Lessons learned from this year's Hall of Fame vote

The 2019 Hall of Fame election results, announced Tuesday, made history in multiple ways. We had the first unanimous selection by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in the institution’s 83-year history (Mariano Rivera), the first posthumous selection by the writers since 1954 (Roy Halladay) and the third quartet anointed in the past five years (with Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina joining the fun). With these eyes having spent hours poring over the minutiae of the @NotMrTibbs Hall of Fame ballot tracker and a master spreadsheet containing 54 years’ worth of voting results, it’s time to consider the bigger picture.

What follows here are five thoughts about the road ahead for the Baseball Hall of Fame, mostly (but not entirely) as it pertains to BBWAA voters. If you’re wondering about the advancement prospects of your favorite candidate, I’ve broken down all 35 of ’em for FanGraphs, and given that I have as much Barry Bonds/Roger Clemens fatigue as the next person, I won’t have much to say about them here.

Note that all references to the modern voting era refer to the period beginning in 1966, when the writers returned to voting annually, and that all WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version, upon which my JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) system is based.

Next year will be a catch-up year

With five candidates, who accounted for an average of 3.87 votes per ballot, departing — the four elected plus Fred McGriff, who falls off with his 10 years of eligibility up — the electorate will have a bit of room to spare on the 2020 ballot. This is particularly true as Derek Jeter will be the only first-timer on the ballot all but guaranteed to receive more than the 5 percent required to maintain eligibility, let alone be elected.

That’s great news for Curt Schilling and Larry Walker, who are within striking distance of the magic 75 percent mark. Schilling regained his momentum to set a personal high with 60.9 percent of the vote in his seventh year on the ballot, and Walker made a 20.5 percent leap to 54.6 percent, giving him a real shot in his final year of eligibility. Thanks to his combination of excellent defense and outstanding baserunning in addition to offense that shines through the park adjustments for Coors Field (where he had 31 percent of his career plate appearances), voters are coming to appreciate what a tremendous five-tool force Walker was. His two-year and three-year gains (32.7 percent and 39.1 percent, respectively) both rank among the top five in modern voting history, and if he gets a final-year push like Martinez or Tim Raines (2017) did, he could be onstage in Cooperstown in July 2020.

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