The Hall of Fame’s Original Sin

February 20, 2017
 2017-12

            There is a flaw in the original design of the Hall of Fame’s selection process which inevitably causes it to sometimes fail.   Why it has taken me 40 years of writing about the Hall of Fame and studying the Hall of Fame to see what the cause of the problem was, I don’t know, but I console myself with the thought that nobody else has apparently put their finger on it, either. 

 

            Explaining how I got there.   I had the thought that perhaps I could construct a model of Hall of Fame voting, which I could then use to compare alternative methods.   In other words, suppose that we KNEW absolutely who should be in the Hall of Fame?   In real life we don’t know absolutely who should and should not be in.   We can only have the perfect knowledge of this in a model.  

 

            In my model there were going to be two components to each voter’s vote:   the underlying facts, and the "perceptual error" of each voter.   I don’t see Bill Mazeroski as a Hall of Famer; obviously some voters did.   One of us has a perceptual error. 

 

            All of us have perceptual errors all the time.   My understanding of the world, your understanding of the world, anybody’s understanding of the world. . . it is always colored by perceptual errors.    The perceptual error is different from the gray area in the voting.      In my model, I would going to assume that each player has a "True Value", and that each voter has a "Perceptual Error" of each player’s True Value.    Thus a player—let us call him Duke Snider—has a True Value—let us call that 12,656—and that each VOTER has a perceptual error of that value, which may be as high as 2,000 or as low as negative 2,000.  

 

            One voter may focus unduly on Duke’s sometimes negative relationships with teammates, or may overrate the effects of the fact that Duke hardly ever had to face a left-handed pitcher, or may overrate the effects of playing in Ebbets’ Field with good hitters around him, and may thus have a negative 1,500 perceptual error, thus valuing Duke at 11,156, while the Hall of Fame standard may be 12,500.   He thus sees Duke as being a little more than 10% short of a Hall of Fame standard.   Another voter may focus on Duke’s positives, may overrate him as a defensive player or may ignore the benefits he got from his park, and may have a perceptual error of +1,500, thus may value Duke at 14,156—about 13, 14% OVER the Hall of Fame standard. 

 

            The relationship between the perceptual error and the gray area is that the perceptual error is one of the main causes of the gray area.    The perceptual error causes a gray area, and also different people have different ideas about what the standard should be, which also causes a gray area.   There could be other things which contribute to a gray area, as well.

 

            THAT idea—that I could build a model which would help us to test voting systems—has not yet come to fruition, because it is just too complicated, at least yet.   Maybe I’ll make it work; maybe not.   Anyway, let’s go back to the Duke. 

 

            Duke’s True Value is 12,656, which just above the Hall of Fame standard.   (I chose Duke because he is just a little bit better than the AVERAGE Hall of Famer.)   But do you see the problem?

 

            Duke is not going to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

 

            Let’s assume for the sake of argument that all voters (100% of the voters) agree about what the Hall of Fame standard should be, 12,500 units.     If all the voters had a perfectly accurate view of Duke Snider, he would be elected, because he is over the line.   But if each voter has a perceptual error, then he’s only going to get maybe 55, 57% of the vote, something like that.    He’s not going to get to 75%.

 

            I have long assumed—and I may have written—that the Hall of Fame’s original sin is the creation of multiple entry systems.   If you have different panels or different groups selecting Hall of Famers, they inevitably are going to use different standards.   That’s unavoidable.   I have long believed that THAT was the original cause of the Hall of Fame’s problems, the two-panel solution.

 

            But now I realize that there is another flaw that goes before that, and which did in fact occur before that in history.   It’s the 75% standard.  

 

            If we assume that

 

               a)  the standard for future Hall of Fame selections is an average Hall of    Famer, and

 

            b)  different voters will have different opinions of each candidate,

 

            then what that means is that an average Hall of Famer will be rejected in future voting.    An average Hall of Famer hits .300 with 400 homers and 1300 RBI, let’s say.   A player then appears on the ballot with a .300 average, 405 homers and 1315 RBI.   He’s not going to make it.   It’s inevitable.   Because of the perceptual error, he’s NOT going to get to 75%.

 

            And what that means is, you will have to create a clean-up system to pick up the players who SHOULD have been selected, because they do in fact meet the Hall of Fame standards, but who were NOT selected because the system required 75%.    And that’s what happened.   That’s what has happened again and again.   We have tried to close that back door again and again, but it won’t stay shut.   It CAN’T stay shut.   It can’t stay shut, because the system is designed to reject some players who SHOULD be elected. 

 

            We all understand WHY the 75% rule was adopted.   The 75% rule was a way of saying "we don’t want anyone in the Hall of Fame unless we are SURE that he belongs."     But the problem is, that works too well.   It overachieves its intention, thus causing a blowback.   It forces you to cover for the players who are wrongly rejected.  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.   The problems in the Hall of Fame voting structure are an inevitable REACTION to the success of this provision.

 

 

 

 

Irrelevant Addendum

 

            Anybody notice that Jim Sweeney, point guard for the Boston College basketball team in the 1978-79 Point Shaving Scandal, looks just like Pete Rose?

 

 

Pete_Rose_Jim_Sweeney

 
 

COMMENTS (121 Comments, most recent shown first)

trn6229
Nice article. We all know that when Frankie Frisch was on the Old Timers Committee, he pushed for election for all his cronies, most of whom have no business in the HOF: George Kelly, Fred Lindstrom and others have no business in the HOF. Lloyd Waner was a very poor selection. I think we need a Hall of Very Good so we can remember good players from the past: Jerry Koosman, Mickey Lolich, Billy Pierce, Vida Blue, Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn, Bobby Grich, Amos Otis, Cesar Cedeno, Hal McRae, Al Oliver and others. Take Care,
Tom Nahigian
11:13 PM May 2nd
 
Manushfan
Hall of Famers to me mean Black Jack Morris, Heinie Manush, Three Finger Brown and Bill Mazeroski. I like a Big Hall. I don't think I' m in the majority, I also don't care. So if they put in say Albert Belle or Billy Wagner or Vizquel, I will be very okay with that.
8:24 PM Mar 10th
 
QimingZou
Well, I can't clarify that for Bill haha...

But the assumption in my previous post can be feasibly tested if one wants dig into it.
4:10 PM Mar 8th
 
MarisFan61
So, you don't think Bill meant that "average Hall of Famer" is the 'bar'?

That's what I think he meant, and he never said he didn't, so for the moment I'm assuming it's what he meant.

If he meant what you're saying, I don't think it would lead to the result that he states.

Like: In your example about the $5 item, voters who think the item is worth just $4.50 or $4.25 might well still say 'yea' -- and they guy might well get the 75%.

Of course Bill could clarify this if he wanted to, but he doesn't want to.
2:42 PM Mar 8th
 
QimingZou
OK, that didn't quite make sense....

Assume that the average quality of HoF voter's ballot is roughly the same as average HoF quality. It is something we probably can test, but for now assume that is true.

Then if the acceptance rate is 50%, the average of accepted candidate would be roughly the same as average HoF.

Which also means that if the acceptance rate is 75%, the average would be higher than average HoF.
9:53 AM Mar 8th
 
QimingZou
It is not that they are using average HoF as line (which would be unsustainable on its own without 75% rule). But rather that they are basing their choice on who is currently in the HoF at all. The assumption is that "the average of HoF selection going forward would be roughly the same as in the past", which under the 75% rule would drift upward.
9:41 AM Mar 8th
 
MarisFan61
Qiming: I wasn't doing that at all.
I was doing it exactly as you suggested.

Since you're still looking at this page, maybe you can take up my plea. (Nobody else has, either here or in the thread on Reader Posts.)

Would you care to try to explain how it is good (or even tenable) to assume that Hall of Fame voters use "average Hall of Famer" as the 'bar' for saying 'yea' or 'nay' on new candidates?

That's the only thing I'm questioning. Nothing else (not majorly).

It seems clear to me that such an assumption puts the bar higher than it ever is, including in some hypothetical theoretical future.
8:39 PM Mar 7th
 
QimingZou
Hi MF61,

I think I know what's we are not syncing up now.

What you are expecting is that HoF voters have a fixed line, that their result will be consistent over time.

What Bill is suggesting is that HoF voter base their vote on who already in the hall, so that everytime you vote in someone that's above average in to the hall, the standard rises a little bit, and since the problem causes more above average than below average hof to be voted in, that standard rises over time.

I'm not quite sure how to resolve this difference
1:37 PM Mar 7th
 
MarisFan61
Qiming: Good example, but (IMO) the conclusion that you reach isn't relevant to the article's bottom line; it's only relevant to an intermediate step. In order to make it relevant to the whole thing, you need to deal with:
What's the worth that the voters require in their minds in order to want to put it in the Hall of Fame?

You are assuming that the number is "$5."

If you want to make that analogous to what Bill is saying (in the article, as opposed to in his last reply, which wasn't specific), you need to be assuming that this number -- $5 -- is the average worth of a Hall of Famer.

Which brings us back to what I keep saying, and which I'd love for anyone to say why they think it would be otherwise:
The 'bar' that most voters would use as their guideline for saying 'yes' on putting an item in the Hall of Fame wouldn't be "$5." It would be some lower number, because most voters don't think new candidates have to be at least as good as an average Hall of Famer; the bar for most voters would be a somewhat lower figure.

SO: Using your example, except for extreme "small Hall" voters, even many of those who think the item is worth only $4.25 or $4.50 would say 'yes' -- and you could very well get your 75%.
3:21 PM Mar 2nd
 
QimingZou
Talking with a friend we had this example which cleared up some, let's see if this helps:

Suppose if you have this item, worth $5, and ask 100 person what they think it worth. Assuming everyone generally knows what the item is worth but, they didn't see it in the super market last weekend or anything like that, the answer would be around $5 on average, and roughly equal number think it is higher than 5 as those think it is lower.

But you are not taking the average of the answers. You are drawing the line at the price where 1/4 think it is lower than and 3/4 think it is higher higher than. You will not get 5 dollars, you are going to get $4.50, maybe $4.25. And that item will not be in the HoF of $5 items even though it absolutely worth (exactly) $5.

That is all. All Bill's article does is point out this curious phenomenon. How it actually affects baseball HoF and consequences is for future discussion.

