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Tracking the Hall of Fame Tracker

December 10, 2017
If you’re a Baseball Hall of Fame aficionado, one of the great joys of this season is diving into "The Baseball Hall of Fame Tracker", which is diligently maintained by Ryan Thibodaux and his merry band of ballot trackers.  If you’ve never seen it before, it’s essentially an online Excel file that keeps track of writers’ Hall of Fame ballot selections as they become known.  Sometimes a writer posts a column announcing his selections, sometimes the writer may verbally communicate them through some other medium, etc.  In any case, Thibodaux and his team collect the results and track them here.
I always find it interesting to see how the different players are tracking and to see if there are any trends or observations that can be made.  Now, having looked at this tracker for a few years, there are some caveats about looking at the results, especially early on in the process.  One general observation is that, typically, most players’ voting %’s tend to ride kind of high relative to their final totals, in part because the writers who make their choices known ahead of the deadline tend to vote for more players per ballot than those who don’t.  (Note – for future reference, I’ll refer to those who announce their choices as "public" voters, and those who don’t as "private" voters.  When I refer to "public" votes, I am also including any anonymous voters who have made their selections known to Thibodaux)
A Little Bit of History
The "tracker" shows detail going back to 2009, although Thibodaux has made the tracker a lot more robust over the past few years.  Here’s what I was able to calculate based on the information contained in the tracker.  (I should say that these might not be exact, as not every candidate is listed in the detail sections, and in the earlier years the tracker doesn’t show the same level of summary information as it does now.  However….I feel that these are pretty close.)
Total # of Ballots
Public % of Total
Private % of Total
Average # of Selections per Ballot –Overall
Average # of Selections – Public
Average # of Selections – Private
Avg. # of Selections – Public vs. Private - % Differece
A few observations:
  • In 2015, several writers had their voting privileges removed as the BBWAA trimmed the ranks, requiring voters to meet requirements as "active" members covering the game, so the base of writers participating in the Hall of Fame vote over the past couple of years (beginning with the 2016 election) is about 100 voters lower than it had been.
  • The percentage of "public" voters has soared over the past several years, and has increased every year (except for one) since 2009.   If you go back to 2009, only 11% voters made their ballots public.  Last year, it was 71%.  It has definitely become a much more common practice for a Hall of Fame voter to announce his selections (and to trigger the inevitable "feedback" that is sure to come his or her way via social media).
  • The other upward trend has been in the number of selections made per ballot.  If you go back about 10 years, the average per ballot was generally between 5 and 6 names per ballot.  We have now essentially had 4 straight years where that figure has been 8 or higher  (2016 was just under that figure, at 7.94).  Voters are including about 40% more names, on average, than they did just a few years ago.

    The interesting thing about 2013 is that, even though the average # of selections per ballot increased sharply from 5.1 to 6.6, that was also the infamous year that no candidate achieved 75% or higher.  If you recall, that was the year that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa (not to mention Kenny Lofton) debuted on the ballot.  The next year, we saw the quantum leap up to 8.4, and it’s been hovering around that figure ever since, as the ballot continues to be loaded with solid candidates.
  • Coinciding with the recent trend of more selections per ballot has been the widening gap between "public" and "private" voters.  If you combine the last 4 years, public voters have averaged about 8.5 names per ballot, while private voters have averaged around  7.8.  The last column in the grid posted above compares public vs. private average names per ballot.  Over the last 4 years, public ballots have included about 9% more names than the private ballots, and the gap has been widening.  Last year, that figure was up to 13.5% higher on public ballots.

    This is one of the reasons why, as you watch the public votes tallied each year in the tracker, you have to take them with a grain of salt, as public voters have tended to be more "generous" than private voters, and the final percentages typically end up lower than what’s in the tracker, although that doesn’t necessarily hold true for every candidate.  Some candidates do poll better among private voters.  For example, in 2017, Fred McGriff received 21.7% of the overall vote, but he was named on 32% of the private votes, and only 17.5% of the public votes.  Lee Smith was another candidate who consistently polled better among private voters in the past few years. 

