2019 Hall of Fame Ballot
On November 19, 2018, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) released the 2019 ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This article looks at the candidates on the 2019 Hall-of-Fame ballot. This is the seventh year for which I have written such an article: see 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 for my previous articles.
Over the next few weeks, I will be writing (fairly brief) articles on each of the players on this year's Hall-of-Fame ballot. These articles will be linked at the end of this article as they are posted.
The first table of this article looks at the 35 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 and Reggie Smith as a fairly typical player in the Hall of Merit but not the Hall of Fame. I have included Stargell and Smith in the table below to give some sense of how this year's candidates compare to existing Hall-of-Fame (and Hall of Merit) standards.
|2019 Hall of Fame Ballot
Player Won-Lost Records, sorted by pWORL
|Freddy Antonio Garcia|
For the fourth year, I will use this article to make predictions about how the players on this ballot will fare in voting. I wrote articles evaluating the accuracy of my predictions for 2016, 2017, and 2018 in articles that can be found here: 2016, 2017, and 2018.
I apologize for the length of this article, but thought it was worthwhile to work through my thought process fairly carefully.
Review of 2018 Hall-of-Fame Voting
Last year, 422 Hall-of-Fame voters (20 fewer than the year before) cast a total of 3,570 votes, an average of 8.46 names per ballot. Of those votes, 1,556 were cast for players who do not appear on this year's Hall-of-Fame ballot, either because they were elected to the Hall-of-Fame last year or because they failed to earn enough total votes to remain on the ballot.
One might think of this number as representing the votes that are available for returning candidates to gain and for new candidates to receive. Of course, voters are allowed to name up to 10 candidates on their ballot, so the total number of votes could increase if some voters decided to name more players on their ballots. Alternately, some voters could decide to name fewer players this year if, for example, their ballot included all four players who were elected last year, and they do not think four new candidates deserve their votes. But, still, I think using 1,556 as a starting point for trying to determine new votes can be useful.
This year, I'm going to reverse the order in which I made my predictions last year and look first at the returning candidates.
There are 15 players who are appearing on the 2019 Hall-of-Fame ballot who appeared on the 2018 ballot. Their vote totals in 2016, 2017, and 2018 are shown in the next table.
The 8 candidates who appeared on both the 2017 and 2018 ballots and increased their vote percentage gained an average of 6.3% between the two years. The 4 candidates who appeared on both the 2017 and 2018 ballots and saw their vote percentage decline, lost an average of 1.7% between the two years.
The top two players are particularly noteworthy. If Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina increase their percentages in 2019 by the same amount as they increased in 2018, that would push both of them over the 75.0% threshold needed for election.
Predicting that Martinez will be elected this year, in his 10th and final year on the ballot, seems fairly non-controversial. He missed election last year by a mere 20 votes and has seen his vote percentage increase by 10% or more in each of the past three three years.
Mike Mussina's chance of election, on the other hand, seems a bit more tenuous. Mussina increased his vote total by 39 votes in 2018, despite there being 20 fewer voters. That left him 49 votes short of election. In percentage terms, however, his percentage increase last year of 11.7% left him 11.5% short of election. His 11.7% percentage increase last year came on the heels of percentage increases of 8.8% and 18.4% in 2017 and 2016, respectively. His 2016 increase also saw him gain 54 votes even as the number of voters declined from 549 to 440. So, there is precedent for Mussina gaining both 11.5% and 49 raw votes within a single season.
Another way to think about what Mussina needs is to think about what percentage of voters he needs to convert (assuming that the electorate will be overwhelmingly the same as last year). Last year, Mussina got 63.5% of the vote. Hence, he needs to convert 11.5% of the 36.5% of voters who did not vote for him last year, or about 31.5% of non-Mussina voters need to change into Mussina voters (just under one-third). Last year, Mussina gained only 24.3% of non-Mussina voters (just under one-quarter).
Another factor that may come into play with respect to Mussina's vote total this year is that three of the strongest new candidates are pitchers (two of whom were long-time teammates of Mussina). Mariano Rivera's Hall-of-Fame case is quite different from Mussina's, so he is probably not going to affect Mussina's candidacy very much. But Roy Halladay and Andy Pettitte might. Halladay beats Mussina in Cy Young awards, 2 to 0; All-Star games, 8 to 5; and in 20-win seasons, 3 to 1. Certainly there are likely to be some voters who will see Halladay as the best starting pitcher on the ballot.
