2020 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot: Introduction – Into the Matrix

On his tenth and final year of eligibility, Larry Walker will need a push to earn his rightful place in Cooperstown.
My BallotModern EraAfterword

Happy Hall of Fame season everyone! Just mere hours ago the BBWAA announced their 2020 ballot. It’s a bit weaker than the ones we’ve seen the past few years, but still jam-packed with candidates worthy of election (15 in my mind), and others deserving of at least consideration.

In the coming weeks up until the election, I will be writing a series of articles breaking the players listed on the ballot into several groups. For reference, here are what I will be calling these groups, and here is what each classification means. The number alongside each group indicates how many of the players fall into it this year.

Yes (7): These are the cut-and-dry Hall of Famers. They merited their spot pretty clearly—at least in my eyes—and have no non-performance related issues that could hinder their case. If I were voting, this group is where I would look to to begin my ballot.

Yes* (6): An asterisk usually only denotes one thing, and that’s controversy. These are the players whose performance deems them worthy of induction, but who have other issues that hold them back, be those PED use or other such “character clause” violations (looking at you Schilling). If there were spots remaining on my hypothetical ballot after the first group, the best players from this bucket would be the ones to fill them.

Yes? (2): I have long said that the 10-slot maximum for voters is a bad system, especially with the recent crowded ballots and the 5% rule. Instead each ballot should simply offer a “yes/no” choice for each player. Players in this bucket would be checked “yes” for me if that were the case, however they are the ones about whom I’m least confident in that decision. I view them as true borderline candidates, ones who I would not be upset about getting in or missing the Hall. They would rarely make my hypothetical ballot of 10, as it would require first exhausting the two previous groups.

No+ (4): This is the group where I would start checking “no” on the dichotomous ballot I proposed. Because they are very close to the Yes? group, I want to talk about their underrated career, or they keep inexplicably getting high vote totals, they are worthy of at least some thought, rather than the just outright rejection of the next group.

No (13): I can’t be convinced about these players. There is nothing in their résumé that suggests they are worthy of enshrinement. Honestly, I’m happy to see them on the ballot, as their careers deserve at least a little recognition, but a second year is too much for this bucket.

An article on each of these buckets will be published in the coming weeks, as well as a final decision on what my ballot would be, and a reaction to the voting results. Briefly, let me explain to you the metrics I’ll be using in these articles. These metrics all come from a series of spreadsheets I have that I refer to as the “Hall of Fame Matrix”. This part is copy and pasted from my Modern Era ballot article, so if you read that feel free to skip this part. If not, or if you want a refresher, here it is.

Score: A WAR-based number meant to give the best representation of a player’s career achievements. It is similar to JAWS in that it uses both career and peak values, however there are several key differences between the two systems, such as a broader focus on sustained performance and more emphasis on the very top of a career.

Mean and Median Score: These are fairly self-explanatory, as they represent the mean and median scores of Hall of Famers at a position.

HoF100: This compares a player’s score to the mean and median at the player’s position. A score a 100 indicates that a player is an obvious Hall of Famer, while the range of 75-99 shows a deserving but not so obvious candidate. Players with scores from 50-74 may not be deserving, but are worthy of serious consideration. Under 50 indicates a very weak case.

Percentile: This assumes that the distribution of Hall of Fame players at a position is normal (though it never is), and calculates what percentage of Hall of Famers a player would be ahead of at the position based on mean and median.

The first article in this series, the one regarding the obvious No group, will be published in short order, likely this weekend. Enjoy the series, feel free to fight with me in the comments, and, one more time, happy Hall of Fame season!

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