The 2018 class of inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame was finalized Wednesday night, and it will be one of the biggest ever with four players clearing the 75% threshold required to be elected by the writers of BBWAA. There were no real surprises as Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman and Jim Thome will join Alan Trammell and Jack Morris in Cooperstown in July.
Jones was the highest vote getter, named on 97.2% (410/422) of the ballots. The first overall pick in 1990 and the 1999 NL MVP was pretty much a no-brainer after a 19 year career in which he posted a .303/.401/.529 batting line.
Guerrero will likely be the name most of interest to folks here, easily elected with 92.9% of the vote (392 votes) after falling a couple points short last year. It was close to a given that he would elected this year, but the magnitude of his gain still astounds me: roughly three-quarters of the voters who didn’t vote for him last year flipped to yes.
A couple weeks ago I read that the highest vote percentage for a non-first ballot player was Roberto Alomar’s 90% in 2011. I don’t recall where that was and haven’t verified it, but that attributable to the spitting incident and writers rebuking him by withholding votes on the first ballot. There was nothing similar with Vladdy, but he would now appear to hold that record.
Likewise, Thome was a pretty easy choice, named on 89.8% of ballot in his first year of eligibility after a 22 year career in which he hit 612 home runs and posting a .402 OBP. The combinations of avoiding outs and doing a lot of damage is a potent one.
Finally, after falling five votes shy last year, Hoffman crossed the threshold in his third year of eligibility with 79.9% of the vote on the back of 601 career saves. The failed shortstop developed one of the best change-ups in baseball history en route to an 18 year career as a closer.
Some other thoughts:
- This should work very well for the Guerrero family. In late July, Vlad Jr. should be assigned to either New Hampshire or (gasp) Buffalo, both of which are well situated for him to get away for a couple of days to attend the induction ceremony (though both are the road, in Hartford and Indianapolis respectively). That will also give Junior a preview of what Cooperstown is like, in advance of his induction as part of the class of 2043.
- Edgar Martinez fell a little short with 70.4%, and while that must be disappointing, it positions him extremely well to make the final jump next year in his last year of eligibility. Though some held out hope, realistically he wasn’t going to make the jump from 59% to 75% this year, and given that he was mired at just 27% three years ago it’s fantastic that a very worthy player will likely get his due. Likely for the wrong reason, as I think a lot of the jump is a lot of voters thinking David Ortiz is a slam dunk HOFer when he becomes eligible and realizing it’s pretty untenable to put Ortiz in the first DH when Edgar was obviously better.
- Looking ahead to next year, I expect Edgar will be joined by first ballot candidates Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay for a three person elected class. Three months ago I wouldn’t have thought Halladay would be a first ballot player given the receptions for Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling, but after his passing last year it did seem like his induction was referred to as a foregone conclusion. Speaking of Mussina, his continued ascent to 63.5% sets him up well for 2020, with maybe an outside shot next year.
- I now think Larry Walker will make it into the Hall of Fame, and perhaps sooner rather than later. In his 8th year, he finally made a big breakthrough in jumping to 34% from 22% last year. With only two years left on the ballot, there’s no chance he’ll be voted in by the writers. But it positions him well to get to 50%, which is a critical threshold. Every player except Gil Hodges to hit the 50% level has been subsequently selected by the Veteran’s Committee. And as seen with Morris Trammell, who were easily chosen the first time they were eligible, it didn’t take very long.
- Omar Vizquel debuted at 37%, which makes it quite likely he’ll end up in Cooperstown at some point down the road. Plenty of Hall of Famers have debuted below this level and made it in, so it’s possible he could be make it via the BBWAA. But he did poorer among the voters who have made their ballots public, and I think it’ll be a struggle to build support with an increasingly SABR-friendly electorate. But he should build enough to clear 50%, and even if not the Veteran’s Committee has generally been pretty receptive to light hitting defensive compilers over the years (Nellie Fox, Bill Mazeroski).