Tuesday, January 10, 2012

BBA vs. BBWAA: Thoughts on the Hall of Fame Elections

As I mentioned the other day, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance elected only two players to the Hall of Fame, Barry Larkin and Jeff Bagwell (congratulations to Larkin on his deserving election, by the way). Both of them are worthy candidates, but I think it’s very easy to argue that they aren’t even close to being the only worthy players on the ballot. For example, Beyond the Boxscore elected seven players in their mock Hall of Fame ballot. Bill James’ readers elected only one (Edgar Martinez), but only because they had already elected five other players on this year’s ballot in past years. Personally, I thought this year had eight more than deserving players up for election.

In any case, I’ve seen some people suggest that maybe the BBA isn’t too good at this election thing either. After all, we only put in one more deserving candidate than the BBWAA; how is that mush better? And besides, even the people who got in were a little lagging in votes. Larkin only 84.25% of the vote, compared to 86.4% in the actual election, while highly deserving Bagwell just squeaked in at 78.77%. Well, I think the difference in the electorates is pretty obvious if you dig past the top of the voting. (And, even more, I really want an excuse to compare the two organizations' voting habits.)

First of all, let’s compare the results for each election

Player                      BBA%     BBWAA% Difference

Barry Larkin           84.25%     86.4%         -2.15
Jeff Bagwell           78.77%     56.0%          +22.77
Edgar Martinez      60.27%     36.5%          +23.77
Tim Raines            57.53%     48.7%          +8.83
Alan Trammell      44.52%     36.8%          +7.72
Mark McGwire     41.10%     19.5%          +21.6
Larry Walker        35.62%     22.9%          +12.72
Lee Smith             33.56%     50.6%          -17.04
Jack Morris           32.19%     66.7%          -34.51
Don Mattingly      29.45%     17.8%          +11.65
Rafael Palmerio    28.77%     12.6%          +16.17
Fred McGriff        28.08%     23.9%          +4.18
Dale Murphy        16.44%     14.5%          +1.94
Bernie Williams   11.64%      9.6%            +2.04
Juan Gonzalez      6.16%       4.0%            +2.16
Javy Lopez           2.74%       0.2%            +2.72
Brad Radke         2.05%        0.3%            +1.75
Tim Salmon         1.37%       0.9%            +0.47
Bill Mueller          0.68%      0.7%            -0.02
Phil Nevin            0.68%       0%              +0.68
Ruben Sierra        0.68%       0%              +0.68
Tony Womack     0.68%       0%              +0.68
Jeromy Burnitz     0.00%       0%              +0
Vinny Castilla      0.00%      1.0%             -1.0
Brian Jordan        0.00%       0%               +0
Terry Mulholland 0.00%      0%               +0
Eric Young          0.00%      0.2%            -0.2

No, that is not a typo. Almost every single candidate did better in the BBA election, in part because the BBWAA set a record low for fewest candidates per ballot. Yes, in a year with something like 6 to 8 deserving players, the BBWAA did it’s best to collectively ignore as many of them as possible. Or, another way, only six players did worse in the BBWAA voting, and three of those were within 1% of their BBWAA total anyway. The only substantial losers were Jack Morris (-34.51) and Lee Smith (-17.04), and even then, three players saw their votes shoot up by over than 20 (Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, and Mark McGwire) to more than compensate. The BBA seems to have done a better job at recognizing that this year’s ballot had multiple deserving players.

On top of that, I would argue that the BBA did a better job of recognizing said deserving players. Listed above is the BBA’s order, and I would say that the best players are clustered at the top. Larkin and Bagwell are at the head, followed by Martinez, one of the best hitters of all time; Tim Raines, who seems to be the new internet cause now that Bert Blyleven is elected; Alan Trammell; Mark McGwire; and Larry Walker. Those are all deserving candidates, in my mind. If you aren’t sure, both the Hall of wWAR and Hall of Merit, two groups that try and refill the Hall of Fame with the best players, agree that those seven all meet the standards of Cooperstown.

Now, look at the runners-up in the BBWAA polling. We have Jack Morris in second, followed by Bagwell, then Lee Smith, Raines, Trammell, Martinez, Fred McGriff, Walker, and finally McGwire all the way down in tenth. Plenty of ink, electron, and blood has already been spilled over Morris already, with the general consensus being that he was a good but overrated pitcher. David Schoenfield looked at Lee Smith’s case the other day and determined that he was rarely (if ever) the best closer in the league. And yet, those two finished second and fourth. You can’t tell me the BBA’s results aren’t an improvement over that.

And, in any case, we did elect two players, something the BBWAA couldn’t do (and something that will alleviate the upcoming massive influx of new names to the ballot). That shouldn’t be forgotten, even if it is small.

As a whole, even if the BBA voting wasn’t the most desirable outcome, I have a hard time seeing how it wasn’t vastly superior to the actual Hall of Fame election’s results.

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