Last month, we asked you to fill out a Baseball Hall of Fame ballot just like you were a member of the Baseball Writers of America Association. With such informed readers, the results to follow in this article should be an accurate prediction for how the actual BBWAA will vote — and if there are any discrepancies, the baseball writers were wrong, not you.
437 of you submitted ballots, a number that’s nearly perfect. (Last year, there were 440 ballots cast in the real-life induction process.) If these votes actually counted for something, two all-time greats would be enshrined in Cooperstown.
Our readers voted to induct Ivan Rodriguez (80.5 percent of the vote) and Jeff Bagwell (77.8) into the Hall of Fame.
Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez backstopped seven teams over his 21-year career, most notably for the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers. He was a 14-time All-Star, including every year from 1992 through 2001, and was named AL MVP in 1999. Rodriguez was known for his defensive prowess, throwing out nearly half of all would-be base-stealers and earning 13 Gold Gloves, but he also tacked on seven Silver Slugger awards. It’s his first year on the ballot, but he’s a strong candidate to earn Hall of Fame honors right off the bat.
Jeff Bagwell was a rock for the Houston Astros at first base from 1991, when he earned Rookie of the Year honors, to 2005. He was also named NL MVP in 1994, and holds the Astros’ franchise record for home runs, with 449. His career on-base percentage and slugging percentage both rank in the top 40 of all time.
In real life, Bagwell is looking to earn induction to the Hall of Fame for the 7th year. Last year, he earned support from 71.6 percent of voters (a jump of nearly 16 percentage points from 2015) and his strong momentum makes him a good bet to earn the call this year.
Tim Raines falls short
Two players are in danger of falling off the ballot this year: Closer and one-time career saves leader Lee Smith and Expos left fielder Tim Raines. Smith will likely be a non-factor. He earned 34 percent support last year, and just 19 percent of our readers’ votes.
But Raines is another story. He nearly got the call in 2016, racking up 69.8 percent of the vote, a huge boost from the year before. Now he has strong momentum heading into his last year on the ballot.
That didn’t matter to our readers. While he earned his most votes yet in our simulation, he finished with only 71.4 percent support. That was good for the third-most votes , but not enough for Hall of Fame induction. When the real-life results are announced, it will be interesting to see how accurate our readers were on Raines.
Relievers get little support
Trevor Hoffman, one of only two pitchers ever to record 600 saves, was fifth on the 2016 ballot, behind Bagwell, Raines, and inductees Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza. With 67.3 percent of the vote in just his first year on the ballot, he seems like a good bet to make the Hall at some point.
Not if Royals fans are voting. Hoffman fell to 46 percent. Other relievers also failed to garner support. Smith, as mentioned above, dropped to 19 percent, while Billy Wagner inched upwards but still sits at just 12.9 percent in our fan simulation.
For fans of a team that won a championship with not-insignificant contributions from an elite bullpen, these results are a little perplexing. Relievers already have a hard enough time making it to the hall; if they can’t do it in a simulation for Royals fans, it’ll probably be an uphill climb for them in real life.
The impact of PEDs
Royals Review readers appeared to be more lenient towards players suspected of performance-enhancing drug use than the Baseball Writers of America. In our simulation, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens both earned about 20 percentage points more than they did on the real-life 2016 ballot. It wasn’t enough to earn induction, but with 64.8 and 65.2 percent of the vote, respectively, both would probably earn induction eventually were our readers in charge.
Two-thirds of our readers said that PED use had little or no impact on their selections, a number which at first glance appears significant. But 20 percent said that a player’s potential PED use heavily influenced their selections. That leaves a razor-thin margin for the most controversial players, as they’d have to be near-unanimous selections among the remaining 80 percent of voters. If these sentiments are reflected in the Baseball Writers of America, it shows just how steep the climb is for players like Bonds, Clemens, and first-time candidate Manny Ramirez.
Here’s a breakdown of how various age demographics answered the optional question on PEDs:
Did Royals Review readers make the right choices? Argue about it in the comments, then find out how accurate our predictions were when the official results are announced on January 18.