Breaking Down the 2016 Baseball HOF Ballot
With the election of four men to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015, voters partially fixed a problem by reducing a glut of qualified candidates who were stuck on the ballot. Voters can only choose 10 folks on their ballot each year, but some voters have said they would certainly vote for more than 10 if given the option. With Ken Griffey Jr. as the only sure-fire first ballot candidate this year, I expect that other candidates may gain votes that they otherwise would not have received from voters who had to make cuts to create their 10 person list.
Each year, I like to breakdown the entire ballot, starting from the least likely inductees and leading up to the absolute certainties. Here’s my list from 32 to 1 for the 2016 Hall of Fame ballot. Winners will be announced in early January.
- Randy Winn, 1998-2010, 1X All Star. BR Rank: #685
Randy Winn caught fire in 2005 for the San Francisco Giants, hitting .359 after a trade at the deadline from Seattle. But did you recall he was involved in a rarely seen manager-for-player trade in 2002? The Rays traded Winn to Seattle for manager Lou Piniella and a minor leaguer. Add that to his selection as a pick in the expansion draft and Winn had quite the journey of transactions in his career. A solid career but nothing spectacular or HOF worthy.
- Brad Ausmus, 1993-2010, 3X Gold Glove, 1X All Star. BR Rank: #966
Like Winn above him, Ausmus was also an expansion draft selection. Could Ausmus join Trevor Hoffman as the first ever expansion draft HOFers? Unlikely, though his role as current Tigers manager probably helps raise his profile a smidge. As the primary catcher on the Killer B’s Astros teams of the late 90s and 00s, Ausmus was an excellent catcher but not close to a HOF level hitter, as he never had more than 9 HRs or 54 RBIs in a year.
- Mark Grudzielanek, 1995-2010, 1X Gold Glove, 1x All Star. BR Rank: #595
Count me among those who didn’t realize how impressive the career numbers were for Grudz until writing this article. I was ready to put him last on this list until I read that he hit over .300 five times, and hit over .295 for six straight years from 2003-2008. He led the league in doubles with 54 in 1997, and is in the top 200 all-time in singles and doubles. His cumulative career stats are pretty impressive.
- Luis Castillo, 1996-2010, 3X Gold Glove, 3X All Star. BR Rank: #484
Unlikely to make the HOF, but he’s got two rings. One as a part-time roster member of the 1997 champion Marlins, and again as a featured all-star on the 2003 Beckett-led squad. He regularly hit close to .300 in his Marlins years and twice led the league in stolen bases. His defensive stats were also excellent for a second baseman, making him a worthy candidate to appear on the ballot.
- Mike Hampton, 1993-2005, 2008-2010, 1X Gold Glove, 5X Silver Slugger, 2X All Star. 2000 NLCS MVP. BR Rank: #278.
Try not to remember Mike Hampton for his $90 million dollar deal with the Braves that ended up being a dud after Hampton got hurt. Try to recall his epic 1999 season where he went 22-4 with a 2.90 ERA and finished 2nd in Cy Young voting, or in 2001 when he wasn’t a great pitcher but hit 7 HRs. Or, look at the season between those two when he was the NLCS MVP for the Mets and led them to the World Series with two wins. Hampton had a great run for a few years and was legendary as a hitting pitcher. Sadly, his career was cut short due to injury that could have gotten him closer to more serious consideration.
- David Eckstein, 2001-2010, 2X All Star, 2006 World Series MVP. BR Rank: #795
Eckstein is a hero for all the little scrappy baseball players out there, leveraging his grit and aggressiveness to 2 World Series championships, with the Angels in 2002 and the Cardinals in 2006. In his first two years with the Angels, he led the league in both sacrifice bunts and hit-by-pitches. He barely played the minimum number of years required to make the ballot and never dominated, but played important roles on winning teams.
- Mike Sweeney, 1995-2010, 5X All Star. BR Rank: #665.
Mike Sweeney had a solid stroke and spent a few years in the early 2000s as one of the hottest hitters around on some bad Royals teams. He hit .340 in 2002 but never got a batting title. A absolutely solid hitter – I don’t think he gets in, but its not because of the bias against DHs, its just that he didn’t quite have a long enough sustained run of greatness.