This is less likely to be true in the case of Andy Pettitte. Where Pettitte could hurt Mussina, I think, is that Pettitte's traditional statistics are superficially similar to Mussina: Mussina finished his career with a traditional won-lost record of 270-153 (.638 winning percentage) and a 3.68 ERA. Pettitte was 256-153 (.626), 3.85. Mussina is better in all of these stats, but if a voter is skeptical of Pettitte's Hall-of-Fame worthiness (as I suspect most of them will be), might the superficial similarity raise some doubts about Mussina's case as well?
Unlike Edgar Martinez, where this is his final chance to be elected by the BBWAA, Mussina has five more turns on the ballot if he needs them. And I don't think he'll need all five. But my best guess for now is that he will probably need two more tries before his election. My best guess is that he falls just short this year.
The next table shows my predictions for returning candidates this year. For the most part, my predictions are that candidates will make similar gains to what they made last year. For the players who debuted last year, I assumed an average increase for Vizquel and Rolen, with no projected increase for Andruw Jones. Jones debuted at a sufficiently low level that I think significant electoral gains are unlikely.
One other returning candidate warrants some discussion. Last year, Larry Walker saw his support increase from 21.9% to 34.1%, an increase of 12.2%. The above table predicts a similar increase this year. This will be Larry Walker's ninth year on the ballot. Due to a recent rule change, this leaves him with only one more year on the BBWAA ballot. In order for Walker to be elected by the BBWAA, he would have to increase his vote percentage by 53.1 percentage points in three years, including last year's 12.2% gain. This seems extremely unlikely. It remains to be seen, however, whether a realization by voters that Walker is running out of time on the ballot might lead to an increase in his vote totals even beyond what I am predicting here. Realistically, Larry Walker has essentially no chance of being elected this year. In addition, I think that Walker has to exceed at least 50%, and perhaps 60%, this year to have any chance of being elected next year, in his final year on the ballot. My prediction is that he will ultimately fall short. But Walker's vote total is definitely one worth paying attention to as voters reveal their votes in the coming weeks and when the final totals are announced in January 2019.
By far the most difficult candidates to predict are first-year candidates. With returning candidates, one has last year's vote total as a starting point and it is usually fairly easy to go one step beyond that and predict whether candidates are likely to gain, lose, or maintain their previous vote total. With new candidates, however, there is no solid starting point.
Based on my experience in past years, I think the best way to predict the vote totals for new candidates is to identify a handful of previous Hall-of-Fame candidates who are likely to be viewed similarly to the relevant candidate and use their first-ballot vote totals as a guide. The challenge with this approach, of course, is to figure out who these "similar" candidates are.
There are a total of 20 candidates appearing on the Hall-of-Fame ballot for the first time. As is typical on Hall-of-Fame ballots, most of these new candidates do not really have a credible Hall-of-Fame case. The honor for most of these players is in simply appearing on the ballot, having managed to play in Major League Baseball for 10 years.
There are, however, several players for whom one can make a fairly credible Hall-of-Fame case. Several of these candidates look good as measured by Player won-lost records, but seem unlikely to garner significant support among the actual electorate. These include, for example, Derek Lowe, Roy Oswalt, and Miguel Tejada, all of whom appeared in my book Baseball Player Won-Lost Records: 150 Players, 50 Years, which looked at the top 150 players of the 50-year period from 1961 through 2010, as measured by Player won-lost records. I would be surprised (pleasantly surprised, but definitely surprised, nonetheless) if any of Lowe, Oswalt, or Tejada received enough votes to make a second ballot
Excluding these three, I see five first-year candidates who I think have some chance of surviving to a second ballot. These players are considered next, in the order in which they appeared in the first table of this article - i.e., as ranked by career pWORL.
The first-year player with the highest career pWORL strikes me as no better than the third-best Hall-of-Fame candidate among the newcomers to the 2019 ballot. In fact, Pettitte may be the worst of the five new candidates in terms of expected first-ballot vote total.
Andy Pettitte had a career record of 256-153 with a 3.85 ERA in 3,316 innings. I mentioned earlier in this article that this is superficially similar to Mike Mussina's career record, although Mussina's record is clearly superior - same number of wins, fewer losses and a lower ERA for Mussina. Mussina debuted at 20.3% in 2014.
Another recent Hall-of-Fame candidate with a similar traditional record to Pettitte is Jack Morris, who had a career record of 254-186 with a 3.90 ERA. In some ways, Pettitte has a similar case to Morris. Morris's Hall-of-Fame case rested largely on his having the most traditional pitcher wins of the 1980s coupled with Morris's strong postseason performance pitching for three World Series winners. Pettitte had the most traditional pitcher wins of the first decade of this century (2000 - 2009) and pitched for five World Series winners. Pettitte does not have anything comparable to Game 7 of the 1991 World Series but Pettitte does have the most traditional pitcher wins in postseason history (19).
