By In Baseball

The 5% rule

As usual, I have a million thoughts about this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame ballots — both the Golden Era ballot which the veteran’s committee will vote on in two weeks, and the Baseball Writers ballot — and will be spilling way too many words on them over the next the month and a half. But today I have a very specific thought, inspired by Tom Tango, on a part of the Hall of Fame process I had never spent much time thinking about.

Let’s begin by talking about first timers on the ballot.

Going back to 1966 — that is the year the modern BBWAA voting procedures began — there have been 677 players who have appeared on the ballot. That’s a LOT. That means, on average, 14 new players have been added to the ballot every year. This year, 15 first-timers have been added — only four or five whom will get the requisite five percent to stay on the ballot next year.

I think the reasoning behind having all these first-timers is that it is supposed to be some kind of honor just to be included ON the Hall of Fame ballot. I don’t think it actually IS an honor since, for the most part, these players are mocked for being there and anyone who votes for them is mocked too. Rich Aurilia was a fine player, and maybe he will get something out of getting zero votes this year. I have to believe there’s a better way.

Anyway, most of the first year players get an embarrassingly low number of votes. Let’s break iit down.

Of the 677 players who appeared on the ballot:

— 217 of them — almost a third of them — got ZERO votes. The list includes some pretty good players. Tommie Agee is on the list, Sudden Sam McDowell, Bill James’ favorite player Amos Otis, Brady Anderson, Boomer Scott, Ken Singleton and so on. Probably the best player on the zero list is a sabermetric favorite, Jimmy Wynn, the Toy Cannon, who walked a ton and mixed power with speed and spent almost his entire career having his numbers depressed by death valley ballparks. It’s kind of a shame not one person saw the merit of his career. But the larger point is this: Like 217 others to receive 0 votes, had absolutely no support for the Hall of Fame and, realistically, was just clogging up the ballot.

— 102 of them — another 15% — got one vote. The ceremonial vote. The list includes good players like Johnny Sain, Denny McLain, Greg Luzinski, Jose Rijo, Terry Pendleton, Bret Boone and The Gambler Kenny Rogers. I don’t sense that the best of this group is any better than zero-player like Wynn or Singleton or Joe Rudi. But somebody up there in the BBWAA liked them. Heck, somebody gave Bobby Adams, Tommy Helms, David Segui and Hal Lanier a vote, so anything’s possible.

— 137 more — another 20% — got between 2 and 5 votes. Again, none of them were elected to the Hall of Fame, though in this group there are a handful of players (Reggie Smith, Rocky Colavito, Billy Pierce, Rick Reuschel, Willie Randolph among others) who have had their Hall of Fame cases talked about in recent years.

So almost 70% of the players who have been added to the ballot the last 50 or so year received five votes or less — less than 1% of the actual vote in most years. This is Point 1: The Hall of Fame ballot has included hundreds of players who were not serious or even semi-serious Hall of Fame candidates.

Now, let’s look at the 220 players who received at least six votes — I hope this will lead to Point 2.

— 39 of them were elected first ballot. We have written plenty about them.

— Seventeen players of them received between 50 and 75% of the vote. All but two of them have already been elected to the Hall of Fame, and two remaining — Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza — are on the ballot and, certainly, will get elected in the next two or three years. I’ve written before about the 75% standard; I think it’s silly. Anyone who gets the majority of the vote first ballot will get elected in time; the 75% standard just makes those players wait in Casablanca, and wait, and wait. But that’s an argument for another time.

— Six players received between 40 and 50%. These six did worse than I expected. Only three of the six have been elected to the Hall of Fame (Ryne Sandberg, Gary Carter and Andre Dawson). The other three are Steve Garvey, who never came close, Lee Smith, whose support dwindled quickly and Jeff Bagwell, who I think will get elected but who did take a step backward last year.

— Ten players received between 30 and 40%. Again, these 10 did way worse than I thought. Only two of the 10 — Eddie Mathews and Goose Gossage — were eventually voted in by the BBWAA. Two more (Jim Bunning and Enos Slaughter) were voted in by the Veteran’s Committee after torturous 15-year stints on the BBWAA ballot. And the other six include two all-time greats in PED limbo (Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds) and four players who are perhaps doomed Hall of Fame causes for various groups (Maury Wills, Luis Tiant, Curt Schilling and Edgar Martinez).

— Sixteen players received between 20 and 30% and, for some reason, these players have done better with the BBWAA than the 30-50% group. Six of the 16 were elected to the Hall of Fame already (Jim Rice, Early Wynn, Luis Aparicio, Bruce Sutter, Billy Williams and Don Drysdale). Two more came very, very close (Gil Hodges and Jack Morris). Five are currently on the ballot, with Tim Raines building the most momentum so far. I think Mike Mussina will build momentum. Some think Fred McGriff will also gain momentum over time — but he seems to be going the other way.