- Jason Kendall, 1996-2010, 3X All Star. BR Rank: #261.
One of my personal favorites for his three years with Oakland from 2005-2007, and a guy that personified what it meant to be a catcher. Here’s three of my favorite Kendall plays: the first when he steals home to win a game when the pitcher dropped the ball, another where he saves a wild pitch and dives to win a game, and a third where he dives over the catcher to score. Not surprisingly, Kendall was deemed by one stat to be the best baserunner since 1970. His best years came early in his career when he was a 3-time All Star, but his career stats add up in some key categories that define him: 5th all-time in games caught, 5th in HBPs. Kudos to Kendall on a helluva career.
- Mike Lowell, 1998-2010, 4X All Star, 1x Silver Slugger, 1x Gold Glove, 2007 World Series MVP. BR Rank: #560.
Lowell’s peak was in 2007, when he lead the Red Sox to the World Series and won the MVP after a massive 120 RBI season. Lowell was also a cornerstone of the 2003 Marlins with 30+ homers and 100+ RBIs in that season as well. Lowell was also a star in the field, with the second highest career fielding percentage for a third baseman in the history of baseball.
- Troy Glaus, 1998-2010, 4X All Star, 2x Silver Slugger, 2002 World Series MVP. BR Rank: #431.
The comparison to Lowell was closer than I expected. Both Glaus and Lowell broke in in 1998, had a MVP award and four all-star appearances. Lowell’s defensive numbers were a little better at 3B, but Glaus hit for more consistent power, including leading the league in HRs in 2000 with 47. At 320 HRs for his career, Glaus doesn’t have the career longevity to impress voters for the HOF, but at his best with Anaheim he was an unstoppable force.
- Jim Edmonds, 1993-2010, 4X All Star, 8X Gold Glove, 1X Silver Slugger. BR Rank: #86.
Edmonds’ career rank on Baseball Reference is just ahead of #87 Kenny Lofton, who came nowhere close to HOF induction, and right behind Duke Snider, who was a sure-fire HOFer. So how do we evaluate Edmonds? His defensive stats are superb – I would put him in the top-20 all-time defensive centerfielders but I wouldn’t put him over Griffey so he’s certainly not a once-in-a-generation guy defensively, and his offensive numbers compare unfavorably with plenty of guys who didn’t make it. He’s surprisingly 50th all-time in slugging percentage, but doesn’t jump out in any other career stats. Two seasons where he hit over 40 HRs and four seasons of 100 RBIs are impressive but not HOF worthy. Bonus points for a successful secondary career as a husband of a Real Housewives star.
- Garret Anderson, 1994-2010, 3X All Star, 2x Silver Slugger. BR Rank: #372.
I guess 2010 was the year the Angels of ’02 all had a meeting and decided to hang ‘em up, as this is the third member of that team on this list. Anderson was the longest tenured Angel of that group, which is reflected in 8,640 career ABs that puts him top-100 all time. He’s also top-100 career in hits, RBIs, total bases, extra-base hits, and top-50 in doubles.
- Lee Smith, 1980-1997, 7X All-star, 3X Rolaids Relief. BR Rank: #136 (2015 Ballot: 30.2%)
Our first returning candidate! Smith is in his 14th year on the ballot – last year he inched up from 29.9% to 30.2%. He finished 11th in the voting and has a chance to be around 8th or 9th this year. With less of a glut, I expect more writers to include Smith and see his number jump back closer to 40%, but he is running out of time and it doesn’t look like he’ll gain enough momentum to get in. For those who never saw Smith play, he led his league in saves four times with the Cubs, Cardinals and Orioles, and has the 3rd most saves ever (ahead of Wagner). A seven-time all-star and a career 3.03 ERA is solid stuff,
- Nomar Garciaparra, 1996-2010, 6X All Star, 1997 Rookie of the Year, 2X Batting Champion, 1X Silver Slugger. BR Rank: #243. (2015 Ballot: 5.5%)
Let’s start from the beginning with Nomar – as a rookie in 1997, he led the league in at bats, hits and triples, hit 30 homers and won the Rookie of the Year. He became the king of Boston over the next few years with 190+ hit seasons year in and year out, but was then shockingly traded to Chicago right before the Red Sox won the World Series. Nomar finished his career as a .313 hitter and then married Mia Hamm (bonus points for that). Last year I predicted Nomar would get around 10% and he ended up at 5.5%, just enough to stick around. This year he’s a few notches higher on my ballot and I expect a few people will find room for him enough to hover around 5% and stay around one more year.