    Going the other direction… 2017, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mike Mussina each received 57%-60% of the public vote, but were roughly 20 points lower (37%-40%) among the private voters.  In recent years, it’s been generally true that more players poll better among public voters vs. private voters.
Another dynamic in the voting is that, in 2017, over half of public voters used the full 10 slots on the ballot.  Here’s the distribution by the number of candidates selected.
# of Votes
% of Total Public Votes
10-Player Ballots:
9-Player Ballots:
8-Player Ballots:
7-Player Ballots:
6-Player Ballots:
5-Player Ballots:
4-Player Ballots:
3-Player Ballots:
2-Player Ballots:
1-Player Ballots:
Blank Ballots:
Total Public Votes
In addition, the "tracker" also indicates that there were at least 48 public voters (or about 1 out of every 6 or 7) who would have voted for more than 10 had they been allowed to, and that figure undoubtedly underestimates the number who would have done so, as not every voter who voted for 10 players comments on whether or not they would have voted for more. 
2018 Results So Far
OK.  Enough history.  How are the early 2018 results looking?
As I write this, 32 public and anonymous ballots have been tracked, which (per the tracker) is about 7.5% of the total 416 votes expected to be submitted (by the way, don’t be surprised if that number of votes tracked changes the next time you check the tracker, as it updates almost every day). Also at this early date, the ballots have been coming in with an average of 9.1 names selected.  I don’t anticipate it staying quite that high, as it’s never been above 8.7 among the public voters…..but you never know.
Here are the results as of this moment (there are actually 33 players on the ballot.  The tracker lists just the top 21 candidates)
% of Vote
Jim Thome
Chipper Jones
Vlad Guerrero
Trevor Hoffman
Edgar Martinez
Roger Clemens
Barry Bonds
Mike Mussina
Curt Schilling
Omar Vizquel
Manny Ramirez
Larry Walker
Fred McGriff
Scott Rolen
Andruw Jones
Sammy Sosa
Jeff Kent
Billy Wagner
Gary Sheffield
Johnny Damon
Johan Santana
So, at this point, if these percentages held up, the top 5 players (Thome, Chipper, Guerrero, Hoffman, and Martinez) would be elected.  I don’t expect that to happen….I think we’ll see 4.  More on that later.
Let’s dig a little deeper into some of the early results, and I’ll also refer back to our Bill James Online "prediction contest", where we invited our members to submit their predictions.  I’ll provide our "consensus" prediction (which is the average of all of the submitted ballots), and I’ll also include the prediction that I submitted, just for additional reference.
Jim Thome
Actual % to Date
Consensus Member Prediction
My Submitted Prediction
Obviously, Thome could not have gotten off to a better start.  32 for 32.  I had him pegged for around 80%, and our member consensus was for him to be elected, but just barely.  He obviously won’t end up at 100%, but he is apparently appealing to many types of voters, and he may exceed all of our expectations, perhaps even mid-80’s or higher.
Chipper Jones
 Actual % to Date
Consensus Member Prediction
 My Submitted Prediction
You would have to say Jones is tracking right about as expected.  30 of the 32 voters have selected him. 
Vlad Guerrero
 Actual % to Date
 Consensus Member Prediction
 My Submitted Prediction
Guerrero has received 28 of the 32 votes so far.  In addition, so far he has picked up 4 incremental votes from writers who did not vote for him last year.  He is also 2-for-2 among first-time voters. 
Guerrero just missed last year with 71.7% of the vote, and was over 70% support from both private and public votes.  I’d say it’s looking good for him.  He should make it.
Trevor Hoffman
 Actual % to Date
 Consensus Member Prediction
 My Submitted Prediction
Hoffman came up just short in 2017 with 74.0% of the votes, and did slightly better among private votes (74.2%) vs. public votes (73.9%).  That came on the heels of a 67% debut in 2016.  I think he’ll make it, but it could be close. 
Edgar Martinez
 Actual % to Date
 Consensus Member Prediction
 My Submitted Prediction
Even though Martinez has the same % as Hoffman so far, I don’t think he’ll make it this year.  Last year, Martinez polled at 50% among private voters.  In the past 2 years, Martinez has had a 12-point gap between his public support and his private support. 
