Tracking the Hall of Fame Tracker (2020 Version)

December 22, 2019
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 or her selections, sometimes the writer may verbally communicate the selections through some other medium (like Twitter), 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 (but not all) 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
Before diving into the 2020 results to date, here’s a little bit of background/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.
Year
Total # of Ballots
Public
Public % of Total
Private
Private % of Total
Average Selections per Ballot -Overall
Average Selections - Public
Average Selections - Private
Avg. # of Selections - Public vs. Private
2019
425
357
84.0%
68
16.0%
8.0
8.3
6.7
22.8%
2018
422
318
75.4%
104
24.6%
8.5
8.7
7.6
14.4%
2017
442
314
71.0%
128
29.0%
8.1
8.4
7.4
13.5%
2016
440
311
70.7%
129
29.3%
7.9
8.2
7.3
12.3%
2015
549
331
60.3%
218
39.7%
8.4
8.7
8.0
8.7%
2014
571
302
52.9%
269
47.1%
8.4
8.6
8.2
4.9%
2013
569
168
29.5%
401
70.5%
6.6
6.5
6.7
-3.0%
2012
573
114
19.9%
459
80.1%
5.1
4.8
5.2
-7.7%
2011
581
122
21.0%
459
79.0%
6.0
5.8
6.0
-3.3%
2010
539
91
16.9%
448
83.1%
5.7
6.0
5.6
7.1%
2009
539
60
11.1%
479
88.9%
5.4
5.4
5.4
0.0%
 
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 few years (beginning with the 2016 election) is about 100 voters lower than it had been previously.
  • 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 all the way up to 84%, the highest mark ever. 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 interesting 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 6 straight years where that figure has been 8 or higher (2016 was just under that figure, at 7.94). However, after peaking at 8.5 names in 2018, last year slid back to 8.0, and this year is likely to drop even lower (more on that later).
  • 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 well stocked with solid candidates.  Again, I would anticipate the figure dropping this year as the ballot is not quite as loaded as it has been.
  • Coinciding with the recent trend of more selections per ballot has been the widening gap between "public" and "private" voters. The last column in the grid posted above compares public vs. private average names per ballot. Last year, public voters included about 23% more players per ballot than private voters.

    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. In recent years, we saw players such as Lee Smith and Jack Morris (both of whom have subsequently been elected by a Veterans Committee) generally do better among private votes than public voters. On the other hand, candidates such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have generally been polling about 20 points higher among public voters vs. private voters.

    In recent years, it’s been generally true that more players poll better among public voters vs. private voters, which is why it’s important to look at the results of the tracker with that in mind, and just because a player has over 75% support in the tracker doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll end up at that level.
Another dynamic in the voting is that more and more voters had been using the full 10 slots, although that did drop last year as well. In 2018, almost 55% of the public voters used the full 10 slots on the ballot, up from 52% the year before. In 2019, that dipped back down to 47%. In addition, on the BBWAA web site, they reported that 42.8% of the total 425 ballots cast in 2019 used all 10 slots, down from 50% in 2018.
Here is the 2019 distribution by the number of candidates selected among the 357 public ballots.
 
# of Votes
% of Public Votes
10-Player Ballots:
168
47.1%
9-Player Ballots:
47
13.2%
8-Player Ballots:
42
11.8%
7-Player Ballots:
20
5.6%
6-Player Ballots:
28
7.8%
5-Player Ballots:
23
6.4%
4-Player Ballots:
12
3.4%
3-Player Ballots:
7
2.0%
2-Player Ballots:
6
1.7%
1-Player Ballots:
4
1.1%
Blank Ballots:
0
0.0%
 
