The newest inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced today, as the parade of stars from the 1990s and 2000s continues to march along into Cooperstown. While many of the eras more controversial stars – Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Manny Ramirez for starters – are likely to continue to look from the outside in, an impressive class is very a guarantee.
Harold Baines and Lee Smith are already set to be enshrined, after being elected by the Veteran’s Committee in November. But the BBWAA portion of the ballot is shaping up to be one of the more unique in recent memory. With an all-time great in Mariano Rivera headlining the class, there is a very diverse cut of candidates ahead for Cooperstown in 2019.
Ahead of the vote being announced later today, lets do a quick deep dive into the baseball Hall of Fame class of 2019’s candidates and where they currently position themselves on the edge of immortality.
Final Year: Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff
Returning with multiple years of eligibility left: Larry Walker, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel, Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones
First time on ballot: Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Miguel Tejada, Placido Polanco, Kevin Youkilis, Derek Lowe, Freddy Garcia, Vernon Wells, Ted Lilly, Travis Hafner, Jason Bay, Michael Young, Jon Garland, Darren Oliver, Juan Pierre, Rick Ankiel
With full ballot broken out, here’s how things COULD shake out.
One done & out
Berkman, Oswalt, Tejada, Polanco, Youkilis, Lowe, Garcia, Wells, Lilly, Hafner, Bay, Young, Garland, Oliver, Pierre and Ankiel
Not a lot of surprise here, as this is a group of good career guys that fall short of the ‘Hall of Very Good’ level. Of the list, Berkman and Tejada could stand the best chance of breaking free of instant elimination. With six All-Star appearances and the fourth-most home runs by a switch-hitter all-time, Berkman could see his name show up enough times to hang around. Likewise, for Tejada, who also made six All-Star teams but also won American League MVP in 2002.
First Ballot Selections
Rivera not only revolutionized the closer role, he took the standard to a seemingly unobtainable level. The record holder for regular season saves (652), games finished (952) and ERA+ (205). In addition, his 2.21 ERA and 1.00 WHIP are the lowest of all qualified pitchers in the Live Ball (since 1920) era. In route to closing out five World Series titles for the New York Yankees, Rivera further cemented his grasp as the by-far greatest reliever of all-time. An owner of 13 postseason records, including lowest ERA (0.70 over 141 innings), saves (42) and consecutive scoreless innings (33.1).
There is a legitimate chance that Rivera could make a push for to become the first consensus selection of all-time. No matter what, he will likely slot among the top 5-10 strongest voted players of all-time. He is greater than just being listed categorically as the greatest reliever of all-time, he is one of the greatest pitchers and difference makers in baseball history, period.
Vote Prediction: 98%
For much of his career, Halladay was the best pitcher in baseball, bar none. From 2002-2011, he was a league-proof workhorse who won a Cy Young Award in both leagues and won nearly 70% of his starts. Over the timespan, he led baseball in wins, complete games and shutouts, while placing second in ERA. Other highlights included throwing a pair of no-hitters in the same season in 2010, with a perfect game in May followed by the second postseason no-hitter of all-time in October.
His tragic death will make the honor an unfortunately posthumous one, but it should it no way influence timing of his induction via sentiment. Halladay was one of the most revered and respected competitors his time and deserves every bit of the first ballot nod.
Vote Prediction: 88%
One of the great pure hitters of all-time, Martinez’ day in the sun will finally arrive in last year on the ballot. His .418 career on-base percentage is the fifth-highest of any player to start their career since 1950, behind only Barry Bonds, Joey Votto, Frank Thomas and Mickey Mantle. A two-time batting champ with 10 seasons of hitting over .300, he redefined the role of designated hitter.
His election also represents an important note in Hall history in recognition and acceptance of the designated hitter as a valid position. The validity of a one-way player who either does not contribute defensively or cannot be judged by the metric in the way other players are as long been debated. And honestly, it’s a joke. Regarding election to the Hall, defense is either used as the calling card (such as is the case with Ozzie Smith) or looked past all together. Martinez is deserving and should finally get his due.
