Tracking the Hall of Fame Tracker (2021 Version)

December 27, 2020
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 2021 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
2020
397
334
84.1%
63
15.9%
6.6
6.8
5.5
+23.6%
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) has been about 100 voters lower than it had been previously, and in 2020 it dropped even further, all the way down to 397.
  • 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 84.1%, the highest mark ever, although it was only slightly higher than in 2019, so it might be plateauing. 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 had essentially had 6 straight years where that figure has been 8 or higher (2016 was just under that figure, at 7.94). However, in 2020 it dropped off by 18%, from 8.0 to 6.6 as the ballot was not nearly as "loaded" as it had been previously.
  • 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. 
·         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. The last couple of years, public voters included about 23% more players per ballot than private voters.

That last point 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 generally poll about 20 points higher among public voters vs. private voters. Curt Schilling is another who typically has at least a 20 point differential. Last year, Scott Rolen joined the ranks of those who displayed huge public/private splits, as he polled almost 29 points higher among public voters (39.8% of public, just 11.1% of private), where as in 2019 his split was only about 10 points.

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 for years was that more and more voters had been using the full 10 slots, although last year that also dropped considerably. 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%, and then last year it was cut in half, down to 23%. 
In addition, on the BBWAA web site, they reported that only 20.5% of the 397 ballots returned last year used all 10 slots. This marked a decrease from 42.8% of the total 425 ballots cast in 2019, which had also been a drop from the previous year (50% in 2018).
Here is the distribution by the number of candidates selected among the public ballots the last 2 years. There were a higher % of voters using 1 to 8 slots, but both 9 and 10 player ballots dropped off.
Ballot Type
2020
2019
2020 Pct.
2019 Pct.
10-Player Ballots
78
168
23.4%
47.1%
9-Player Ballots
32
47
9.6%
13.2%
8-Player Ballots
42
42
12.6%
11.8%
7-Player Ballots
39
20
11.7%
5.6%
6-Player Ballots
34
28
10.2%
7.8%
5-Player Ballots
30
23
9.0%
6.4%
4-Player Ballots
39
12
11.7%
3.4%
3-Player Ballots
19
7
5.7%
2.0%
2-Player Ballots
10
6
3.0%
1.7%
1-Player Ballots
11
4
3.3%
1.1%
Blank Ballots
0
0
0.0%
0.0%
Totals
334
357
100.0%
100.0%
 
2021 Results So Far
OK. Enough history. How are the early 2021 results looking? Please note that the figures I used in writing this article were current as of December 25, 2020, 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), 4 in 2019 (Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina) and 2 in 2020 (Derek Jeter, Larry Walker). That’s a lot of inducting. 
In 2021, we have a relatively weak rookie class of candidates. The only rookie candidates to receive any votes to date are Mark Buehrle, Torii Hunter, Tim Hudson, and Aramis Ramirez. Buehrle has the most support so far out of that group, but it's only about 8% (Hunter's at 6%, Hudson's at 5%, and Ramirez is at 2%). There's a good possibility that, once all of the ballots are tallied, that none of the 2021 rookie class will survive the 5% minimum threshold required to return to the ballot next year. By the way, next year's class does have some stronger candidates, headed up by David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez
As I write this (on December 25), 65 public and anonymous ballots have been tracked, which (per the tracker) is about 16.4% of the total 396 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).   There are more votes in than there were at a comparable time last year (there were 43 a year ago when I did this similar exercise.
At this point, the public votes are coming in with an average of 6.32 names per ballot. At the comparable date last year, the public ballots were coming in with an average of 7.35 names selected before settling in at 6.8 (for just the public votes). The year before, 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). So, in 2018 and 2019, there was about a 4% deterioration from the early results to the final results among the public vote average ballot, and in 2020 it was closer to 7%. 
If we use information, let's assume that the # of names per ballot on the public votes might drop about 5% by the time that they’re all tallied. That would imply that the public votes might end up at around 6.0 per ballot. I think that also implies that the overall average of names per ballot is likely to be lower than 6.0, as the private voters have tended to be stingier with their selections. We are very likely to see our lightest average ballot result since 2012 (when the average was 5.0 names per ballot).
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 (so I'm not showing any of the new candidates). Not their final vote %’s – but just where they were at this point in last year's tracker. 
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, which means that the voters who have published their ballots to this point are not necessarily the same ones who would have done so at this point last year (some are the same, some aren't), so that can distort the comparisons. The "gained/lost" is specific to voters who were in both years' data at this point. The "% of ballots to date" contains all known ballots at this time in both years.
Note that I am not including any first-year candidates in the table because there's nothing to compare them to for last year. Also, there's nobody among the first-year candidates that is generating any strong support, so I decided there wasn't any strong reason to include them.
 
