We’ve been talking about the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot for almost two months now. For reasons I can’t ascertain this year’s class was not announced during the first week of January, as is traditionally the case. Instead, the announcement will come tomorrow at 6 pm on MLB Network. If like me you don’t have cable, you stream the announcement live on MLB.com.
So what will the HOF class of 2017 look like?
Based on the more than 225 ballots published thus far, which represent just over half of the voting electorate, it appears Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines will be enshrined this summer in Cooperstown. Raines continues to poll around 90%, and while Bagwell has seen his percentage dip slightly in the last round of voting, he’s still over 88% among published ballots. Both deserve induction and are certain to be well celebrated on Wednesday evening.
Three other players have a chance of hearing their names called: Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, and Ivan Rodriguez. In order of likelihood of election this year I would rank them Hoffman, Rodriguez, and Guererro.
If past is prologue, Trevor Hoffman should feel the best of three. Last year, Hoffman stood at 63.5% among public ballots before the results. His final percentage of 67.3% was an increase of 3.8 percentage points. To get elected this year he needs a boost of only 2.6 points from his pre-results total.
Ivan Rodriguez is at 78.2% among public voters, but his total is going to go down. Among players on last year’s ballot who got more than 20% of the vote only Lee Smith and Hoffman increased their percentage among private voters (who apparently really love the save statistic). Rodriguez is going to drop, the question is by how much. It’s difficult to infer much from HOF voting patterns before 2015, because of the drastic changes made to voting in 2015 that reduced the number of HOF voters by more than 20%. 2017’s voters–estimated to be around 440–look much different than 2011’s 571 voters. The best case scenario for Rodriguez is that he replicates Mike Piazza‘s 3.3 point drop from last year and just squeezes over the 75% mark. There are issues with that comparison though. Piazza was in his fourth year on the ballot and had only missed by five points the year before. I think the latter is the situation Rodriguez will find himself in next year.
Vladimir Guerrero is even harder to predict because he’s also a first-year candidate with no clear comparison. He’s danced around the 75% mark for the last two months but has fallen to 72% over the last 24 hours. Since he has things that traditional voters like, such as an MVP and a .318 career average there’s a chance they could give him help. It’s a small chance, but it’s there. The most likely scenario is that he ends up around 68 to 70% and is well positioned to join Rodriguez in next year’s class.
Too much ink about all these other players, what about Mike Mussina?
Again, if the past is prologue, Mussina will drop about seven percentage points from his pre-results total, which is currently 59.3%. Last year Mussina dropped 7.2 percentage points from his pre-results total. A smaller drop this year would be even better. If he can break 55% it will be a huge victory; mostly likely he ends up between 50 and 55%.
Mussina has picked up 29 new voters this year while losing eight. Only three other players have gained more new votes this year. He has gone nine for 13 (76.9%) among first-time voters — an important trend that we think bodes well for him in the future (Mussina was 9 for 10 among first timer voters last year).
The worst case scenario for Mussina is that he drops below 50% and has a minimal increase from last year’s 43%.
There was considerable enthusiasm in some circles about Bonds and Clemens’ early showings in the voting. Most of that has faded now and there’s a decent chance both finish around the same percentage as Mussina in the low 50s. This would be an increase of only 5 to 10 percentage points for them. That’s a good start, but I still find it hard to believe that 75% of HOF voters will ever be okay with adding them to their ballots.
Anything else we should keep an eye on?
Edgar Martinez continues his astounding ascension. In 2015 he was named on only 27% of ballots. Since that time more than 90 writers have publicly taken to his cause and he looks set to clock in around 65%. This would set him up for election in 2018 or 2019 (his 10th and final year of eligibility). He may join Vlad, Hoffman, and Rodriguez in being on the cusp of election in 2018.
Mike Mussina’s former battery mate Jorge Posada is in danger of falling off the ballot. He is at 4.4%. He will need help from the private voters.