How BBWAA voting predicts future Hall of Famers

Around Hall of Fame voting time every year, I hear baseball fans exclaim that a certain player is never going in Cooperstown because they’ve fallen far short of the 75 percent of votes needed through the Baseball Writers Association of America for enshrinement.

I’m here to say that based on some recent research I undertook, these fans by and large don’t know what they’re talking about.

Using Baseball-Reference.com, I recently went through every BBWAA vote since 1936, making a list of the 884 players who’ve received at least one vote and 221 more players who’ve appeared on the ballot and not gotten any votes. What I found: If a player gets even 20 percent of the writers vote, there’s a better than 50 percent chance they’re eventually going in. If they top 45 percent, their bid is more or less guaranteed. Not counting players currently on the ballot, 136 of the 139 players who’ve received at least 45 percent of the Hall of Fame vote from the writers are now enshrined.

There’s a question of causation or correlation between the BBWAA and Veterans Committee results that I don’t know I can answer here. There’s no proof, so far as I know at least, that the Veterans Committee cribs off the BBWAA to build its ballots. My gut is that the writers are a tough electorate and that any player who rises above 20 percent in the vote is a fairly popular candidate. I think the Veterans Committee would look to these players first even if the BBWAA wasn’t voting.

A more conclusive breakdown of my findings is as follows:

I. Enshrined by the BBWAA

Not counting Lou Gehrig or Roberto Clemente, who each were enshrined through special elections called for by the Hall of Fame, I count 117 people enshrined by the BBWAA. That leaves another 193 Hall of Famers, 96 of whom received at least one vote from the BBWAA at some point. Most of the remaining 97 Hall of Famers are executives and Negro League selections who fall outside the purview of the BBWAA. I’ll list the 17 Hall of Fame players who never appeared on a BBWAA ballot at the bottom of this.

I. Peaked between 70 and 74.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot 

A. The four people who peaked in this range: Jim Bunning, 74.2 percent in 1988; Orlando Cepeda, 73.5 percent in 1994; Frank Chance, 72.5 percent in 1945; Nellie Fox, 74.7 percent in 1985.

B. Since enshrined: 4/4

  1. How they got in: Nellie Fox by Veterans Committee in 1997; Jim Bunning by Veterans Committee in 1996; Orlando Cepeda by Veterans Committee; Frank Chance by Old Timers Committee in 1946.

C. Not enshrined: None

II. Peaked between 65 and 69.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot

A. The three people who peaked in this range: Jack Morris, 67.7 percent in 2013; Enos Slaughter, 68.9 percent in 1978; Rube Waddell, 65.3 percent in 1939.

B. Since enshrined: 2/3

  1. How they got in: Enos Slaughter by Veterans Committee in 1985; Rube Waddell by Old Timers Committee in 1946.

C. Not enshrined: Jack Morris

D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Mike Piazza, 69.9 percent in 2015.

III. Peaked between 60 and 64.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot

A. The three people who peaked in this range: Johnny Evers, 64.4 percent in 1946; Gil Hodges, 63.4 percent in 1983; Miller Huggins, 63.9 percent in 1946.

B. Since enshrined: 2/3

  1. How they got in: Johnny Evers by Old Timers Committee in 1946; Miller Huggins by Veterans Committee in 1964.

C. Not enshrined: Gil Hodges

IV. Peaked between 55 and 59.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot

A. The person who peaked in this range: Ed Walsh, 56.9 percent in 1946.

B. Since enshrined: 1/1

  1. How they got in: Ed Walsh by Old Timers Committee in 1946.

C. Not enshrined: None.

D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Jeff Bagwell, 59.6 percent in 2013; Tim Raines, 55 percent in 2015.

V. Peaked between 50 and 54.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot

A. The six people who peaked in this range: Roger Bresnahan, 53.8 percent in 1945; Max Carey, 51.1 percent in 1958; Ed Delahanty, 52.9 percent in 1939; Edd Roush, 54.3 percent in 1960; Sam Rice, 53.2 percent in 1960; Eppa Rixey, 52.8 percent in 1960.

B. Since enshrined: 6/6

  1. How they got in: Roger Bresnahan by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Max Carey by Veterans Committee in 1961; Ed Delahanty by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Edd Roush by Veterans Committee in 1962; Sam Rice by Veterans Committee in 1963; Eppa Rixey by Veterans Committee in 1963.

