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    Tuesday, January 23, 2024

    2024 Hall of Fame Results: Beltre, Helton, and Mauer in, Wagner Just Misses, & Looking Further Ahead

    As is becoming tradition, the BBWAA delivered mixed results on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot. There are a lot of good things here, including three deserving new members of Cooperstown, but it’s also not hard to imagine how things could have gone even better.

    Let’s start with the three big positives from the election: specifically, the three members of the Cooperstown Class of 2024. Adrian Beltre and Joe Mauer both made it on their first ballots, while Todd Helton finally broke through on his sixth attempt. As a quick update and refresher, we had 385 ballots submitted this year, meaning that to reach the 75% needed for induction, a candidate needed to get 289. I’m clarifying that because these figures will actually be important later.



    Beltre was the no-doubter of the bunch. Early results from Ryan Thibodaux’s Ballot Tracker had him constantly above 99%, and while he didn’t finish quite that high, his 95.1% is still going to rank as one of the top twenty results in the Hall’s history. I was kind of shocked the former Ranger had 2 “No” votes in the early tracking, so I’m even more surprised that 17 additional voters found a way to leave off a third baseman with 5 Gold Gloves, 3166 hits, and 477 home runs. Maybe some of them were just trying to make space for other players, since he was so far over the line? Perhaps that’s giving them too much credit, though. Either way, it’s largely just an academic difference at this point; Cooperstown is Cooperstown, and first ballot is first ballot.

    The second plaque wound up going to Todd Helton, in something of a shock, with the first baseman finishing at 79.7%. The induction wasn’t the surprising part; Helton had been running comfortably above the 75% line in tracking (finishing at 82.6%), and in his fifth ballot last year, he only missed by 11 votes. And his stats pointed to his induction, with 2519 hits, 369 homers, and a .316/.414/.539 batting line (a 133 OPS+). No, the surprising part was that the longtime Rockie passed Mauer in the final results.

    Joe Mauer spent basically the entire ballot tracking season running neck-and-neck or better with Helton, even finishing at 83.4% before the results. I had been saying for a while that I was concerned that late ballot reveals and especially private voters (i.e. ones who never share who they chose) would sink his candidacy, and while his pre-reveal margins were big enough that those concerns basically subsided, goodness did they end up making things close. The Twins backstop finished at 76.1%, clearing the bar for 75% by only 4 votes.

    It was another deserving induction in my mind, and only the third time a catcher has made the Hall of Fame on their first ballot. His career was a little short, cut down by the usual injuries that whittle away at catchers, but was it ever a high peak: 2009 MVP, three-time batting champ (a record for the position), six-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove, five-time Silver Slugger, and a .306/.388/.439 career batting line (124 OPS+). The fact that Mauer saw such a drop off in the results is kind of a sign of the type of squeeze that hit this year’s overly-stuffed ballot.

    Unfortunately, that effect was out in full force on the top runner-up, Billy Wagner. In his ninth and penultimate go-around, the former Astros closer landed at 73.8%, just five votes shy of the 289 that he needed. It’s not the closest miss in the Hall’s history (Craig Biggio missing by 2 votes in 2014 springs to mind), but it’s not far off from that, and it’s still just as frustrating. Wagner will get one more shot on next year’s ballot, and he’s almost certain to get the five votes he needs, but I doubt that’s going to make it any less anxiety-inducing for Wagner himself.

    Adding on to all of this is how much of the issue is caused by the Hall of Fame shooting itself in the foot with stubbornness. For years, they were reaching out to different parties about ways to alleviate their crowding on the ballot, and routinely ignored all of them. They even outright rejected a proposal from the BBWAA themselves to expand the ballot from ten spots to twelve several years ago. Just glancing down the Ballot Tracker again, I can see a few voters who wanted to vote for Wagner but ran out of spots (listed in Column AE). I wouldn’t be shocked if that change by itself would have gotten him over the line.

    2024 Hall of Fame Announcement Day Preview

    After weeks of speculation and ballot reveals, this Tuesday finally marks the culmination of Hall of Fame season: at 5 PM Central Time (in a presentation broadcasted on MLB.com and the MLB Network), we will learn who will be added to the hallowed halls of Cooperstown at this summer’s induction ceremony.

    Or, rather, who else will be added; we already know that longtime manager Jim Leyland will be there, after he was elected by the Veterans Committee back in December (not to mention broadcaster Joe Castiglione and writer Gerry Fraley, for the Ford C. Frick and BBWAA Career Excellence Awards, respectively). However, it’s looking like the BBWAA will be sending several players along as well. So, with under 24 hours to go, how are things shaping up?