2:55 PM Mar 2nd
 
Brock Hanke
jwilt - Well, that was odd. You do not appear to have understood my question at all, and yet, you answered it. What I asked was whether people considered McCarthy's accomplishments in inventing the hit and run and/or other things to constitute the sort of value that the HoF ought to consider or whether those accomplishments were not within the HoF voter consideration. You're "bb-ref figuring" answer answered that question - you do NOT think that the HoF voters ought to consider such things as inventing the hit and run. They should only consider player win value, whether computed by BB-Ref or some other source. I disagree with this, and I don't think you understood what I was asking, but you did answer the question, at least for yourself.
3:24 AM Mar 1st
 
Mike137
Guy123 wrote: "Actually, there is quite a bit of doubt. We don't know for sure how BBWAA voters would adjust to such a strange voting system, but they would vote tactically to elect the guys they think should be in".

I agree that in reality, the voters would shade the rules in order to minimize the unreasonable result that would certainly occur if they followed the rules strictly.
7:56 PM Feb 28th
 
MarisFan61
Note: This post is just parenthetical to the article. I realize it may have little or no relation to what Bill is talking about. My main points are in the prior posts, and I hope this won't keep those from getting whatever attention they deserve. I don't wish this to create any tangent to my points or anyone else's.

I figured I'd look at how the "average Hall of Famers" have actually done in the BBWAA voting. And so I did. I'll give the results first (to the extent we can dignify this by calling it "results"), then I'll explain.

There are 55 "average Hall of Fame players" in the Hall of Fame.
39 of the 55 did get the 75% needed from the BBWAA.


I stated that as an assertion, but of course it isn't. There's the issue of what does "average Hall of Famer mean," even before we get to how we evaluate each player, as well as which players do we count at all., including do we count the older-timers who didn't get that much of a chance with the BBWAA.

I counted all Hall of Famers except those whose bulk of their careers was clearly before 1900 and clearly didn't have HOF-type credentials in whatever post-1900 years they had. And of the players I did count, I gave a "no" to any of them who got in via the Veterans Committee, even if it might be argued that they didn't have much of an opportunity in the BBWAA. In other words I counted the "yesses" conservatively.

The tougher part is, what do we mean by an average Hall of Famer, and how did I determine who they are. I did it like this, which I'm reasonably sure is less objective than what almost any of you would do.

I went down the list of all the HOF players that I'm including and started separating them according to whether I felt they were 'clearly' above average or below average -- by "seat of the pants," based on a combination of objective and subjective things, including my own biases, which give a bit more weight to fielding than most of you might, also maybe more weight to all-around play, more weight to outstanding isolated achievements and to "fame," and a bit less weight to accumulation. I had thought that after I finished the lists of 'clearly above average' and 'clearly below average,' I'd work on the list of whoever was left, and try to put them in some order and see who are the several players smack in the middle, and see how they did with the BBWAA. But as I got into it, I realized that the whole list of 'leftover' players might well be regarded as the average Hall of Famers, as long as the number of them wasn't too high.

To my satisfaction, it worked. The total number of players that I included was 194. I had 64 as 'clearly above average' and 75 as 'clearly below,' which left 55 that I couldn't easily determine and who I considered to be the group of "average." I could have gone and tried to rank-order them, but I was satisfied enough with the entire group of them as 'average enough' for what I wanted to see.

I think that my biases probably tended to lower the group's success with the BBWAA. For example, I imagine that most of you would consider players like Tinker, Evers, and Maranville to be 'clearly below average' as Hall of Famers; I included them in the middle group (i.e. "average").

Again, please note, this doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the article's assumptions or conclusions.

In case anyone is interested in which players I put in each group, I'll post the lists in a thread on Reader Posts.
5:59 PM Feb 28th
 
Guy123
So consider a selection system in which (1) the minimum standard of admission was the average HoF member, (2) candidates get one chance to be voted in, and (3) 75% of the votes were needed to get elected. Bill has convincingly demonstrated that the result would be unreasonable. No doubt about it.

Actually, there is quite a bit of doubt. We don't know for sure how BBWAA voters would adjust to such a strange voting system, but they would vote tactically to elect the guys they think should be in (just as they do now). With every voter realizing the real danger of deserving candidates being permanently rejected, many would surely lower their standards for first-ballot support (which would be easy, with no returning players). After perhaps a couple of ugly years, the writers would adjust and do a much better job of evaluating the candidates each year (knowing this was their last chance to judge each player), and for most players the first year vote would come to resemble the current 15th year vote. There would be more mistakes, I'm sure (in both directions), but the vast majority of "average HOFers" would certainly be admitted.

1:25 PM Feb 28th
 
Mike137
MarisFan61 wrote: "That's different from the mere idea that future Hall of Famers will be selected based on the players already in the Hall of Fame. It's far more specific, and far more stringent. As I suggested, I think the more common standard for voters is something like "high-borderline Hall of Famer," although I know that's debatable too. What I think isn't debatable is that assuming "average Hall of Famer" is erroneously high".

I agree. If I go to Baseball Reference, look up Tim Raines, and scroll down to "Hall of Fame Statistics", I see that he appears to be slightly below average for a Hall of Famer. Seems about right to me. But he got 86% of the vote.
1:01 PM Feb 28th
 
Mike137
OK, I was wrong. I misunderstood what Bill was saying. I thought that his use of "average Hall of Famer" was for the purpose of illustration, not central to the argument. Mea culpa.

So consider a selection system in which (1) the minimum standard of admission was the average HoF member, (2) candidates get one chance to be voted in, and (3) 75% of the votes were needed to get elected. Bill has convincingly demonstrated that the result would be unreasonable. No doubt about it.

Unfortunately, I don't see what this has to do with the Baseball Hall of Fame.
12:54 PM Feb 28th
 
bgorden
Bill, you are right - because of the perceptual error, an average Hall of Famer will not get in - in his first year of eligibility. Only the sure thing Hall of Famers will get in the first time.

But a winnowing process occurs as the years go on. Ryne Sandberg, certainly an above average Hall of Famer, made it in his third year of eligibility. In general, a player who gets over 50% in his first year will make it eventually.

What we really need is a Hall of the Very Well Known to put in the people like Mark Grace, Curt Schilling, Lenny Dykstra, Dave Stewart, etc. who were not Hall of Famers but were very good over a period of time.

7:32 PM Feb 27th
 
MarisFan61
Bill: Thanks for the reply.
Please note, you're indicating it differently here than you did in the article. If you had said it that way in the article, there would have been no issue, except it wouldn't have been specific enough for you to advance the argument to the conclusion.

In your current reply, the way you put it is:
"future Hall of Famers will be selected based on the players already in the Hall of Fame."

Yes indeed. Nobody would quarrel with that.
But what you said in the article wasn't merely that Hall of Famers will be selected "based on the players already in the Hall of Fame," but that the standard was "an average Hall of Famer," and the rest of your string of logic was based on that specific thing. What you seemed to be saying (and yes, please take this as an implied question: let us know if it's a misunderstanding of what you meant) ....what you seemed to be saying was that in this theoretical model, voters don't vote for a candidate unless they consider him at least equal to an average Hall of Famer.

That's different from the mere idea that future Hall of Famers will be selected based on the players already in the Hall of Fame. It's far more specific, and far more stringent. As I suggested, I think the more common standard for voters is something like "high-borderline Hall of Famer," although I know that's debatable too. What I think isn't debatable is that assuming "average Hall of Famer" is erroneously high in terms of creating any model for what's the 'floor' for a voter giving a 'yes' to a candidate, and therefore that it leads to a misleading conclusion on how an "average Hall of Famer" would be expected to fare.

I thought I put it clearly enough before to have been understood. I'm sorry if I didn't really.

(BTW your impression that I didn't ask the question previously is mistaken. I had asked the same thing four (4) times in prior comments. I don't blame you for not noticing, I just don't want you to think that I was going along on this tack without asking you to help us understand it.)
6:29 PM Feb 27th
 
bjames
MarisFan61
Bill, I'm not lacking in humility -- I mean, in general I sometimes am, but not on this. And I promise you that I'm not bound by any of my own assumptions. I've given this article great and careful attention, and have struggled mightily, in every way in which I'm capable, to understand it. I don't much disagree that I'm failing to fully understand what you're doing -- it's likely that I am -- but I'm confident that my current understanding is a fair reading of how you expressed things in your article, and I do think it'll help toward people's understanding in general if you'd go along with me more on this.

It will really help us along if you would answer the thing of "average Hall of Famer" -- how you think it makes sense to use that "standard," including saying (and explaining) why it's not essentially false, as I'm stating.



I am certain that, in general, you are no more lacking in humility than I am. If I could explain myself just a little, my good friend. . .the difference between me and almost everybody else is that my understanding of the universe is based on the assumption that I am incapable of understanding the universe. I also assume that YOU are incapable of understanding the universe, but that's not relevant; I'm just explaining myself. I believe the world to be vastly more complicated than the human mind; therefore, everything I believe about the universe has more or less a 50-50 chance of being wrong.

That being the case, to move forward from our present understanding to new understandings is merely to find ourselves more and more lost in a thicket of false beliefs.

Almost all discussion, and certainly all debate, attempts to push FORWARD from where we are to the next question. But what I am always attempting to do. . . .

Not always. What I often attempting to do, and what I am attempting to do here, is to move BACK toward a more basic question. A new understanding will arise not from moving forward, but from taking a new look at the underlying question. This is the real difference between me and other sportswriters--that I am as far as I know the only sportswriter who looks at the world that way, either in 1975 or now. Not saying it is right; it is just who I am. That's the way I look at the world.

What you have been attempting to do here, with great energy, is to push the discussion forward, while I have been attempting to turn it backward. Every exchange between us amounts simply to this: that you were trying to force the discussion forward, and I was trying to get you to turn around and look back at a more basic question.

Now, finally, FINALLY, you have asked a question. YOU HAVE ASKED A QUESTION! Thank God Almighty; you have finally reached the point of asking a question. Why it took you this long to stop trying to tell me what I was doing wrong and actually ask a question, I don't know, but that's just me.

So the question was, how I think it makes sense to use this standard, that future Hall of Famers will be selected based on the players already in the Hall of Fame.

The answer is that (1) this is true; Hall of Famers ARE selected based on the players already in the Hall of Fame, and (2) this is inevitably true, it being nearly impossible to envision a world in which it was not true, and (3) this is a necessary assumption for the argument that I am making.

