Percentages and the Hall

One of the fascinating things to watch in this year's Hall of Fame balloting will, of course, be the percentages of some of the dominant players who will not get elected because of PED suspicions. We know -- absolutely know -- that Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds (and Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa) will not get elected this year. I still expect no one to get in … but we KNOW they won't get in.

What percentage of the vote will they get? And what does that percentage mean?

History, obviously, can only tell us so much when it comes to players linked to PEDs. There has never been a player as good as Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens who did not make it into the Hall of Fame more or less as soon as possible (not even Shoeless Joe Jackson or Pete Rose). So, I'm not sure any historical comparison is valid. If Bonds and Clemens were to each get 45.2% of the vote* -- which is their percentage on Baseball Think Factory's essential Hall of Fame collecting gizmo -- is that really comparable to Gary Carter (who got 42.3% on first ballot) or Andre Dawson (who got 45.1%)? No. I don't think it is. But we're working with what we have.

*I do have a prediction about Clemens and Bonds -- though it isn't about how high their percentages might go. I predict they will get EXACTLY the same number of votes. I've thought about this a lot of different ways … I believe every person who votes for one will vote for the other, and everyone who doesn't vote for one will vote for neither.

So, what I'm doing here is breaking down the Hall of Fame percentages through the years. I'm starting in 1966 because that's the year when the Hall of Fame voting process really began to look more or less like it does now. I'll go into that at some length in my NEXT absurd Hall of Fame post.

Just remember, we're looking at players' first year on the Hall of Fame ballot, their percentage and what happened to those players.

* * *

Players who got 0 votes -- 199 players.

• Elected to Hall of Fame by BBWAA: 0.

• Elected to Hall of Fame by Veterans Committee: 0.

• Hall of Fame percentage: 0%.

• Still in Hall of Fame play: Nobody.

• Has some Hall of Fame support: Jimmy Wynn, Roy White, Ken Singleton.

I think the categories are pretty self-explanatory. I give the percentage range, the number of players in that range, who was elected to the Hall of Fame and the percentages. The other two categories are just my opinion. "Still in Hall of Fame play" refers to players who are still up for discussion and have a viable chance of being elected to the Hall of Fame in the near future. "Has some Hall of Fame support," meanwhile, refers to players who have a small but vocal group of Hall of Fame supporters and will need a series of wins to catch the eye of whatever veterans committee happens to be in vogue, rally their support and get the Hall of Fame nod.

Obviously, many, many more than 199 people got 0 votes. For instance, I got zero votes. Unless you as reader are Dale Murphy, you probably got zero votes too. What I refer to here is that there have been 199 players since 1978 who made it to the ballot but did not get a single vote. It is a list of some very good players -- three are listed above but you can also throw in Andy Van Slyke and Frank Tanana and Mark Langston and Devon White and Amos Otis and Sudden Sam McDowell and so on.

If you go earlier than 1966, there have been at least two players who got zero votes and were later inducted, but neither are comparable to what's happening today. In 1936 -- the first year of the Hall of Fame balloting -- Gabby Hartnett and Charlie Gehringer each got 0 votes. That first election was not like any other election -- the rules were not entirely clear, active players were voted on and so on -- but still, in time, the BBWAA voted Gehringer and Hartnett into the Hall.

* * *

Players who got 1 vote -- 88 players.

• Elected to Hall of Fame by BBWAA: 0.

• Elected to Hall of Fame by Veterans Committee: 0.

• Hall of Fame percentage: 0%.

• Still in Hall of Fame play: Nobody.

• Has some Hall of Fame support: Nobody, really. I guess there might be a Chuck Finley fan here or there. Or not.

I wanted to separate 0 and 1 votes from the rest because they are each interesting on their own. There have been many, many players who got only one vote on their first ballot and were inducted into the Hall of Fame -- all of them before 1966. This is because, as hinted, the voting procedures were very different before 1966. For instance, Joe Medwick got just one vote on the 1948 ballot -- Medwick was still active. He was eventually voted in.

Here is the list of players with 1 vote on first ballot who eventually were elected in the Hall of Fame:

1936: Fred Clarke, Connie Mack, Rube Marquard, Dazzy Vance, Sam Crawford.

1937: Jesse Burkett, Hack Wilson, Joe Sewell, Bobby Wallace, Burleigh Grimes, Eppa Rixey, Jack Chesbro.

1938: Bucky Harris, Elmer Flick, Stan Covelski, Sam Rice.

1939: Jesse Haines; Joe Kelley, Waite Hoyt.

1942: Sliding Billy Hamilton, Jake Beckley.

1945: Joe DiMaggio, Billy Southworth, Joe Gordon,Tony Lazzeri. Obviously DiMaggio and Gordon were very much active at the time.