— Eighteen players received between 10 and 20% — only two of the 18 (Bert Blyleven and Duke Snider) were voted in by the BBWAA. Orlando Cepeda and Nellie Foxx were eventually elected by the Veterans Committee.

For the most part, these players who start off between 10 and 20% get what I call “ornamental 15-year consideration.” That is, they are put on the ballot for 15 years but never come close to getting the necessary 75%.

*Tony Oliva (47.3% peak)
*Harvey Kuenn (39.3% peak)
*Jim Kaat (27.3% peak)
*Mickey Lolich (25.5% peak)
*Dave Parker (24.5% peak)
*Dale Murphy (23.2% peak)
*Thurman Munson (15.5% peak)

It appears to me that Alan Trammell (36.8% peak so far) and Don Mattingly (28.2% peak) are on their way to this ornamental 15 year destiny, though after them players only stay on the ballot for ten years.

— Twenty seven more players got between 5% and 10% of the vote. As you know, it takes 5% of the vote to stay on the ballot (hey, we really are getting to the point). None of the 27 were elected by the BBWAA and none came close. Let me break those down for you:

*Two eventually were elected by the Veterans, but Joe Torre was elected as a manager and Bill Mazeroski, well, that pick was viewed with such horror by the Hall of Fame that they essentially disbanded the Veterans Committee because of it.

*Eight fell off the ballot the very next year, including Bernie Williams, Hank Bauer, Albert Belle, Dave Stewart, Fernando Valenzuela, Fred Lynn, Juan Gonzalez, Willie McGee.

*Fell off the ballot two years later: Dwight Evans.

*Three years later: Nettles, Foster, Blue,

*Four years later: Boone, Baines,

*Six years later: Staub

*Eight years later: Guidry, Keith Hernandez.

*10 years later: Bobby Bonds.

*Seven got called the ornamental 15 year treatment – no real threat to get elected but they stayed on the ballot: Larsen, Concepcion, Vernon, Roy Face, Al Dark and Elston Howard.

*Pete Rose got 41 votes his first year, but of course those don’t count.

— The final 87 received more than 5 votes but less than the 5% required to stay on the ballot. None of them were elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA (obviously) but three (Richie Ashburn, Larry Doby and Ron Santo) were elected by the veterans.

This group is the most interesting one of all to me because there are some SUPERB players on the list who in my mind never got an especially fair Hall of Fame hearing. Some of the more famous ones include Minnie Minoso, Dick Allen, Lou Whitaker, Bobby Grich and Curt Flood, but there are many more including Kenny Lofton, Dave Stieb, Darrell Evans, Will Clark, Dan Quisenberry and Kevin Brown who certainly deserved to have their stories told and their cases batted around a bit.

So, finally we get to Point 2: The 5% measure for keeping a player on the ballot is, in my opinion, destructive to the process. Like I say at the top, I had never really thought about it before, it has been such a clear part of the process for so long that I doubt anyone thinks about it. But in exchanging some thoughts about all this with Tango, he wrote something that sticks with me:

“The main problem is that the voting results is what establishes next year’s nomination list for the returnees.”

He’s right, this is the main problem. You have two different things going on here. You have Hall of Famers elected AND you have next year’s ballot being built. Those are two very distinct tasks and they should have two very distinct processes.

This is ESPECIALLY destructive right now because the ballot is so bloated. I’ll get into this in more detail in a later post, but this year’s Hall of Fame ballot is a logistical mess. For me, there are many more than 10 qualified Hall of Fame candidates on the ballot. A couple — Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez for instance — will sail into the Hall of Fame by landslide this year. A couple more — Craig Biggio for example — will need every vote he can get for election (Biggio fell shot by two votes last year). Others like Clemens and Bonds won’t get elected, not a chance, but they were the best players on the ballot.

Then some will need help just to get the 5% necessary to stay on the ballot. What do you do? Do you give Mike Mussina a vote to make sure he falls off the ballot and take it away from Clemens because he’s not getting in anyway? DO you pass on Pedro, knowing full well he will have plenty of wiggle room, and vote for Sammy Sosa to be sure he doesn’t fall below 5%?

These last considerations should NOT be part of this process. I’m now beginning to believe that this, more than anything else, is the worst part of the Hall of Fame voting. The 5% rule is a lousy one. And my recommendation (like anyone cares about my recommendation) is that the BBWAA and Hall of Fame eliminate it immediately.

Here’s one version of what the BBWAA and Hall could do: Create a Hall of Fame nominating committee. It could be a rotating committee of, say, 10 people. They would create the ballot every year. The ballot they create would be much smaller than it is now — only real Hall of Fame candidates would be on it. If the Hall of Fame wants to find ways to honor good but not great players like Jermaine Dye and Jason Schmidt, I’m all for it.

The finaly ballot would have a limit — 15 players on it, 20 at the most. The committee would have to work very hard to limit it that much. But that’s good. What they would end up with is a ballot of legitimate Hall of Fame players who deserve real Hall of Fame consideration. It would be a REAL honor to be on that ballot.