C. Not enshrined: None.

D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Lee Smith, 50.6 percent in 2012.

VI. Peaked between 45 and 49.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot

A. The five people who peaked in this range: Jimmy Collins, 49 percent in 1945; Lefty Gomez, 46.1 percent in 1956; Tony Oliva, 47.3 percent in 1988; Pee Wee Reese, 47.9 percent in 1976; Ray Schalk, 45 percent in 1955.

B. Since enshrined: 4/5

  1. How they got in: Jimmy Collins by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Lefty Gomez by Veterans Committee in 1972; Pee Wee Reese by Veterans Committee in 1984; Ray Schalk by Veterans Committee in 1964.

C. Not enshrined: Tony Oliva.

VII. Peaked between 40 and 44.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot

 A. The 12 people who peaked in this range: Richie Ashburn, 41.7 percent in 1978; Chief Bender, 44.7 percent in 1947; Steve Garvey, 42.6 percent in 1995; Clark Griffith, 43.7 percent in 1945; Marty Marion, 40 percent in 1970; Roger Maris, 43.1 percent in 1988; Bill Mazeroski, 42.3 percent in 1992; Johnny Mize, 43.6 percent in 1971; Hal Newhouser, 42.8 percent in 1975; Ron Santo, 43.1 percent in 1998; Red Schoendienst, 42.6 percent in 1980; Maury Wills, 40.6 percent in 1981.

B. Since enshrined: 8/12

  1. How they got in: Richie Ashburn by Veterans Committee in 1995; Chief Bender by Veterans Committee in 1953; Clark Griffith by Old Timers Committee in 1946; Bill Mazeroski by Veterans Committee in 2001; Johnny Mize by Veterans Committee in 1981; Hal Newhouser by Veterans Committee in 1992; Ron Santo by Veterans Committee in 2012.

C. Not enshrined: Steve Garvey, Marty Marion, Roger Maris, Maury Wills.

VIII. Peaked between 35 and 39.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot

 A. The nine people who peaked in this range: Phil Cavarretta, 35.6 percent in 1975; Hank Gowdy, 35.9 percent in 1955; Harvey Kuenn, 39.3 percent in 1988; Hughie Jennings, 37.2 percent in 1945; George Kell, 36.8 percent in 1977; Al Lopez, 39 percent in 1967; Phil Rizzuto, 38.4 percent in 1976; Wilbert Robinson, 38.2 percent in 1942; Hack Wilson, 38.3 percent in 1956

B. Since enshrined: 6/9

  1. How they got in: Hughie Jennings by Old Timers Committee in 1945; George Kell by Veterans Committee in 1983; Al Lopez by Veterans Committee in 1977; Phil Rizzuto by Veterans Committee in 1994; Wilbert Robinson by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Hack Wilson by Veterans Committee in 1979.

C. Not enshrined: Phil Cavarretta, Hank Gowdy, Harvey Kuenn.

D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Barry Bonds, 36.8 percent in 2015; Roger Clemens, 37.6 percent in 2013; Edgar Martinez, 36.5 percent in 2015; Curt Schilling, 39.2 percent in 2015; Alan Trammell, 36.8 percent in 2012.

IX. Peaked between 30 and 34.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot

A. The 11 people who peaked in this range: Home Run Baker, 30.4 percent in 1947; Jim Bottomley, 33.1 percent in 1960; Kiki Cuyler, 33.8 percent in 1958; Hugh Duffy, 33 percent in 1942; Red Faber, 30.9 percent in 1960; Burleigh Grimes, 34.2 percent in 1960; Tommy John, 31.7 percent in 2009; Tony Lazzeri, 33.2 percent in 1956; Allie Reynolds, 33.6 percent in 1968; Johnny Sain, 34 percent in 1975; Luis Tiant, 30.9 percent in 1988.

B. Since enshrined: 7/11

  1. How they got in: Home Run Baker by Veterans Committee in 1955; Jim Bottomley by Veterans Committee in 1974; Kiki Cuyler by Veterans Committee in 1968; Hugh Duffy by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Red Faber by Veterans Committee in 1964; Burleigh Grimes by Veterans Committee in 1964; Tony Lazzeri by Veterans Committee in 1991.