Based on projected vote counts, if Martinez holds at around 78.1% of the public vote, I estimate that he would need about 66% of the private vote this time around to be elected, which is do-able, but might be a stretch.  There is certainly some resistance to voting for a DH, but some of that has been melting away.  I think he’ll follow the Tim Raines path and make the leap to about 70% this time around, and set himself up for the big push next year in his 10th and final writers’ ballot.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens
Always seems natural to look at them together…..
Actual % to Date
Consensus Member Prediction
 My Submitted Prediction
I went back and checked the 2017 tracker, and both Bonds and Clemens were at about 64% on the public ballots at this same point in time.  They both ended up around 60% of the public votes, and about 54% overall.
I do think they’ll nudge up some over last year.  I think our consensus of our members and my prediction will be about right in the end.  One thing that will be interesting to see is whether or not Joe Morgan’s letter to the writers will ultimately have any impact.  I suspect some may heed his wishes, but I also think it’s likely that it may have the opposite effect among some writers.  That is, some writers will object to the directive of the letter, and it will either strengthen their resolve, or possibly even make someone on the fence decide to thumb his nose at the whole notion of the letter.   It will be interesting to see how it plays out. 
I’d say they have virtually no chance to be elected this year, especially since the private vote for these 2 tend to run so much lower than the public.
Another observation…..Among returning voters so far, Clemens has not had anyone vote for him that did not already vote for him last year (although the 2 new voters so far have voted for Clemens).  In other words…he hasn’t really lost any support from returning voters, but hasn’t gained any either.  Bonds has lost 1 vote so far among returning voters.
Mike Mussina
 Actual % to Date
 Consensus Member Prediction
 My Submitted Prediction
As mentioned before, Mussina is one of those players whose private support tends to run well below his public support.  In the past three years, his private support has lagged his public support by 20, 18, and 14 points.
I think, based on the results to date, I may have underestimated Mussina’s final total.  I think the member consensus prediction of 60% is probably going to be closer to where he ends up.
Curt Schilling
 Actual % to Date
 Consensus Member Prediction
 My Submitted Prediction
Schilling received 45% of the votes last year, polling at 50% among public voters, but only 32% among private voters.
Like Mussina, I may have underestimated Schilling this time around.  It’s possible that the strong feelings about Schilling’s social media statements and his viewpoints may be less intense this time around, and voters may be more inclined to vote for him now.  At this early stage, Schilling has gained 2 votes from returning voters who did not vote for him last year.
Omar Vizquel
 Actual % to Date
 Consensus Member Prediction
 My Submitted Prediction
Vizquel was one of the early surprises and biggest stories of this year’s balloting, being named on the first 7 ballots that were tracked.  However, that was followed by going 0-for-8 on the next 8 ballots.  He then rebounded for 5 of the next 6.  I don’t know how "streaky" he was as a player, but he’s been Jekyll and Hyde on the ballot so far.  Overall, he’s been named on 17 of the 32 ballots so far.
Vizquel has been characterized by many as the "Jack Morris" of this year’s ballot, in that he symbolizes the split between "traditional" vs. "analytical" Hall of Fame evaluations.  Maybe that’s an oversimplification, but certainly those that oppose his candidacy tend to point out his less-than-stellar WAR figure, his relatively low JAWS shortstop ranking, and the fact that he had virtually no MVP support during his career.  In addition, many have pointed out that his defensive statistics are not as impressive as his reputation would imply.  On the other hand, those that support him point to his extremely long career, his notable career fielding records (most double plays turned by a SS, highest fielding percentage by as SS), his nearly 2,900 career hit total, his 11 Gold Gloves, and the spectacular way that he fielded his position.
In any case, even if his final results settle into, let’s say, the low 40’s, he appears to have made a significant debut.  I suspect that, like Morris, we will have several more years ahead of us to debate the pros and cons of his candidacy.
Rounding Up the Rest
