall-of-Famer, not the minimum standard for the Hall of Fame.
Players in italics have been inducted into Baseball Think Factory's Hall of Merit.
- Based on Player won-lost records, two of the nine players on the ballot clearly exceed Hall-of-Fame standards: Tommy John and Alan Trammell.
- Looking at pWins over either positional average (pWOPA) or replacement level (pWORL), a third candidate, Luis Tiant, also matches up favorably with Willie Stargell.
- Controlling for context, the third-best candidate looking at eWins over positional average (eWOPA) and replacement level (eWORL) is probably two-time National League MVP Dale Murphy.
- One other candidate is worth consideration: Ted Simmons. Catchers tend to play fewer games and, hence, accumulate fewer player wins (and WOPA and WORL) than players at other positions, both within seasons as well as over a career. Giving Simmons a positional boost could push him up to at least a borderline Hall-of-Fame candidate.
Comments on the Ballot
As much as I would love to see Tommy John and Alan Trammell get into the Hall of Fame, I am fairly disappointed in the choices for this ballot. No disrespect to these nine players, who were all excellent players at their best and had very good, even great, careers. Eight of the nine players on this ballot earned at least 200 pWins, the exception being Don Mattingly, who just missed 200 pWins because his career was cut short due to chronic back problems. All nine players were above average for their careers, with positive pWins and eWins over positional average (pWOPA, eWOPA). Since 1961, only 3.7% of major-league players have earned 195 or more pWins with career values for pWOPA and eWOPA both greater than zero.
That said, I'm not sure what the point is of giving these specific nine players another chance. All nine of these players have appeared on a Hall-of-Fame ballot of some sort since 2013 and eight of the nine players spent the maximum fifteen years on the BBWAA ballot. In my opinion, the BBWAA missed badly on Tommy John and Alan Trammell, but unless the members of the Modern Era Committee have found my website and/or read my book, I'm not sure why this new committee would be better equipped to evaluate these players. Jack Morris's Hall-of-Fame case has been debated to death for two decades and I am not aware of any new evidence that would support his candidacy, which was rejected 15 times by the BBWAA.
The one exception here is Ted Simmons, who appeared on only one BBWAA ballot, way back in 1994. Simmons's lone appearance on the BBWAA ballot predates virtually all of the recent advances in sabermetric player evaluation, including the development of such statistics as WAR, WARP, and, of course, Player won-lost records. Simmons's appearance on the BBWAA ballot even predates Baseball-Reference.com and more basic sabermetric measures such as OPS+. Given the significant advancements in player evaluation tools over the past, say, 10 - 20 years, then, I can see a case for re-evaluating players who look better using the tools available today than they did when they last appeared on a Hall-of-Fame ballot. This would include players such as Lou Whitaker (last BBWAA ballot in 2001), Bobby Grich (last BBWAA ballot in 1992), Dwight Evans (last BBWAA ballot in 1999), and others.
Don't get me wrong. I hope that Tommy John and Alan Trammell are elected by this committee this year. It just feels like this ballot was drawn up for the purpose of continuing debates that have already been settled and for which most, if not all, of the relevant data were already known the last time the debate was had.
If I Had a Vote
As is probably obvious from my earlier comments, if I had a vote on this committee, I would vote for Alan Trammell and Tommy John. I would probably also vote for Marvin Miller, although I don't have a particularly strong opinion on his Hall-worthiness. I could perhaps be persuaded to vote for Ted Simmons, although as of now, I lean against him, preferring to go with a small ballot that focuses on the players on this ballot who most clearly belong in the Hall of Fame.
As I mentioned above, all nine of these players have appeared on some Hall-of-Fame ballot since 2013. Coincidentally, I have been writing articles about Hall-of-Fame candidates since the 2013 ballot. Hence, I have already written articles about all of these players. Updated versions of these articles are linked below.
Individual Player Articles
All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.
List of Articles