Vote Prediction: 87%
Mussina enters as the year as the candidate that’s on the thinnest ice, but could make his way in still. Part of the issue has been a focus on what Mussina hasn’t done, as opposed to what he did. Thirteen pitchers have 17 seasons of at least 10 wins, and 11 are Hall of Famers. While he only won 20 games once, he did win 17 or more six different times. If that is not enough, the only pitchers in history to have as many wins as Mussina with a better winning percentage are Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson, Grover Alexander, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson, a who’s who of historically significant arms. Regarding his contemporaries, it should not be held against Mussina that he was regularly superb at a time when Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux were legendarily dominant.
Mussina compares favorably to another Orioles Hall of Famer, Jim Palmer. Their career WHIPs and ERA+ are nearly identical, while Mussina won two more games in his career. The big difference comes in that Mussina was no as recognized for his greatness, as he never won the Cy Young Award and only once won 20 games. However, Mussina’s blend of consistency and era-defying excellence in a massive offensive era should bring his wait to an end finally.
Vote Prediction: 76%
Close But no Cigar
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Larry Walker, Curt Schilling
Regarding Bonds and Clemens, it has never been about the numbers on the field at this point, it is more about how they are faring in regard to sentiment off amongst voters at this point. Over the past two years, neither has made great strides up the ballot, finishing between 53 and 57 percent since 2016.
The early returns for both this year look as if they will take the important jump into the 60 to 65% range this year, which bodes very well for the gradual climb to happen in their final three years of eligibility. However, their support could be getting close to see a true outcome of who simply is unwilling to vote for either, regardless. Whether that can reach the 70% range will be one of the most interesting things to watch for in 2020.
Vote Prediction for Clemens: 65%
Vote Prediction for Bonds: 64%
A year ago, Edgar Martinez finished at 70.4%, a showing that all but guaranteed his climb in his final year this time around. Similar things occurred recently with other final year eligible in Tim Raines (69.8% to 86%) and Bert Blyleven (74.2% to 79.7%). If Walker can make the year’s great climb, he could be in great shape to be elected in his final season, especially with a 2020 class that projects to be a one-man first ballot class (Derek Jeter).
Vote Prediction for Walker: 60%
If Mussina and Halladay are voted in, it is great news for Schilling. He compares favorably to both regarding career output, with Schilling collecting more victories than Halladay and carrying an unquestionable postseason reputation. Another favorable turn was the induction of Jack Morris, although he was not selected by the writers. Still, it comes down to Hall standards and hate it or love it, it is tilting in Schilling’s favor.
Vote Prediction for Schilling: 67%
The Crime Dog really fell victim of being an underrated career that fell short of so-called “magic numbers”. Coming up just shy of 500 home runs probably never hurt a player’s showing on the ballots more than it did for McGriff. He also finished just short of 2,500 hits and 1,600 RBI, with the strike of 1994-95 crucially damaging his final tallies. However, with 10 seasons of 30 home runs to his credit, McGriff was one of the most feared hitters of his time. And with the Veteran’s Committee now paying more focused attention than ever to what a player meant in the context of the time he played in, McGriff could still eventually hear his name called down the road.
Forecasting the 2020 ballot
There will still be a solid group that returns to the ballot outside of those that graduate to the Hall and finish with the top voters, but next year stands to be one that either brings great opportunity for those on the brink – or sees some very small ballots turned in.
The standout is of course Derek Jeter, who could receive one of the greatest shows of support in first ballot campaign in history. If Mussina does miss, 2020 is a virtual certainty to be able to accommodate him.
Returning: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Larry Walker, Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte, Lance Berkman Schilling, Sammy Sosa, Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel, Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones.
Notable First Ballot additions: Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Cliff Lee, Bobby Abreu, Josh Beckett, Alfonso Soriano, Paul Konerko
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