2016 Hall of Fame Predictions
This year’s Hall of Fame ballot has 32 players total, including 15 newcomers, for voters to consider. Last year’s elections saw four worthy candidates elected—Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio—and only one new-comer—Ken Griffey Jr.—is likely to get elected this year. This election is thus a crucial one for down-ballot players, especially given the reduction in the number of years a player can remain on the ballot from 15 to 10 made in 2015. Tim Raines is in his 9th year of 10, Jeff Bagwell is in his 6th year already, and Curt Schilling (4th year) and Mike Mussina (3rd year) need to start building momentum. It will also be interesting to see if the lack of big stars at the top of the ballot leads to more votes for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, especially now that Bonds has been named the Florida Marlins’ hitting coach.
The results of the election will be announced on Wednesday, January 6. A player must appear on 75 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballots to be inducted. Below are my brief thoughts on each player on the ballot and my prediction (in parentheses) for the type of general support they are likely to receive.
(97.5%) Ken Griffey Jr. – The “Kid” is a sure first-ballot hall of famer and will sail in easily. Unfortunately, some voters refuse to vote for anyone their first time on the ballot and others submit blank ballots in protest of the entire steroid era, so Griffey won’t be a unanimous selection. Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson received 97.2 and 97.3% of the votes respectively, and I expect Griffey to be at around the same number.
(79%) Mike Piazza – In the past three years Piazza has jumped from 57.8 to 62.2 to 69.9% of the vote. When a player gets this close, voters tend to converge and push him over, a fact made more likely given the lack of other star power on the ballot. Clearly one of the greatest offensive catchers of all-time, Piazza was hurt by criticisms of his defense and suspicions, though unsubstantiated, of steroid use. But it took Gary Carter 6 years to get in and he was as low as 33% at one point, so Piazza is doing well and should get in this year.
(65%) Tim Raines – Raines climbed to an all-time high of 55% of the votes last year, and with just one more year on the ballot after this, I expect more voters to shift votes his way. This will be a major test year for Raines. Modern statistics love him and his case has been taken up by many writers and analysts. If he polls in the 50s again, then it is clear that that hasn’t had an effect and his case will be left up to the Veteran’s Committee. If he can get close to 65%, however, then this will be evidence that momentum is building and may presage election next year.
(60%) Jeff Bagwell – He has remained relatively steady the last few years (56.0-59.6-54.3-55.7%) and so it is difficult to see him rising or falling much this year. But the overall weakness of the ballot might lead to a few more votes swung his way.
(50%) Trevor Hoffman – Accumulating 601 saves and being viewed as one of the two dominant relievers of his generation (with Mariano Rivera) is going to garner Hoffman considerable support. In my view, this is unfortunate since Hoffman provided very little value to his teams. Used as a one-inning reliever, Hoffman pitched barely over 1,000 innings, producing a career WAR of just 28.4, and was notoriously terrible in the post-season. The reality is that many middling starters could probably become closers and do a fine job, so the Hall of Fame should only be reserved for those that truly excel at the position—and Hoffman is not even close to the likes of Rivera, Wilhelm, Eckersley, and Gossage.
(45%) Curt Schilling – With John Smoltz getting in last year, the key question is what does that then mean for Schilling with a nearly identical W-L record and much higher WAR, or Mussina with 59 more wins and an even higher WAR? I think both rise some this year given the obvious comparisons to Smoltz and the lack of locks on the ballot.
(45%) Roger Clemens – Clemens debuted at 37.6% and has remained steady the last two years (35.4 and 37.5%), but initial public ballot tabulations have shown an increase in support, and some voters have publicly noted they have changed their positions this year. I thus expect an increase for both.
(45%) Barry Bonds – Bonds has been steady the last few years (36.2-34.7-36.8%) but I expect an increase this year (see my note above on Clemens).
(35%) Mike Mussina – Debuting at just 20.3% and moving only slightly to 24.6% last year, Mussina demonstrates the importance of “magic numbers” in the Hall of Fame debate. He finished his career with a solid 20-9 season, leaving him with 270 wins overall. He had the potential to stick around for a few more years and try to march to 300—which almost certainly would have gotten him in, eventually—but chose instead to retire on top. I think Mussina has a chance to get in eventually, but it will be a while before that happens. As I noted above in the discussion of Schilling, I think the comparison with Smoltz and the relatively weak ballot might lead to a slight increase for Mussina this year.
(30%) Edgar Martinez – The great DH has polled between 25.2 and 36.5% on his five years on the ballot, with little sign of momentum.