And — this is important — the committee would have the opportunity to put ANYONE on the Hall of Fame ballot who deserves to have his case heard, even those who might not have received five percent of the vote the first time around. Let’s face it: Don Mattingly’s case has been heard clearly. He has been on the ballot for TWELVE YEARS. I love Mattingly, he’s one of my all-time favorite players, but how many times do the voters have to say no? Meanwhile, Lou Whitaker never really got his case heard.

The 5% rule is ineffective and arbitrary. It’s a poor way to build a ballot. It gives us cacophonous ballots stuffed with cronies who the voters have already dismissed time and again. It encourages a kind of strategic voting that shouldn’t be a part of a an upright Hall of Fame process. It also creates the same conversations every year. Even I was getting tired of the Jack Morris arguments.

There are many things the Hall of Fame and BBWAA could do, I think, to make the process better. But I would begin here: Create a real nominating committee with the power to create a compelling and changing ballot.

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57 Responses to The 5% rule

  1. Karyn says:

    I don’t think your plan will reduce cronyism.

  2. Derrick says:

    They should cull the herd of BBWAA by eliminating guys who vote for BJ Surhoff and no one else. Just nominate 5 guys a year and pull their ballots. that way they go through the same process

  3. Dark Side of the Mood says:

    I know this is just one name among many, but the only thing Ted Simmons did wrong was being really really good at the same time as Johnny Bench.

    • Johnny B says:

      Yes – I remember Simmons as being one of the great clutch hitters in his day. Peeking at his BR page, most of his similars are Hall of Famers. And his defense behind the plate looks to be good, if you like the dWAR thing. Seems he had the reputation of being below average. Joe Torre was another one that maybe shoulda made it on his ballplaying skills.

  4. Steve says:

    Joe, I agree with Karyn. People may start saying the cronyism will happen when the nominating ballot is created.

    I would recommend raising the 5% limit to something higher, like 30%. That way there would have to be a pretty strong case made for an individual to begin with.

    For those who think this is too high, my reply is there is still the Veteran’s Committee option to cover any ‘mistakes’. In your analysis above, I beleive obly 8 elected players would have been dropped. Not bad for 80 years.

    • Richard Aronson says:

      As a professional game designer, there is something I call “The Pendulum Effect” in system tinkering. People see a flaw where something is unbalanced, so they push the pendulum at the end of its swing, when it’s at its worst. But the push there invariably leads to even worse issues at the other end of the swing.

      The problem with raising it to 30% is that the ballot would shrink dramatically. I could see years with fewer than ten candidates. Part of what is keeping folks from getting in is splitting votes, but if (say) you were a Blyleven voter for all 15 of those years, and your Blyleven vote was part of delaying entry for others, suddenly you’ve lost your Blyleven vote and more folks will get in. But we’ll see the same results the new 10 year rule (unclogging the ballot). I’d consider 10%, but no higher. Thus, pendulum effect.

      In fairness, the NFL HOF has (and needs) a better process. It starts with a large list and gets whittled several times to the final candidates. They get thumbs up or down. It all but guarantees there will be inductees every year, which I think is important. They need those layers of expert evaluation because there are too many positions in football which are hard to evaluate. But baseball has some of those as well. Excellent all around players, especially with substantial defensive value, don’t get examined adequately. It’s the showy older stats, the triple crown stats, that matter, and there’s no positional adjustment from too many voters.

      So I think what you want will be accomplished, but gently, with less risk of the pendulum effect, by the changes already put in.

  5. Remove the 10 player limit and the 5% problem goes away. I count 13 holdovers with real cases for inclusion in addition to Randy, Pedro, Smoltz and Sheffield as being worthy of consideration. I wouldn’t vote for all 17 but I’d certainly not want to vote for less than 12 or maybe even 13 of them. Easiest to leave off would be Sheffield, Sosa and Kent but after that its really hard relative to who actually is in the Hall (both relative to morality and relative to career achievement and for those who talk about a Hall of FAME – as thing stand right now all 17 are more famous right now than the average inductee is today)

    All the people in favour of a small Hall have to first of all come up with a good idea for how to throw people out of the Hall of Fame. Of course we could set a limit – no more than 100 members and for everyone elected in we’d have to elect one to eject. That would be both horrible and fun!

    A second thing I would consider would be to have escalating hurdles to remain on the ballot:

    5% year 1
    10% year 2
    15% year 3
    and so on until 70% year 14.

    This would eliminate Sosa, Mattingly, Walker, McGuire, McGriff, Trammell, Edgar Martinez, Lee Smith from this years ballot. However I think that had these rules been in place a few of them would have received many more votes last year.

  6. blair houghton says:

    A committee will just create the usual hair-on-fire arguing about what the committee is thinking putting that guy on and leaving that guy off

    Same reason NCAA basketball now has an annual playoff and sub-playoff that combined contain every team capable of securing rubber-soled shoes. They kept expanding and expanding to assuage the perpetual argument against arbitrary selection, which becomes more arbitrary, not less, the deeper you go into the pit of indistinguishable mediocrity. So there are even more arguments, and now they’re valid, that the teams left off deserve to be on.

