A Different Look at the Hall of Fame Standard

I’m writing this as a response to Dave Cameron’s two articles on December 19 and 20 concerning the Hall of Fame.  While I completely understand the point Dave is/was trying to make in both pieces, I felt that his methodology was slightly flawed and perhaps deserved a fresh look.  As mentioned multiple times in the comments section on both articles, the data he used included players that were elected via the Veterans Committee.  Also included were players elected by the Negro Leagues Committee.  The purpose of this post is to look at players elected strictly by the BBWAA.  That list includes 112 inductees, the most recent of which being Barry Larkin.

Using the data Dave listed in his follow-up article that limits the player pool to either 5000 PA or 2000 IP, we get the following results:

Year of Birth

“Eligible Players”

Elected Players

Percentage

<1900

258

20

7.8%

1900-1910

93

16

17.2%

1911-1920

66

10

15.2%

1921-1930

77

8

10.4%

1931-1940

99

22

22.2%

1941-1950

168

15

8.9%

1951-1960

147

19

12.9%

1961-1970

160

2

1.3%

If you combine all the data, you get 112 elected players out of 1068 “eligible” players.  That works out to 10.5% of the eligible population being inducted.  If we remove the 1961-1970 births, it’s 110 elected out of 908 eligible, or 12.1%.  If we try and bring the 1961-1970 total up to the overall average, that would mean ~17 inductees.  To reach pre-1961 levels, we need ~19 inductees.  To reach the lowest percentage of induction, we need a total of ~12 inductees.  To reach the highest percentage, we need a total of ~36 inductees.  I think it is safe to assume that, with the scrutiny given by Hall voters to the Steroid Era, the possibility of 36 inductees is nearly zero.

Dave also listed six players that he felt would surely get inducted in the coming years.  That list included Greg Maddux, Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Mariano Rivera, Tom Glavine, and Craig Biggio.  If we include those six with the two already elected from the era (Barry Larkin and Roberto Alomar), the Hall would only need to elect four more members from the era to reach the current lowest standard.  I would think that John Smoltz has a pretty persuasive case for the Hall of Fame as well, being the only pitcher with 200 wins and 150 saves.  Also, Smoltz is one of the 16 members of the 3000 Strikeout Club.  That list includes 10 current Hall of Famers (all elected by BBWAA).  The other members not currently inducted include Smoltz, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, and Greg Maddux.  Dave already included Johnson and Maddux on his list of “should be in” Hall of Famers.  Martinez was born in 1971, so he isn’t included in this discussion.  That leaves Smoltz, Schilling, and Clemens.  Clemens’ story doesn’t need to be rehashed at this point, and Schilling received 38.8% of the vote on his first ballot last year.  Also, simply looking at traditional stats, you have to think Frank Thomas has a strong case as well (521 HR, .301 BA).

Another point I wanted to bring up involves the ages of the players elected by the BBWAA.  The average age of a player elected is 49.7 years, with the median age being 48.  The data gets skewed a bit by pre-1900s players (as the first election wasn’t until 1936) and by extremely young inductees like Lou Gehrig, Roberto Clemente, and Sandy Koufax .  Gehrig was elected by a special ballot the year he retired after being diagnosed with ALS.  Clemente was elected a year after his death.  Both were elected before the five-year retirement period required for most players elapsed.  Koufax only played 11 years in the MLB, a remarkably short time for a Hall of Famer.

If we use the ~50 year average age of election though, anyone born in 1964 or after still “has a decent chance” at election.  If we figure an even distribution of eligible players born each year between 1961-1970, that means 60% of eligible players, or 96, still can make a case.  That becomes 90 if we take out Maddux, Glavine, Griffey, Rivera, Johnson, and Biggio.  As I stated earlier, they only need to elect four more to reach previously seen levels of induction.  4/90 is only 4.4% needed.  That list of 90 players also doesn’t include still eligible players such as Don Mattingly, Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, and Mark McGwire.

I’m not trying to take a stand on either side of the PED Hall of Fame discussion.  I’m just trying to point out that maybe the Hall of Fame isn’t being so much more strenuous on eligible players as they’ve been throughout history.  Just something to think about.




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Stats All Folks is a frustrated former Little League pitcher that knows if he could have only been taller, stronger, more athletic with more velocity on his fastball, better offspeed stuff, and improved control, he could have been the first overall pick in the MLB First-Year Player Draft. Alas, it was not in the cards for him.


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Barney Coolio
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Barney Coolio
2 years 5 months ago

I strongly disagree with listing decades as 1961-1970. It should just be the ’60’s, such as 1960-1969.

That said, if you’re going to go like 1961-1970, in addition to the players you listed, I would add: Mike Piazza 1968, Trevor Hoffman 1967, Jim Thome 1970, and maybe Omar Vizquel 1967.

I think that the “young inductees” such as Koufax, Clemente, and Gehrig had a very small effect on the average age of HOF inductees. They weren’t that young, and there are only three of them. Lastly, Sandy Koufax played 12 years in MLB, not 11.

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