Today we learned that the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) has elected four new members to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. On MLB Network, the Hall’s President Jeff Idelson announced that, on July 29th, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman will all be honored in Cooperstown, New York, as their Hall of Fame plaques are revealed for the first time.
With the December election by the Modern Game Committee of Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, the Hall of Fame will honor six living former players for the first time since 1955. It was 63 years ago that Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Dazzy Vance, Ted Lyons, Ray Schalk, and Home Run Baker all made it into Cooperstown (Schalk and Baker were elected by the Veterans Committee). Other Hall of Fame classes have been bigger, but only the Classes of 1955 and 2018 have featured six living legends who were inducted as players.
Here are the final numbers for the 2018 BBWAA vote:
Chipper Jones, the long-time third baseman for the Atlanta Braves, owns the distinction of being both one of the greatest switch-hitters of all-time but also one of the greatest third sackers in the game’s history. His first-year vote total of 97.2% is tied with the first year total of his already-inducted Braves teammate Greg Maddux, and better than the totals earned by Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.
Chipper’s .529 career slugging percentage is the best ever for a third baseman. As a switch-hitter, only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray hit more home runs; only Murray accumulated more RBI.
Jim Thome was one of the greatest authentic sluggers of the PED (Performance Enhancing Drug) era. His 612 home runs puts him 8th on the all-time list, 6th best among those not linked to PEDs. For players with a minimum of 5,000 career plate appearances, Thome’s rate of one HR per 13.76 at bats is behind only Mark McGwire, Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds. Therefore, among PED-free players, Thome is second only to Ruth in his home run rate.
Oh, by the way, Thome also had a .402 career on-base percentage. His 1,747 career walks are the 7th most in the game’s history (behind only Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Ruth, Ted Williams, Joe Morgan, and Carl Yastrzemski).
Vladimir Guerrero, a consistent offensive force for the Montreal Expos and Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels, is the first position player from the Dominican Republic to be elected into the Hall. Guerrero barely missed the Hall of Fame in his first try in 2017, falling 15 votes shy of being a first-ballot selection. Today he set an all-time record for a 2nd year vote total with 92.9%. The previous second-year high belonged to Roberto Alomar, who zoomed from 73.7% in 2010 to 90.0% in 2011.
Because he was one of the greatest bad-ball hitters of all-time, Guerrero was impossible to pitch around. For this reason and the fear he inspired in opposing teams, he was walked intentionally 250 times. Only Bonds, Albert Pujols, Hank Aaron and Willie McCovey were given more free passes in their careers.
And, there’s this famous stat: he is the only player born in the last 97 years to combine a high batting average (.318) with heavy power (at least 449 home runs). The only other players to accomplish this were from a different generation. The names? Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Williams, Jimmie Foxx and Stan Musial.
Trevor Hoffman, the long-time closer for the San Diego Padres, barely missed the Hall of Fame last year, falling just 5 votes shy of the minimum 75% threshold. Hoffman, a change-up specialist, saved 601 games over 18 MLB seasons; only the great Mariano Rivera saved more. When Hoffman entered games at his home parks in San Diego to AC-DC’s “Hells Bells,” you could expect that the game was likely going to result in a win for the Padres.
Despite the knock on modern closers for being just one-inning specialists, Hoffman was remarkably effective when entering games with runners on base. He saved 115 of 129 games (89%) when entering with runners on base, allowing only 20% of inherited runners to score. Both numbers are superior to Rivera’s and all of the closers already enshrined in Cooperstown.
Another Four-Person Class
This is the second four-person class inducted by the writers in the last four years. In 2015, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Smoltz and Craig Biggio all got the Hall call. In the institution’s history, only five Hall of Fame classes contained four or more players inducted by the writers.
For the second year in a row, nine players earned at least 50% of the vote. The only other time that 9 players received a majority of the votes was in 1947. This was the year that Hubbell, Frisch, Cochrane, and Grove were inducted into the Hall. Pie Traynor, Charlie Gehringer, Rabbit Maranville, Dizzy Dean and Herb Pennock also got over 50% of the overall vote that year. All five were, by 1954, eventually inducted into Cooperstown by the BBWAA.