Player
2021 % of Ballots To Date
2020 % of Ballots at this Same Time
Difference (pct pts)
2020 Final Vote %
Gained Votes from Returning Voters
Lost Votes from Returning Voters
Net +/- Among Returning Voters
Curt Schilling
73.8%
81.4%
(7.6)
70.0%
1
-2
-1
Barry Bonds
69.2%
74.4%
(5.2)
60.7%
1
-1
0
Roger Clemens
69.2%
74.4%
(5.2)
61.0%
1
-2
-1
Scott Rolen
56.9%
39.5%
17.4
35.3%
11
-2
9
Todd Helton
50.8%
34.9%
15.9
29.2%
12
0
12
Billy Wagner
44.6%
27.9%
16.7
31.7%
9
0
9
Omar Vizquel
43.1%
51.2%
(8.1)
52.6%
5
-2
3
Manny Ramirez
43.1%
44.2%
(1.1)
28.2%
4
-1
3
Gary Sheffield
41.5%
25.6%
15.9
30.5%
6
0
6
Andruw Jones
38.5%
20.9%
17.6
19.4%
7
0
7
Sammy Sosa
23.1%
18.6%
4.5
13.9%
2
-2
0
Andy Pettitte
21.5%
16.3%
5.2
11.3%
4
0
4
Jeff Kent
20.0%
32.6%
(12.6)
27.5%
0
-1
-1
Bobby Abreu
16.9%
7.0%
9.9
5.5%
3
0
3
 
 So, at this point, if the 2021 percentages held up, no one would be elected this year. Here some additional observations on the above candidates: 
Curt Schilling
 
Schilling, in his 9th turn on the ballot, is at 73.8%, which is actually down about 8 points vs. where he was in the early polling a year ago, and about even with where he was in the early polling two years ago. So far, he's picked up one vote from a returning voter who didn't vote for him last time, but has lost 2, which is kind of unusual for someone who has been on the ballot so many times and is so close to being elected. Normally, you wouldn't see supporters bailing on a relatively strong candidate this late in their turn on the ballot. But then again, Schilling's not your normal candidate.
 
Schlling missed election last year by 20 votes. He needs to start flipping some additional voters' minds if he's going to make it this year. Schilling has a pretty strong public vs. private differential – last year he received about 74% support from the public and anonymous voters, but only 51% from the private. 
 
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens
 
Always seems natural to look at them together…..
 
Bonds and Clemens are both currently at 69.2%, which is lower than they were at this time a year ago 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 two and gained one.
 
I think Bonds and Clemens, who are both in their 9th year on the ballot, are still kind of stuck in neutral at this point. So, even though they’re not too far off of 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. Next year will be their final year on the BBWAA ballot, which sometimes results in a last-year "bump" for many players, but these 2 are special cases, and I'm not sure they'll experience that. For 2021, they seem destined to finish low-to-mid 60's.
 
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%. Last year, he roughly doubled that to 35.3%
 
This year, his 4th on the ballot, he appears to be taking another upward tick, and he’s off to a good start, polling at just under 57%. Rolen has flipped 11 "no" votes to "yes" so far, although he's also lost a couple.  In 2020, Rolen had the highest public vs. private differential, polling 29 points higher among public voters (40% vs. 11%), so it will be interesting to see how that plays out this time. Still, he's making good progress.
 