In addition, the "tracker" also indicates that there were at least 48 public voters (or about 1 out of every 7 of total voters) who expressed the notion that they 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. One of the ongoing hot topics with Hall of Fame voting is whether or not at some point they will do away with the 10-player limit.
2020 Results So Far
OK. Enough history. How are the early 2020 results looking? Please note that the figures I used in writing this article were current as of December 21, 2019, but they change pretty frequently as Thibodaux and his team get pretty busy this time of year updating the tracker.
To begin with, there has generally been a clearing of the deck going on in recent years. Since the shutout of 2013, the writers have inducted 3 in 2014 (Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine), 4 in 2015 (John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson), 2 in 2016 (Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza), 3 in 2017 (Ivan Rodriguez, Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell), 4 in 2018 (Vlad Guerrero, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman), and 4 more in 2019 (Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina). That’s a lot of inducting. 
Unlike recent years, there’s only one really strong new candidate in 2020 (Derek Jeter), and only one other one who’s drawing even a little bit of support (Bobby Abreu). It would not be surprising to see significantly fewer names checked per ballot this year, although certainly some of the holdovers would be expected to pick up a few extra votes, especially from voters that may not have had room for them in the past.
As I write this (on December 21), 43 public and anonymous ballots have been tracked, which (per the tracker) is about 10.4% of the total 412 votes expected to be submitted (by the way, don’t be surprised if that total number of votes changes the next time you check the tracker, as it changes frequently).   That’s almost exactly the same # of votes that had been cast when I wrote last year’s version of this article (there were 45 at that time).   At this point, about half of the voters (22) are the same (that is, 22 of the 45 that voted early last time have also done so this time). 
Also at this early date, the public ballots have been coming in with an average of 7.35 names selected. When I did my first check-in last year, it was tracking at 8.6 before eventually settling in at 8.25 (for just the public votes).   In 2018 at this point in time, it was tracking at about 9.1 before eventually settling at 8.7 (for just the public votes). If we use that piece of information and expect a similar effect this year, we would infer that the # of names per ballot on the public votes might drop about 4% by the time that they’re all tallied. That would imply that the public votes might end up at around 7.0 to 7.1 names per ballot, which would break the 6-year streak of the public votes coming in over 8. I think that also implies that the overall average of names per ballot is likely to dip below 7.0, as the private voters have tended to be stingier with their selections.
Here’s a neat little table showing the results as of this moment among players who have received at least one vote along with how they were polling at this same point in time a year ago. Not their final vote %’s – but just where they were at this point. It also shows some of the other nuggets available in the tracker, such as how many votes each player has gained and/or lost from returning voters, at least among those whose ballots have been captured to date:
Player
2020 % of Ballots To Date
2019 % of Ballots at this Same Time
Difference (pct pts)
2019 Final Vote %
Gained Votes from Returning Voters
Lost Votes from Returning Voters
Net +/- Among Returning Voters
Derek Jeter
100.0%
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
Larry Walker
86.0%
66.7%
19.3
54.6%
6
0
6
Curt Schilling
81.4%
73.3%
8.1
60.9%
4
-1
3
Barry Bonds
74.4%
66.7%
7.7
59.1%
1
-1
0
Roger Clemens
74.4%
68.9%
5.5
59.5%
0
-1
-1
Omar Vizquel
51.2%
44.4%
6.8
42.8%
1
-1
0
Manny Ramirez
44.2%
22.2%
22.0
22.8%
6
-1
5
Scott Rolen
39.5%
22.2%
17.3
17.2%
10
0
10
Todd Helton
34.9%
31.1%
3.8
16.5%
10
-2
8
Jeff Kent
32.6%
11.1%
21.5
18.1%
9
0
9
Billy Wagner
27.9%
6.7%
21.2
16.7%
7
0
7
Gary Sheffield
25.6%
11.1%
14.5
13.6%
8
-2
6
Andruw Jones
20.9%
6.7%
14.2
7.5%
4
0
4
Sammy Sosa
18.6%
13.3%
5.3
8.5%
3
0
3
Andy Pettitte
16.3%
15.6%
0.7
9.9%
3
-1
2
Bobby Abreu
7.0%
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
 
So, at this point, if the 2020 percentages held up, the top 3 players (Jeter, Walker, and Schilling) would be elected.
Not so fast…..
Jeter, obviously is a lock, and will likely end up with a very high 90’s figure. The question with Jeter, as it was with Rivera last year, was whether or not he will be unanimous.
After Jeter, it gets interesting. Let’s examine a few others a little more closely.
Larry Walker
Walker has been a big mover in recent years, improving from 21.9% in 2017 to 34.1% in 2018, and then taking another big step up to 54.6% in 2019. He’s currently polling at an impressive 86%. But will he be able to end up with 75% or more?
 