Morris debuted with 22.2% of the vote in his first year on the Hall-of-Fame ballot in 2000.
Mussina's and Morris's debut vote totals seem close enough that this would seem to work as a first guess for Pettitte. That said, there is one wild card in Pettitte's case: his confessed use of human growth hormore (hGH). The alleged or known use of performance-enhancing drugs has certainly hurt the cases of other users. But, frankly, there are no other known users who really match up well with Pettitte. Most other users are batters - Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa, et al. The only other pitcher who has obviously suffered a PED penalty is Roger Clemens, who has a vastly stronger Hall-of-Fame case (7 Cy Young awards, 354 wins, 4,672 strikeouts).
The simple average of Mussina's and Morris's first-year vote totals is 21.3%. Arbitrarily reducing that by 5% for PED penalty and my prediction for Andy Pettitte is that he will debut with 16.3% of the vote.
In terms of a simple "these guys will be elected, these guys will not be elected", I am very certain that Mariano Rivera will be elected. Maybe not quite as certain as I am that, say, Juan Pierre and Fred McGriff will not be elected, but, still, I'm pretty damn certain of this. In terms of exact percentage, though: that one's a little tougher, because there really are no good comps to Mariano Rivera.
If I'm right, Rivera will be the first pure relief pitcher elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. To some extent, for obvious first-ballot Hall-of-Famers, the key to guessing their vote percentage is to figure out why voters might vote against them and try to find players with similar "negatives" (where I put negatives in quotes because, in general, first-ballot Hall-of-Famers tend to have very minor negatives). Pretty much the only serious objection I can think of to Rivera's candidacy would be a general dislike of relief pitchers - either the view that relief pitchers are generally "failed starting pitchers" (Rivera had a 5.94 ERA in his 10 career games started, all in his rookie season. Although Rivera did not develop his trademark cutter until after he moved to the bullpen.) or a view that relief pitchers do not pitch enough innings (Rivera pitched 1,283.2 regular-season innings and an additional 141 postseason innings. This is more than 600 fewer innings than two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana, who received only 10 votes last year in his only appearance on a Hall-of-Fame ballot, pitched in his career.
Given that Trevor Hoffman was just elected to the Hall of Fame last year, it's obvious that the number of anti-reliever votes is not enough to keep Rivera from being elected. But Hoffman received less than 80% of the vote. So the anti-reliever contingent of the electorate could be fairly large.
Two pitchers strike me as possible comps to Rivera, although neither one is particularly good. The first is the one pitcher who was arguably the first relief pitcher elected in his first year of eligibility, Dennis Eckersley. Eckersley spent 12 years as a starting pitcher and he was quite good at it, winning 20 games once and receiving Cy Young votes twice. But clearly, it was his work as a relief pitcher that got Eckersley elected to the Hall of Fame. Eckersley was elected in his first year of eligibility (2004) with 83.2% of the vote.
The other possible comp for Rivera is the first-ballot Hall-of-Fame pitcher with the shortest career, Sandy Koufax. Koufax pitched 2,324.1 regular-season innings in his career along with 57 postseason innings. And a case could be made that Koufax's Hall-of-Fame case really boiled down to just his final five seasons, over which he pitched 1,377 innings. Adding that to his 57 postseason innings totals 1,434 innings, which is quite close to Mariano Rivera's combined career total of 1,424.2 innings. Koufax, like Eckersley, was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Koufax received 86.9% of the vote.
Honestly, both of those vote totals feel a little low for Rivera. The average of Eckersley and Koufax is 85.1%. I would be surprised if Rivera's vote total ends up that low. So, I'm going to arbitrarily add 10% to that for a predicted vote total for Mariano Rivera of 95.1%. The most recent player to receive 95% of the vote in his first year of eligibility was Rickey Henderson, who received 94.8% of the vote in 2009. I guess that feels about right.
Roy Halladay won two Cy Young awards. Nine pitchers have won exactly two Cy Young awards, six of whom have appeared on a Hall-of-Fame ballot.
Three of the six have been elected to the Hall of Fame: Gaylord Perry (314 wins, 68.0% vote in his first year on the Hall-of-Fame ballot), Tom Glavine (305 wins, 91.9% vote in his first year), and Bob Gibson (251, 84.0%).
