Over at Fox Sports, I wrote about the patterns that show up in different HOF voter types. Like, people who vote for Bonds almost always also vote for Clemens. That’s the obvious one, but there are all sorts of other interesting ways you can predict who a voter will vote for based on who else they voted for. Go read The Three People You Meet In Hall of Fame Voting.
While you're here, though, you can also meet this fourth one.
Ryan Thibodaux, whose HOF-ballot tracker I relied on for that piece, suggested one more voter type that he is interested in: The writer who votes for Piazza but not Bagwell. On the surface, Piazza and Bagwell have a ton in common:
- Piazza is fifth all-time in JAWS at his position; Bagwell is sixth at his
- Piazza is 27th all-time by Bill James’ HOF standards; Bagwell is 37th
- Piazza collected 3.15 career MVP shares; Bagwell, 2.9
- Piazza has been named on 60-70 percent of ballots; Bagwell on 50-60 percent
- Both have people who insist they used drugs, despite neither playing having failed a test or been scolded by either a present or former U.S. Senator
So it makes sense that, when somebody votes for Bagwell, he usually votes for Piazza—about 90 percent of public ballots, in fact. The reverse is also true: About 72 percent of ballots. Which leaves, though, 70 people who voted for Piazza but not Bagwell. What do we know about the Piazza But Not Bagwell voter?
First, he or she treats Don Mattingly, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith and Alan Trammell about the same as the general voter population does. Close to the same for Edgar Martinez and Jeff Kent, too. But this voter is
- Very high on Barry Bonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa and
- Very low on Tim Raines, Carlos Delgado, Fred McGriff, Curt Schilling and Larry Walker.
In some cases, we’re talking about a small number of ballots—hardly anybody votes for Garciaparra, for instance. But about 6 percent of Piazza-not-Bagwell voters do, compared to 1 percent of the rest. On the small-sample flip side, none of 70 Piazza-not-Bagwell voters checked Carlos Delgado’s name, but 3 percent of the rest. Those are interesting; they’re also, potentially, misleading because of the small numbers of total votes.
For the rest, I think there are two takeaways: The Piazza-not-Bagwell voter is much less absolute about PEDs. So we have this set-up:
- A disproportionate number of Bagwell-not-Piazza voters didn't vote for Bonds, so must be steroids absolutists; therefore, they think Bagwell is clean.
- A disproportionate number of Piazza-not-Bagwell voters did vote for Bonds, so must be steroids non-absolutists; therefore, they think Piazza is better.
Taken a step further, this implies that a significant portion of the voters think Piazza was better but think Bagwell was cleaner. And, therefore, that while both Bagwell and Piazza have been tarnished by unfounded accusations, Piazza was more tarnished. If we imagined a world where we could all faintly intuit who had done drugs, and harnessed the wisdom of crowds to collect these intuitions, then we might find this to be its own sort of convincing evidence. But we don't, and it's not.
The second is that the Piazza-not-Bagwell voter does not care about WAR, or JAWS, as much as the general public. This is sort of odd, because Piazza has an extremely strong case by WAR (once his position is factored in) and by JAWS. He should be a JAWS-voter darling. And yet, the type of voter who is especially attracted to Piazza prefers low-WAR guys like Sosa and McGwire to the more classic WAR candidates Raines, Schilling and Walker.
Of course, that's probably correlated more to the no-Bagwell side of the decision than the yes-Piazza side. But I think we can conclude two things: Piazza is the preferred candidate of the non-JAWS voter; Bagwell is the preferred candidate of the steroids absolutist. For everybody in the middle, the two are a close match.