Ballot Check-In #3

We at MussinaHOF.com hope you and your family had a great holiday, and wish your 2016 comes to a close with a bang.

It’s time for another ballot check-in, as Ryan Thibodaux’s tracker now has 122 votes accounted for. This time, rather than doing positives and negatives, we’re going to break things down Q&A style.

First things first: How’s Mike Mussina doing?
Last time we checked in, Mike Mussina had flipped eight 2016 “no” voters to yes, while losing three “yes” voters, giving him a net total of +5. Now, he’s flipped 14 to the good side while losing 5, for a net of +9. This is actually slower than I’d hoped: Consider that Edgar Martinez, who had nearly an identical vote total to Mussina last year, is at +19 (20/1). So, while Mussina’s still making progress, he’s not rocketing up the ballot.

Moose is also 8-for-10 with first-time voters (which is actually better than Martinez). So that’s a positive. Just keep grinding.

Overall Mussina has been named on 62.3% of ballots. Last year he was at 57.5% after 120 ballots.

Are you ready to walk back your Bonds/Clemens doomsday talk?
I’m getting there. It turns out Ryan might have been on to something there. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are at +13 and +14—and 8-of-9 with first-time voters, respectively. While this is undoubtedly costing Mussina some votes—Bernie Wilson dropped Mussina (and two others) while adding the duo to a 10-player ballot—in the long run, it’s looking like these two may finally have the momentum needed to get off the ballot. They are both sitting at 71.3%, Last year they were at 50.7% after 120 ballots. There’s a good chance they both finish over 60% this year. If things break right they might finish over 65% and enough voters may be convinced to finally give them their day.

What about your Trevor Hoffman hysterics?
He’s actually moved a bit into positive territory as well, with a net of +5 (12/7) and 6-of-9 with first-time voters. It’s still short of the pace he needs, but it’s better than nothing. Hoffman is at 73.0%. Unlike many of the other players on the ballot, Hoffman tends to do better with non-public voters than public voters. If he’s within a point or two of 75% on election day there’s a decent chance he gets elected.
astros-jeff-bagwell-mlb-1994
What are the odds that the backlog is going to clear?
This is very interesting. We know Tim Raines and Lee Smith are off regardless, but with Jeff Bagwell having flipped seven of the estimated 12 votes he needs (and being a perfect nine-for-nine with first-timers) Bags is looking like a solid bet, as is Ivan Rodriguez, who is at 84.4%. Plus, Vlad Guerrero, who was a tough call, is sitting at 77.0%. There’s a solid chance we get four guys off the ballot, with an outside shot at five, if Hoffman can make a run. That would be fantastic, given that 77 of the 122 ballots are maxed out, and four voters (who we know of) have said they did not have room for Mussina but want to vote for him.

Ryan’s Note: I’m less positive about Pudge’s chances this year than Patrick. Consider what happened to Jeff Bagwell last year.

After 120 ballots vs. final tally:
Piazza 90%  / 83%
Bagwell 85.8% / 71.6%
Raines 80.8% / 69.8%
Schilling 61.7% / 52.3%

The first 30% to 40% of voters who publish their ballots think of the hall (and their votes) differently than many others. This speaks to the large diversity of thought among baseball writers voting for the hall of fame. Pudge is at 83.3% after 114 ballots. If later voters view him less favorably, I don’t think he will get to 75%. 

Patrick’s Rebuttal: I think Ryan is half-right. The number of names per ballot is going to shrink; for reference, we are currently at 8.93 names per ballot, and last year, the number was 7.95. This means fewer votes for everyone.

Here’s the problem with the Bagwell comparison though. In 2015, Bags earned 55.7% of the vote. There’s almost no precedent for a player making a jump of 30 percentage points in one year in order to get elected. Barry Larkin jumped up 25 points, but even he came up short. The point is, it’s incredibly unlikely that a player who only has 55% of the voters in their corner is going to change the minds of 30% of the electors in one year and go to 85%.

Rodriguez doesn’t have to do that. We’re looking at a first-timer to the ballot. A better example might be John Smoltz, who was a first-ballot HOFer in 2015. Through 130 ballots that year, Smoltz was at 89.2%, and he ended up at 82.9. That’s a drop of 6.3 percentage points. Rodriguez is currently at 84.4% through 122 ballots. A drop of 6.3 percentage points leaves him at 78.1%.

It seems like voters are coalescing around a core group of candidates: (Bonds, Clemens, Bagwell, Raines, Rodriguez, Hoffman, and Guerrero). Those seven players are currently at 70% or better, while Mussina, Martinez, and even the ever-sliding Curt Schilling are above 50%. Now, public voters have larger ballots—last year they averaged 8.23 names per ballot, compared to 7.28 on non-public ballots, so these numbers are likely to drop. Still, we’re seeing a lot of players trend upward who have legitimate shots at election in the next year or two.

This seems to be happening at the expense of down-ballot players. I’ve long wondered if voters were going to start thinking strategically, and stop casting votes for lost causes like Fred McGriff while concentrating on players who have a shot at getting elected. The ethics of such a stance are not for everyone, but it appears to be what is happening. For example, we’ve got about 1/3 the number of public ballots in this year that we did last year. And look at what we’re seeing:

Fred McGriff in 2016: +17 among returning voters
Fred McGriff in 2017: -3 among returning voters

Jeff Kent in 2016: +11 among returning voters
Jeff Kent in 2016: -2 among returning voters

Lee Smith in 2016: +16 among returning voters
Lee Smith in 2017: No gain among returning voters.

Gary Sheffield in 2016: +6 among returning voters
Gary Sheffield in 2017: No gain among returning voters

And even though Schilling is still above 50%, his 18 (!) lost voters have spread the love around.

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