1946: John Clarkson.

1947: George "High Pockets" Kelly.

1948: Leo Durocher, Billy Herman, Goose Goslin, Chick Hafey, Heinie Manush, Joe Medwick.

1949: Al Lopez; Earl Averill; Freddie Lindstrom.

1950: Ernie Lombardi.

1951: Satchel Paige.

1953: Arky Vaughan (what an embarrassment for the BBWAA).

1956: Rick Ferrell; Phil Rizzuto (yes, Scooter got just one vote his first year on ballot, though he was still active that year, which makes it tougher).

1958: Warren Spahn (obviously still active -- pitched for another seven years).

Obviously, you have a smorgasbord here. Paige was still active and his one vote was unquestionably a protest vote of some kind. Durocher and Lopez made it in as managers. Spahn and DiMaggio were still playing. And so on. But some of these players got one vote because only one person thought they were worth a vote -- High Pockets Kelly and Rick Ferrell and Arky Vaughan, among others. In time, they ended up in the Hall of Fame anyway.

* * *

More than two votes but less than 5% -- 176 players.

• Elected to Hall of Fame by BBWAA: 0.

• Elected to Hall of Fame by Veterans Committee: 2 (Richie Ashburn, Ron Santo).

• Hall of Fame percentage: 1.1%.

• Still in Hall of Fame play: Nobody, really. Maybe Minnie Minoso. The system is not kind to the less-than-5% guys.

• Has some Hall of Fame support: Lou Whitaker, Kevin Brown, Bobby Grich, Reggie Smith, Will Clark, Darrell Evans, Curt Flood, Ken Boyer, Dick Allen … Rick Reuschel and Buddy Bell have some supporters as well.

How much has the voting changed? Consider the story of a pitcher nicknamed Schoolboy Rowe. He was a good pitcher. He won 24 games one year. He led the league in shutouts another. Baseball Reference sees him matching up pretty well to Chris Carpenter or Dennis Leonard. He won 158 games with a 3.87 ERA and 110 ERA+. A nice pitcher.

In 1958, some nine years after he retired, Rowe appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot. A few of the writers -- 12 to be exact -- voted for him. And, hey, with the the stubborn ways of the BBWAA back in the 1950s (those guys were TOUGH, they make current BBWAA voters look like the page on "30 Rock"), that was an achievement. He received more votes than, among others, Joe Gordon, Travis Jackson, Billy Herman, Arky Vaughan, Freddie Lindstrom, Ernie Lombardi, George Kelly, Rick Ferrell and Joe Sewell -- ALL of whom would end up in the Hall of Fame.

Still, 12 votes did not constitute 5%. By today's rules, Schoolboy Rowe would have pulled off the ballot. But the rules were different then, and Rowe was eligible to be on the ballot in 1960. This time around, he got only three votes -- apparently nine people had a very quick change of heart about ol' Schoolboy.

In 1968 -- again because the rules were different, Schoolboy Rowe was placed BACK on the ballot. He got six votes, which constituted 2.1% of the ballot.

In 1969, yep, Schoolboy Rowe got on the ballot again. What would it take to get Schoolboy Rowe off the ballot? Well, I'll tell you what: In 1969, for whatever reason -- maybe he sent a nice poundcake out to the voters -- Row got 17 votes, enough for exactly 5% of the vote. So, finally, in 1969 Schoolboy Rowe was legit. He crossed the line. He made it to 5% and could legitimately stay on the ballot.

And 1969 was the last time Schoolboy Rowe appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot. In his odd case, he had to get to 5% before they remembered to take him off the ballot.

The point is: The Hall of Fame balloting rules have been as goofy as they have been confusing, and as confusing as they have been inconsistent. Every so often, when things start to stagnate a bit with the Hall of Fame voting, they will inevitably put in some new rules to spark things up a bit. I think that's about to happen again. More on that, too, in the next post.

But for now -- less than 5% means you're gone. And it doesn't just mean you're gone … it means you're gone and nobody has any idea how to bring you back. I listed above the players who got just one vote their first time on the ballot who eventually made it to the Hall of Fame. Perhaps an even more compelling story is the one of Ralph Kiner.

Kiner first appeared on the ballot in 1960. He was, as you know, one of the most prolific home run hitters who ever lived. He led his league in home runs seven years in a row -- something even Babe Ruth didn't do. From 1946 to 1952 he hit 294 home runs -- second most during that span was Ted Williams with almost 100 fewer (though Williams missed almost all the 1952 season when he went to fight in Korea). Kiner also led the league in walks three times, in RBIs once and in runs once; his career was short and his batting average was relatively low (though he did hit .300 twice), so he certainly had a compelling, if borderline, Hall of Fame case.

