January 9, 2011

Hall of Fame more selective now than ever

The only chance for Tino Martinez and Robin Ventura to make the Hall of Fame is through the veterans committee after both received less than five percent of the vote this year from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Nate Silver writes these two could easily have been Hall of Famers if they had played 80 years ago because the standards were lower. 

Silver’s article dug up the facts on the great decline in percentage of active players to get in the Hall of Fame. I don’t think Martinez or Brown belong in the Hall, but if you look at Silver’s stats, you have to ask yourself: Were too many elected then, or, are enough getting elected now?

From the NY Times: “Players are considered active if their major league career overlapped the year in question.” (Note: The significant drop off from 1990 onward is expected because not all of those players have had their chance to get into the Hall of Fame yet.)

And here’s Silver’s conclusion:

If you are not willing to reserve a place for players who meet or exceed the statistical standards of the average Hall of Famers at their positions, however — players like a Larkin or a Bagwell — the discussion really ought to turn to which players we need to kick out.

Silver has done some great research here, but I think the Hall of Fame has selected a reasonable percentage of players for the Hall despite the game’s expansion.

I say “reasonable” because the exact number is: 1.5. On average, the BBWAA has selected 1.5 players for the Hall of Fame each year since they began voting in 1967.

If more than 10 percent players were inducted today, Hall of Fame classes would become too large for each player to receive appropriate recognition. It would be far too crowded and the standards would be too low.

Unfortunately, what’s done is done and there were way too many players inducted from the dead ball era. There’s no way we can remove those unworthy of induction, but we can use history to learn from our mistakes.

The standards are higher now and prevented Barry Larkin and Jeff Bagwell from getting inducted the first year they were on the ballot. I am certain Larkin will get in eventually, maybe even next year, but I think it’s good he’s not a first-balloter.

Bagwell may never get in, but that’s because writers deem him “way, way too hot” for the Hall. But that’s another discussion altogether.

I believe first-balloters are reserved for names like Ruth, Mays and Aaron. This creates a tier system for the Hall of Fame that separates Ruth from Puckett and Mays from Blyleven. I have no problem with that.

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