(30%) Lee Smith – I wrote more extensively about Smith in a post last year, but his drop to 29.9% in 2014 did not bode well for him, and he garnered only 30.2% last year. There is little hope of Smith being elected by the baseball writers, especially with only one more year left. He may gain some votes given the presence of Trevor Hoffman on the ballot and more voters thinking critically about closers, but I do not expect much of change.
(28%) Alan Trammell – Sadly, the ship has sailed on Trammell. After gaining support from the mid-teens to mid 30s, he slipped to 20.8% in 2014 and was at just 25.1% in 2015. This year is his last year on the ballot and he will then shift to consideration by the Veteran’s Committee.
(17%) Jeff Kent – One of the greatest offensive second basemen ever, Kent has a long way to go and suffers from a comparison to a ballot full of offensive stars from a hitter’s era.
(16%) Mark McGwire – Another PED-linked star whose gained little support on the ballot, McGwire may see a slight boost (from his 10% last year) in 2016, given that it is his last year on the ballot and voters who vote for Bonds and Clemens may also vote for McGwire.
(14%) Larry Walker – Perhaps the most undervalued player on the ballot, Walker gained just 11.8% of the vote last year. He should continue to have the same level of support and remain on the ballot, but it would be a very long and unprecedented build towards election.
(13%) Fred McGriff – Like Walter, McGriff’s support has remained relatively steady on his six years on the ballot. He is far from election, but is not in immediate danger of falling off the ballot.
(10%) Gary Sheffield – With over 500 home runs and a career slash line of 292/393/514 there is a lot to like here, but he bounced around, was not well liked by the press, and is linked to PEDs, so it is difficult to see Sheffield getting much support beyond the 11.7% he debuted with last year.
(8%) Sammy Sosa – Sosa barely survived last year, with just 6.6% of the vote, but could see a slight increase this year. In the end, however, voters have clearly made up their minds on Sammy.
(5%) Billy Wagner – Wagner finished his career with 422 saves and a 2.31 ERA, accumulating 28.1 WAR, essentially the same value as Hoffman. He also has essentially the same value as Smith and a half-dozen other relievers that I don’t think should be in the Hall of Fame. Wagner may get over 5% and live another year on the ballot, or may fall off after this one year—and either way I am fine with this assessment of Wagner. What perplexes me and many others is the huge difference in support relievers receive—there will be a huge difference between the votes for Wagner and those for Hoffman despite them essentially being the same player.
(3%) Jim Edmonds – I felt that Edmonds deserved his own write-up rather than being lumped with the guys below who will poll under 5%. Not viewed as a Hall of Famer and polling at just 2.2% of public ballots now, Edmonds is likely to be one and done, but deserves far better. He put up a career slash line of 284/376/527 or a .903 OPS—currently 60th All-Time. He had 393 HR, 437 2B, 1251 R, 1199 RBI, and 1949 H, all while winning eight Gold Gloves in CF and playing in the post-season seven times. He ranks 16th in career WAR for centerfielders and 15th in JAWS. But Kenny Lofton ranks even higher and got just 2.3% of the vote on his lone year on the ballot, so I don’t expect better from Edmonds. But he compares well with Andre Dawson and Richie Asbhurn, a clear step below the greats (Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Mickey Mantle, Griffey, Joe Dimaggio, Duke Snider), but a clear step above guys like Vada Pinson and Jimmy Wynn.
(2%) Nomar Garciaparra – This will likely be the last year for Nomar. He surprised last year on his debut with 5.5% of the vote, but many of those were probably token votes for him on this first time and many voters won’t repeat that this year.
The following players are appearing on the ballot for the first, and almost certainly, only time. Many will receive a handful of token votes, but none should achieve the 5% threshold needed to stay on the ballot. Fine careers, and an honor to make the ballot, but not Hall of Famers:
- Jason Kendall (41.5 WAR, .288 BA, 2195 H)
- Troy Glaus (37.9 WAR, 320 HR)
- Mike Hampton (148-115, 4.06 ERA)
- Luis Castillo (.290 BA, 370 SB)
- Randy Winn (.284 BA)
- Garrett Anderson (.293 BA, 2429 H, 522 2B, 287 HR)
- Mike Lowell (223 HR)
- Mark Grudzielanek (.289 BA, 2040 H)
- Mike Sweeney (.297 BA, 215 HR)
- David Eckstein (.280 BA)
- Brad Ausmus
Jason Kendall has the strongest argument here. He ranks 20th in career WAR for catchers, but much of that was due to longevity (he has the 5th most games caught in history) and he ranks more along the lines of Darrel Porter and Lance Parrish than hall of fame catchers.