Whether you believe that Hall of Famers are selected in this way, or should be selected in this way, or whatever. . . that has nothing to do with anything. I don't care. You can accept that; you can reject that; it doesn't make any difference.

But it is absolutely necessary that you accept this AS THE PREMISE OF THE ARGUMENT THAT I WAS MAKING. If you don't accept it as the premise of the argument that I was making, then you can't follow what I am saying.
3:31 PM Feb 27th
 
MarisFan61
Bill, I'm not lacking in humility -- I mean, in general I sometimes am, but not on this. And I promise you that I'm not bound by any of my own assumptions. I've given this article great and careful attention, and have struggled mightily, in every way in which I'm capable, to understand it. I don't much disagree that I'm failing to fully understand what you're doing -- it's likely that I am -- but I'm confident that my current understanding is a fair reading of how you expressed things in your article, and I do think it'll help toward people's understanding in general if you'd go along with me more on this.

It will really help us along if you would answer the thing of "average Hall of Famer" -- how you think it makes sense to use that "standard," including saying (and explaining) why it's not essentially false, as I'm stating. I'm confident in re-stating that as near as can be understood, "average Hall of Famer" is an unrealistically high standard to be assuming for what you seem to be talking about, and that therefore it's an unacceptable assumption for the kind of 'logic tree' you're putting forth. It doesn't mean the conclusion would be wrong, just that the logic you're putting forth isn't a way to get there, like when in a Euclidean proof, the conclusion is something that's true but there was a fallacious step.

It's very possible that even after you might answer that, some more clarifying questions would be needed -- mainly from others than myself, because I think that's all I'd need in order to max out on my own understanding.

I want to add, regarding another member's having suggested that I not kowtow, I have to admit that I feel considerable discomfort about questioning you in such a way. The only way I'm able to do it is to make myself sort of forget for the moment that this is Bill James that I'm talking to, but I can't forget it for more than a second or two, and then I feel quite abashed. But, I'm confident enough that these are reasonable points, and that they might lead to clarifications that will be helpful for many others, that I've let myself be saying these things. Above all -- and I hope this won't sound kowtow -- I continue to be mega-grateful for the opportunity (privilege) to be interacting in this way that you provide and allow.
1:24 PM Feb 27th
 
bjames
From MarisFan61
OK.
But there's more going on than that.

Look how many people you've had to tell that they don't understand; look how many things people have said that you've had to say is irrelevant to the article.

I'm no idiot (although I admit I say my share of things that suggest otherwise), and from what I can tell from my very close reading of the article and my substantial thought over it, I think you are mistaken that my main point isn't relevant. But even if it were: If so many very smart and knowledgeable people have a screwed up understanding of it, it probably means that some aspects of it are just unclear, and perhaps there's more that you might do to help us get it better.



No, what it means is that there is an inherent difficulty in understanding what I am saying, because it requires that you work yourself free of your ASSUMPTIONS about what I am saying. This requires humility. You are not stupid, but you lack humility, and thus lack the ability to wash away your prior understanding of the subject, and attempt to gain a new one. You may gain humility by lecturing me, but I doubt it.
9:57 AM Feb 27th
 
steve161
Don't kowtow, Maris. Your questions, and those raised by others, are perfectly legitimate, and Bill's responses have not been helpful. If he thinks his argument was crystal clear and those of you questioning it are dummies, there's nothing any of you can do about it, but if he's interested in being understood, he'll drop the arrogance and consider the possibility that he didn't get his message across clearly enough.
7:35 AM Feb 27th
 
MarisFan61
Addendum: Need I say, feel free to just bypass my post; no reply needed. I don't want to create difficulty. I do think my comments and questions may be helpful toward clarifying and perhaps refining aspects of the article, and that's why I've been giving them, but if not, then not.
2:06 AM Feb 27th
 
MarisFan61
OK.
But there's more going on than that.

Look how many people you've had to tell that they don't understand; look how many things people have said that you've had to say is irrelevant to the article.

I'm no idiot (although I admit I say my share of things that suggest otherwise), and from what I can tell from my very close reading of the article and my substantial thought over it, I think you are mistaken that my main point isn't relevant. But even if it were: If so many very smart and knowledgeable people have a screwed up understanding of it, it probably means that some aspects of it are just unclear, and perhaps there's more that you might do to help us get it better.

One thing that might help would be for you to explain why you used "average Hall of Famer" as "the standard," and why you consider it good or even tenable. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you mean by "the standard," or something else, but if so, I would posit that it's not completely my fault.

The reason it seems to me that the stated standard is simply false is that from what I can gather or imagine, voters don't require in their minds that candidates be at least average Hall of Famers in order to give them votes; they require that the candidates clear whatever bar they have in mind, which isn't "average," but the floor -- which I've suggested is more like high-borderline, something like that; in any event the bar isn't commonly as high as "average Hall of Famer."

And, in fact, the essential conclusion reached in the article is a 100% result of that assumption. The reason it reaches a conclusion that "an average Hall of Famer would never get 75%" is that it assumes voters would only be voting for candidates that they consider to be at least average Hall of Famers. How is a conclusion derived from a false assumption instructive about anything?

Please don't keep just being mad at us who are failing to understand. Help us to understand better. We're interested enough to be keeping at it.
12:06 AM Feb 27th
 
bjames
You main point is completely irrelevant to the article, and based on a complete misunderstanding of the article. As I have told you numerous times.
9:43 PM Feb 26th
 
MarisFan61
Bill: I would be delighted if you could comment on the main thing I was saying, rather just the parenthetical thing.

For ease of reference:
.....the article amounts essentially to a tautology arising from that puzzling assumption that the 'standard' is or might ever be "an average Hall of Famer." If you assume that's the standard, and if you also assume "perceptual error" on the part of the voters....then OF COURSE no average Hall of Famer would reach 75%, because roughly 50% of the voters would consider the guy below average.

(Actually the "roughly 50%" would be slightly less than 50%. Figured I'd better say that I know that.)
5:23 PM Feb 26th
 
bjames
Mike137
Bill,

It is not helpful to say that people don't understand your point without clarifying why you say that. I am convinced that I do understand your point, but I suspect you disagree. Contrary assertions gets us nowhere. So I will try to clarify what I think you are saying.



What would be really helpful is if you would stop lecturing me and stop trying to correct me, and work instead on trying to understand what I said.
12:47 PM Feb 26th
 
bjames
It will also depend on other factors, such as disagreements as to where to set the admission standard. Multiple years on the ballot help to reduce the perceptual error as the merits of candidates get debated. It is clear that voters do change their minds. Also, the pool of voters changes over time; that improves the chances of a candidate meeting the threshold once.


This has nothing whatsoever to do with the article.
12:46 PM Feb 26th
 
bjames
FrankD
Interesting, thought provoking article. Bill implies here that 26% of voters would reject the avg hall-of-famer ..... To understand this statement we need to block out the universe of HOFs. I think that the peak of the HOF is much 'better' than the avg HOF, and I think of this population as a wedge: with a long run to the peak and a very wide base


None of this has anything at all to do with the article. It is not about observed effects; it is about what theoretically HAS to be true.
12:44 PM Feb 26th
 
bjames
If you assume that's the standard, and if you also assume "perceptual error" on the part of the voters (I'd say "perceptual variation" would have been better, but maybe Bill really does mean it would be 'error'), then OF COURSE no average Hall of Famer would reach 75%, because roughly 50% of the voters would consider the guy below average.



No, Maris. I said perceptual error because I meant perceptual error.
12:43 PM Feb 26th
 
bjames
Mike137
MarisFan61 wrote: "Basically what I'm saying is that thinking you understand it depends on a failure to see a problem in the argument."

Well, I think I understand the argument and I see several problems with it. It seems to me that you have to understand an argument before you can see problems with it.

As a scientist, I think that observation trumps theory. We have observational data here.


We have NO observational data here. It's not an article about observed effects. It is an article about what MUST be true.
12:36 PM Feb 26th
 
bjames
Guy123
I think the question of whether the standard of admission is, was, or should be equal to an average HOFer is causing a lot of unnecessary confusion. It's really a separate issue from Bill's main theory


No, it is not. It is central and necessary to what I was saying. If you understood the article, you would not keep saying this.
12:35 PM Feb 26th
 
MarisFan61
I've given the article considerable further thought (I'm sure you're all thrilled to know) -- wondering, what am I missing, and am I really being as much of a moron as Bill and some of the rest of you probably think.

I'm comfortable saying that the article amounts essentially to a tautology arising from that puzzling assumption that the 'standard' is or might ever be "an average Hall of Famer."

If you assume that's the standard, and if you also assume "perceptual error" on the part of the voters (I'd say "perceptual variation" would have been better, but maybe Bill really does mean it would be 'error'), then OF COURSE no average Hall of Famer would reach 75%, because roughly 50% of the voters would consider the guy below average.

It's as simple as that, nothing elaborate about it -- and it all rests on that assumption, which would be fine except that it's a demonstrably false assumption.

So, why assume it?? Just assume something closer to the reality, and you get an importantly different conclusion. I suggested that the actual standard is closer to something like "high borderline," which is harder to define and operationalize than average, but ease of definition and operationalization isn't a reason to choose an assumption. I suspect if that were the assumed standard, when you crunch the numbers you'd find that a very goodly proportion of "average" Hall of Famers would be reaching 75%.

BTW I'd love for anyone to explain why they think it makes sense to assume the standard used in the article when trying to look at this issue, and I'd love for Bill to explain why it's what he used.
2:39 AM Feb 26th
 
FrankD
Interesting, thought provoking article. Bill implies here that 26% of voters would reject the avg hall-of-famer ..... To understand this statement we need to block out the universe of HOFs. I think that the peak of the HOF is much 'better' than the avg HOF, and I think of this population as a wedge: with a long run to the peak and a very wide base. In this population the avg is greater than the median (the very top skews the avg) and I would probably agree that the 26% of voters would reject the median HOF. Now, in this 'world' is the avg HOF so close to the base that there is enough doubt/noise that 26% would reject the avg HOF? I dunno, but the rejection number would be such that a lot of 'should-be' HOFs are rejected due to the methodolgy of the 75% vote. But, my personal preference is to error towards the steak side rather than try to argue that a poor cut of meat isn't hamburger ......​
7:09 PM Feb 25th
 
Mike137
MarisFan61 wrote: "Basically what I'm saying is that thinking you understand it depends on a failure to see a problem in the argument."