This is Walker’s 10th and final year on the BBWAA ballot, and that often results in a nice bump in support. The key is that he received 232 votes last year (out of 425). In other words, 193 voters did not select him last year. If the same number of votes are cast this year (it’s never exactly the same group of voters from year to year, but let’s assume), that means he would to flip 87 votes of the 193 (about 45%) from "no" to "yes". 
How’s he doing so far in that regard? Well, there are 42 ballots that are not "anonymous" in the tracker (meaning that we know the writer’s name and who that person voted for last year). 36 of the 42 have voted for Walker this year. 30 voted or him last time, and he has gained votes from 6 of the other 12.
So, in one respect, that’s a good sign for Walker. He needs to flip 45%, and so far, at least among the public voters, he’s flipped 50%. But, what we don’t know is a) whether or not that’s likely to hold up over the rest of the public ballots, and b) whether or not he’s likely to flip as high a % of the private voters. Last year, private voters only supported Walker at a 27.9% rate, way below the nearly 60% he got from public voters last year, so they could still be his undoing.
My gut says Walker’s in for a dramatic ride. 86% looks really good at this point, but don’t be surprised if Walker’s fate comes down to the wire. In our contest, I predicted Walker at 70%, and I now think that’s likely to be a bit low. I think it’s going to be really close. He might squeak in, but if his public support % starts to slide a little, I’d start to worry.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens
Always seems natural to look at them together…..
 
Bonds and Clemens are both currently at 74%, which is higher than they were at this time a year abo (66.7% and 68.9%, respectively), but they really haven’t changed any minds. So far, Bonds has gained 1 vote from a returning voter, but also lost one, while Clemens has lost one without gaining any. The 1 vote they lost was from the same voter, who turned in a 1-person ballot this year, with Jeter as the only name checkmarked.
 
I think Bonds and Clemens are still kind of stuck in neutral at this point, and I still think there (as I did a year ago) that there is a connection, at least in part, to Joe Morgan’s letter to the writers last year where he encouraged them to not vote for alleged steroid users. 
 
So, even though they’re close to the 75% threshold at the moment, I would 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.
 
Curt Schilling
Schilling, in his 8th turn on the ballot, is at 81.4%, up about 8 points vs. where he was in the early polling a year ago. He has lost one vote of support (again, from the same voter who dropped Clemens and Bonds), but he has picked up 4 new votes from returning voters, so he has a net gain of +3. It’s possible that the strong feelings about Schilling’s social media statements and his viewpoints may be growing less intense as time goes by, and voters are more inclined to vote for him now. 
 
Schilling received 259 votes last year (60.9%). He needs to flip around 60 voters this year from "no" to "yes". Similar to Walker, Schilling has a pretty strong public vs. private differential – last year he received about 65% support from the public voters, but only 41% from the private. Not quite as sharp a contrast as Walker’s, but still significant. 
 
In the final tally, I think Schilling is likely to finish over 70% of the total vote, but I think he’ll end up a little shy of 75% this time around. I think he will probably end up being elected in 2021 as the strongest returning candidate. 
 
Since I mentioned the 2021 election, a quick side-note: the top newly eligible players on the 2021 ballot are Mark Buehrle, A.J. Burnett, Michael Cuddyer, Dan Haren, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter, Adam Laroche, Aramis Ramírez, Alex Ríos, Nick Swisher, Dan Uggla, Shane Victorino, Barry Zito. That is certainly one "Uggla" group, and probably bodes well for the top returning candidates from 2020 to pick up some additional support. I don’t see any of those new candidates getting many votes.. 
 
Omar Vizquel
Vizquel was one of the surprises and biggest stories of the last couple of ballots. In early 2018 voting he was over 50% before settling in at 37% in the final tally, and last year he bumped up to 42.8%. He polls about as well on private ballots as he does on public ones – last year there was only a 2% differential. 
 