After pitching a shutout in 2013, the writers have elected a whopping 16 players in the past 5 years.
The 2013 ballot had one of the greatest ever first-year classes (Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling and Kenny Lofton) but nobody made the cut and Lofton didn’t even get the 5% needed to remain on future ballots. Since then, Piazza and Biggio have made it into Cooperstown while Bonds, Clemens and Schilling are still waiting.
Since then, the 16 players elected by the writers represents by far the biggest number for five years in the history of the Hall of Fame voting.
Besides the four inductees, the biggest winner in today’s results was Edgar Martinez. The long-time designated hitter for the Seattle Mariners has made an incredible ascent in the vote during the last four voting cycles: he got 27.0% in 2015, 43.4% in 2016, 58.6% in 2017 and now 70.4% in 2018. Next year will be Edgar’s final year on the ballot. If history is a guide, the writers will push him over the finish line and Martinez will have his Cooperstown plaque in 2019.
It was also a good day for Mike Mussina, who made the jump from 51.8% in 2017 to 63.5% in 2018. He has an outside chance to join Martinez and first-ballot candidates Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay in the Hall of Fame Class of 2019. If not, he’s very likely to make it in 2020, where he would enter the Hall with his Yankees’ teammate Derek Jeter.
Today’s result was not good news for Bonds and Clemens. After two consecutive voting cycles in which they started creeping up towards 75%, their momentum stalled this year.
The gains that Bonds and Clemens received in 2016 were mostly because the Hall created a new rule that BBWAA voters had to have been actively covering the sport at least ten years prior to each year’s vote. Therefore, a lot of older voters were purged from the ranks of the writers voting for the Hall. 2016 was also the year that Piazza was elected to the Hall. Piazza is one of the players who was suspected of PED use but never definitively linked to them.
Next, in 2017, Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell were considered very likely inductees into Cooperstown (and, in fact, they each got more than 75% of the vote). Both players were also suspected of PED use. For this reason, many writers flipped from “no” to “yes” on Bonds and Clemens.
For 2018, there was no vote-changing event and thus Bonds and Clemens have made very modest gains, attributable mostly due to 11 newly eligible voters (Bonds got 10 of those votes, Clemens all 11).
The question is whether there’s anything that will happen in the next four years that will cause large amounts of holdouts to switch their votes to “yes.” Bob Costas, the 2018 Spink Award winner, commented today that he thought that a lot of writers would check their names in their 9th or 10th years of eligibility because the quality of candidates is thinning in the next couple of years. That’s possible but there’s no doubt that today’s result has diminished the chances of Bonds and Clemens ever getting to 75%.
For Schilling, it was a moderate comeback, crossing back over 50% to 51.2%. He’s still behind where he was in 2016, before he started annoying people with his Tweeting habits.
Omar Vizquel, the 11-time Gold Glove Award winning shortstop, debuted with 37% of the vote. On a crowded ballot, that’s a very solid opening total.
Larry Walker was a favorite in Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Tracker, gaining a net 35 new votes from ’17 to ’18. Still his final total of 34.1% is far, far away from 75%. He only has two years on the ballot left and has to more than double his voting support to get over the finish line. More likely, he and Fred McGriff will need to wait for the Eras Committee in 2022.
Among the second-tier first-time eligible players, Scott Rolen and Andruw Jones will live to fight another day on the 2019 ballot but Johan Santana, Jamie Moyer and Johnny Damon will be removed from future ballots, having fallen short of the 5% minimum.
All in all, after the shutout of 2013, the BBWAA members have done a terrific job in clearing the backlog of quality candidates. With four more Hall of Famers elected this year, it will increase the possibility of overlooked candidates to find space on writers’ ballots and give themselves a chance at the game’s ultimate honor.
To Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman, congratulations and welcome to the Hall of Fame!
Thanks for reading.