    The egalitarian solution for HOF balloting would be to leave every player on the ballot every year. But that’s unworkable because the old guys voting don’t have time to scroll through thousands of names, and it wouldn’t be fair to sort them by statistical value, because then you’re just overvaluing the statistical formula used to sort them and not valuing their “fame”.

    Having the existing balloting also be the committee selection process keeps a little of the argumentation at bay. Splitting it into a separate vote could produce worse problems, like a guy getting 50+% on his get-in-this-year ballot, then getting cut on his keep-on-ballot-for-next-year ballot (pathological but nonetheless possible when you create that structure).

    The real problem is the current cut line is too low. It allows the preservation-vote syndrome. It should be up where nobody thinks a pity vote has a chance of keeping someone on the ballot, but the vote might just be justified by the player’s value. Not that there’s any way of divining that level…

  7. blair houghton says:

    Huh. three comments posted within a couple of minutes saying to raise the cut line, not lower it. Someone get the Hall on the phone.

  8. Joe’s suggestion of a commission would probably lead to controversies each year about who was and who was not included on the ballot. It seems arbitrary to keep some players on the ballot, while leaving others off. I think it is fairer to let the voters decide on this matter. Since the majority (70%) receives fewer than 5 votes, the presence of these players on the ballot does not affect the overall voting.

    However, Joe made a good case for raising the bar for staying on the ballot (increase to 10%) and lowering the bar for acceptance into the Hall of Fame (decrease to 50%). These changes seem more effective in shortening the list of candidates. If the number of return candidates becomes much lower, then voters have to be less strategic. Furthermore, by lowering the maximum number of years on the ballot (as has been decided), there will soon be fewer return candidates on the ballot as well.

  9. MikeN says:

    I think you’ll be able to get past a 20 person ballot pretty quickly.

  10. adam says:

    The interesting thing about the committee idea is that mistakes can be fixed in future years, unlike, say, an NCAA tournament committee. Let’s say the committee leaves Edgar Martinez off the ballot, because the ballot is too crowded, and there is this huge backlash. The committee might realize there was more support for Edgar than they thought and put him back on the ballot in future years.

    • Will Condoleza Rice be on the Committee? Yeah, if you have a committee it will catch constant flack & others will scream that it will need another tweak…. then another…. and on and on.

  11. Richie Tep says:

    An idea is to have no limit for the amount of players elected in one season but you have one year on the ballot. The Hall of Fame should be for the elite. Once it is your time there should be nothing to have to really think about that takes 15 years. It also keeps your career to the era. Jim Rice deserved to be in right away, nothing changed in the time. Maybe the writers’ dislike went away or they felt his punishment was over. And other players’ whose statistics begin to be judged by the newer standard are kept in the time when they dominated.

    • Johnny B says:

      This is a good argument. As we look at this years’ ballot, Pedro & Unit are all-time greats. If you have to think about it, maybe they don’t belong. Then again, if your standard is Ruth, Mays, Ted Williams, the Hall is gonna be small. Real small. Bonds & Clemens are a different issue in my mind. I disagree with Joe and Bill James and others – they feel like cheaters to me. But let the Veterans Committee decide that down the road.

      • I think the problem here is that there are and always will be candidates that have really good cases…. but for whatever reason, are just generally not thought about as highly as they should be. Ron Santo and Dick Allen come to mind. Santo, at least, got a full hearing. But Allen, possibly because of his surly demeanor & poor clubhouse reputation, did not, despite being a dominating player for at least 10 years.

  12. Bill Caffrey says:

    I think the BBWAA have mostly done a pretty good job and that the process didn’t and doesn’t need much tweaking, frankly. One tweak I would make is to keep the 5% rule but not apply it until after a player has been on the ballot at least 2 years. The reason is that there are many voters, hundreds of voters, who distinguish between a HOFer and a 1st Ballot HOFer. And I’m not even talking here about the handful of curmudgeons who won’t vote for Tom Seaver on the 1st ballot because dagnabit if Babe Ruth wasn’t unanimous then nobdy should be.

    I mean just regular, conscientious voters who think “Lou Whitaker might or might not be a HOFer but he’s certainly not a 1st ballot HOFer. I’ll think about voting for him next year.” So now poor Lou has to get 5% to stay on the ballot, but perhaps 40 or 50% of the electorate won’t even give him a look until the second year. So he doesn’t really even have a fair shake at getting the 5%.

    So let everyone stay on for 2 years, I say. That would eliminate any problem caused by by voters drawing a distinction between 1st ballot HOFers and regular HOFers.

    It would bloat the ballot even more, but I don’t really agree with Joe that this is a problem. Are you telling me that Tim Raines is not getting full and fair consideration because voters are distracted by Jermaine Dye’s presence on the ballot? I don’t buy that. Who cares if Jermaine Dye is on the ballot? That should have no impact one way or the other, so let him stay on.