Todd Helton
 
Helton is having some very positive results. He's about 16 points ahead of where he was at this time last year, and he's flipped 12 "no" votes to "yes" votes without losing any, which is the most that any player has flipped at this point. Helton did poll about 14 points stronger on public ballots vs. private ballots last time, so I'm guessing he will drop below 50% by the end, but it's been a good showing for Helton, who's only in his 3rd year on the ballot.
 
I mentioned a year ago that I can see Helton as the type who should gain momentum over time….his rWAR is above 60, he has good "traditional" stats, and I think Walker’s induction helped erode some of the anti-Coors Field sentiment that’s out there. Helton 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. There should be some upcoming future ballots where he will be considered one of the elite candidates, and that always helps.
 
Billy Wagner
 
A good trend for Wagner, who's now on his 6th ballot. Wagner was in the "teens" in his first 4 tries, but took a step up to about 32% last year, and appears ready for another increase this year. Wagner has flipped 9 voters from "no" to "yes" already. Wagner's public/private differential isn't huge (about 9 points more from public voters last year), so it wouldn't be surprising to see Wagner end up around 40% or so.
 
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. In 2019, he bumped up to 42.8%, and in 2020 kicked it up another notch to 52.6%. He polls almost equally as well on private ballots as he does on public ones (about 52 to 53% in each group).
 
Vizquel is currently at 43% which is down about 8 points at this point, but that's deceptive, as he's actually netted +3 votes among returning voters so far (gained 5, lost 2), so his temporary decrease in overall % is surely related to the exact mix of voters who have gone public so far. His % should start increasing, and he seems likely to end up above last year's final vote %.
 
Manny Ramirez
 
Manny's about where he was at this point a year ago, but he's actually picked up some support among returning voters to date (gained 4, lost 1, for a net +3). Manny is certainly a polarizing figure, and given his connection to PED's, he seems likely to stay in no man's land. He's got enough support that he's not likely to be in danger of falling off the ballot, but it's also difficult to imagine him ever getting real close to the 75% mark either. 
 
 
Gary Sheffield
 
Solid showing for Sheffield so far on his 7th ballot. He has flipped 6 votes from "no" to "yes". Last year, Sheffield had about a 14 point differential in public vs. private. He seems destined for upper 30's, but he's starting to run out of time. Although, Larry Walker's late surge (he was only at 34% after his 8th ballot) is what optimistic candidates will point to for many years to come. It can be done, but he's got to start getting busy.
 
Andruw Jones
 
Jones is on his 4th ballot, and is making some good strides as well. In his first 2 years on the ballot, he polled between 7 and 8 percent of the vote. Last year, he got close to 20%, and now he's taking another step forward. He currently is at 38.5% of the vote, and he's flipped 7 "no" votes" to "yes".
 
In his brief history on the ballot, Jones has not show much public vs. private differential, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him stay up in the mid 30's.
 
 
Sammy Sosa
 
The Sammy Sosa ride is almost over. The train's getting ready to pull into the station, it was a long, boring ride, but it's almost done.
 
Sosa is in his 9th year on the ballot. He debuted at 12.5% way back in 2013, then dipped down into single-digit support for 6 years, finally making it back into double-digits in 2020 at 13.9%.
 
Sosa is currently at 23.1%, up about 5 points from where he was at this point a year ago. He's flipped a couple of "no" votes to "yes", but he has also lost a couple, so he's basically treading water. He'll have one more year on the ballot, and then it'll be up to a Veteran's committee to ponder his future consideration.
 
Andy Pettitte
 
Pettitte is one of those "reverse" candidates who actually polls a little better among private voters. In his first year (2019), he got almost 15% of the private vote vs. only about 9% of the public vote, finishing overall with 9.9%. In 2020, he nudged those up to 17.5% and 10.2%, respectively, finishing at 11.3% overall.
 
Pettitte is doing a little better this time, as he's about 5 points ahead of last year's results at the same point in time, and he has flipped 4 "no" votes to a "yes" vote. But, he's got a long way to go.
 