Well, I think I understand the argument and I see several problems with it. It seems to me that you have to understand an argument before you can see problems with it.

As a scientist, I think that observation trumps theory. We have observational data here. If the line were set at 50% and the voting were exactly the same (highly questionable) who would be in the Hall from among those left out? MeanDean pointed this out earlier; the list consists of Gil Hodges, Jack Morris, and Lee Smith. Hardly evidence of a systematic problem since all three fall in the gray area.
3:17 PM Feb 25th
 
MarisFan61
Cliff's Notes:
If you assume the 'standard' to be something more like high-borderline rather than average, then it's far from clear that an average Hall of Famer-type doesn't get the 75% (even with what Bill calls "perceptual error"), and I'd say that very often he would.
12:13 PM Feb 25th
 
MarisFan61
Mike: I indicated exactly what I think the issue is. Basically what I'm saying is that thinking you understand it depends on a failure to see a problem in the argument.

And, Guy put his finger on it (too), but doesn't see it as so much of a problem -- but only because he's tweaking what Bill said.

As Guy said:
Now, this may or may not mean that an average HOFer will routinely fall short. That will depend on how big the gap is between the admissions standard and average.

But look: Bill's argument depends on the specific assumptions he made, which include that the standard IS an average Hall of Famer.

If you tweak that assumption, as Guy indicated, you get a different bottom line -- and we have no idea whether that bottom line would seem to indicate a problem.
12:03 PM Feb 25th
 
Mike137
I think that Guy123 has clearly identified an important source of confusion.

Guy 123 wrote: "Now, this may or may not mean that an average HOFer will routinely fall short. That will depend on how big the gap is between the admissions standard and average, together with the size of the perceptual error."

It will also depend on other factors, such as disagreements as to where to set the admission standard. Multiple years on the ballot help to reduce the perceptual error as the merits of candidates get debated. It is clear that voters do change their minds. Also, the pool of voters changes over time; that improves the chances of a candidate meeting the threshold once.

There will always be a gray area. There will always be people who complain that so-and-so who is not in the Hall is better than whosit who is in the Hall. And some of those people will want do-overs. But unless clearly worthy candidates are being excluded by the voting system, I don't how one can claim that the voting system is flaed in the way that Bill proposes.
11:48 AM Feb 25th
 
Mike137
Bill,

It is not helpful to say that people don't understand your point without clarifying why you say that. I am convinced that I do understand your point, but I suspect you disagree. Contrary assertions gets us nowhere. So I will try to clarify what I think you are saying.

I think your point is that given a bell curve of judgements of the true value of a thing, half of the people will rate the thing above the true value and half will rate it below the true value. So a vote with a standard of 75% is a poor way to decide if the true value reaches some externally set standard. Am I mistaken?

11:34 AM Feb 25th
 
Guy123
I think the question of whether the standard of admission is, was, or should be equal to an average HOFer is causing a lot of unnecessary confusion. It's really a separate issue from Bill's main theory, which is that a player who is slightly better than the *standard of admission* will usually fail to receive 75% of the vote because of the variation in how that player is perceived by voters. That is a correct theory, I think, given certain assumptions, and it's correct whether that standard of admission is set below, at, or above the current average HOFer. Furthermore, players more than a little above the standard will also sometimes fail to receive 75%. How good a player has to be to largely avoid the risk of these false negatives will depend on how big the perceptual error is relative to the distribution of talent within the pool of potential HOFers.

Now, this may or may not mean that an average HOFer will routinely fall short. That will depend on how big the gap is between the admissions standard and average, together with the size of the perceptual "error." In the specific situation where the admissions standard equals the average HOFer (as Bill seems to assume in the article), then of course a player equal to the average HOFer would usually be rejected on a first ballot. But the discussion will work better, I think, if people separate these two issues....

11:27 AM Feb 25th
 
MarisFan61
(sorry, typo -- theoretical phrase usage)
11:05 AM Feb 25th
 
MarisFan61
Well, let's see if they do. I have doubts.

Let's ignore the things in the early part of the article that made me wonder if the thing was serious, like the "perceptual error" thing, which I realize may just be a theoretical phase usage without any intent that in the real-life situation it would mean what it says. (If the latter, that's a problem too, but let's forget it.)

About the assumptions: There's no problem in assuming the first thing:

"Let’s assume for the sake of argument that all voters (100% of the voters) agree about what the Hall of Fame standard should be."

But the next assumption is where the whole thing runs into big trouble -- and why I question whether anyone who has no problem with the article's argument really grasps it.

I invite anyone to explain how it makes sense to assume:

"the standard for future Hall of Fame selections is an average Hall of Famer."

.....and to use that as a key element for the conclusion that's the crux of the article:

"then what that means is that an average Hall of Famer will be rejected in future voting."

.....and to think this is even any slightest kind of problem.

It's NOT a problem, because, as I noted before but which Bill so far has ignored, the assumption of the standard being "an average Hall of Famer" isn't the case in the real world and would never be the case. I have no doubt that it's the case for some voters, people who are sort of "Small Hall"; some voters might perhaps have an even more stringent standard, closer to "Inner Circle." But "average Hall of Famer" simply isn't the general standard and it's doubtful that it would ever be.

(Does anyone question that?)

So: I invite anyone to explain how it makes any sense to assume a false thing which would never be the case, extend it to a conclusion that depends on it, and feels it demonstrates that there's a problem, or in fact that it demonstrates anything other than "This is how it would be if this thing that would never be true were true."
11:04 AM Feb 25th
 
bjames
I do think that Qiming Zou, Jwilt and Jkeefe understood what I was trying to say, and I'm sure some others did as well.
10:06 AM Feb 25th
 
bjames
MarisFan61
Bill: I hope the identity of the messenger hasn't kept you from the messages. :-)
Please do note -- there's much in the article that is problematic. All you need to do is see what's been written here, much of which you haven't addressed.


For the most part, I haven't addressed them because they're based on misunderstandings of what I was saying. People have a fixed way of thinking about something, a set of assumptions, then they apply that set of assumptions to whatever you are saying, even though those assumptions don't apply. This is the exact same problem I had with the baseball establishment in the years 1975 to 1995; they would throw 200 irrelevant arguments at me, based on their own false assumptions about what I MUST be trying to say, and then they would ignore what I was saying because I couldn't answer all of their irrelevant arguments.

No, I can't answer all of your irrelevant arguments. All I can do is ask that you try to understand what I am ACTUALLY saying, rather than what you assume I must be saying, given your other prior assumptions. Stop reading these comments by readers, about 85% of which are based on misunderstandings of the article. Go read the actual article instead.
9:32 AM Feb 25th
 
Mike137
I think that much of the discussion below misses the point. Bill wrote: "The 75% rule was a way of saying "we don’t want anyone in the Hall of Fame unless we are SURE that he belongs." But the problem is, that works too well. It overachieves its intention, thus causing a blowback. It forces you to cover for the players who are wrongly rejected."

If that is true, where are the examples of players wrongly rejected? The issue with 19th century players was not the voting system but lack of familiarity with their accomplishments. Of players who retired in the HoF era, who was wrongly rejected due to the voting scheme? Goose Goslin was suggested below as an example. A very good case can be made that he was wrongly rejected. But since he never got as much as 15% of the vote, it is pretty obvious that the 75% rule was not to blame.
9:17 AM Feb 25th
 
MarisFan61
Bill: I hope the identity of the messenger hasn't kept you from the messages. :-)
Please do note -- there's much in the article that is problematic. All you need to do is see what's been written here, much of which you haven't addressed.

9:28 PM Feb 24th
 
brian14leonard
I swear the typo was unintentional...
9:08 PM Feb 24th
 
brian14leonard
"I'd like to see Mazeroski in the Hall of Fame...Mazeroski's defensive statistics are probably the best of any player in baseball history, at any position. Intuitively, that seems like a Hall of Famer."
Bill James, Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?, 1995

I agree with the 1995 Bill James and not the 2017 Bill Janes. (And I'm a Yankees fan.)
9:07 PM Feb 24th
 
bjames
Well. .understanding that trying to make Maris understand any of this is a waste of time, but. . . .of course there ISN'T any such thing as a "true value" in real life. THAT'S WHY WE NEED THE MODEL. Which you would understand, if you actually had any concept of what this article is about.
6:21 PM Feb 24th
 
MarisFan61
(Makes sense. I had no idea what math problem he was describing.)
6:02 PM Feb 24th
 
Guy123
It is mathematically true that if you have a set (m) which averages to (n). For each additional data point (p), randomly generate a bunch values centered around (p), then add (p) to (m) if 75% of value >= (n), recalculate (n) each time, (n) would grow over time
Is that necessarily true? Won't that depend on the distribution of values in (m), combined with the distribution of true (p)s? If the proportion of players a little bit below n is sufficiently large, you could continue to admit a disproportionate share of below-average players.

In any case, what matters more is that your math problem bears no relationship at all to the HOF selection process. A few differences, in ascending order of importance:
1) the test of admission is 75%>n *once in 15 trials* (which greatly weakens the effect you describe),
2) the values for p are *not* random but rather are interdependent, and
3) admission requires 75%>(X), not 75%>n, where X = the lowest value in set (m).
In other words, we have a radically different math problem than the one you describe.

5:48 PM Feb 24th
 
MarisFan61
......There are other problematic underpinnings, some of which also haven't been hit on yet.
A couple of them:

-- The idea that there is such a specific thing as quantifiable "true value," as opposed to just an approximate range.
-- The idea that even if there is, "Hall of Fame-ness" is a direct function of it.

Regarding the former, I don't mean just that it's difficult or impossible to precisely calculate it (which is probably so). I mean also that the very idea of there being any such hard-and-fast thing is debatable.
4:55 PM Feb 24th
 
MarisFan61
I don't think that's the "whole point," but even if it is, it rests on a number of assumptions. It's not enough that "the math is fine" if the assumptions or underpinnings are problematic.

By the way, I think that's true of anything with math.
4:29 PM Feb 24th
 
QimingZou
The whole point of the article is to highlight this math problem... it would be missing the point if you are having a discussion in parallel of it.
4:22 PM Feb 24th
 
MarisFan61
Who has questioned the math???
(Nobody.)
3:37 PM Feb 24th
 
QimingZou
MarisFan61

It is mathematically true that if you have a set (m) which averages to (n). For each additional data point (p), randomly generate a bunch values centered around (p), then add (p) to (m) if 75% of value >= (n), recalculate (n) each time, (n) would grow over time.