    As for the suggestion of a nominating committee, I do like the potential to give the BBWAA another crack at Whitaker, Simmons, Staub, Singleton, etc. But if Whitaker couldn’t get 5% to stay on the ballot, why would anyone have confidence that some 10-man committee is going to do the right thing and put him on the ballot? I think a nominating committee would raise more questions than they would answer, cause more controversy than they would settle.

    • Why did you switch your example from “Whitaker, Simmons, Staub, Singleton, etc,” to Jermaine Dye?

      While Dye wouldn’t take votes away from a Tim Raines, but a ballot bloated with your own list of “Whitaker, Simmons, Staub, SIngleton, etc,” surely would.

      A terrible idea.

      • Bill Caffrey says:

        First, I didn’t mention “Whitake, Simmons, Staub, Singleton, etc.” until AFTER I mentioned Dye, so I don’t know what you mean about switching my example to Dye.

        Second, you misunderstood what I was saying altogether.

        The reference to Dye was as an example of a player (mentioned by Joe) who is on the ballot but clearly has no chance of getting into the Hall. My point was that I do not believe that the presence of Dye (and others with no chance of getting in), i.e., the so-called bloating of the ballot, has any real effect on votes for deserving, or potentially deserving players.

        Whitaker, Simmons Staub & Singleton are not comparable to Dye. Ballot bloat is about OBVIOUSLY UNDESERVING candidates being on the ballot (Dye and Jason Schmidt, to use Joe’s example). Whitaker, Simmons, Staub & Singleton are all potentially deserving candidates. Nobody is arguing for fewer potentially deserving candidates. Yes, they might take away votes from Raines, but that’s because they themselves would be legitimate candidates for the Hall if they were to somehow get back on the ballot.

        • Thomas Charles says:

          Thank you, as it is clear my remarks will benefit from editing. Let me rephrase it:

          “Why did you specify Jermaine Dye rather then “Whitaker, Simmons, Staub, Singleton, etc.”?

          While Dye wouldn’t take votes away from a Tim Raines, but a ballot bloated with your own list of “Whitaker, Simmons, Staub, SIngleton, etc,” surely would.”

          There, now that I’ve dismissed your trifling concern, let’s address what you proudly claim is your “point:”

          “My point was that I do not believe that the presence of Dye (and others with no chance of getting in), i.e., the so-called bloating of the ballot, has any real effect on votes for deserving, or potentially deserving players.”

          You recommended that every player remain on the ballot for at least two years, with your “point” being that players like Dye will have no effect on deserving players.

          How utterly pointless.

          A terrible idea.

  13. Marc says:

    I have over the last few years thought about how to word my issues with the HOF, and it was wise of me to wait because you touched on it – at least part of it.

    I have felt that the Veterans Committee should be focused on those players who fell short of the 5% because their cases weren’t really debated, unlike Blyleven and Morris’ cases were ad nauseum. I don’t like the idea of a committee selecting a smaller group for the ballot, however, because I think it takes away some of the democracy of the process.

    I don’t have an answer – for every “solution” I see, I tend to see other issues present themselves.

  14. Brett Alan says:

    A lot of people beat me to disagreeing about having a nominating committee, but I’d like to add an exhibit to the arguments: the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Some obviously qualified candidates have never been nominated at all, led by Chicago and Janet Jackson (by FAR the two most commercially successful acts who are eligible but not in the Hall). Meanwhile, the committee keeps nominating some very questionable candidates, hoping they will get in. Laura Nyro, probably the Bill Mazeroski of the Rock Hall, was nominated three years running; now the committee is working on the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, who were talented musicians but have little of the success or influence that a Hall-worthy act would have. (No doubt, some of the artists who were nominated repeatedly–Little Willie John, Gene Vincent, Black Sabbath–were quite worthy.)

    If you think deserving people are getting knocked off, put in a mechanism to restore them, but don’t let that keep people from getting on the ballot in the first place. Putting Rich Aurelia on the ballot isn’t an honor nor an insult; by putting everyone who is technically eligible on the ballot at least once, they bypass another opportunity to bias the process.

    I don’t think people are changing their votes to keep people on the ballot, but if they are, allow extra votes beyond 10 which don’t count toward election but would count toward the 5% threshold.

    • Krazy Kasem says:

      Some obviously qualified candidates have never been nominated at all, led by Chicago and Janet Jackson (by FAR the two most commercially successful acts who are eligible but not in the Hall).

      Whitney Houston is as commercially successful as Janet Jackson. Pat Boone was more commercially successful than Chicago. Paul Anka, Connie Francis and Dionne Warwick are as successful as Chicago.

      Other more or equally qualified/successful acts haven’t hit their 25-year eligibility yet.

      • Brett Alan says:

        OK, well, Whitney, probably. The other artists you mention aren’t really rock–I mean, if you’re going to say Pat Boone, what about Frank Sinatra? And I did specify that I was referring to those who are eligible.

