A look at the mechanics of Catfish Hunter, Hoyt Wilhelm, Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal, and Bob Gibson.
Five pitchers were elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA during the 1980s, a number that feels light when one considers the half-dozen arms that were elected in the first five years of the '90s. But the five-pack fairly represents the average induction rate for the four-decade period from 1970-2009. For all the talk about how the modern era is underrepresented in the Hall, it is worth noting that the BBWAA elected just 0.32 pitchers per year from 1936-69 (11 total arms) but has enshrined 0.58 pitchers per year since 1970 (26 total, including the 2014 inductions of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine).
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A humble proposal of a more equitable and efficient voting process for induction into the Hall of Fame.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Joe Sheehan anticipated many 2014 complaints about the Hall of Fame election process in the piece reprinted below, which was originally published as a "Prospectus Today" column on December 18, 2008.
There’s now officially nothing left to talk about in baseball for another six weeks. But at least we get some good news. Three new plaques will be going up in Cooperstown this summer, a welcome change from the unfortunate shutout that happened during last year’s Hall of Fame voting. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas will all take their places in rural New York. After weeks of the usual arguments over PEDs, the merits of Jack Morris, and the 10-person ballot limit, it’s nice to take a step back and reflect on how good the Class of 2014 really was. Also, we should take a moment to realize that the ballot is starting to read like a BuzzFeed list of “Players that only baseball fans from the ’90s would understand.”
The hits and misses scouts made on future Hall of Fame-caliber players.
“Scouting is hard,” exhibit no. 887: even Hall-of-Fame talent is tough to identify. The median draft position of the 14 players on my make-believe Hall of Fame ballot—excluding Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker, who were signed as amateur free agents—was 28.5. This is a cohort that includes some of the most talented players of the past few decades, including a few with strong cases in the “best ever” argument. But even though almost all of them turned out to be the best in their draft class—unless, like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, multiple members were selected in the same year—collectively, they lasted until the tail end of the first round. None of them was picked higher than sixth overall (Barry Bonds). Mike Piazza was pick no. 1,390. Some scout, somewhere, might have seen a future Cooperstown candidate in each of these players, but that wasn’t the industry consensus.
We don’t know what every scout said about every player, but we do know what some scouts said about some players, thanks to Diamond Mines, the Hall of Fame’s archive of declassified scouting reports. For each of the 14 players I mock-voted for, I looked up the earliest Diamond Mines scouting report available to see whether there was any hint of a Hall-of-Famer-to-be. “You Won’t Believe What These 14 Scouting Reports Said,” is what I would have titled this article if I were better at being click bait.
Despite the big backlog of qualified candidates, 2014 could bring the best crop of Cooperstown inductees in well over a decade.
It was probably my favorite story idea that I’ve come up with in the 13 months I’ve been working at Baseball Prospectus, in part because it was so original. In the wake of the election of zero living Hall-of-Famers for the 2013 induction class, when everyone was writing about what a travesty this was for the Hall, I told Ben Lindbergh I was going to write about the tragedy for the village of Cooperstown.
At what win threshold are players at each age level a 50-50 shot to make the Hall of Fame?
I was wondering whether Andrew McCutchen, after winning his first MVP award, was on a Hall of Fame track. So I went to look at what the typical Hall of Famer had at the same age, then realized with shame that the thing I’ve been doing all these years—looking at what the typical Hall of Famer had at the same age—doesn’t make any logical sense. Yes, the average Hall of Famer might have had (X) WARP through age 26, but
The perfect companion post for your next debate about the Hall.
At some point in the next six weeks, you’ll find yourself arguing about the Hall of Fame with someone whose mind is already made up. (That someone will, at that moment, be having the same experience.) You’ll have a vague sense that this kind of conversation historically hasn’t gone anywhere, and you’ll be tempted to walk away, but you’ll be damned if you’re going to get on the same page about anything with this Lee Smith-loving, Tim Raines-rejecting anti-intellectual, even agreeing to disagree. At this impasse, there’s only one way to win: by reminding them that it’s called the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of whatever crazy criterion they’re using to decide who deserves to get in.
More than 14,000 scouting reports available through online companion to Museum display
A special group of people near and dear to my heart will finally get recognition this year as the Baseball Hall of Fame opens up its Diamond Mines exhibit honoring professional and amateur scouts. Thanks to the work of my esteemed SABR colleagues Rod Nelson, the late Jim Sandoval, Ted Turocy and Sean Lahman, data linking more than 11,000 players with the names of their signing or recommending scout will now be available to the general public. I've seen the work first-hand, and it's truly some amazing stuff. Below is the full press release of today's announcement.
AChange.org petition to ask the Hall of Fame Board of Directors to change their voting process
I know the results from the latest Hall of Fame voting aren’t in yet, but it’s already clear that the process is deeply flawed. It was always imperfect, but its flaws are now deep, possibly mortal. The voting process is not equipped to handle the messy challenges of our day, and the Hall of Fame is suffering as a result.