Three of the six were not elected to the Hall of Fame: Bret Saberhagen (167 wins, 1.3%), Johan Santana (139, 2.4%), and Denny McLain (131, 0.3%).
It's actually quite remarkable. These six players line up to create a perfect voting rule: two-time Cy Young winners who won at least 251 games received an average of 81.3% of the Hall-of-Fame vote on the first ballot and were all elected to the Hall of Fame (it took Gaylord Perry three years); two-time Cy Young winners who won fewer than 168 games, however, received an average of only 1.3% of the vote from Hall-of-Fame voters.
The problem with this in regards to Roy Halladay is that it doesn't necessarily help us predict how voters will treat him. In his career, Roy Halladay earned 203 traditional pitcher wins.
So, what is the magic line at which two-time Cy Young winners are guaranteed election to the Hall of Fame? 250 wins? That works for the six previous players. 225 wins? That would likely work. 200 wins? That would also work. 175 wins? That would still work.
One thing I am certain of is that Roy Halladay will receive a higher percentage of the vote than Saberhagen, Santana, and McLain received. I am also reasonably sure that Halladay will receive a lower percentage of the vote than Glavine. But compared to Perry or Gibson? I could see that. Or I could see half of that.
A simple average of the six previous two-time Cy Young winners is 41.3%. A simple average of the three previous two-time Cy Young winners with at least 200 career wins is 81.3%. The simple average of these two numbers is 61.3%. That's my final answer: I predict that Roy Halladay will receive 61.3% of the vote in his first year on the ballot.
The last two first-year players who I think have some chance of receiving enough votes to stay on the Hall-of-Fame ballot are Lance Berkman and Todd Helton. I combined them here because they have fairly similar cases, which leads to a fairly similar set of comps. Berkman and Helton were both primarily first basemen who were excellent hitters but who failed to hit any major statistical milestones or win any MVP awards.
Lance Berkman and Todd Helton
Player won-lost records draw a bit more of a distinction between the two than either version of WAR with Berkman clearly ahead. But, sadly, I suspect very few, if any, Hall-of-Fame voters will use Player won-lost records in deciding how to fill out their ballot (although, obviously, I think that all of the voters absolutely should do so). That said, Berkman had a similar advantage through his career in MVP shares, which, I think, do tend to match up well to Hall-of-Fame voting, in large part because MVP voters and Hall-of-Fame voters are drawn from the same pool (BBWAA members). So, I do suspect that Berkman will receive more votes than Helton, but it is hard to say exactly how many more.
- Helton won three Gold Gloves versus zero for Berkman, but Helton was exclusively a first baseman while Berkman played more games in the outfield (997) than at first base (765), including 166 games in center field.
- Helton had better batting numbers: .316/.414/.539, 369 home runs vs. .293/.406/.537, 366 home runs, but Helton played in a much better hitting ballpark, having spent his entire career in Colorado. Berkman also batted .317/.417/.532 with 9 home runs in 224 postseason plate appearances versus .211/.303/.281 with no home runs in 19 postseason plate appearances for Helton.
- Overall, Berkman beat Helton in All-Star appearances (6 to 5), seasons receiving MVP votes (7 to 6) and "MVP Shares" as calculated by Baseball-Reference (2.00 to 0.90).
- Helton leads Berkman in Baseball-Reference's version of WAR, 61.2 to 52.1. But Berkman leads Helton in Fangraphs' version of WAR, 56.0 to 55.0.
I don't want to say that players like Berkman and Helton are "a dime a dozen". They're clearly not. They both had excellent careers. But there are a fair number of players who seem comparable in one way or another through the years. A few such players, ranked by their first-year Hall-of-Fame vote total, are listed next.
None of these are great comps to Berkman and Helton, but I think all of them are broadly similar in one way or another. The simple average of the first-year vote totals of these 10 players is 13.3%. Let's add 2% to that for Berkman and subtract 2% for Helton.
- Jeff Bagwell: Like Berkman and Helton, Bagwell failed to hit any "magic numbers" on offense, although Bagwell out-homered Berkman and Helton with 449. Berkman had fewer All-Star appearances than either Berkman or Helton (4), but received MVP votes in 10 different seasons and won the MVP award in 1994. Bagwell received 41.7% of the vote in his first year on the ballot.
- Gil Hodges hit 370 home runs, very similar to Berkman and Helton, but was worse in all three slash lines (.273/.359/.487). Hodges was named to 8 All-Star teams and received MVP votes 9 times. Somewhat surprisingly to me, Hodges earned only 0.65 career MVP shares, lower than both Berkman and Helton. Hodges received 24.1% of the vote in his first year on the ballot.
