The official Hall of Fame ballot was released Monday, with 15 new names to consider, along with 17 holdovers. I’m guessing I’ll be writing more Hall of Fame stuff in the next two months, but let’s take a quick look at the ballot, starting with the new additions.
Ken Griffey Jr.: An obvious first-ballot choice with 630 career home runs (sixth all time), 1,836 RBIs (15th) and 10 Gold Glove awards. The second half of his career after leaving Seattle was a disappointment, but most still consider him an inner-circle Hall of Famer.
Jim Edmonds: One of my favorites. His career bWAR of 60.3 puts him right on that Hall of Fame line. At his peak, he was one of the best center fielders of all time, with power, walks and Gold Glove defense. But almost all of his career value is tied up into those 10 peak seasons, leaving him short on the counting stats voters usually prefer: 393 home runs, 1,193 RBIs. Like Bernie Williams, he may be headed to an early boot off the ballot when he deserves strong consideration.
Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner: Twitter is already engaging in a “Who was better?” fight between the two relievers, but the answer is clear: Hoffman. Or Wagner. OK, here’s what I mean. Wagner was certainly more dominant, with a 2.31 ERA compared to Hoffman’s 2.87. Wagner held batters to a .187/.262/.296 line while averaging 11.9 K’s per nine; Hoffman held batters to a .211/.267/.342 line with 9.4 K’s per nine. But Hoffman is clearly the more likely Hall of Fame candidate, based on his 601 career saves (second to Mariano Rivera) compared to Wagner’s 422.
One thing the two have in common: They stunk in big games. Wagner had a 10.03 ERA in 14 career postseason appearances. Hoffman blew two of his six career postseason save opportunities, lost another game, and also blew a save in that tiebreaker loss against the Rockies in 2006.
Anyway, if you like closers, both are strong candidates, and I project that Hoffman comes very close to election. Personally, I can’t consider either one until Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina, two deserving starters, are elected.
Troy Glaus: In 2000, Glaus hit .284, led the AL with 47 home runs, knocked in 102 runs and scored 120. In other words, kind of what Josh Donaldson did this year. He didn’t receive a single point in the MVP voting. Times, they have changed.
Jason Kendall: A terrific player his first nine seasons, hitting .306/.387/.418 while averaging 139 games per season, an amazing workload for a catcher. A potential Hall of Famer at that point, but his bat dried up in his 30s.
Other newcomers (listed in terms of career WAR): Mike Hampton, Luis Castillo, Randy Winn, Garret Anderson, Mike Lowell, Mark Grudzielanek, Mike Sweeney, David Eckstein, Brad Ausmus. By the way, Wagner and Hoffman slot between Lowell and Grudzielanek.
Mike Piazza: He received 69.9 percent of the votes last year, a 7.7 percentage-point increase from the year before. If he receives that kind of bump again, he gets up to the 75 percent threshold. Considering the BBWAA elected seven players on the past two ballots and Griffey is the only sure newcomer this year, that seems to clear some space for Piazza that may not have been there the past two years. I say he gets in.
Jeff Bagwell: This is a big year for Bagwell, his sixth on the ballot (remember, players are now allocated just 10 years to get in instead of 15). He’s at 55.7 percent, so he needs a big boost. The thinning of the ballot could help, and if Piazza gets elected maybe that helps clear the way for the “rumored but no evidence” PED players. By established Hall standards, he’s way overqualified for election.
Tim Raines: He has two years left, and he’s at 55 percent. Raines needs a big, big leap. I think he’s a strong candidate — if not the obvious lock that many claim he is (he had maybe six great seasons and a whole bunch of good ones) — but it looks like the BBWAA isn’t going to elect him.
Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina: I’ve been surprised by their lack of support, especially Schilling’s when you consider his postseason record. Schilling was at 39.2 percent last year, Mussina just 24.6 percent. Both are easily qualified by Hall of Fame standards.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens: On no path to election as both received less than 40 percent of the vote and the “no” voters have shown no willingness to budge.
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa: Barely hanging on the ballot. This is McGwire’s final year on the ballot as it is, then he gets bumped over to Some Veterans Committee of the Future and that will create a whole new round of arguments.
Lee Smith: A weird case. Received 42 percent of the vote his first year on the ballot — many Hall of Famers started lower — but never climbed much higher. He did get 50 percent in 2012 but then plummeted to 29 and 30 percent the two past years, pushed off by those deep ballots. And now he’s hurt by Hoffman and Wagner, who have lower ERAs (Smith had a 3.03 ERA and 478 saves, the most when he retired) and more dominant seasons. Smith has two years left and won’t get in via the BBWAA, but will probably be a strong Veterans Committee candidate down the road.
Alan Trammell: The quick election of Barry Larkin compared to the lack of support for Trammell has never made sense. This is his final year. Some Veterans Committee of the Future will eventually elect him.
Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker: Strong cases, abbreviated careers, not trending upward. Martinez was at 27 percent last year, Walker just 11.8 percent.
Jeff Kent: Of all these guys at the bottom, I think Kent is the one who could get a big boost this year. He’s been on for two years and received 15 and 14 percent, but now that the ballot has thinned out, maybe voters will look at him in a new light. He’s the all-time leader for home runs by a second baseman, won an MVP award, and drove in 100 runs eight times and over 1,500 in his career. His career WAR of 55.2, however, is a little below that 60 WAR line that seems to separate the strong candidates.
Fred McGriff: Polling at 12.9 percent. What if he’d finished with 503 home runs instead of 493? His career WAR of 52.4 is a little low.
Gary Sheffield: Have voters dismissed him because of the numbers (which are strong on the offensive side, with 509 home runs and over 1,600 runs and RBIs), the crowded ballot or the Mitchell report mention?
Nomar Garciaparra: For a few seasons there, one of the best shortstops ever.
So, my prediction: Griffey and Piazza get in, while Hoffman polls around 70 percent. The key guys to watch for, in terms of bumps that could get them on a Hall of Fame track, are Bagwell, Schilling and Kent.