    Well, for anyone who hasn’t been keeping up with Ryan Thibodaux’s Ballot Tracker: just last night, we learned of our 200th ballot, meaning we already know how likely just over half of the electorate has voted (there were 389 votes for the 2023 election, but that total fluctuates year-to-year). Those are the numbers that I’ll be working with for this piece; however, please note depending on what time you’re reading this, these numbers may already be outdated compared to what’s in the Tracker, since so many writers wait to release their votes until the morning of. I’m largely going to be speaking about trends in the voting anyway, so it won’t matter too much for the analysis.

    Right off the bat, there are two things about this evening’s announcement that I feel like I can say for certain. One is that multiple people will be getting the call this year, and the second is that ballot newcomer Adrian Beltre will be leading the pack. The 3000-hit third baseman sits at 99% right now, well above the 75% of the vote that a player needs to hit to secure a plaque.

    I’m really not sure how anyone could object to his case, and I suppose I could look up the two “No” votes and interrogate their reasoning, but quite frankly, I only have so many hours in a day and they won’t make all that much of a difference. Here’s the all-time leaderboard in highest voting percentage if you’d like to follow along at home; we know Beltre isn’t going to be the second unanimous choice in Hall history (after Mariano Rivera back in 2019), but 99% would put him at fourth-best ever, if it holds.

    Wednesday, January 10, 2024

    Checking in on the Most Interesting Astros on the Hall of Fame Ballot

    [This piece is also up over at The Crawfish Boxes]


    We just passed the two-week mark until the 2024 Hall of Fame results are relieved; the evening of January 23rd will have the usual results show airing at 5 PM Central Time on MLB.com/the MLB Network.

    Of course, for those who don’t want to go in blind, there are of course the yearly efforts of Ryan Thibodaux’s Ballot Tracker team (available at tracker.fyi), where volunteers record and total writers’ ballots as they make them known. So far, they’ve amassed over 130, which works out to just over one-third of the expected total, and there are likely dozens more to come in our lead-up to the results.

    I already released a longer, initial look last week at how those results were shaping up, but this week I wanted to do a more focused update looking at two prominent former Astros on this ballot, Billy Wagner and Carlos Beltrán. As it turns out, these two have some of the more interesting and nuanced cases, so if you want to know what to look for in the coming days, it might help to have more context.

    Let’s start with where they both stood coming into this year. For those not in the know, the basics of the Hall election are: roughly 400 current and former members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) will vote in this year’s election. If 75% of them vote for a player, they’re in. If a player gets 5% of the vote, they get to stick around for the election next year; otherwise, they’re off the 2025 ballot. Voters are capped at voting for ten players in a year, and players are capped at ten attempts on the BBWAA ballot before they get dropped (at which point the Veterans Committee can take a look at them, but that’s a whole other can of worms).



    Both Wagner and Beltrán are returning candidates from the 2023 ballots. Wagner, in his eighth election, reached a personal high mark with 68.1% of the vote, or just 27 votes shy of induction. He’ll have this year and (should he fall short) one more chance after that to pick those up. Beltrán, meanwhile, was in his first year on the ballot, and reached a respectable 46.5% of the vote.

    Also I’ll mostly be covering their Hall of Fame votes and chances of election here rather than their cases, but I just want to note that I think both are deserving picks. I laid out the case for Wagner several years ago. I haven’t done anything that straightforward with Beltrán, but I also think his resume is much more overwhelming: a Gold Glove centerfielder with 435 homers, 565 doubles, 2725 hits, 312 steals (against only 49 time caught stealing!), a .279/.350/.486 batting line, a 119 OPS+… there’s a reason Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement has him as a 70-WAR player (a line that usually marks an obvious Hall selection). His struggles so far are pretty obviously backlash to his role in the 2017 sign stealing scandal.

    So, how are things shaping up for them in 2024? We’ll start with Wagner, since he’s polling ahead of Beltrán right now. Right now, he’s in fourth place on the ballot, behind newcomers Adrián Beltré and Joe Mauer, plus returning runner-up Todd Helton. Back at the end of December, he crossed the 75% in the Ballot Tracker for the first time since he became a candidate. He’s held strong in the 60ish ballots revealed since then, even crossing the 80% mark for a stretch of time. However, he has seen a little bit of backsliding recently, dropping down to 78.7% just last night.

    Despite that bad news, he is still above where he was at this time last year, which is a promising sign. And what’s more, he’s actually won over votes: the tracker has documented seven 2023 voters who were “no”s on him last year but have changed their vote. On the whole, he’s at a net change of +5 in flips (he’s also lost two “yes”es), but on a crowded ballot like this year’s, that’s actually not bad; in fact, it’s third among players on the ballot (put a pin in that thought for now).