Jeff Kent
 
Kent is another candidate who appears to be treading water. He hasn't flipped any returning voters, and he's lost one voter who supported him last time.
 
Kent's first 6 years on the ballot were pretty similar results - basically between 14-18% support before getting a bit of a boost in 2020 to 27.5%. In 2020, Kent was in a block (high 20%'s to low 30%'s) with Wagner, Sheffield, Helton, and Ramirez, but where as those 4 have all had gains, Kent looks like he could be stalling in his 8th year on the ballot. He's quickly running out of time.
 
Bobby Abreu
 
Abreu barely stayed on the ballot after his soft 5.5% debut in 2020, but he is picking up some additional support. He's currently around 17%, so he looks safe for another year.
 
Abreu could be an interesting one to watch. A couple of years ago I wrote an article on a methodology I came up with called Hall of Fame Metric Similarity Scores. The premise was to take several familiar Hall of Fame metrics (Hall of Fame Monitor, Hall of Fame Career Standards, Black Ink, and Test Gray Ink Test) to come up with a Similarity Score type of number to see how different candidates would compare to each other. 
 
Abreu had some interesting comps according to that methodology. His top 3 were old-timers (George Davis, Bill Dahlen, and Joe Kelley, with Davis and Kelley being Hall of Famers while Dahlen is often cited as one of the more overlooked early era players). However, since they played so long ago, they really aren't great comps on something like this. 
 
Abreu's next 3 comps are probably a little more relevant - Johnny Damon, Luis Gonzalez, and Fred McGriff. Damon is an interesting comp (Damon and Abreu are also #9 on each other's regular Similarity Score listing), although I think Abreu was a better player and Hall of Fame candidate, and he has managed to remain on the ballot while Damon dropped off after one year (he only got about 2% support). Basically, Abreu and his comp group exhibited:
 
·         OK but not great Hall of Fame Monitor scores (mostly in the 90's, with Abreu at 95)
·         Pretty good Hall of Fame Standards scores (mostly high 40's to low 50's, with Abreu at 54)
·         Not much Black Ink or even Gray Ink (Abreu's scores are 5 and 88, respectively, which are pretty low).
 
Here was my assessment of Abreu when I wrote that article in early 2018:
 
Abreu is just under 60.0 in career rWAR, and is 20th in the JAWS right field rankings. He was a very good all-around player, but he seemed to go through his career without a lot of fanfare or attention. I would anticipate that he won’t make much of an impact on the Hall of Fame ballot. 
 
I still stand by that. Abreu has flipped 3 votes so far, so he's at least going in the right direction. He has some similarities to Rolen, his one-time team mate in Philadelphia. Rolen debuted pretty low (10%) but has picked up a lot of momentum. Will Abreu be able to start gaining some serious traction? 
 
Abreu has a long way to go, and he doesn't strike me as the kind of candidate that resonates well with a lot of the voters. He was a very good player, and about as consistent as you'll see, but I believe there was a certain lack of "sizzle", for lack of a better word, in his career. The Phillies never made the postseason during his prime, and then they had their best years almost immediately after he left. That's not his fault, but he did miss out on their glory days.
 
Abreu only made a couple of All Star teams, and didn't do well in MVP voting. He's just a little under some significant milestones like 2,500 hits (2,470), .300 batting average (.291), and a .400 OBP (.395). That's typical of Abreu - the numbers are really good, but they seem to be shy of things that grab attention, and, whether you agree with that or not, that seems to hurt a candidate when it comes to something like support for the Hall of Fame.
 
 
Thanks for reading,
 
Dan 
 
 

COMMENTS (2 Comments, most recent shown first)

DaveNJnews
I figure with Bonds and Clemens, the writers all know where they stand on them and most of them are likely to have dug into their positions. Of course, the voters change year-to-year (some additions, some subtractions), so there can be some shifts. I am wondering if this will continue to hold true next year, their last year.
5:51 PM Dec 27th
 
evanecurb
We need more guys to vote!
11:46 AM Dec 27th
 
 
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