Vizquel is currently over 51%, but he could be flatlining a little. He has only flipped one returning voter and has also lost one (yes, the same guy who dropped Clemens, Bonds, and Schilling on his Jeter-only ballot). So, I think Vizquel is probably likely to stay in the 40’s this time around, maybe the high 40’s. He’s starting to remind me a lot of Lee Smith, and I think he’s likely to stay in the 40-50% range for a while, as he’s a very polarizing candidate, and I’m not sure either camp is likely to yield much ground. We should have the pleasure of several more years ahead of us to debate the pros and cons of his candidacy.
 
Manny Ramirez
 
FascinatingBFascinating…... 
 
After 3 straight years finishing between 22-24%, and after polling at 22% in the early voting at this time last year, Manny is currently polling at 44%, and he’s flipped 6 "no" votes to "yes" at this point, about a 20% conversion rate. If he flips 20% of last year’s overall "no" votes, he could be looking at a final result somewhere in the upper 30’s.
 
Are voters starting to soften their stance on Manny? It appears so. Obviously a long way to go, and I’m sure many voters will never vote for him, but this looks to be a year where Manny takes a step up. Although, another way to look at it is, even if Manny ends up in the upper 30’s in this, his 4th season on the ballot, that’s about the support level at which Bonds and Clemens debuted. It’s hard for me to envision Manny gaining enough writer support to get in on the BBWAA ballot.
 
Todd Helton
 
Helton came out of the gate strong last year in early polling with 31% at this time a year ago, but faded as the results came in and only ended up at 16.5%.   This year he has another solid start at about 35%, but the difference is that Helton is +8 at the moment among returning voters, having already flipped 10 returning voters from "no" to "yes" (although he’s also lost a couple of supporters from last year). He’s currently tied with Scott Rolen for having flipped the most "no" votes to "yes". So, this time I think the early results might hold up, and I think Helton is likely to end up around 30%.
 
I can see Helton as the type who could gain momentum over time….his rWAR is above 60, he has good "traditional" stats, and I think Walker’s progress in recent years is eroding some of the potential anti-Coors Field sentiment that’s out there. He should have an interesting ride on the ballot in the coming years, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him get in on a future ballot. I thin there could be some upcoming future ballots where he will be considered one of the stronger candidates, and that always helps.
 
Scott Rolen
 
For many, Rolen had a bit of a disappointing debut on the ballot in 2018. I think a lot of people saw the 70 rWAR, the 8 Gold Gloves, the top-10 JAWS ranking, and assumed he would make a strong dent on the ballot. It didn’t turn out that way. He ended up with only 10% of the vote (12% public, only 5% private). In 2019, Rolen took a step forward, finishing at 17.2%.
 
This year, he should see another upward tick, and he’s off to a good start, polling at just under 40%. As mentioned in the Helton comment, Rolen has flipped 10 "no" votes to "yes" so far. Of the voters in the tracker so far, 36 of 42 voted against him last year, but 10 of those 36 have flipped to "yes" (about 24%). 
 
In his 2 years on the ballot, Rolen has had about a 7-10 point differential in public vs. private votes. If he can end up flipping about 20% of the overall "no" votes from last year, he should end up in the mid-30’s, and (like Helton), that could give him something to start working from in future ballots.
 
Andy Pettitte
 
Pettitte is one of those players who, if his first year was any indication, actually polls a little better among private voters. He got almost 15% of the private vote last time vs. only about 9% of the public vote, finishing overall with 9.9%. 
 
Pettitte is currently at about 16%, and has picked up a net +2 from returning voters. A finish in the mid-teens seems about right.
 
As to the others? Kent, Wagner, Sheffield, and Andrew Jones are all doing 14-21 points better than at this point last year, and they’ve all flipped between 4 and 9 "no" votes to "yes" votes. They’re all apparently benefitting from having a ballot that isn’t nearly as loaded as it’s been in prior years. Gains of 10-15 points in their vote totals seem within reach and that would put them generally from the high teens to the high 20’s, with Kent likely to finish the highest of that foursome, then Wagner, then Sheffield, then Jones.
 
Thanks for reading,
 
Dan
 
 

COMMENTS (14 Comments, most recent shown first)

MWeddell
Scott Rolen is making a big jump so far. Over 25% of the ballots are now reported in the tracker.
4:14 PM Dec 30th
 
MarisFan61
Ditto

If they want to give 0 to all the rest of the slots, why not.
1:38 AM Dec 28th
 
steve161
If a voter thinks only one candidate belongs in the Hall, why shouldn't he be able to express that by voting only for the candidate?