- Billy Wagner, 1995-2010, 7X All Star, 1X Rolaids Relief, BR Rank: #120.
Wagner was an absolute flamethrower with very strong career stats, but I think his HOF case will one of comparisons to the other closers on the ballot. I think he compares pretty favorably to Lee Smith, so let’s compare their numbers. Smith is 3rd all-time in saves, Wagner is 5th. Wagner has a career ERA of 2.31 to Smith’s 3.03. Same number of all-star appearances. Smith had limited postseason action, while Wagner was actually terrible in his postseason appearances, particularly the 2006 NLCS. I’ll give the slight edge to Wagner, but the comparisons mean I think Wagner should be getting at least 20-25% of the vote right away and a candidate to be considered for several years.
- Alan Trammell, 1977-1996, 6X All Star, 4X Gold Glove, 3X Silver Slugger. World Series MVP 1984. BR Rank: #45 (2015 Ballot: 25.1%)
Last chance for Alan Trammell! I continue to see Trammell as a borderline HOFer, but I’ve yet to consider him higher than the top 15 on my ballot. I missed watching most of his career, but as a six-time all-star shortstop with four gold gloves and a few silver sluggers, you’ve got to think he’s still going to get votes. I also forget to mention that he was the MVP of the 1984 World Series, so he’s got postseason accolades on his resume as well. His Baseball Reference rank puts him in the class of Dave Winfield or Eddie Murray, but as shortstops go I think he compares well to Barry Larkin, who made it four years ago.
- Sammy Sosa, 1989-2007, 7X All Star, 6x Silver Slugger, NL MVP 1998. BR Rank: #224 (2015 Ballot: 6.6%)
Obviously he’d be higher if not for the steroid scandal that soiled his career. He’s 8th on the career homerun list, and played a legit role in getting fans excited about baseball again with the homerun chase in 1998, but he is at risk of falling off the ballot completely. What’s the difference between him and Bonds or Clemens? I think there’s a feeling among some that Sosa’s mediocre pre-steroid numbers don’t help his case, whereas Bonds and Clemens would have likely been HOFers even if they hadn’t been BALCO customers.
- Fred McGriff, 1986-2004, 5X All Star, 3X Silver Slugger. BR Rank: #99 (2015 Ballot: 12.9%)
The Crime Dog hit 30 homers in 10 different years in the bigs – starting with 34 in 1988 with the ‘Jays and ending with 30 in 2002 with the Cubs. He had a long, successful career, and was consistently great hitter. He won a title with the Braves in 1995 as the most feared power hitter in that lineup. A slight uptick to 12% last year but he’s destined to stay around the same percentages and is unlikely to be inducted.
- Mark McGwire, 1986-2001, 13X all Star, 1X Gold Glove, 3X Silver Slugger, 1987 Rookie of the Year. BR Rank: #177 (2014 Ballot: 10.0%)
Every full season he played in the bigs, McGwire was an all-star – he hit some of the most mammoth homeruns of the era, and other than Barry Bonds you would be hard pressed to find someone who was a more intimidating presence at the plate than McGwire in his prime. And there’s no question that McGwire helped save the popularity of baseball in 1998 when he hit 70 homers. Without the taint of steroids on his record he’d likely be in the top-7 of this list, but that does put a cloud over his career numbers. With the new rules limiting time on the ballot to 10 years, this is Big Mac’s last chance but he unfortunately won’t make it.
- Jeff Kent, 1992-2008, 5X All Star, 4X Silver Slugger, NL MVP 2000. BR Rank: #116 (2014 Ballot: 14.0%)
Kent has received surprisingly low support for one of the top hitting second basemen of all-time. After a mediocre start to his career with Toronto, the Mets and Cleveland, Kent became a star with the Giants and was over 100 RBIs in each of his six years with the team plus twice again with Houston and the Dodgers. It is going to be hard for Kent to climb enough to get elected, but I hope he continues to get enough votes to stay in consideration.
