How to handle this overstuffed Hall of Fame ballot

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We have a problem here, one that’s going to keep getting worse in future years. The Hall of Fame electorate is permitted to vote for only 10 players per year, but this ballot contains more than 10 Hall of Famers:

Jeff Bagwell
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Tom Glavine
Greg Maddux
Mark McGwire
Mike Mussina
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Curt Schilling
Frank Thomas
Alan Trammell

That’s 13 clear Hall of Famers in my book, without even counting the still interesting cases of Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Larry Walker.

Maddux is getting in. That we know. Biggio, Glavine and Thomas have shots; I’m guessing that all three will end up in the 70-80 percent range (with 75 being the cutoff for election). Perhaps one of the trio will get in, probably Glavine or Thomas, but I doubt all three will.

If two get in, that still doesn’t alleviate things for next year. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield are all joining the ballot then.

So, what’s a voter to do? Or at least a stats-friendly voter? Some will check the names of Maddux and Jack Morris, maybe one or two more, and be done with it. But let’s think instead about the more modern voter who recognizes that most or all of these guys above surpass the Hall of Fame standard.

My thought would be to leave Bonds, Clemens and McGwire off the list. I would have voted for all three last year, and I’d vote for the three again. However, I don’t want to take either over cleaner players. Not that everyone else on my 13-man ballot was necessarily clean. I don’t really believe that.

Subtracting those three gives me a ballot of Bagwell, Biggio, Glavine, Maddux, Mussina, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Thomas and Trammell.

But, I would be wavering on one subject: I’d hate to see Kent fall off the ballot after one year, something I think has a legitimate chance of happening. An adequate defender with a career .290/.356/.500 line, Kent has 76 more homers than any other second baseman in history (377), and he’s second to Rogers Hornsby with 1,518 RBI. That’s not too shabby, and it deserves a heck of a lot more than a one-and-done.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to remove my support from any of the other guys who need it. Maybe take it from the one guy who doesn’t: Maddux. He’s going in, but it’s not like it’d be unanimous anyway. Let’s squeeze Kent in there in his place.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.