Editor’s note: Please welcome Bill Deane, former senior research associate at the Hall of Fame and a longtime friend of the site. For more than 30 years, Bill has made a science of studying past voting results for Cooperstown by the Baseball Writers Association of America and predicting who will get in. He does this with great accuracy, including predicting Barry Larkin’s enshrinement last year. I’m honored to have Bill’s predictions exclusive at BPP, the night before BBWAA voting results are released. Let’s see how Bill does.
The 2013 Hall of Fame ballot is the most star-studded and controversial since the very first one in 1936, with newcomers including arguably the best position player and the best pitcher of all time, along with four others with obvious Cooperstown credentials. Yet, according to my crystal baseball, none of these notables – nor anyone else – will be elected to the Hall this January, resulting in the first BBWAA shutout since 1996.
This is my 32nd year predicting Hall of Fame elections. I think the acid test of prognostication performance lies in guessing the fate of men who finish within 10% either way of being elected (i.e., who receive between 65-85% of the vote). Among such candidates, I have gone 48-12 (.800) in correctly predicting who would or would not make it over the years.
A review of the voting process: Members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) do the voting. Late each autumn, ballots are distributed to active and retired beat-writers who have been BBWAA members for ten years or more. The ballots, which are to be returned by the end of the year, list candidates in alphabetical order, instructing voters to choose up to ten players (the average writer selects about six). Eligible candidates include men who played in at least ten seasons in the majors, the last of which was not less than five nor more than 20 years prior to the election. Any candidate being named on at least 75% of the ballots is elected to the Hall; anyone receiving less than 5% of the vote is dropped from further consideration. The BBWAA honors an average of about two players per year. The 2013 results will be announced on January 9.
More than half of the 27 players who were listed on the 2012 ballot are not on the 2013 version: Barry Larkin, who was elected; and 13 others (Juan Gonzalez, Vinny Castilla, Tim Salmon, Bill Mueller, Brad Radke, Javy Lopez, Eric Young, Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Jordan, Terry Mulholland, Phil Nevin, Ruben Sierra, and Tony Womack) who were dropped for failing to reach the 5%-cutoff. These men collected just 537 votes in 2012, and the stellar 2013 rookie class figures to amass many more than that. This means that most if not all of the 13 returning candidates are likely to drop down in the voting.
The problems facing the ballot rookies are (1) those with the best credentials have been tarnished by accusations or rumors of the use of performance-enhancers, and (2) there are simply not enough votes to go around. Though each voter is permitted ten selections, the average voter uses considerably fewer than that. The number of votes per voter has been below seven every year since 1986, and sunk to a record low of 5.1 in 2012.
Many of the 2013 first-time eligibles are destined for just one try on the writers’ ballot, the consequence of being overshadowed and receiving less than 5% of the vote. Yet, many have solid résumés, and will get some votes. Among these are David Wells (239-157 record, including a perfect game), Kenny Lofton (622 stolen bases, .299 average), Steve Finley (2548 hits, 304 homers, 320 SB), Julio Franco (2528 hits, the last at age 49), Shawn Green (328 HR, including four in one game), Reggie Sanders (305 HR, 304 SB), Roberto Hernandez (326 saves), Jose Mesa (321 saves), Sandy Alomar, Jr. (six All-Star selections), Jeff Conine (214 HR, .285), Ryan Klesko (278 HR, .279), Aaron Sele (148-112), Rondell White (198 HR, .284), Jeff Cirillo (112 HR, .296), Woody Williams (132-116), Mike Stanton (1178 games pitched), and Royce Clayton. White and Stanton were named as HGH-users in the Mitchell Report.
Here’s the way I foresee the rest of the election shaping up, with predicted percentages in parentheses:
Craig Biggio (72) – An excellent but not dominant player who amassed 3060 hits, 1844 runs, 668 doubles, and 414 stolen bases.
Jack Morris (63) – The winningest pitcher of the 1980s, he went 254-186 in his career without ever posting an ERA below three or a Cy Young Award finish above third.