  15. Richard Aronson says:

    First the worst typo: “Do you give Mike Mussina a vote to make sure he falls off the ballot” probably s/b to make sure he stays on the ballot.

    I’ve been thinking about the players who tend not to get fair shakes. These are some of the best all around players, guys with no holes in their game, often with substantial defensive value. I’m thinking Whitaker and Trammell, Dewey and Grich. The elections tend to go to triple crown stat winners, both for pitching and hitting, and as we saw, players like Blyleven, who mostly pitched for bad teams and therefore had fewer chances for wins, have a harder time getting in.

    So my proposal is a new statistic: positional triple crown. For the offensive positions (DH, 1B, left field) it would be something like OPS+, HR, % of team’ runs scored and driven in. For the defensive positions (2B, SS) it would be dWAR, OPS+, and Runs Created, Catchers would need their own category where probably a new stat based on Catcher’s ERA relative to team’s ERA times innings caught is one of the three, and I’m not sure whether to consider 3B, CF, and RF offensive or defensive positions. Pitchers would have ERA+, WHIP, and K/9 for starters (more than 20 games started) and relievers tracked separately. That way guys like Dewey and Grich might have ended their career with several positional triple crowns, and would be easier to spot for the excellence they provided. Many years, maybe even most years, there would only be a couple of positional triple crowns, so they would highlight excellence drowned out by other excellence. For example, a PTC at DH (such as Ortiz) would be added to his all around brilliance even though Cabrera (at another position) had a better offensive season. I bet Adrian Beltre has several of those, but his HOF stats are still only marginal because he has too much defensive value and not quite enough offensive value (although two more good seasons should comfortably push him over the top).

    Just a notion.

    • Stephen says:

      I thought this was a potentially interesting idea until you mentioned David Ortiz and the DH “triple crown.”

      The man’s a DH. Except for an occasional game in an NL park, his entire value is as a hitter. His JOB is to be better offensively than Trout or Cabrera or Donaldson, men who can and do play in the field. The whole idea would be to start with the greater offensive capability of a DH and then subtract points (so to speak) to account for his lack of defensive value.

      If Ortiz isn’t already better than these guys offensively, then why on God’s green Astroturf should we award him bonus points based on the “position” he plays?

  16. This is tinkering with the engine when the tires are flat. First eliminate the “only vote for ten” rule and see where that takes you for a few years. This gives writers the option of voting for the 10-15 players who are either obviously qualified or close enough to merit consideration, AND to vote to keep the Lou Whitakers on the ballot for a time when the ballot isn’t as crowded. There are never more than 2-3 clear-cut first ballot choices; the rest are those for whom there is a narrative that deserves closer examination over time. There were enough writers who liked Whitaker to have kept him on the ballot IF they didn’t have others who they liked better to absorb their 10 slots.

    • The point of the limit is so that voters have to make decisions. Otherwise, they could simply vote for whoever suits their fancy and not worry about prioritizing their votes. They could simply “like” everyone. In the business world, it’s the same with anything you want. Yeah, you can ask for anything, just not everything. You have to make choices. The prioritization of votes, via limiting them to 10, is actually a very good way to get the best players chosen. I suspect those that don’t like it want a much bigger hall. I do see that the 75% requirement, however, in combination with the limit of 10 votes might end up, especially with a very packed ballot, make it hard to vote very many players in. But, maybe it’s the 75% requirement that’s the problem.

  17. Dan Shea says:

    The nub of the problem is that votes are, or can be, multi-purpose: they determine whether players get into the Hall of Fame, and whether they get in on the first ballot (to me, a silly distinction, but one apparently sacred to many people), and whether if they don’t get in they survive to go through the whole process again the next year.

    Seems to me that it would make sense to cast different votes for the different things. Give all the voters a certain amount of TWO types of votes to cast: a “deserving candidate” vote, where the nominee gets 75%, and they’re in. And a “deserving further consideration” vote, where if they DON’T get some arbitrary number, I’m gonna suggest 30% (combined both types), going up 5% each year they’re up for further consideration, they’re off the ballot.

    And eliminate the voters who cast stupid ballots, as determined by me and Derrick.

    • Phaedrus says:

      This is exactly what I was thinking. The simple solution is to have 2 boxes next to each name. One box for “elect to hall of fame” and another box for “keep on the ballot”. Set a minimum % for election and another minimum % for remaining on ballot. Naturally, all votes for election would also be votes for remaining on the ballot.

      I’d set a max number of “election” votes for each voter, but wouldn’t cap the number of “keep on the ballot” votes each voter gets.

  18. Triston says:

    Definitely have to agree with eliminating the 10-candidate rule first; I know of at least two writers off the top of my head who voted for Biggio the year before but not this year because he was no longer one of the TEN best candidates on the ballot.