- Fred McGriff hit even more home runs than Bagwell (493). McGriff made 5 All-Star appearances (same as Helton, one fewer than Berkman), was named on 8 MVP ballots, with 1.41 MVP shares. He received 21.5% of the vote in his first year on the ballot.
- Larry Walker has a much stronger sabermetric Hall-of-Fame case than Berkman and Helton. He was a better baserunner and a much better fielder who won 7 Gold Gloves in right field. But that hasn't necessarily helped Walker in actual Hall-of-Fame voting. His career batting numbers are quite similar to Helton's: .313/.400/.565, 383 home runs, but, like Helton, he accumulated a lot of that in Colorado. Walker received 20.5% of the vote in his first year on the ballot.
- Orlando Cepeda is the last Hall-of-Famer in my comp list here, although he was not elected by the BBWAA. Cepeda's Triple Crown stats (.297/379/1365) are similar to Berkman's (.293/366/1234). Cepeda was an All-Star in 7 seasons (he played in 11 All-Star games, because they played two All-Star games per season in the late 1950s and early 1960s) and was named on MVP ballots 8 times. His MVP share is very similar to Berkman, 1.87, but, unlike Berkman, Cepeda actually won an MVP award in 1967. Cepeda received 12.5% of the vote in his first year on the ballot.
- Will Clark had a similar slash line to Berkman and Helton - .303/.384/.497 - but fewer home runs (284). Clark had similar All-Star appearances (6), and MVP share (1.84) to Berkman. Clark received 4.4% of the vote in his first year on the ballot.
- Carlos Delgado had more home runs (473) but only two All-Star appearances. He did, however, receive MVP votes 7 times with a career MVP share of 1.56. Delgado received 3.8% of the vote in his first year on the ballot.
- Norm Cash hit 377 career home runs, but batted only .271. Cash exactly matched Helton in All-Star appearances (5) and years receiving MVP votes (6), although Cash did a bit worse overall in MVP voting than Helton (MVP share of 0.70 vs. 0.90). Cash received 1.6% of the vote in his first year on the ballot.
- Jack Clark had even weaker slash stats than Cash (.267/.379/.476) but did hit 340 home runs. Clark was only named to four All-Star teams, but received MVP votes six times with a career MVP share of 1.16. Clark received 1.5% of the vote in his first year on the ballot.
- Boog Powell has career stats similar to Jack Clark's: .266/.361/.462, 339 home runs. Powell was only named to four All-Star teams, but he received MVP votes in six seasons (matching Helton) with 1.95 MVP shares (almost matching Berkman). Unlike Berkman and Helton, Powell won an MVP award, in 1970. Powell received 1.3% of the vote in his first year on the ballot.
Putting all of that together, then, the next table shows my first guess at how BBWAA voters may vote for the players on the 2019 Hall-of-Fame ballot. Predicted percentages for first-year players have been converted to whole numbers based on a repeat of the 422 votes last year with the resulting percentages then re-calculated.
Players in bold are predicted by me to receive the 75% necessary for election. Players in italics are predicted to receive fewer than 5% of the vote, rendering them ineligible for future ballots.
So, there you go. I predict two players will be elected to the Hall of Fame this year - Mariano Rivera and Edgar Martinez - with two additional players falling just short - Roy Halladay and Mike Mussina.
Performance-Enhancing Drugs and the Hall of Fame
Unfortunately, lately, it has become impossible to talk about the Hall of Fame without bumping up against the subject of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). This is not a topic that I'm particularly keen on discussing here. My interest is in the data and, as far as the data are concerned, a home run is a home run and a player win is a player win, regardless of what a player did to hit that home run or earn that player win. I gave my opinion on PEDs in baseball in my first Hall-of-Fame ballot article about the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot if anybody cares about my opinion.
The Individual Players on the 2019 Hall of Fame Ballot
Over the next several weeks, I will write up an article about each of the 35 players on the 2019 Hall of Fame ballot. For the most part, these will not be advocacy articles: plenty of other people will post plenty of those. But hopefully, they will be interesting articles that may reveal something new and/or interesting, or at least a little fun, about these players, using Player won-lost records. I hope you enjoy them.
Links to these articles will be added to this article as these articles are posted.
2019 Today's Game Hall of Fame Ballot
2019 BBWAA Hall-of-Fame Ballot
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.
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