In 1960, there was nothing "borderline" about his case. He got three votes. Three. He got fewer votes than Hall of Fame underachiever High Pockets Kelly. He got fewer votes than Nick Altrock, who was once a good pitcher and by then had started to perform comedy routines with Al Schact (the "Clown Prince of Baseball"). He got fewer votes than Bing Miller, Max Bishop, the Catcher Who Was A Spy Moe Berg, Hal White, Joe Dugan, Jimmie Wilson and a pitcher named Orval Grove who went 63-73 with a 3.78 ERA. Listen to this: Ralph Kiner in 1960 got fewer votes than Lefty Grove. You ask: What's wrong with that? Grove was perhaps the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time. True. But there's this: Lefty Grove was ALREADY IN THE HALL OF FAME, had been since 1947.

OK, so, three votes -- he would have been off the ballot in today's world, forever forgotten unless he caught the fancy of some veterans committee guy. But the rules then were different and Kiner stayed on the ballot. Good thing too: His second attempt, 1962, he got FIVE votes. Well, he stayed on the ballot still, and the third time, in 1964, he got 31 votes. Hey, hey … momentum. His fourth ballot, he 74 votes. And his fifth -- the big jump -- he got 124 votes, 42.5% of the ballot.

Why was he skyrocketing? Oh, probably a few reasons. First, it was absolutely ridiculous that he got only three and five votes his first two times on the ballot: He was one of the greatest home run hitters of all time. Second, hitting was way down and perhaps his numbers started to look a lot better. Third, he was becoming a popular broadcaster and was very much involved in the game. And then there's another factor, one that many Hall of Fame purists really dislike, but it happens anyway -- flaws that seem so insurmountable when a player first comes on the ballot tend to smooth over through the years. We've seen this literally dozens and dozens of times. Kiner was a famously terrible defender and he played on terrible teams and there were many who didn't like him. Over time, those things became less vexing.

Kiner stayed around that 40% mark for a couple more years, and then in his eighth year on the ballot took another huge jump: From 137 votes to 167 votes, from around 40% of the ballot to around 56%. His vote percentage slowly moved up into the 60s, and then in his 13th year on the ballot he finally got his 273 votes and his Hall of Fame nod -- 270 more yes votes than he got the first time on the ballot.

Was Kiner a better Hall of Fame candidate in 1975 than in 1960? Was he 91 times better? Of course not. But Kiner is just an extreme example of what happens all the time in the Hall of Fame voting. Players who stay on the ballot get talked about. Their flaws -- which seemed SO extreme when they first got on the ballot -- are judged with less emotion. Their careers become more nuanced. Maybe it shouldn't be that way. Maybe only first-ballot Hall of Famers should be Hall of Famers (leaving out Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Roberto Alomar, Joe DiMaggio and numerous others). I was on a panel discussion on the MLB Network (it airs on Tuesday night, 9 p.m. ET, if you're interested) and I don't believe I had a Barack-Obama-in-his-first-debate kind of performance -- but good guys like Bob Costas and Tom Verducci and Harold Reynolds and Mad Dog Russo and Harold Reynolds have much more stringent standards for the Hall of Fame than I do. They believe in a Hall of Fame that should only have Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Lou Gehrig, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle -- you know, players about whom there are "no arguments."

Maybe that's what the Hall of Fame SHOULD be. But that's not what the Hall of Fame is, and the Hall of Fame never really was that. The Hall of Fame is a mishmash of standards, a bouillabaisse of great and good and overrated, a place where Willie Mays went in two years after Joe Sewell, and Robin Roberts took longer to induct than Dennis Eckersley, and yes, where Ralph Kiner was elected in the same year that Eddie Mathews got just 40% of the vote and Duke Snider got 35%. People joke about throwing guys out of the Hall of Fame, but that will never happen, and what is happening is that the Hall of Fame is an homage to players before 1960 in a way that it is not for player after 1960. I don't think that's right.

Obviously, I never got that out in the panel. I blame the altitude.

One final point on the less-than-five-percenters: When Jack Morris went on the ballot in 2000, 77.8% of the voters said that he was NOT a Hall of Famer. A year later, more than 80% voted that he was NOT a Hall of Famer. But over time, a lot of people looked more closely and the vote turned his way. I don't agree with Jack Morris as a Hall of Famer, but I absolutely do agree with him deserving to have his case heard over time. I would say that guys like Lou Whitaker, Dwight Evans, Kevin Brown and others deserve the same chance to get the years to help them make their case.

* * *

5% to 10% -- 27 players.

• Elected to Hall of Fame by BBWAA: 0.

• Elected to Hall of Fame by Veterans Committee: 1 (Bill Mazeroski).

• Hall of Fame percentage: 3.7%.

• Still in Hall of Fame play: Joe Torre, Pete Rose.