In Bill's view, this is an unsustainable issue unless additional actions are taken, which makes it the reason why some of the more messy decision made by HoF inevitable. I'm not sure in practice what effect and mitigating factors are there surrounding HoF, but the math issue itself is still valid.​
3:31 PM Feb 24th
 
MarisFan61
It seems that there continue to be more problems with the suggestions and comments than with the existing system -- which, as I've said, echoes stuff like the criticism of the ACA.

Guy123 says he "didn't so much 'misunderstand' Bill's argument as attempt to interpret it in the most generous possible way....If he doesn't mean that, well then what he wrote has no meaning..."
Well yes, that's what I've been saying too, and which is part of why I wondered the April 1 thing. But it is what he means.

Kaiser says: "I don't think Bill would dispute that if there had never been a Veterans' Committee, the Hall would be a lot closer to what it should be today....."
[I'm not sure Bill would think that, but OK]
......that is, a collection of baseball's greatest players. Yes, some very deserving people would be missing...."

That's good?? That's a lot closer to what it should be?
2:41 PM Feb 24th
 
bertrecords
I believe the HOF process is overly restrictive. Clemens and Bonds haven't even been voted in yet!

There should be at least one player per market where people have some enthusiasm about HOF chances. Take Minnesota. Killebrew, Carew, Puckett and Blyleven are in. Include Molitor (1996-8 plus managing) if you want to make five. Who should be the next Twin inducted?

Old timers say Tony Oliva. But, there is no momentum toward that. Jim Kaat seems to have checked off most of the boxes. No momentum. Johan Santana was great. His career, barring a comeback, was too short. Joe Mauer had strong years but lost effectiveness too soon. Joe Nathan has the numbers but also probably won't get the votes just because of name recognition. Jim Thome should make it in, but was only a Twin for a couple years and this shouldn't count as more than a 10% local selection. From a local Minnesota perspective, there is no reason to get excited about the HOF voting for the next decade. The doors might as well be barred shut.

I used to be excited about the HOF. Then I went there. Once was enough. The baseball card display and the little lockers for each team that they change every year were the most interesting part of it. There should be another HOF in a real city. The archives of the current HOF are more exciting than the current exhibitions-- it has to be so because the current HOF has no room to show 99% of what they must have.

50% of the votes in a given year seems like a fair criterion to me. Locals in most every city should have someone viable to root for!

2:37 PM Feb 24th
 
KaiserD2
Just checked on this after a couple of days.

I don't think Bill would dispute that if there had never been a Veterans' Committee, the Hall would be a lot closer to what it should be today--that is, a collection of baseball's greatest players. Yes, some very deserving people would be missing, but a lot ore undeserving people would not be there.

Thus, if in fact people who are initially overlooked, or people who only emerge as strong candidates thanks to new and sophisticated methods decades after they played, need a "back door," I would suggest simply making everyone's BWAA eligibility permanent instead of dropping them from the ballot. That would certainly encourage the writers to get more sophisticated in their evaluations.

David K
2:29 PM Feb 24th
 
Guy123
Maris: I didn't so much "misunderstand" Bill's argument as attempt to interpret it in the most generous possible way. In the article, Bill uses "average" HOFer interchangeably with "the HOF standard," presumably meaning a threshold above which a player merits inclusion. I assumed he meant that today the minimum "standard" should equal the historically average HOFer (i.e. raising the standard going forward). If he doesn't mean that, well then what he wrote has no meaning: how can the average be the same as the "standard" for admission?

And if the "standard" is lower than the average (as it must be), we can't possibly know whether the 75% vote requirement allows for the 1st-ballot election of 50%, 80% or 100% of average HOFers, unless we first know the gap between average and the standard (and how that relates to the size of the measurement error). If the error is larger than the average-standard gap, then yes, many average players will fall short on the first ballot; but if the error is much smaller, then 100% of average HOFers will be elected.

In any case, this is a relatively trivial issue. Either way, the reasons I outlined for why Bill's model fails to explain actual outcomes still applies. The key is multiple, public elections.....
2:04 PM Feb 24th
 
MarisFan61
Bill: I think the reason Guy misunderstood it (and probably others too) is that the assumption you meant is pretty unnatural -- it sort of 'doesn't compute,' and, per my prior comment, it's false.
1:47 PM Feb 24th
 
bjames
Guy123
Bill's argument is quite clear, I think:

what that means is that an average Hall of Famer [I think Bill actually means a minimally-qualified HOFer] will be rejected in future voting. An average Hall of Famer hits .300 with 400 homers and 1300 RBI, let’s say. A player then appears on the ballot with a .300 average, 405 homers and 1315 RBI. He’s not going to make it. It’s inevitable. Because of the perceptual error, he’s NOT going to get to 75%.

****

No; what I meant is an average Hall of Famer. If the ONLY standard was the 75%, then a player who was Hall of Fame average would be rejected as he came on the ballot. Which is what happened in the early 1940s.
11:46 AM Feb 24th
 
MarisFan61
to Guy123: I'm pretty sure that what Bill is complaining about is much stronger than how you see it.

From your post -- quoting the article, with your added bracketed comment:

"what that means is that an average Hall of Famer [I think Bill actually means a minimally-qualified HOFer]...."

I'm pretty sure NO -- he really means that an average Hall of Famer doesn't make it, which is a far stronger complaint. (Anyone else see is as Guy123 said?)

------------------

An additional aspect of the article that I find puzzling, which to my surprise hasn't been commented on (not that I've noticed), is:

[b]If we assume that
a) the standard for future Hall of Fame selections is an average Hall of Famer.......
[/]b]

Let me try to address this to Bill.
Bill, why are you putting in such a thing?
It's the thing that leads most directly to the supposed problem you're complaining about, but it's a completely false thing, because it's not most people's standard. Why do you assume a false thing, and then worry about the conclusion that it leads to?
11:34 AM Feb 24th
 
tangotiger
I like Studes here:

"I think we can see this in the evaluation of relief pitchers"

The ordinal rankings would be fairly clear, and the question would be where to draw the line. You can make an argument that you draw the line so that only Mariano Rivera can cross it. You can make an argument that you draw the line so that 10-15 relievers can cross it.

It becomes more of a debate of how big a hall you want. When I've polled my readers, it was around 2.5 players per year. Again, you can make a case for one per year. You can make a case for 4 per year. It's all arbitrary as well.

What we should insist however is that we don't draw a line so that guys well above it are not in, and guys well below it are in. That's how you measure the success of the voters.

8:25 AM Feb 24th
 
steve161
The one thing I'm sure of is this: no matter what system is in place, there will be arguments about who got in and who didn't, for exactly the reason Mike137 indicated. Sure, the 75% threshold keeps people out that some of us would like to see in, but it's not what kept Lou Whitaker out, and as long as there are cases like that, there will be a demand for something like a Veterans Committee. And while we keep bringing up the Frisch era's open door policy, right now the VC is more likely to be attacked for excessive exclusiveness.

A while back over in Reader Posts, under the excellent generalship of Dan Marks, we tried out Bill's Rube Goldberg contraption, multi-tiered voting system. The results were no better (and arguably worse) than the BBWAA's.

Reform, intelligently conceived, can be a good thing. But if it's conceived with the notion that some sort of perfection is attainable, the cure will almost inevitably be worse than the disease.
7:29 AM Feb 24th
 
Guy123
Bill's argument is quite clear, I think:

what that means is that an average Hall of Famer [I think Bill actually means a minimally-qualified HOFer] will be rejected in future voting. An average Hall of Famer hits .300 with 400 homers and 1300 RBI, let’s say. A player then appears on the ballot with a .300 average, 405 homers and 1315 RBI. He’s not going to make it. It’s inevitable. Because of the perceptual error, he’s NOT going to get to 75%.

Now, we know that has *not* in fact happened, at least in recent decades. Players who belong almost all get in. So it seems like Bill's model should work, but it doesn't. Why?

I think the main answers are that 1) players stay on the ballot for multiple years, and 2) voters know the previous vote totals. So a voter who initially undervalues a player can learn that others disagree, and change their vote if persuaded. And that is exactly what happens. Andre Dawson (on the lower edge of belonging) got 45% his first year, but reached 78% in his 9th year. Fully a third of the electorate changed their vote, persuaded that he belonged. If Bill's theory were correct, there would be a lot of players rejected with 50%, 60%, or 70% support. But we don't see that. About 80% of those who reach 50% (but not 75%) later get voted in. Of the other 20%, it's debatable whether any should have. Bill's model might apply if players received only one vote, but they don't.

I don't know if the 75% threshold is ideal, but it's certainly close to it, and hardly a flaw. A 50% rule would initially be a disaster, allowing many unqualified candidates in. Remember baseball is a talent pyramid, so the number of players just below qualified is far larger than the pool just above the line, so we would get a *lot* of type 1 errors.
7:14 AM Feb 24th
 
studes
I just want to second Mike137's comment: "One might instead imagine that everyone agrees on the evaluation of candidates but differ as to what the standard for the HoF should be."

I think we can see this in the evaluation of relief pitchers, the impact of PEDs and the changing perceptions of baseball stats over time.
6:26 AM Feb 24th
 
Mike137
MarisFan61 asked: "Why were you seemingly limiting it to one or the other? (Maybe you didn't mean it that way....)"

Differences in opinion as to who belongs in the HoF are certainly due to both differences in perception of player value and different views on what the standard should be. I did not mean to imply otherwise. I only meant to point out that if you look at it from the latter point of view, the problem that Bill has discovered seems like much less of a problem.

Brock Hanke: Thanks for pointing out Goose Goslin. I know that few, if any, 19th century guys were voted in by the BBWAA. But those guys never really had a chance since they had been retired for so long when the HoF was created. There surely had to be something like the Veterans Committee if they were to be included.
7:02 PM Feb 23rd
 
tangotiger
You can make it as retired 3 years and at least 40 years old.
5:11 PM Feb 23rd
 
tangotiger
@OldBackstop

Gordie Howe was inducted in 1972 and re-entered the NHL 7 years later. So, that's not a valid use case. Lemieux missed 3 full seasons, as did Lafleur. If you want to make the rule as 4 years out, then ok. But, really, what's wrong with an active HOF in these last 2 cases?​
4:20 PM Feb 23rd
 
MarisFan61
re Mike137's penultimate post (BTW that means next to last, not second best or anything like that):

Glad of course to see agreement about 75% being fine, but, just wondering about this:

"Bill imagines a system where everyone agrees on a standard but people differ in their evaluation of candidates. One might instead imagine that everyone agrees on the evaluation of candidates but differ as to what the standard for the HoF should be."