- Gary Sheffield, 1988-2009, 9X All Star, 5X Silver Slugger, 1X Batting Champion. BR Rank: #131 (2015 Ballot: 11.7%)
Sheffield had an amazing 22 year career – he hit the magical 500 homerun plateau, topped 100 RBIs eight times, and though he never won an MVP he finished in the top 10 six times. Also, playing in nine all-star games is no joke. He’s in the top-40 all-time in offensive WAR, runs, homers, RBI, total bases, walks, runs created, times on base, and extra base hits. And won a ring with the 1997 Marlins. I took a more serious look at Sheffield this year and don’t understand why he’s not being given more serious consideration, so I moved him higher on my list. He still hasn’t passed the smell test to me as a HOFer, but its hard to deny his very long and elite career.
- Edgar Martinez, 1987-2004, 7X All Star, 6X Silver Slugger, BR Rank: #121 (2015 Ballot: 27.0%)
Martinez has been as high as 36% and as low as 25% in six years so far on the ballot. The last two years indicate he’s not trending in the right direction. Perhaps there will be a minor resurgence this year as people favorably compare his numbers to long-time Seattle teammate Ken Griffey Jr.? Martinez is a seven-time all-star with a .312 career batting average, two batting titles and very strong numbers throughout his career.
- Tim Raines, 1979-2002, 7X All Star, 1X Silver Slugger, BR Rank: #47 (2015 Ballot: 55.0%)
I wrote out my list of my top 9 relatively quickly, and just as easily wrote off numbers 16-32, but I had a very difficult decision between Raines and Martinez, and also considered McGwire, Kent and Sheffield as possibilities. I’d like to find room for all of them, so I’ll start by giving a nod this year to Raines, who is in his 9th year on the ballot. He jumped from 46 percent to 55 percent last year so he has a chance to make another push this year. If he gets above 60% this year I think that will convince enough people of his serious candidacy to get him in on his final chance next year. Raines is 5th all-time in steals, having led the league four straight years in the early 80’s. Even when his speed went, he managed to stick around and hit nearly .300 for several teams at the end of his career. He was a seven-time all-star, all in the 80’s with the Montreal Expos, and won a ring with the 1996 Yankees.
- Larry Walker, 1989-2005, 5X All Star, 4X Silver Slugger, 7x Gold Glove, NL MVP 1997. BR Rank: #61 (2015 Ballot: 11.8%)
Time for my yearly Larry Walker fan club rant – unlike last year, I’ve been able to find a spot for Walker in my top-10 and would definitely be voting for him this year. He jumped up from 10% to 11% but has very little chance of actually getting inducted. That’s too bad for a guy who I think is one of the top-50 hitters of all-time. He had a .313 lifetime average, won an MVP in 1997 when he hit 49 homeruns, and chased .400 on four different occasions. Amazingly, he hit .379 in 1999 and only finished 10th in the MVP voting – that shows you how homerun friendly that era was. And don’t forget Walker also won seven gold gloves for his outfield play.
- Mike Mussina, 1991-2008, 5X All Star, 7X Gold Glove, BR Rank: #26 (2015 Ballot: 24.6%)
Mussina was an incredibly consistent star pitcher across the 18 years of his career. His 270 wins put him in elite status among modern pitchers, and though I don’t picture him as an overpowering presence he is in the top-20 all-time in strikeouts. He was also an excellent defender on the mound. Unlikely to get in but deserves it.
- Curt Schilling, 1988-2007, 6X All Star. BR Rank: #37 (2015 Ballot: 39.2%)
Schilling was the best pitcher (16-7) on an early 90’s Phillies team that made the World Series, went 22-6 in co-anchoring the Diamondbacks world title in 2001, and led the Red Sox to two world titles with a bloody sock. He also finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting in each of 2001, 2002 and 2004. In all, he went 4-1 in the World Series for his career, and always seemed to show up when it mattered. Hall of Famer to me. He’s had a weird HOF trajectory, as he started at 38%, dropped to 29% in his 2nd year and then jumped back to 39% last year. I see Schilling taking another jump this year – how much of a jump will dictate whether he can keep growing and make it in eventually.
- Trevor Hoffman, 1993-2010, 7X All Star, 2X Rolaids Relief. BR Rank #148.