I've actually never understood the logic behind requiring all ten ballot positions to be occupied when voting for MVP or the GOR. If I don't think a player merits consideration for either honor, why should I award him points?
1:44 PM Dec 27th
 
RandomSports
How is there a writer handing in a ballot of JUST Derek Jeter? I mean literally- How is this person allowed to write about baseball for gainful employment AND have a HOF vote?
7:13 PM Dec 25th
 
shthar
Isn't Earl Bloom retired?

He may not be represetative of a large majority of BBWA members.




2:33 PM Dec 24th
 
MarisFan61
It's an interesting point, in any event -- one which I (for one) hadn't considered.

What with social media, I know that people do all kinds of things to get tweets, re-tweets, "Likes," and just "clicks."

I never considered that BBWAA members' voting might be geared to that -- and at least for some, if not many, it could be.

Silly me -- I always assumed the ballots are sincere. :-)

12:33 PM Dec 24th
 
MWeddell
If at least 84% of the Hall of Fame voters make their ballots public, I think it's an overly broad generalization to say that such a large majority are all doing it to get more tweets. For example, Earl Bloom, who I cited earlier, hasn't tweeted since 2013, so he's clearly not motivated by generating traffic on Twitter.
8:50 AM Dec 24th
 
shthar
These public ballots are not from people voting on who they think should be in the hall of fame.

It's people voting for who they think will get them the most tweets.


8:32 PM Dec 23rd
 
MarisFan61
That "etc" is problematic. In any event, far from everybody sees that whole group as an "etc."
8:10 PM Dec 23rd
 
Manushfan
I like Billy Wags, and Larry Walker to me is Fred McGriff---both guys are going in via the Vets Committee at the very least. You know that and so does everyone else.

I also wish they'd just hold their noses and put in Bonds, Clemens, Manny, Sheffield, Sosa, etc. Yes they were horrible roiders. They were allowed to play and were well paid and never ever tested (well okay Manny), seems to me that like it or not the Hall not having these guys in is hurting itself.
4:25 PM Dec 23rd
 
MWeddell
Earl Bloom, a retired writer from the Orange County Register, voted for Manny Ramirez but not for Bonds & Clemens. It's not the first time that he's done that. Using Google searches, I didn't find any explanation ever on his reasoning (he's retired, as I said, and so doesn't write). So far he's the only one with that combination of votes.

At least give him credit for making his ballot public.
11:43 AM Dec 23rd
 
ventboys
It's still pretty early, so we'll see, Maris. But that "leap" — while it looks impressive on the surface — mostly just reflects the common leap most of the guys seem to be getting this year. I might liken it to a guy rising 20 feet in an elevator as opposed to climbing two flights of stairs. Seen without context, we might think the man made a two-floor leap. But the elevator did the heavy lifting.

I grant you that the same logic could be used on Wagner. I think there is a difference between a 20-point jump from the 20s and a 20-point jump from single digits, but you may feel differently.

Of course, 43 ballots are still a small sample. If Wagner settles in at 15 and Manny holds his 44, I might flip sides on who is having the best year.
10:20 AM Dec 23rd
 
MarisFan61
Vent: These results so far are actually encouraging about Manny -- because he's pulling significantly more support than before.

It may be in large part related to the weak overall ballot, and I wouldn't necessarily look for such an apparent leap to foretell further leaps or even sustaining at this level -- except that next year's new crop will be (I'd say) even worse. But, when a strong new crop comes in with new candidates crowding the ballot, I'd look for Manny to drop some from whatever number he had reached.
9:29 PM Dec 22nd
 
ventboys
Billy Wagner's leap fits my narrative; with Lee Smith and Trevor Hoffman in, the competition for his niche is almost non-existent among BBWAA candidates.

The lack of enthusiasm for Manny can't be good news for ARod, or (down the road) for any of the players who were officially caught juicing. Ryan Braun can probably go ahead and book his summer vacations ahead of time.
11:12 AM Dec 22nd
 
 
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