Mike Piazza (58) – The best offensive catcher of all time (419 homers, .308 average), he managed to survive steroids rumors and a poor defensive reputation.
Jeff Bagwell (56) – Batted .297 with 449 homers and 1529 RBI in just 15 seasons, winning the 1994 NL MVP Award.
Tim Raines (46) – Rock was an outstanding player whose credentials (including an 808-146 stolen base record) are only starting to be appreciated by voters.
Lee Smith (45) – Lost his all-time saves record (and his only persuasive Hall of Fame argument) in 2006 to Trevor Hoffman, who in turn lost it to Mariano Rivera in 2011.
Roger Clemens (44) – The most-accomplished pitcher of the past century, if not any century, Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards and seven ERA crowns while going 354-184 with 4672 strikeouts. His reputation has been skewered by well-documented accusations of steroids and HGH use, though he was acquitted of perjury on the subject.
Curt Schilling (41) – His won-lost record (216-146) is modest by Hall of Fame standards, but he had three second-place Cy Young Award finishes and 3116 strikeouts with a record 4.38 SO:BB ratio. Moreover, he starred for three different World Series teams, the 1993 Phillies, the 2001 D’backs (for whom he shared Series MVP honors), and the 2004 Red Sox (for whom he authored the gutsy “bloody sock” performance).
Barry Bonds (35) – The most accomplished non-pitcher with the possible exception of Babe Ruth, Bonds won a record seven MVP Awards and set all-time marks for career homers (762, including a record 73 in 2001) and walks (2558, a record 668 of them intentional). For good measure, he added 514 stolen bases and eight Gold Glove Awards. But, like Clemens, his accusations of using performance enhancers in the second half of his career, along with his surly relationship with the media, will keep him out of Cooperstown for the foreseeable future.
Edgar Martinez (31) – Though he didn’t become a big league regular until he was 27, the DH wound up with 2247 hits, 514 doubles, 309 homers, and a .312 average.
Alan Trammell (30) – A fine shortstop, overshadowed throughout his career by Cal Ripken and Robin Yount.
Fred McGriff (22) – Crime Dog had 493 home runs and 1550 RBI, winning homer titles in each league.
Larry Walker (20) – Hit 383 homers and batted .313, winning three batting titles and the 1997 NL MVP Award, though most of his damage was done a mile above sea level.
Sammy Sosa (20) – Slammed 609 home runs, including three 60-homer seasons and an MVP Award, in a career also tainted by performance-enhancer accusations.
Mark McGwire (17) – Had 583 home runs, a .588 slugging average, and the highest homer percentage of all time, but has become the voters’ poster boy for players accused of using PEs.
Don Mattingly (14) – After a half-dozen years as one of the game’s most productive hitters, Mattingly was reduced to mediocrity by back problems. Still, he wound up with credentials eerily similar to 2001 first-ballot inductee Kirby Puckett’s.
Dale Murphy (14) – Two straight MVPs highlight a checkered résumé. This is his final try on the BBWAA ballot.
Bernie Williams (12) – The only 2012 first-year candidate to remain on the ballot, he helped the Yankees to four world championships in the midst of his eight straight .300-seasons, including the 1998 AL batting crown.
Rafael Palmeiro (10) – He was a slam-dunk Hall of Famer until a positive steroids test (shortly after his finger-pointing denial of steroids-use under oath) effectively ended his career. Voters remember that performance more than his 3020 hits, 569 homers, or 1835 RBI.
Looking ahead toward upcoming elections, it appears the ballot will only get more crowded. In 2014 the leading newcomers will be Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, and Jeff Kent. The following year, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, and Pedro Martinez will bring their nine Cy Young Awards up for consideration, joining Gary Sheffield and Carlos Delgado. In 2016, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Trevor Hoffman will top the rookie list. And the 2017 ballot will include Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Jorge Posada. Any ten-year player active in 2012 who does not return in ’13 (Chipper Jones and Omar Vizquel, for two) will become eligible in 2018.