    I know that twice, the BBWAA asked for and received permission to put candidates who had received less than 5% back on the ballot (Ron Santo, Curt Flood and Ken Boyer in 1985; Al Oliver, Larry Bowa, Bill Madlock and Ted Simmons in 1995, but for some reason, despite getting permission, declined to add them back again).
    So if they could just formalize this process somehow…

    Doing these two things would “essentially” change nothing, but would (I think) make large changes in results.

  19. Anytime someone offers a solution to a problem, and the solution is to create a small group of decision makers who handle all the tricky work, I dismiss it outright. With Joe’s experience dealing with the small gang of people who hung Buck out to dry, I am surprised he wants another such thing, and I am certain such a group would do stuff like that all the time. I agree with the poster above who described this a pendulum problem. A small committee will make this worse, not better.

    Small groups of decision makers deciding on what the large group “gets,” nearly always do something stupid or bad.

  20. Matt says:

    Joe, the fix is to have the minimum percentage requirement increase with each year on the ballot, so that once a player has had their case heard, if they can’t get a percentage vote close enough to giving them a realistic shot of getting in the hall, they should fall off. Perhaps less than 5% in the the first year, but then increasing a little bit each year or alternatively increasing significantly every few years, say 3% for the first 3 years, 15% for the next 3 years (4-6), 25% for the next 3 years (7-9), 45% for the next few years (10-12) and 60% for the last 3 years (13-15) (assuming that the hall gets rid of their recent off-season changes to drop the ballot to 10 years). This would give everyone a chance to be reasonably considered, but eliminate the players who don’t have a realistic chance that are just clogging up the ballot.

    This of course is addition to other necessary fixes, such as eliminating the 10 player limit, giving better guidance on PED concerns, etc.

    • Patrick Bohn says:

      I completely agree with this. Mattingly’s totals haven’t moved significantly for a decade, and his last effort was 20 percentage points lower than his first year. He’s simply not getting elected, and this is obvious to everyone who, yet he sits on the ballot, taking up 75 or so votes for 15 years. That’s much worse than a one and done Brett Boone getting a sympathy vote

  21. Stephen says:

    Like a lot of people above I’m not wild about this idea. Giving so much power to a committee to serve as a gatekeeper just strikes me as a source for even more controversy than we have right now.

    And correct me if I’m wrong, Joe, but don’t you support the idea of weighted ballots, in which voters list candidates in the order they think they deserve induction, and the higher a candidate ranks on a particular ballot, the more votes he receives? That strikes me as much more open to “strategic voting” than the current situation, 5% rule and all.

    If you really want to get rid of strategic voting, by the way, that’s actually easy to accomplish.

    –Each year, all eligible players who have not yet been voted in appear on the ballot.

    –Voters may vote for as many candidates as they wish.

    –There is no mechanism by which a candidate is dropped.

    True, under this system you will rather quickly have approx 1,853 names cluttering up the ballot, including a whole bunch the average writer has never heard of…but there is no incentive whatever to vote for someone you don’t absolutely believe deserves to be in the Hall. Unwieldy, no doubt. Still, if your goal is to eliminate strategic voting, well, this’ll accomplish that.

  22. Nick Hegge says:

    I found this on the internet: “To qualify for the ballot, a player must have played at least 10 years in the major leagues and be retired for five.” First, is this still true? If so, that ain’t nothing, and, on the surface, at least, it seems fair. Anyway, I don’t think the problem is who gets on the ballot. I think the problem is the limit of ten votes per voter. If you’re relying on the judgment of the BBWAA to populate your Hall of Fame, why not let them use that judgment to vote for as many players as they judge to be worthy?

  23. Dan says:

    Over 6% of HOF voters did not vote to put Ted Williams in the Hall of Fame. That this could happen is all I need to know that the process is deeply flawed.

    I am all in favor of the HOF recognizing the contributions of the many very good players of the game. All the while the greatest players should be set apart.

    The current process actually does this as so few players – only the best of the best who do not fail the PED test – are being elected. But that has not always been the case and the discrepancy clouds the purpose of the hall.

    • The fact that 6% did not vote for Ted Williams is not evidence of a flawed process. The process is designed to enable those getting 75% of the vote to be elected. Williams WAS elected. It’s very difficult to get 94% of people to agree on anything. The process acknowledges that getting 94% is too high of a bar and getting 75% of voters to agree is sufficient. If you are looking for unanimous elections of great players, then you are looking for something else. But the process did work in Williams case. You don’t get extra brownie points for anything beyond 94%, except perhaps it seems, in your mind.

      • Dan says:

        The Ted Williams HOF vote indicates that 6% of voters are basing their choice on something other than baseball achievement. Yet baseball achievement is what they are supposed to be judging! What percentage of HOF are “wasted” or otherwise cast frivolously? The answer matters since there is a 5% threshold for staying eligible for HOF election. Based on the Ted Williams vote the answer seems to be at least 5%!

  24. Joseph Cool says:

    Since nobody has commented on Tango’s 2011 sample ballot, I will:
    That is EXACTLY what should be done.
    I’ve read every single comment, some of them a couple times. What I see scores of different, often contradictory plans, many of which will add cloudiness, not clarification to the process.
    Tango’s idea is simple and direct. I went through the sample ballot as a voter would, and the choices were actually quite easy.