• Has some Hall of Fame support: Dwight Evans, Keith Hernandez.

All of Pete Rose's votes, of course, were write-ins. … I wonder when Joe Torre will get into the Hall of Fame. We KNOW he's going in as a manager, so let's get that done already. He was a really, really good player with a legitimate Hall of Fame case. He became, as we know, a legendary manager with four World Series rings. Let's stop waiting and put him in already.

* * *

10% to 20% -- 18 players.

• Elected to Hall of Fame by BBWAA: 3 (Bob Lemon, Duke Snider, Bert Blyleven).

• Elected to Hall of Fame by Veterans Committee: 4 (Nellie Fox, Orlando Cepeda, George Kell, Red Schoendienst).

• Hall of Fame percentage: 38.9%.

• Still in Hall of Fame play: Rafael Palmeiro, Alan Trammell.

• Has some Hall of Fame support: Dale Murphy, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Dave Parker.

Technically, Dale Murphy is still in play … but he won't get elected this year and will be in the veterans committee limbo of so many 1960, 1970s and 1980s players. As mentioned, I wish these committees would stop worrying so much about the picked-over eras they keep studying and start working on more recent times. I didn't vote for Dale Murphy this year because I thought there were 10 players on the ballot better than him and, anyway, he's not getting in through the BBWAA. I hope the veteran's committee, in whatever form, will stop pontificating about Deacon White and other players who are long gone and start thinking about who were the best players of the last 40 or 50 years who have been overlooked.

* * *

20% to 30% -- 15 players.

• Elected to Hall of Fame by BBWAA: 6 (Don Drysdale, Billy Williams, Bruce Sutter, Luis Aparicio, Early Wynn, Jim Rice).

• Elected to Hall of Fame by Veterans Committee: 0.

• Hall of Fame percentage: 40%.

• Still in Hall of Fame play: Larry Walker, Jack Morris, Mark McGwire, Tim Raines.

• Has some Hall of Fame support: Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Tommy John, Gil Hodges, Roger Maris.

We're now getting to the break point … if you get between 20 and 30% on first ballot you have about a 50-50 shot of getting into the Hall of Fame. I think Morris will get in next year. I think Walker and Raines both have real shots of getting in through the BBWAA. And I think McGwire, well, it will be interesting to see what happens once Bonds and Clemens get in. They will get in at some point, I feel pretty confident in saying that, and once it happens you have to wonder how the other presumed steroid users will be viewed.

Of course, that whole bit of handwringing is probably silly because there is almost certainly a steroid user or two or 10 in the Hall of Fame already. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how McGwire and Sosa and others are viewed after Bonds and Clemens get in. I don't know when Bonds and Clemens get in, by the way. It won't be for a few years. It might not be for a decade. But it will happen, I think.

* * *

30% to 40% -- 7 players.

• Elected to Hall of Fame by BBWAA: 2 (Eddie Mathews, Goose Gossage).

• Elected to Hall of Fame by Veterans Committee: 3 (Enos Slaughter, Pee Wee Reese, Jim Bunning).

• Hall of Fame percentage: 71.4%.

• Still in Hall of Fame play: Edgar Martinez.

• Has some Hall of Fame support: Luis Tiant.

I have written this before: If Luis Tiant retired two years earlier, I believe he's in the Hall of Fame right now. But he stuck around those two years and got jobbed by the timing. He got a lot of support in his first year -- he looked like a sure Hall of Famer, not unlike his contemporary and comp Catfish Hunter. Then he was washed away by a historic rush of 300-game winners who came on the Hall of Fame ballot, and his vote totals plunged.

* * *

40% to 50% -- 7 players.

• Elected by BBWAA: 4 (Hoyt Wilhelm, Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg).

• Elected to Hall of Fame by Veterans Committee: None.

• Hall of Fame percentage: 57.1%.

• Still in Hall of Fame play: Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith.

• Has some Hall of Fame support: Steve Garvey.

Wouldn't it be interesting if Jeff Bagwell went into the Hall of Fame next year with Frank Thomas, who was born on the same day? I'm not sure it can happen -- the math next year isn't good for anybody on this year's ballot for reasons I'll get into in, yes, the next post.

Garvey -- he has his supporters. But I don't think it will ever happen.

* * *

50% to 75% -- 16 players.

• Elected by BBWAA: All 16 (Tony Perez, Barry Larkin, Fergie Jenkins, Catfish Hunter, Robin Roberts, Don Sutton, Roy Campanella, Juan Marichal, Harmon Killebrew, Phil Niekro, Rollie Fingers, Carlton Fisk, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Gaylord Perry, Roberto Alomar).

• Hall of Fame percentage: 100%.

• Every player who got 50% on first ballot is in the Hall of Fame.