As per my first post on here, why are you imagining either one? It's not like one-or-the-other has to be so, and in fact (yes, in fact!) it isn't.

Different people do have differing views on what the standard should be (like, the extent to which it should be 'small' or 'big' Hall, as well as what kinds of things may constitute greatness and what kinds of things don't), AND on evaluation of candidates.

Why were you seemingly limiting it to one or the other? (Maybe you didn't mean it that way....)
2:23 PM Feb 23rd
 
Brock Hanke
Mike137. Oh, yes, the Veterans Committee has clearly elected people who were passed over by absolute mistake on the part of the BBWAA. There's a run of them from the 19th century, including Sliding Billy Hamilton. They saw through the ballpark effects well enough to elect Goose Goslin. There are several others. It's not that the Vets never catch anyone who was missed first time around. It's that they make large mistakes the other way, too.
2:20 PM Feb 23rd
 
OldBackstop
@tango. there is an article to be written here about the difference in major sports halls, because its a cluster hug. Hockey had two guys they waived the three year waiting period for being "exceptional" go back and play, Howe and LaMieux, and another who waited the three years also go back, LaFleur.

Basketball changed the waiting period from five years to four in 2015, and their system has had as many as 12 get inducted in a single year. Their votes are secret.

Football waits five years, has to elected four but maxes its annual inductees at eight. the electors meet and decide.

A few of these, maybe to hove back towards Bill's revelation here, have "Honors Committees" or such with pared down finalists, and that is considered a, well, honor in and of itself, so that is interesting thought...

Okay, so, I'm talking myself blue in the face about this without any freaking notice, but in December the writers voted that all ballots would be public, where as many before (over 100 last year) chose to keep their choices secret. Doesn't this seem like it would effect the issues we are discussing?
1:49 PM Feb 23rd
 
MarisFan61
Just a stray note, unrelated to any main thing:
In looking up metrics on the second basemen (when talking about Whitaker), I noticed maybe the oddest "WAR"-related ranking I've ever seen:
Frank White comes out as only the #58 second baseman.
Just ahead of Ron Hunt and Orlando Hudson, and behind guys like Brian Roberts, Mark Ellis, and Bill Doran.
Granted, there are some other very good 2B's in that area. But 58 for Frank White....
12:22 PM Feb 23rd
 
Mike137
It occurs to me that I may be missing something important and that someone more knowledgeable about HoF history than I might be able to enlighten me. The Veterans Committee was originally formed to elect people who were already old timers when the HoF was created. It then morphed into reconsidering players passed over by the voters. Among the latter, where there any clear injustices set right by the Veterans Committee? If so, who?
10:58 AM Feb 23rd
 
Mike137
I am quite sure that I understand Bill's argument, but I agree with MarisFan61: 75% with voting over multiple years is a darn good system.

Bill imagines a system where everyone agrees on a standard but people differ in their evaluation of candidates. One might instead imagine that everyone agrees on the evaluation of candidates but differ as to what the standard for the HoF should be. In that case, the 75% rule amounts to forcing the standard to be higher than the median idea of what the standard should be. Seems reasonable to me, especially since we don't seem to have a big problem with excluding clearly worthy candidates.
10:44 AM Feb 23rd
 
MarisFan61
JWilt: re the post about 75% being seen as flawed from the start:
That wasn't one of your better posts. :-)
I've never before seen anything from you that was so, uh, well, flawed. Or really at all like that.

The lengths to which you guys are going to support and defend your dislike of the 75% criterion is stupefying.

First of all, Jwilt.....I feel like adapting a great line from Bill (I imagine a few of you will remember where it was):
"Look who you're calling as your expert witness." :-)

You cite.......WIKIPEDIA!
And, to boot, perhaps you didn't notice the very first thing on the top of that page. (I'm putting it in bold, because on that page it's in bold.)
This article has multiple issues.

But let's even forget that. Let's take it as a terrific reference.

You put something in bold too, I guess because you thought it was a key slam-dunk:
"making a 75% tally nearly mathematically impossible."

That's worse than weak. We can even tell that from the context that you provide (in fact, good job giving us that context). It wasn't a blanket statement on the 75% rule; it was just a feeling in retrospect about that first election, in 1936, in large part because most of the voters, it seems, misunderstood the guidelines. Then it goes on to talk about how there was a similar feeling 10 years later -- but again, it was about a limited and specific thing, not about the basic 75% figure.

But moreover: If it was (as you put it) recognized as flawed from the start, over 80 years ago, how do you explain that it has been maintained, and all the candidates who have in fact gotten 75%?
10:13 AM Feb 23rd
 
tangotiger
By that token, waiting 5 years is also exceedingly long. Hockey waits 3 years.

If we do the same in baseball, then by the time the full panel gets to vote on the non-obvious ones, then 4 or 5 years will have passed.
9:00 AM Feb 23rd
 
tangotiger
When I compare the Hockey HOF to the Baseball one, the one thing that jumps out is how fast the players are elected. And this is even though baseball has far more data to better evaluate the contributions of players than hockey does. And yet, no hockey fan ever talks about how unworthy someone is, when elected.

The writers are capable to vote in "the easy ones". So, I'd be happy given them the first shot, for up to 5 years for a player. I'd even bring it down to 3 years. They have 3 years to make up their minds on a guy. It'll give them a sense of urgency.

After that, Bill's "panel" system can take over on those non-obvious ones. These aren't necessarily "second tier" players, but simply players that one voting body, the writers, couldn't agree on. We don't need the panel system to vote on Jeter and Rivera. We need it to vote on Whitaker and Schilling.​
8:55 AM Feb 23rd
 
jwilt
Brock, I misread your question. Tommy McCarthy, by modern bb-ref figuring, was 16 wins better than replacement. That makes him, roughly, the 39th-best OFer of the 1800s. There are about 27 19th century outfielders with a higher career value who aren't in the Hall.

Non-HOFer Parisian Bob Caruthers, primarily a pitcher who only played about 10 years, had more value as an outfielder/batter than McCarthy by modern calculations.
6:55 AM Feb 23rd
 
jwilt
Brock Hanke: My take is that McCarthy was voted in because he had a number of stories and legends attached to his career, the 1946 voting process was pretty screwed up, and there were no real comprehensive sources for career or seasonal statistics available.

The committee was asked to identify the best players from 50 years ago based on legends and old stories and maybe a few dog-eared Spalding Guides. It's kind of amazing that McCarthy was the worst selection using that process, with the right champion on the committee they could have picked a Billy Sunday or Fred Dunlap, or Lou Sockalexis or something.
6:48 AM Feb 23rd
 
jwilt
I think you just need to look at quotes from the Wikipedia article on the Veteran's Committee to see that the 75% rule was recognized as ill-conceived almost from the beginning:

"(In 1936) It was further decided, during the tabulations and after the voting, that voters would each be restricted to five total votes in order to limit the initial 19th-century selections to five players; but since most voters had cast votes for ten, it was ruled that each vote would only count as 1/2 in the total for that candidate – making a 75% tally nearly mathematically impossible. When the votes were tabulated with this method, only two candidates had totals reaching even 50% of the required number. Plans for a runoff election featuring only the top twelve finishers, to be held prior to the 1939 opening of the Hall, never materialized"

"(In 1946) The committee firmly agreed that any flaws in the rules were causing errors of omission rather than ones of liberality in selections, and that the wide field of candidates from the entire 20th century was making it unlikely that any candidate could draw 75% of the vote from the BBWAA."

They recognized early on that the 75% requirement and a large slate of qualified candidates basically meant nobody was going to be elected. But instead of fixing the voting process they opened the back door, and immediately voted in Jack Chesbro, Rube Waddell, and McCarthy. Which set the de facto low end of the Hall to somewhere around Al Bumbry and Darryl Hamilton.
6:38 AM Feb 23rd
 
Brock Hanke
OK. Just a check to see if I understand this correctly: Is it fair to say that the election of Tommy McCarthy is the result of a true ability well below HoF standards, but an enormous consensus positive perceptual error based on attributing the hit-and-run and batter/runner signaling to him? Or, in this case, is what I listed as perceptual error actually a part of Tommy's real accomplishments?
3:34 AM Feb 23rd
 
jimmybart
One assumption that has to be made is: on average, how many players should be in? I did a running graph that showed players in Hall divided by years of Hall's existence. After some fluctuations in the early years, in the last twenty or so it has settled down to an average of three (I included Negro League players).

I thought of this when Bill did his Hall breakdown and broke them into three groups. One group was no-brainers, one group was fairly solid, and one group was on the fringe. So about one from each group per year.

Point being: we are where we are, and we now have 80 years of HOF history that has set three players per year on average as a precedent. Would we be having the same arguments about who should be in or out if the average was two, or four? I think we would, because it's all about perception anyway.

Also will be interesting to see if the average number increases due to increased players in the expansion era (Bill has argued for this).
5:25 PM Feb 22nd
 
MarisFan61
The system has evolved, with all kinds of tweaks and doodads here and there.
But yes indeed, I think that by accident, those 1930's thinkers with no experience happened to hit on a darn good basic system. I think the "75%" is just about as good as can be, including that it leaves over the gray-area candidates to be thought about over a longer period.

There's something that hasn't been mentioned here which to me is the main 'problem' with the system -- with 'problem' in quotes because it would probably be worse if this problem didn't exist: the finality of Hall of Fame inductions. Once you're in, you're in.

