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Vladimir Guerrero, Ivan Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez top newcomers on 2017 Hall of Fame ballot

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Hall of Fame ballots for the 2017 induction class have been mailed out to the Baseball Writers Association of America voters and the names on the ballot were released to the public this morning. The top newcomers: Vladimir Guerrero, Ivan Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez. There are 19 new candidates in all. There are, of course, several holdovers too.

The newcomers, in alphabetical order:

Casey Blake
Pat Burrell
Orlando Cabrera
Mike Cameron
J.D. Drew
Carlos Guillen
Vladimir Guerrero
Derrek Lee
Melvin Mora
Magglio Ordonez
Jorge Posada
Manny Ramirez
Edgar Renteria
Arthur Rhodes
Ivan Rodriguez
Freddy Sanchez
Matt Stairs
Jason Varitek
Tim Wakefield

Guerrero and Rodriguez, each frequently referred to as future-Hall-of-Famers, should each get a substantial number of votes. Guerrero may even make it in on his first ballot, though there is a lot of congestion in terms of holdovers, as we’ll see below. I suspect Pudge will have to wait a bit, though his first year support should be strong. Manny Ramirez would, based on his production, be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but multiple suspensions due to performance enhancing drugs will almost certainly doom his candidacy for the foreseeable future.

None of the other new names will likely get substantial consideration, though I do expect Jorge Posada and possibly Jason Varitek to hang around on the ballot for several years. Beyond that, we’re dealing primary with one-and-done guys, with some “he was a good guy, so I’ll vote for him” votes being scattered around.

The top holdover voters from 2016 are Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Trevor Hoffman, and Curt Schilling with no one else getting above 50% support in last year’s tally. The holdovers in alphabetical order, with 2016 support in parenthesis:

Jeff Bagwell (71.6%)
Barry Bonds (44.3%)
Roger Clemens (45/2%)
Trevor Hoffman (67.3%)
Jeff Kent (16.6%)
Edgar Martinez (43.4%)
Fred McGriff (20.9%)
Mike Mussina (43.0%)
Tim Raines (69.8%)
Curt Schilling (52.3%)
Gary Sheffield (11.6%)
Lee Smith (34.1%)
Sammy Sosa (7%)
Billy Wagner (10.5%)
Larry Walker (15.5%)

There are a ton of Hall of Fame-worthy players here, but many of them are simply not getting the sort of support one would assume they’d receive given what they did in their careers. Some of that is for obvious reasons, with Bonds, Clemens and Sosa being shunned as PED users, bet it alleged or confirmed. Others’ lack of support is somewhat more inexplicable and, I suspect, with voters simply being unable to accept the the starts of the 90s and 2000s compare with players of the more distant past. We all have some trouble contextualizing, I suppose, but the recent Hall of Fame candidates have suffered due to that shortcoming more than their predecessors ever did.

I presume Bagwell will make it this year and I believe Raines will be a close call in this, his final year on the ballot. Hoffman seems a likely inductee one day too, though it’s unclear if the new candidates this year will prevent him getting past the necessary 75% this time around. Anyone who dips below 5% on the ballot falls off.

Voters must return ballots with a Dec. 31 or earlier postmark. Results will be announced at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, on MLB Network.

 

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.