January 10, 2013
Murphy, Morris, and Using the Full 15 Ballots
It is twilight for Jack Morris and sunset for Dale Murphy as both—along with 35 other players— were shut out of the Hall of Fame on Wednesday. In denying all 37 candidates admittance, with none all that close, the BBWAA has set up a nightmare scenario for future elections, as Colin Wyers lays out.
It is obviously particularly devastating for Murphy, who on the strength of his niceness and letters from his children received a 4.1 percentage point bump that wasn’t nearly enough. He went from just 14.5 percent to 18.6 percent, becoming the 51st player under things resembling the current rules (1969-present after runoffs were eliminated) to last his full allotted time on the ballot. Of the 51, 49 have suffered a similar 15 ballots of rejection, while Jim Rice and Ralph Kiner snuck over the 75 percent barrier. Kiner received the biggest final-year boost under the modern ballot, going from 58.9 in his penultimate try to 75.4 in the ultimate.
That is the obstacle for Morris next year as he faces a brutally tough ballot in year 15. It would be easy to say he won’t get in—after all, everybody has had 14 chances to vote for him, so what could change in year 15? But there is always an increase in year 15, and it generally works even more favorably on those who are the closest.
On average, there has been a 3.5 percentage point bump among the 51 players since 1969 who’ve entered their final ballot and maintained a percentage higher than the current five percent threshold to stay on it.
That doesn’t work out evenly, though. The top seven on the chart below (sorted by their 14th-ballot total) averaged a 9.7 percentage point bump, while the rest of the list averaged just 2.5 percent, which makes Murphy’s jump this year look more impressive, though obviously too little.
The bump bodes well for Morris, as the most tiresome candidate is sure to be among the focal points of next year’s debate. The problem, however, is the unprecedented backlog that this year began to stunt his rise, giving him only a one percentage point boost from Year 13 to 14.
If he doesn’t make it, he’s still in a pretty good position, unlike Murphy, who would have to come from unparalleled depths to make it onto the Veterans Committee ballot.
Nobody who lasted the full 15 years under the current rules and whose final year saw a BBWAA total less than 26.3 percent has been inducted by the Veterans Committee, and it took that player with 26.3 percent—Joe Gordon—39 years.
Even if he doesn’t approach 75 percent next time, Morris’ standing in the high 60s would put him in very comfortable territory for eventual induction, especially if the VC electorate trends more in his favor demographically. Murphy, off the ballot at 18.6 percent (albeit with strong supporters), is looking at a much tougher fight.