And, IMO it's exactly because of this 'problem' that I think a threshold like 75% is needed. At least during the initial period of a player's eligibility, I think it's necessary to have the bar be quite high, not just on level of play but also in all other respects, to make as sure as possible that there won't be "false positives."
5:16 PM Feb 22nd
 
337
You must be joking, Maris (except I know you're not). What would be REALLY difficult to design would be a more poorly thought-out system for electing a HoF. Do you seriously imagine that a bunch of 1930s thinkers with no experience whatsoever in designing an election system hit upon the one most perfect system possible? Monkeys could type "Shakespeare" sooner. And I'm talking about all the monkeys who ever lived on all the typewriters ever made typing the word "Shakespeare" one time.
5:07 PM Feb 22nd
 
MarisFan61
Looking a lot like the repeal/replace of the ACA.
The further it goes, the more it seems like it ain't that easy to come up with something better.
4:12 PM Feb 22nd
 
337
How about having a very low threshold for nomination to the HoF, but a high one (in an entirely separate vote, based on the winners of the nominating process, perhaps with a different field of voters) for the actual election? You could also in institute a minimum number of electees every year, sort of like what the Football HoF does, so that every year you'd elect the ones who got 75% or the three highest, whichever is more. I think something like that would work.
3:36 PM Feb 22nd
 
bjames
jalbright
75% is part of the problem, but I think it is one of many. When the Hall started, there was a huge backlog of suitable candidates. They didn't always have runoff elections which guaranteed the election of at least one guy.

No, it is not ONE of many, it is the FIRST of many. My argument is that this is the ORIGINAL problem, from which the other problems flow. If you didn't have a 75% rule, YOU WOULD NOT NEED RUNOFF ELECTIONS to ensure that somebody was selected. It is only because of the 75% rule that you need to have that.
3:26 PM Feb 22nd
 
OldBackstop
Wot, the curtains? No, the land! The land!
2:54 PM Feb 22nd
 
jalbright
75% is part of the problem, but I think it is one of many. When the Hall started, there was a huge backlog of suitable candidates. They didn't always have runoff elections which guaranteed the election of at least one guy. I don't think it was true at the outset, but eventually, they compounded the 75% issue with severely limiting who could be considered once the BBWAA was done with the guy. On top of that, the back door they did create (the various forms of the Veteran's Committee) were very small groups who weren't explicitly instructed to elect only the best eligible candidates, rather than anyone they deemed suitably qualified. Put Frankie Frisch in a much larger pool of voters who are instructed to elect only the best guys passed over by the writers, and a lot of the poor choices of that era wouldn't have happened because they would have been indefensible by that standard. The first Negro Leagues committee tried to do this, but ran into the dearth of information available at that time.
2:41 PM Feb 22nd
 
bjames
Kaiser's comment

I would tend to agree with the earlier comment that the Hall's biggest problem of the Hall is NOT a long line of qualified candidates who have not gotten in. I think Bill has been right on other occasions when he argued that the biggest problems could have been avoided had there never been a Veterans' Committee.


Yes, but what I NOW understand, and did not understand before, is that when there is a 75% rule, there HAS to be a Veterans' Committee. The Original Sin--the 75% rule--makes the Veterans' committee inevitable. That is what I now understand that I did not understand last week.

It doesn't exactly make the VETERANS' committee inevitable. It makes SOME kind of back door into the Hall of Fame inevitable. If you started the Hall of Fame over, with the 75% rule but no back door, what would absolutely inevitably happen is that deserving players would be left out, which would force the institution to pop open a back door somewhere.

And the "consensus forming" among the voters, rather than mitigating this problem, actually makes it worse. But that's another issue; we'll get to that when we can get you guys to understand what I am saying. If I can get you guys to understand what I am saying. Maybe I should start working on your grandchildren.
1:52 PM Feb 22nd
 
MarisFan61
I can never decide whether to laugh or vomit at the odd certainty that invariably gets expressed by very smart and knowledgeable people in any discussion like this.

Duke Snider was "much more valuable" than Pee Wee Reese? Flat-out, no doubt?

Of course there's doubt. They were both excellent players and not over-the-top overwhelming; they're in a similar category. BTW, Win Shares seems to agree that Snider was "more valuable" but I wouldn't say it says he's much more valuable; "WAR" thinks their values were just about equal.

Nothing wrong, of course, with having opinions on such things, but it helps to realize when it's just a opinion and that you could be way off -- including because some things are not just close calls but apples-oranges. Snider-Reese is both.
11:23 AM Feb 22nd
 
henryfyfe
Adding correlation amongst the voters of the model may mitigate this issue to some degree, though I will agree that it would not and could not do so completely. Correlation amongst voters might be thought of as the trends in the voting, trends that get guys like Raines and Blyleven elected in their final year of eligibility. Of course, trends and correlation can work in the opposite direction, as perhaps the examples of Dick Allen, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens attest to.
9:00 AM Feb 22nd
 
KaiserD2
I would tend to agree with the earlier comment that the Hall's biggest problem of the Hall is NOT a long line of qualified candidates who have not gotten in. I think Bill has been right on other occasions when he argued that the biggest problems could have been avoided had there never been a Veterans' Committee.

As I have made clear, I think that lifetime totals, for various reasons, can be a very misleading guide to determining the greatest players. In many cases they give people an awful lot of credit just for showing up, since they accumulated those totals over a number of years in which they were average players at best. To cite one spectacular example, Pete Rose stopped being an asset to his team when he had about 3000 hits total. (That is not to say that Pete's qualifications would not make him a reasonable Hall of Famer, were it not for his sins.) I think the biggest problem in Hall selections is the number of people who have gotten into the Hall simply because of their teammates. That applies to quite a few of the pitchers there, including several lucky enough to pitch for the New York Yankees. It also applies, I would argue, to Travis Jackson, Tony Lazzeri, Phil Rizzuto, and Pee Wee Reese. Lots of players at least as good as those four have never gotten any consideration because they didn't play for winning New York teams.

The discussion of Duke Snider is interesting because I would rank him as a reasonable but not overwhelmingly qualified Hall of Famer. On his own team he was much more valuable than Pee Wee Reese and in my opinion more valuable than Roy Campanella. On the other hand, he wasn't nearly as valuable as Jackie Robinson and, when good defensive statistics are added in, not as valuable as Gil Hodges. (In my book I apologize for having argued on the SABR email list that Hodges didn't belong. He most certainly did. Meanwhile, Snider's defense reduced his value.) Mionnie Minoso was a very close comp to Snider in terms of value and is nearly an exact contemporary.

My most amazing find in my book was two players, both outfielders, who are clearly overqualified based on peak value--both had more great seasons than Snider or Sandy Koufax--but who have never gotten any serious consideration. One had a pretty short career; the other had a medium-size career but his whole career path seemed to be designed to hide just how good he was. I'll leave it to anyone interested to guess who they are.

David Kaiser
7:42 AM Feb 22nd
 
OldBackstop
HeyBill, to get back to the gist of your insight here, which I have ruminated on, cow-like, with my junior high math skills, what might be a practical solution? Extending the time on the ballot? Lowering the required percentage to 55% or 60%?

Is some insight, perhaps, found in political elections, where you plucked Trump's name out 15 years ago? The long history of The runoffs and other devices there may offer some understanding...
4:05 AM Feb 22nd
 
MarisFan61
(Sorry, that link doesn't work, but if you copy/paste that whole portion from https to &f+false, it will work.)

12:14 AM Feb 22nd
 
MarisFan61
....Here's a link to where I think I first learned of those things about McCarthy:
https://books.google.com/books?id=3uSbqUm8hSAC&pg=PA65&lpg=PA65&dq="bill+james"++"when+the+hit+and+run"&source=bl&ots=1ms8o92Frf&sig=ct5HJyrw2​b2_QFTJf88Cl2XLRlw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj_uv2GhKPSAhVKw4MKHfKuAk0Q6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q="bill james" "when the hit and run"&f=false

It's by Bill, in the New Historical Abstract.
BTW, Bill, I don't at all mean there's any contradiction between the book and what you're saying here about McCarthy. I'm just giving you credit for my knowing about this, and I do think it's a little ironic that a positive view of McCarthy's Hall of Fame-ness can come from what you wrote.
12:11 AM Feb 22nd
 
MarisFan61
OK, enough of this about Tommy McCarthy. :-)

It seems to me that he was selected mainly because he changed how the game is played.

Funny that I'm sort of saying this in argument against Bill, because, as I remember, the way I know about this at all is from something written by Bill. (Please pardon if that's a misremembering.)

McCarthy, it is said, originated things like giving signals and the hit-and-run. (Maybe just popularized them, but I think originated.)

As to why I think this is why he made the Hall of Fame, a couple of things:

1. His playing record seems pretty clearly to be insufficient.
2. Those things about how he changed the way the game is played would have made me want to put him in the Hall of Fame, so it's most plausible that it would have made others want to put him in there.
3. In view of #1, I'm figuring very likely it was indeed #2.

In any event, y'all are surely missing at least a goodly part of the boat by keeping on judging his Hall of Fame selection on the basis of his playing career and using him as Exhibit A for the selection process being from hunger. By any reasonable standard, it's been a more successful selection process than just about any other major selection process you might name.
11:41 PM Feb 21st
 
bjames
wdr

I'm not sure if this analysis of the HofF is accurate. The trouble started in 1946, when the "Old Timers Committee" added a slew of new members to the Hall, the worst of whom was Tommy McCarthy.


Yes, this is what I thought, too, UNTIL I HAD THIS INSIGHT. But what I realized is that that is actually the SECOND flaw, and that it was forced by the first flaw, which was setting the bar so high. They set the bar so high that deserving candidates could not clear it, then they HAD to create a "second committee" which was small enough that they could talk themselves into an agreement. Which is how Tommy McCarthy and those guys got elected. It stemmed from the original sin of setting the bar too high.

All of which I thought I had explained before, although apparently nobody got that out of the article. But it is in there.
9:20 PM Feb 21st
 
MarisFan61
.....in view of which, isn't it pretty remarkable that the Hall of Fame process has succeeded as well as it has?