Scott Rolen is one of the more interesting candidates this year.  Voters who like WAR and JAWS are certainly drawn to his case, as his career rWAR (70.0) and JAWS ranking at third base (10th) are often cited as evidence of his worth, and certainly play into his appeal among a certain segment of voters.  Rolen also won 8 Gold Gloves at third base, the third most among third basemen behind Brooks Robinson (16) and Mike Schmidt (10).  However, his support has been fairly lukewarm so far, running around the 20% mark.  Our member consensus was around 24%, and my prediction was around 21%.  It seems likely that he will end up somewhere around that level.
I think Rolen is the latest in a line of similar recent (and not-too-distant) candidates like Lou Whitaker, Kenny Lofton, Jim Edmonds, and several others, who tend to rate relatively high in things like WAR and JAWS, but had trouble gaining much support from voters (although I do think Rolen will easily surpass the 5% threshold to stay on the ballot, which Whitaker, Lofton, and Edmonds were unable to do).  These are all very good and valuable players….but they don’t seem to resonate with voters when it comes to the Hall of Fame.
Certainly, one thing working against Rolen (and against many recent candidates) is that this is still, generally speaking, a very crowded ballot.  At least 2 writers among the 32 to date indicated that they would have voted for Rolen had they had more slots (by the way, 4 writers so far have mentioned that they would have voted for Jeff Kent had they been allowed to exceed 10).  But, even if you were to grant him those lost potential votes, that would only put him at 25%.  Rolen just doesn’t seem to resonate with the voters, at least not as much as his WAR figure or JAWS ranking might imply. 
It is my opinion that Rolen (as well as Whitaker, Lofton, Edmonds, etc.) probably simply don’t "seem" like Hall of Famers to a large number of voters.  During their careers, they didn’t make much impact on MVP ballots, and they generally didn’t find themselves among the league leaders in important offensive categories (with the exception of Lofton and his stolen bases).  They are all multiple-time Gold Glove winners, but, generally speaking, they aren’t especially memorable, for one reason or another.  They don’t leave their impact on many of the voters.  I suspect that, even now, many writers use their gut to make their final decisions, even if they do consult the evidence.  I can’t prove that….but it’s my suspicion.  I think for many voters, a player has to "feel" like a Hall of Famer to get his or her vote.
I think Rolen may have to hope for a similar route to the one that Bert Blyleven, Tim Raines, and (possibly) Edgar Martinez have taken.  I think he’ll need some time to have his case made, and for voters to reconsider him.  At the very least, it does appear that he will survive his inaugural ballot to have his case reviewed again next year, and probably for years to come.
I think everything said about Rolen above could probably be applied to Andruw Jones as well.  He’s polling in the mid-teens, and will probably survive the 5% threshold, although it might not be by much.  Like Rolen, he had an impressive Gold Glove haul (10 for Jones, 8 for Rolen), and he’s ranked 11th among center fielders in JAWS (Rolen is 10th among third basemen).  Rolen struggles with the image of a player that was hurt frequently, while I suspect Jones suffers in the eyes of many voters for having his career fall off a cliff once he hit 30.
In any case, it’s looking like Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones, Manny Ramirez, Larry Walker (who, by the way, has gained 5 votes already from returning voters), Fred McGriff, and Sammy Sosa may survive this year to return for another year to have their cases reviewed. 
Jeff Kent, Billy Wagner, Gary Sheffield may see their time on the ballot come to an end, as they continue to struggle to find support on a crowded ballot (Kent has already lost support from 3 of the returning voters who voted for him last year, and Wagner has already lost 2). 
And, Johnny Damon and Johan Santana, neither or whom has received a vote yet, may fall into the dreaded "one-and-done" category (not to mention other first-timers like Chris Carpenter, Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hudson, Aubrey Huff, Jason Isringhausen, Carlos Lee, Brad Lidge, Hideki Matsui, Kevin Millwood, Jamie Moyer, Kerry Wood, and Carlos Zambrano, who to this point have not received any votes).
That’s it for now.  I’ll stick with the original prediction that we will see 4 players (Chipper Jones, Vlad Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Trevor Hoffman) be elected this year, while Edgar Martinez sets himself up for the final push next year.
I’ll post another update on the tracker down the road.
Thanks for reading.