Hoffman makes his first appearance on the ballot and will be another interesting test case for closers. He’s 2nd all-time in saves behind Mariano Rivera who recently passed him, so as closers go he’s got one of the best track records in history. He had particularly impressive longevity, recording 30 or more saves for 14 straight years (!) save 2003 when he was injured. Like most closers, his career WAR was limited by only pitching one inning per game, so I’ve had to look at other stats to determine his worthiness. This is the stat that convinced me: Hoffman is 8th all-time in WHIP, tucked between HOFers Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. That means Hoffman not only had consistency in saves across his career, but there was some meat behind it as he rarely allowed any baserunners. I don’t think he’ll be a surefire entrant, but he probably gets in or close this year.
- Roger Clemens, 1984-2007, 11X All Star, AL MVP 1986. 7X Cy Young Award Winner, BR Rank: #25. (2015 Ballot: 37.5%)
Still voting for Clemens and Bonds. Their performance-enhancing drug use is a black mark on baseball record books, but I’m not interested in keeping one of the best pitchers of all-time out of the HOF. Clemens led the league in ERA seven times, first in 1986 and then again twenty years later in 2005. He’s also 9th all-time in wins and 3rd in career strikeouts. This will be a telling year to see if anyone adds Clemens or Bonds to their ballot and gives them a boost. If they jump up in to the 45 percent range this year they could re-ignite a discussion on whether they can make it by the end of their 10-year time on the ballot.
- Barry Bonds, 1986-2007. 14X All Star, 8x Gold Glove, 12X Silver Slugger, 7X NL MVP, BR Rank: #131. (2015 Ballot: 36.8%)
The stats make him unquestionably one of the best players ever, so this is always purely a discussion on his steroid use. Entering his 4th year on the ballot, he would have to change the minds of more than 200 voters who denied him in the past. There may be a handful who add him this year with a lighter ballot, but how many? The path for induction for Bonds involves growing steadily in the next 3-4 years instead of taking a big jump in any given year.
- Jeff Bagwell, 1991-2005, 4X All Star, 3X Silver Slugger, NL MVP 1994. Rookie of the Year 1991, BR Rank: #34. (2015 Ballot: 55.7%)
Bags won an MVP in the strike season of 1994 and was ROY in 1991. He hit at least 39 homers six times and had 449 for his career. We were all robbed of part of his best season ever in 1994 when the strike hit, when I believe he may have had a shot at the record for most RBI’s in a season and made a run at Roger Maris’ HR record. He led the league in runs several times as well. Bags jumped up a bit from 54 to 55 percent in his 5th year on the ballot last year – but this ballot is a little more wide open so I see him making a jump. Look for Bagwell to be right on the precipice of election this year, in the 65 to 70 percent range but just short of induction.
- Mike Piazza, 1992-2007, 12X All Star, 10X Silver Slugger, 1993 Rookie of the Year, BR Rank: #65 (2015 Ballot: 69.9%)
Piazza was unquestionably one of the best catchers of all-time and almost certainly the best power hitting catcher of all-time. A 12-time all-star, lifetime .308 hitter, ROY in 1992, and constant force for the Mets and Dodgers. That means he’s a HOFer to me. With Martinez, Johnson, Biggio and Smoltz all getting in last year, I think the ballot should really open up for Piazza in this his 4th year on the ballot. I’d look for him to finish just above the 75% threshold and reach induction this year.
- Ken Griffey Jr., 1989-2010, 13X All Star, 10X Gold Glove, 7X Silver Slugger, 1997 AL MVP. BR Rank: #27
Junior, AKA The Kid, is a surefire first-ballot hall of famer. To me, he has the most beautiful, fluid swing we’ve ever seen, and his defensive exploits were Sportscenter worthy nearly every night. His injury plagued years with Cincinnati in the early 2000’s were a real shame for all of us, because we missed out seeing Griffey make a serious run at the homerun record or at least topping 700. Despite the injuries, he ended up 6th all-time in HRs, 15th in RBIs, and top-10 in most defensive categories for center fielders. Congrats to the Kid on a well-deserved induction.
Prediction: I anticipate Griffey will get in easily, Piazza gets in after a few years of waiting, and Trevor Hoffman sneaks on with just enough votes. Look for Raines and Bagwell to make jumps and get closer to election, and several others to increase by a few percent this year.