C. Not enshrined: Tommy John, Allie Reynolds, Johnny Sain, Luis Tiant.

X. Peaked between 25 and 29.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot

A. The 14 people who peaked in this range: Ken Boyer, 25.5 percent in 1988; Mordecai Brown, 27.7 percent in 1946; Bobby Doerr, 25 percent in 1970; Joe Gordon, 28.5 percent in 1969; Mel Harder, 25.4 percent in 1964; Jim Kaat, 29.6 percent in 1993; Chuck Klein, 27.9 percent in 1964; Mickey Lolich, 25.5 percent in 1988; Don Mattingly, 28.2 percent in 2001; Joe McGinnity, 26.2 percent in 1946; Eddie Plank, 27 percent in 1942; Joe Tinker, 27.2 percent in 1946; Johnny Vander Meer, 29.8 percent in 1967; Arky Vaughan, 29 percent in 1968.

B. Since enshrined: 8/14

  1. How they got in: Mordecai Brown by Old Timers Committee in 1949; Bobby Doerr by Veterans Committee in 1986; Joe Gordon by Veterans Committee in 2009; Chuck Klein by Veterans Committee in 1980; Joe McGinnity by Old Timers Committee in 1946; Eddie Plank by Old Timers Committee in 1946; Joe Tinker by Old Timers Committee in 1946; Arky Vaughan by Veterans Committee in 1985.

C. Not enshrined: Ken Boyer, Mel Harder, Jim Kaat, Mickey Lolich, Don Mattingly, Johnny Vander Meer.

XI. Peaked between 20 and 24.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot

A. The 16 people who peaked in this range: Lew Burdette, 24.1 percent in 1984; Fred Clarke, 24.9 percent in 1942; Lou Gehrig, 22.6 percent in 1936; Tommy Henrich, 20.7 percent in 1970; Billy Herman, 20.2 percent in 1967; Elston Howard, 20.7 percent in 1981; Minnie Minoso, 21.1 percent in 1988; Dale Murphy, 23.4 percent in 2000; Dave Parker, 24.5 percent in 1998; Casey Stengel, 23.1 percent in 1953; Joe Torre, 22.2 percent in 1997; Mickey Vernon, 24.9 percent in 1980; Bucky Walters, 23.7 percent in 1968; Lloyd Waner, 23.4 in 1964, Zack Wheat, 23 percent in 1947; Ross Youngs, 22.4 percent in 1947.

B. Since enshrined: 8/16

  1. How they got in: Fred Clarke by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Lou Gehrig in a special election in 1939; Billy Herman by Veterans Committee in 1975; Casey Stengel by Veterans Committee in 1966; Joe Torre by Veterans Committee in 2014; Lloyd Waner by Veterans Committee in 1967; Zack Wheat by Veterans Committee in 1959; Ross Youngs by Veterans Committee in 1972.

C. Not enshrined: Lew Burdette, Tommy Henrich, Elston Howard, Minnie Minoso, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Mickey Vernon, Bucky Walters.

D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Fred McGriff, 23.9 percent in 2012; Mark McGwire, 23.7 percent in 2010; Mike Mussina, 24.6 percent in 2015; Larry Walker, 22.9 percent in 2015.

XII. Peaked between 15 and 19.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot

A. The 16 people who peaked in this range: Dick Allen, 18.9 percent in 1996; Dave Bancroft, 16.2 percent in 1958; Earle Combs, 16 percent in 1960; Dave Concepcion, 16.9 percent in 1998; Al Dark, 18.5 percent in 1979; Roy Face, 18.9 percent in 1987; Curt Flood, 15.1 percent in 1996; Bucky Harris, 16.9 percent in 1958; Waite Hoyt, 19.2 percent in 1956; Ernie Lombardi, 16.4 percent in 1964; Pepper Martin, 17.3 percent in 1958; Thurman Munson, 15.5 percent in 1981; Don Newcombe, 15.3 percent in 1980; Lefty O’Doul, 16.7 percent in 1960; Vada Pinson, 15.7 percent in 1988; Smoky Joe Wood, 18 percent in 1947.

B. Since enshrined: 5/16

  1. How they got in: Dave Bancroft by Veterans Committee in 1971; Earle Combs by Veterans Committee in 1970; Bucky Harris by Veterans Committee in 1975; Waite Hoyt by Veterans Committee in 1969; Ernie Lombardi by Veterans Committee in 1986.