    A committee? The Joe Poz I know would never have suggested such a thing, especially after what happened to both Santo and Buck.

  25. Blimey14 says:

    One thing I’d like to see is that once a player gets his 75% he’s in and they don’t reveal his final total of votes. Sort of like political conventions, once a candidate gets over 50% he’s declared unanimous.

  26. Marco says:

    Changes to be enacted immediately:
    1. All votes public. If you want to wear the big boy pants and vote for the HOF, have the courage to stand behind your opinions.
    2. Eliminate the “only vote for 10” cap. Presumably this exists to keep the hall exclusive, but we have the 75% threshold for that.

    I think these two eliminate the vast majority of the shenanigans that go on today, of both the “I’m not voting for the Unit because I don’t think anyone should be unanimous” and “I’m not voting for biggio because I need to vote for mattingly to keep him on the ballot” variety.

    Another possible change, electors are given three options:
    1. Yes (I believe they should be in the hall)
    2. No (They should not be in the hall, and there’s no chance I’ll change my mind)
    3. Future consideration (I’m not prepared to vote yes today, but I might in the future given more time/information/historical context)

    75% Yes gets you in, 75% No means you’re gone forever, any other outcome means you’re on the ballot next year.

  27. Richard says:

    I wonder… Is all this fuss simply because there’s an overabundance of great players on the ballot? I’d like to go back and look at all the ballots from past years and see if people were having this same discussion in “lean” years when there were very few deserving candidates.

    Personally, the only thing I’d change about the voting process is to add a rule that you must choose at least two people for your ballot to be counted. Blank ballots, or ballots with just one vote, will be discarded and not used in the final percentage calculation.

  28. MikeN says:

    I hypothesize that there has been a dropoff of votes for marginal candidates the past few years as the ballot has gotten crowded.

  29. Scott P. says:

    How can players who get zero votes be “clogging up the ballot”? There is no limit to the length of the ballot, and by definition that group isn’t pulling votes from more deserving candidates.

    • MCD says:

      That is sort of my take on it also. What is the real “problem” here? Wasted paper?

      Is the ballot “bloated”? Sure. Is it detrimental in some way? I don’t see it.

      • Patrick Bohn says:

        Ballot bloat isn’t an issue with regard to the 0 vote guys, or even the 1,2,3 vote guys (I suspect). But there are voters who’ve said they don’t have room to vote for everyone they think is deserving. That’s just a stupid problem to allow. If the player is on the ballot, and you think he’s deserving, you should be able to vote for him. We shouldn’t be in the position of “I’ll have to wait till next year to get to Biggio.”

  30. tombando says:

    Pretty simple. Expand the voting to 20 names not 10, lower the entry % to 67% say, add some more voters, and write “Jack Morris” 14 times.

    Rock Hall: Jann Wenner=Frankie Frisch. The Hollies, Blind Faith and Hank Ballard =Bottomley, Kelly and Youngs. Connie Francis, Brook Benton, The Spinners and War = Grich, Hack, Kaat and Pierce. Search your feelings.

    • Brett Alan says:

      Um, The Hollies and Hank Ballard to me are completely deserving. Blind Faith certainly isn’t–but they aren’t in and have never been nominated. OTOH, I completely agree about the Spinners and War. I’m not at all convinced Francis qualifies as a rock artist, and Benton’s somewhat iffy but I’d like to see him in.

      Also, incidentally, there are some early rockers who ought to be acknowledged, possibly by reviving the Early Influence category. It’s *insane* that Wynonie Harris hasn’t been inducted.

  31. Pat says:

    “The prioritization of votes, via limiting them to 10, is actually a very good way to get the best players chosen.”

    Except that it’s not becuase the writers have taken to limiting the ballot even further to 3, or 4, or 5. Increasing the ballot limit from 10 to 15, or 20 accompanied by a clear statement from the HOF to the effect of, “We recognize that there are now 28 teams in MLB, and have been for some time, rather than the 16 teams which existed when the 10 player limit was created, and we expect there to be nearly twice as many HOF caliber players now that there are nearly twice as many teams. Therefore, we have increased the ballot cap so voters may recognize this fact in their voting.” could go a long way towards getting the deserving players elected.

  32. JEB says:

    Probably need to be careful about a small committee controlling the vote. It moves you closer to the NFL system where east coast blowhard Peter King runs the process.

  33. wjones58 says:

    I always thought that requiring the voters to vote for 10 would have solved a lot of this. And rank them in order, like the MVP ballots. You never hear of anyone not voting for 10 names on MVP ballots, because they can rank them. I might also increase chances to give someone a unanimous vote, though probably not. Then they would need a certain percent of the point total to get in, or just flat out say x number gets in, based on point totals. That’s how MVP works, sometimes it’s unanimous, sometimes it’s very close.

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