Ballot Check-in #4: We know what we are, but know not what we may be

The Baseball HOF class will be announced two weeks from today. According to our friend and HOF-ballot-collecting-savant Ryan Thibodaux there are 164 known ballots at this point. Thibodaux estimates that this is about 38% of the total ballots. Here are our negatives and positives with two weeks to go.

Positives

Mike Mussina is running about 10% ahead of where he was at this point last year. Nineteen voters have added him to their ballot, while eight have removed him (we will address these drops in a later piece). This puts him at 61.6%, the ninth-highest vote total. I think the best case for Mussina right now is that he finishes above 50%.

Patrick’s thoughts: The drops are annoying and have really made me focus a lot more on the status of the borderline guys and prior ballot cloggers. In many ways, Mussina’s progress this year isn’t the issue (though it’s good to see that he’s flipping voters still). The issue this year is seeing the ballot clear, or at the very least, setting us up for a massive class in 2018, which could make 2019 a possibility for Mussina.

Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines look like locks for election. I don’t want to jinx anything, but both are polling at over 91%.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens continue to get new support. Both players have been added to more than 20 ballots this year and have seen their percentages rise nearly 20 points from this point last year.

Negatives

For Mike Mussina to get elected there needs to be fewer players on the ballot. We’ve accepted this as a given for three years now. This election could go a long way to alleviating that ballot congestion or it could exasperate it for another year.

Ivan Rodriguez is currently sitting at 84.1%. It would be great to see him elected this year. As I wrote in the last ballot update, the voters who tend to use all 10 of their votes also tend to vote early. I’m almost certain Rodriguez’s percentage will drop, the question is if it will stay above 75%. I’m secretly terrified there are a lot of “I don’t vote for players the first time on the ballot” type voters left out there. I hope I am wrong.

Patrick’s thoughts: I’m comfortable with Pudge being where he is. The tracker indicates he needs roughly 70% of the remaining vote to get in. That would require a reasonably big drop, but other than general ballot shrinkage as we get later in the vote, I don’t see a reason to suspect it will be.

Vladimir Guerrero (76.2%) and Trevor Hoffman (72.6%) are in even more tenuous situations. Vlad has no room for error and Hoffman needs a boost from the remaining voters. It’s difficult to predict how the rest of the voting pool will vote on Guerrero since this is his first time on the ballot. On the other hand, here’s a look at how Hoffman is performing this year compared to 2016 courtesy of @notMrTibbs on Twitter.

hoffman

Among players who were named on more than 20% of ballots last year, Hoffman and Lee Smith were the only players to improve their percentage totals when all the votes came in. Hoffman continues to ride a fine line that might either see him barely make it or, like Craig Biggio in 2014, come up a couple votes short. Within the past 30 years, Gaylord Perry and Biggio are the only players to debut with more than 67% and not get elected the following year. Both made it on their third ballot. I suspect this will happen to Hoffman.

Patrick’s thoughts: Seeing Hoffman move to a +11 (19/8) is the key thing here. Closers don’t always make moves like other players, so this is heartening.

Other Thoughts

It’s borderline absurd how crowded the baseball HOF ballot is right now. There are eight players currently earning more than 68% of the vote. There are another two (Mussina and Curt Schilling) getting more than 50%. The days of small HOF classes (and the small ballots that make them possible) are a thing of the past.  As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs has written, HOF voters need to address their reluctance to address the changing dynamics of baseball. Electing one or two players a year was okay when there were 16 teams, but the game now has 30 teams and much more talent in it. If Bagwell, Raines, and Rodriguez make it this year, the 2018 ballot will feature between five and seven players with more than 60% of the voters behind them. Write it down, 2018 could feature a HOF class bigger than any before.

Final fun thought: If the 2018 class features Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, and Jim Thome is it better than the original 1936 class (Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner)?

Patrick: Given the massively increased talent pool, this is a tough call. But possibly

Links of the Week

Fangraphs ran a solid a solid piece on Mussina yesterday called Mike Mussina Should be in the Hall of Fame. Check it out.

Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated writes a long piece on each person on the ballot. Here is his 2016 piece on Mussina.

Mike Lupica of Sports on Earth recently took to his keyboard to make the case for Mike Mussina’s election to the Hall of Fame.

The Comeback wrote 35 reasons why Mussina belongs in the Hall of Fame.

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