C. Not enshrined: Dick Allen, Dave Concepcion, Al Dark, Roy Face, Curt Flood, Pepper Martin, Thurman Munson, Don Newcombe, Lefty O’Doul, Vada Pinson, Smoky Joe Wood.

D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Jeff Kent, 15.2 percent in 2014.

XIII. Peaked between 10 and 14.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot

A. The 23 people who peaked in this range: Babe Adams, 13.7 percent in 1947; Bobby Bonds, 10.6 percent in 1993; Walker Cooper, 14.4 percent in 1976; Stan Coveleski, 12.8 percent in 1958; Dom DiMaggio, 11.3 percent in 1973; Leo Durocher, 10.5 percent in 1958; Jimmie Dykes, 10 percent in 1960; Dwight Evans, 10.4 percent in 1998; Goose Goslin, 13.5 percent in 1956; Chick Hafey, 10.8 percent in 1960; Keith Hernandez, 10.8 percent in 1998; Orel Hershiser, 11.2 percent in 2006; Addie Joss, 14.2 percent in 1942; Dickey Kerr, 10 percent in 1955; Johnny Kling, 10 percent in 1937; Ted Kluszewski, 14.4 percent in 1977; Don Larsen, 12.3 percent in 1979; Duffy Lewis, 13.5 percent in 1955; Sparky Lyle, 13.1 percent in 1988; Rube Marquard, 13.9 percent in 1955; Terry Moore, 11.7 percent in 1968; Rafael Palmeiro, 12.6 percent in 2012; Vic Raschi, 10.2 percent in 1975.

B. Since enshrined: 6/23

  1. How they got in: Leo Durocher by Veterans Committee in 1994; Stan Coveleski by Veterans Committee in 1969; Goose Goslin by Veterans Committee in 1968; Chick Hafey by Veterans Committee in 1971; Addie Joss by Veterans Committee in 1978; Rube Marquard by Veterans Committee in 1971.

C. Not enshrined: Babe Adams, Bobby Bonds, Walker Cooper, Dom DiMaggio, Jimmie Dykes, Dwight Evans, Keith Hernandez, Orel Hershiser, Dickey Kerr, Johnny Kling, Ted Kluszewski, Don Larsen, Duffy Lewis, Sparky Lyle, Rafael Palmeiro, Terry Moore, Vic Raschi.

D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Sammy Sosa, 12.5 percent in 2013; Gary Sheffield, 11.7 percent in 2015.

XIV. Peaked between 5 and 9.9 percent on the BBWAA ballot

A. The 50 people who peaked in this range: Nick Altrock, Earl Averill, Harold Baines, Hank Bauer, Albert Belle, Vida Blue, Bob Boone, Tommy Bridges, Hal Chase, Doc Cramer, Lou Criger, Frankie Crosetti, Paul Derringer, George Foster, Charlie Grimm, Freddie Fitzsimmons, Juan Gonzalez, Ron Guidry, Jesse Haines, Babe Herman, Fred Hutchinson, Travis Jackson, Joe Judge, Charlie Keller, Dolf Luque, Fred Lynn, Sal Maglie, Heinie Manush, Willie McGee, Stuffy McInnis, Bob Meusel, Graig Nettles, Bobo Newsom, Pete Rose, Schoolboy Rowe, Nap Rucker, Muddy Ruel, Hal Schumacher, Joe Sewell, Billy Southworth, Rusty Staub, Dave Stewart, Fernando Valenzuela, Lon Warneke, Bernie Williams, Cy Williams, Jimmie Wilson, Wilbur Wood, Glenn Wright, Rudy York

B. Since enshrined: 6/50

  1. How they got in: Earl Averill by Veterans Committee in 1975; Jesse Haines by Veterans Committee in 1970; Travis Jackson by Veterans Committee in 1982; Joe Sewell by Veterans Committee in 1977; Heinie Manush by Veterans Committee in 1964; Billy Southworth by Veterans Committee in 2008.

C. Not enshrined: I’m not listing all those names again

D. Holdover candidates on BBWAA ballot who are currently peaking in this range: Nomar Garciaparra, 5.5 percent in 2015

XV. Peaked under 5 percent on the BBWAA ballot

A. Peaked in this range: 697 people, including 221 who appeared on the ballot and never got a vote. [A handful of players got zero votes one year and at least a vote in one or more other BBWAA elections. The rule that says a player must receive at least 5 percent of votes to remain on the ballot for the next year came about in the early 1980s.]