I think it is succeeding darn well, and judging from the unceasing great interest in it, it seems that it really is
9:14 PM Feb 21st
 
JackKeefe
I worked one summer as a pollster for Harris polls, and I can tell you that the 75% threshold on any question is practically unachievable. For instance, it's exceedingly rare for a presidential candidate to reach even 60% of the popular vote, and those are considered landslides. A two-thirds supermajority is required for things like adding a constitutional amendment, which is why they rarely happen. The only tv series episode ever to record a 75% share of the viewing audience was the series finale of MASH---not even Elvis got those kind of ratings. Setting a 75% bar for anything is an invitation to failure.
9:01 PM Feb 21st
 
MarisFan61
I think you left out the main reason Tommy McCarthy made it.
I'll omit saying what it was, so that people can absorb it better. :-)
6:14 PM Feb 21st
 
wdr1946
I'm not sure if this analysis of the HofF is accurate. The trouble started in 1946, when the "Old Timers Committee" added a slew of new members to the Hall, the worst of whom was Tommy McCarthy. Up till then, everyone elected had been a First Ballot, or at worst Second Ballot choice. The Committee had no encyclopedias and was relying on its collective memory- McCarthy was one of the "Heavenly Twins" of the 1890s, and had an image in the minds of some of the voters. Since there were probably 150 players better than McCarthy and eligible in 1946, and probably 300-400 today, there was no real lower boundary to who should be elected. The regrettable choices of the Frisch era simply added to the confusion. The Veterans Committee after that, headed by Al Lopez, actually did a good job of electing past players, but many many nineteenth century players (like Browning, Stovey, and Dahlen) who should be in the Hall aren't in- many more than the missing twentieth century players like Hodges and Stan Hack.
5:35 PM Feb 21st
 
MarisFan61
P.S. BTW, who was making the all star team at second base when Whitaker wasn't:
Initial period: Randolph, Molitor, Grich, Frank White
Then Whitaker had a 5-yr run of making the team.
Then: Johnny Ray, Harold Reynolds, Julio Franco, Steve Sax, Roberto Alomar, Baerga, Knoblauch

Of course there are some real good players there too, most of whom haven't had much of a sniff at the Hall of Fame either. But about Whitaker, he just wasn't seen as anywhere like the kind of standout that he tends to be seen here. I think he was seen mostly as in a clump with players like Randolph, Frank White, and Grich, any of whom would be nice Hall of Fame picks too.
5:11 PM Feb 21st
 
MarisFan61
Finding reasons for Lou Whitaker's vote history is easier than the proverbial falling off a log. I don't mean there's no counter-argument, just.....that it's easier than falling off a log.

For starters, look at his "Inks."
Black Ink: Batting - 1, Average HOFer ˜ 27
Gray Ink: Batting - 31, Average HOFer ˜ 144
(this from baseball-reference.com)

....and what about these:

Hall of Fame Monitor: Batting - 92, Likely HOFer ˜ 100
Hall of Fame Standards: Batting - 43, Average HOFer ˜ 50

And this:
Number of all star games: 5 (good, but less than you usually find)

And this:
MVP vote record: almost nothing
4:40 PM Feb 21st
 
mikeclaw
@danjaffers - I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. I don't point at Lou Whitaker and say "How can we have a Hall of Fame is he's not in it???" But, yeah, it was astonishing that he didn't even last a year. I got no explanation for that.
3:58 PM Feb 21st
 
MarisFan61
re Qiming's comment: I don't think it's clear at all that standards have risen or that there are fewer borderline selections in recent years, provided we ignore the "Frisch picks." To me, it's more like that the ways of evaluating players have evolved, plus that it is often ignored that some of the Hall of Fame selections may have been mainly for things other than quality of play per se and therefore those Hall of Famers aren't examples of mediocre selections (e.g. Tommy McCarthy).

About Jim Rice perhaps not having been considered just a borderline candidate if he'd come along 25 years earlier: I agree. But, that doesn't mean a change in standards; it means a change in the ways that players are judged. After all, there are examples in the opposite direction. Twenty five years ago, Bert Blyleven may have been seen as very low borderline at best, and Tim Raines probably would have had to wait a whole lot longer than he did wait.
3:47 PM Feb 21st
 
danjeffers
@mikeclaw, while it wasn't quite the same thing, I consider Lou Whitaker's voting outcome an outrageous snub. I would agree that getting something less than 75% and aging off of the ballot would not have been outrageous, but not even getting 5% of the vote did and does seem outrageous.

3:16 PM Feb 21st
 
mikeclaw
@ksclacktc - I am not sure precisely what @woven meant in his comment, but on a certain level I agree with him. I would phrase it this way: Other than the steroid suspects/users, there is no player who has been left out of the Hall of Fame whose omission constitutes an outrageous snub. There are guys who are qualified who have been shut out, but not guys who are OVERLY qualified. Anyone who has been left out, even those whose induction I would endorse, I can see the argument for omission as well.​
2:38 PM Feb 21st
 
QimingZou
Seems from comment a lot of people are confusing two issues, one is the general evaluation of players by voters, the other is a simple math problem Bill suggested: "new_standard = old_standard + 0.5 * average_perception_differences" so that hall of fame threshold grows overtime.
This would suggest that the worst selection from 50 years ago would not be selected 25 years ago, worst selection 25 years ago would not be selected today, and worst selections today will not be possible 25 years later. I'm not sure if this is true or not, but my gut feeling is that it is. I don't recall anyone selected within last 10 year or so would be considered a "borderline" candidate by today's standard. Well, Rice... but I don't think he would be a borderline candidate 25 years ago either.
2:10 PM Feb 21st
 
Allen Schade
Isn't the 75% needed for HOF admission tempered by the fact that a player ( if he gets a minimum % every year ) stays on the ballot for ten years?

In other words, you might have a voter who thinks a player is not " worthy " of getting into the HOF on the first ballot, or second, or third. But is on the 4th, or 5th?


1:41 PM Feb 21st
 
MarisFan61
What Hotstat said.

That's probably the #1 aspect of the difference between views like the one implied in this article and alternate views. A related other aspect -- maybe the #2 basis for alternate views -- is special recognition of extraordinary isolated achievements.
1:26 PM Feb 21st
 
hotstatrat
Speaking of Maz, another way that the Hall of Fame can be contentious is that as you, Bill, have pointed out before there is a bias towards players who can do, at least, one thing exceptionally well over the type of players who do everything well. I'm even on the fence as to whether that is a perfectly reasonable bias or not. The Hall is all about the exceptional. The rules for entry are vague - it doesn't have to be about who brought the most value towards their teams.
12:47 PM Feb 21st
 
OldBackstop
HeyBill,

I wrote a long comment here about the muddling of a free market due to strategic factors like guys coming off the ballot and first ballot guys being avoided and positional dearth or overloads (never mind PEDs) but it occurs to me is that the biggest issue here is that the BBWAA voted on December 6 to make their ballots public going forward.

Last year 306 out of 440 chose to make their ballots public...the rest kept them secret...

So this will have the effect of….what? Something huge, I would think.

11:13 AM Feb 21st
 
Mike137
I find the logic of this article very convincing. But it seems to imply that no definition C candidate should ever be able to make the Hall of Fame. But they do, so it seems that something is missing. I can think of three possibilities.
One is that the precise, objective standard set in the article is misleading. The bias that Bill identifies just means that the effective standard is higher than the hypothetical agreed upon standard; maybe 13,000 or 13,500. The actual standard is vague it is easily influenced by history. So as time passes, the subjective standard used by voters adjusts to accommodate the bias and produce a more reasonable result.
A second factor is that there may be a bias in favor of candidates. That could be a desire by voters to see good players, or favorite players, receive the honor.
A third factor, alluded to by an earlier commentator, is the time spent on the ballot. That allows for debate that reduces the perceptual bias and helps the slightly above standard candidate make it in.
10:36 AM Feb 21st
 
MarisFan61
Don't worry, folks -- I won't note any more supposed "flaws." :-)
I'll just say that the rest of the article, including the Addendum, does nothing to tilt me away from the April 1 interpretation. (Does anyone see the slightest resemblance between Jim Sweeney and Rose? BTW I know a guy named Jim Sweeney and he doesn't look like Pete Rose either.) :-)
9:51 AM Feb 21st
 
MarisFan61
Well, I've only gotten to the first 3 paragraphs, and this article itself has a couple of sins/flaws already, to the extent that I have to wonder if the whole article is tongue-in-cheek, sort of an early April 1 piece.

''......Suppose that we KNEW absolutely who should be in the Hall of Fame?"
Golly. I didn't think very many of us here would think there's any such thing. Evaluation of players varies from one mind to another, the concept of what constitutes greatness varies likewise, the concept of what's a Hall of Famer likewise. One might think those things are flaws too, but heck, that's another thing on which minds differ.

"I don’t see Bill Mazeroski as a Hall of Famer; obviously some voters did. One of us has a perceptual error."
That feels not only like maybe-tongue-in-cheek; to me it's a belly laugh line.

"A perceptual error?" :-) :-) :-)
Are you kidding us?

I'm going 40% with the early-April-1 theory.
9:45 AM Feb 21st
 
meandean
I suspect that the effect described here is, at least to some extent, offset by the tendency for players with more years on the ballot to get more votes. The .300 BA/400 HR guy isn't going to get 75% on the first ballot... but he will get 5% to stay on the ballot, and in the typical case, will continue to build on his starting total year after year*. Keep that up for a few years, and then if there's a season late in your ballot tenure where the ballot isn't stuffed with no-brainers, you'll have a heckuva good chance. Joe Posnanski calculated a couple years back ( www.kansascity.com/sports/mlb/article312948/Percentages-and-the-Hall.html ) that even if you look at players who debuted on the ballot with 30%-40% of the vote, seemingly very far off, 71.4% of those players got in eventually. Heck, you might think guys who debut with a mere 10%-20% of the vote have basically no chance, but 38.9% of them got in!

To belabor this point further, for a long time, Gil Hodges was the only player to reach 50% at any point in his candidacy and not get elected. Now Lee Smith and Jack Morris have joined him. (Morris is likely to un-join the group after the Veterans elect him.)

So, essentially the system has compensated for the illogical 75% rule by making up an equally illogical unwritten "rule" where retired players somehow become better candidates as they age, such that if you ever get to 50% or even less, you'll probably get to 75%. I would agree that it'd be preferable to have a better-thought-out system where you don't need two wrongs to make a right. What probably makes sense is to have a simple one-time, no "ballot limit", yes or no vote. This is the year we vote on Mariano Rivera, soooo, is Mariano Rivera a Hall of Famer? Don't worry about who else is "on the ballot"... don't say you need ten more years to think about it, when you've already had five years and that's plenty... is the guy a Hall of Famer, or not? It's pretty tough to argue against that, as a logical proposition.

Absent crazy situations such as those caused by PED-suspected players clogging up the ballot.
9:31 AM Feb 21st
 
ksclacktc
@ woven. Speak for yourself! As a matter of fact, it is not hard for me to come up with a list of fully-qualified HOFers.

IMHO
9:00 AM Feb 21st
 
wovenstrap
Is there a rampant problem of obviously qualified Hall of Famers failing to be inducted? I don't think most fans would frame the issue that way.
8:52 AM Feb 21st
 
 
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