COMMENTS (15 Comments, most recent shown first)

re Dave's post, that it's looking like the BBWAA might say yes on 4 players, which would make 6 total inductees:

It's looking like there's a real chance it'll be not just 4+2, but 5+2.

In fact, I'd say it's likely except that it seems impossible.

Right now, with 43 ballots revealed (10.3% of estimated total), here's what these guys have (rounded off to integers):

Guerrero 91%
Hoffman 81%
Chipper 95%
Edgar (!) 84%
Thome 98%

As we've said, in general the %'s tend to go down from the early numbers, and especially the non-public ballots tend to say 'yes' on fewer guys, but, from how these numbers have been holding up so far (including that Edgar has actually been rising), absolutely there might wind up being 5 from the BBWAA.
Which would make 7 total -- which I think might be the most ever in one year, not counting the Negro League 'catch-up' year of 2006. Certainly it would be the most in a long time (as would 6).
2:40 PM Dec 12th
.....small sample, especially the 'new' votes, but I think they're enough to say that my seemingly-low estimate for Vizquel was still too generous.

Don't look for anything higher than the low 20's.
1:42 PM Dec 12th
With Morris and Trammell, it seems likely to me we're going to have as many as 6 living inductees.
I just know that is going to lead to griping about the Hall's standards being too loose. To be followed, 3 or 4 years down the road, by griping about the Hall's standards being too strict.

10:34 PM Dec 11th
OK, the marisfan network is now able to make its projection on Vizquel. :-)

Most of those initial 7 votes were a conscious effort to pump him up as a candidate.
The 33% that he's gotten since then (he's now at 17 out of 37 overall) is a more accurate indication of what kind of candidate he is.
Since on most players the early %'s are higher than the eventual, I'd guess that Vizquel winds up in the high 20's.

Which, to be sure, is very good, just nothing like his early numbers.
1:17 PM Dec 11th
Sure. But if he'd done better there, it would have burnished things.

BTW I've never thought it was so bad to take that pitch.
12:31 PM Dec 11th
Is Adam Wainwright going into the Hall because he broke off a perfect curve ball against Carlos Beltran? Of course not. And Beltran won't be kept out because he watched it drop into the zone. Or at least he shouldn't.
7:00 AM Dec 11th
A Carlos Beltran moment?

That at-bat in '06 won't help Carlos either, although it doesn't erase the memory of his great post-season moments.
2:15 AM Dec 11th
Rolen's last postseason game was with the Reds, against the Giants in the NL Division Series in 2012. He was up in the bottom of the 9th in game 5, with the Giants ahead 6-4. He had two men on and 2 out, and I remember thinking at the time: "He's got a chance here to create a lasting postseason memory for when his Hall of Fame voting comes up." Just didn't work out. He struck out swinging to end the series.
12:17 AM Dec 11th
Even if there wasn't a conspiracy, some voters could (and probably should) realize that getting their ballot out there early can influence other voters - particularly since the Ballot Tracker will ensure it is seen.
3:13 PM Dec 10th
.....and I'd guess distinctly the opposite: Far less support for him from non-public.
2:27 PM Dec 10th

I agree it's an interesting thing to speculate on. That is, does the presence of the tracker have any influence on voters that haven't submitted their ballots yet. After all, they have until the end of December to submit, and they certainly could be influenced by the results.


Re: Vizquel.....well, I'm certainly HOPING for low 40's, since that's what I initially predicted. :)

But, I also think he's the kind of candidate that might appeal to the "private" voters, so his final total might not come down as much as others might. He might be someone like a Morris, McGriff, Hoffman, or Lee Smith, that polls as well (or better) with private voters.

2:02 PM Dec 10th
I couldn't help wondering if that was some of why Vizquel was doing so surprisingly in the initial revealed votes (7 out of the first 7, as Dan said) -- i.e. that several of those votes were a little 'conspiracy' among Vizquel supporters to trumpet him forth as a serious candidate.

If his final total winds up being anywhere close to where it is now (about 50%), I won't be so inclined to think so. If it winds up closer to where I expected -- i.e. pretty far below that -- I will.
12:31 PM Dec 10th
I'm wondering if the Tracker might actually have an effect on voting these days, particularly since we know some voters have been saying for years that they'd consider voting for more than 10 candidates.

For instance, if you were a voter and you're trying to decide between, say, Omar Vizquel and Scott Rolen, the tracker will tell you that Vizquel will safely be above 5 percent but Rolen might need your vote to survive for another year. That might be a deciding factor.

12:16 PM Dec 10th
Adding to what Don said, I'll list my biggest surprises so far, in order:

1. Thome having 100%
2. Vizquel doing so well (BTW, Dan, it seems you think "low '40's" would be on the low side for how he winds up, in view of the early votes; look for him to wind up lower)
3. (tie I guess) Santana having no votes, and Rolen not doing better
11:15 AM Dec 10th
The greatest surprise so far, to me, is that Santana has received no votes. I know he had a short career, and all...made effectively shorter by having been a reliever for most of his first 4 years. But 2 Cys and 4 other top 5 Cy finishes (and 1 7th) would, I thought, get him somewhere around 15% to 20% of the votes.
10:53 AM Dec 10th
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