B. Since enshrined: 23/697

  1. How they got in: Jake Beckley by the Veterans Committee in 1971; Jesse Burkett by Old Timers Committee in 1946; Jack Chesbro by Old Timers Committee in 1946; John Clarkson by Veterans Committee in 1963; Sam Crawford by Veterans Committee in 1957; Larry Doby by Veterans Committee in 1998; Buck Ewing by Old Timers Committee in 1939; Rick Ferrell by Veterans Committee in 1984; Elmer Flick by the Veterans Committee in 1963; Billy Hamilton by Veterans Committee in 1961; Harry Hooper by Veterans Committee in 1971; Joe Kelley by the Veterans Committee in 1971; High Pockets Kelly by Veterans Committee in 1973; Freddie Lindstrom by Veterans Committee in 1976; Connie Mack by the Centennial Commission in 1937; Joe McCarthy by Veterans Committee in 1957; John McGraw by Veterans Committee in 1937; Bill McKechnie by Veterans Committee in 1962; Kid Nichols by Old Timers Committee in 1949; Satchel Paige by the Negro League Committee in 1971; Branch Rickey by Veterans Committee in 1967; Amos Rusie by Veterans Committee in 1977; Bobby Wallace by Veterans Committee in 1953.

XVI. Hall of Famers who were never appeared on a BBWAA ballot

I count 17 people who played in the majors at least 10 years and thus could have been considered by the BBWAA but, for various reasons, never were.

Who these Hall of Famers are and how they got in: Cap Anson by Old Timers Committee in 1939; Dan Brouthers by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Roberto Clemente in a special election following his death; Roger Connor by Veterans Committee in 1976; George Davis by Veterans Committee in 1998; Pud Galvin by Veterans Committee in 1965; Tim Keefe by Veterans Committee in 1964; King Kelly by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Tommy McCarthy by Old Timers Committee in 1946; Bid McPhee by Veterans Committee in 2000; Old Hoss Radbourn by Old Timers Committee in 1939; Jim O’Rourke by Old Timers Committee in 1945; Sam Thompson by Veterans Committee in 1974; Monte Ward by Veterans Committee in 1964; Mickey Welch by Veterans Committee in 1973; Deacon White by Veterans Committee in 2013; Vic Willis by Veterans Committee in 1995.

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It will be interesting to see if the Steroid Era is a game-changer for this data. My hunch? Nothing much will change with the historical trend. I see most– if not all– of the players who’ve come as far as they have in voting eventually being enshrined.

0 thoughts on “How BBWAA voting predicts future Hall of Famers”

  1. Great stuff, Graham. A couple things worth mentioning…

    Modern players getting at least 20% will have less of a chance than players traditionally have for two reasons:

    1. They’ll have 10 chances instead of 15
    2. The Veterans Committees have essentially stopped electing modern players

    Last thing—Deacon White received a vote in 1936.

    Great article!

  2. Hey, thanks Adam.

    You spurred me to look it up and: Deacon White’s vote in 1936 came in the Veterans Committee election. I didn’t include vote totals from any Veterans Committee votes in my analysis here. That might be worth looking at in the future, particularly for players who didn’t figure in any BBWAA votes.

  3. Graham wrote: “There’s no proof, so far as I know at least, that the Veterans Committee cribs off the BBWAA to build its ballots.”

    There is a causal link there. Look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veterans_Committee#1955_through_1999_Elections for the rules in place during 1995-2000 for the Veterans Committee (which also is covered in Bill James’ Hall of Fame book written during the late 1990s). The Veterans Committee was very restricted regarding which quasi-recent players it could elect. If they wanted to elect quasi-recent players, they pretty much had to select Nellie Fox and Jim Bunning, because only those whose BBWAA vote totals exceeded 60% were eligible. Not sure why Gil Hodges also wasn’t voted in.

  4. Perhaps it’s worth noting the players to recently fall off the BBWAA ballot and have yet to be presented to any of the committees for election. The prime example for this is Jack Morris.

  5. Excellent piece of work, thanks for posting. Per >45% prospects, I’d have to suggest that the Hodges train looks to be out of gas, Oliva not so dim, Morris still tbd.

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