The year, in particular, I noticed an uptick of Hall of Fame voters—young and old, saber-focused and traditional—lamenting the ten-vote limit. There's a reason for that. By Hall Rating, this year's Hall of Fame ballot was the strongest modern ballot.
I'm defining a “modern ballot” as one that:
- is held annually (from 1957 to 1965, the BBWAA voted every other year)
- limits the number of votes to ten (previously, voters were required to vote for ten)
- removes players receiving less than 5% of the vote from the ballot (previously, they would hang on indefinitely—the 1958 ballot featured “about 400” names)
- does not require a runoff election if nobody reaches 75% (this happened in 1949, 1964, and 1967)
The first ballot to meet all these requirements came in 1968. That year, Joe Medwick was inducted in his ninth year on the ballot with 84.8% (and Roy Campanella came close on his fourth ballot, finishing with 72.4%).
This graph shows the total Hall Rating of all players on the ballot, from 1936 to 2015.
The last time the ballot featured this much talent was 1964. In 1964:
- the BBWAA was meeting every other year
- the BBWAA had elected only two players in the last seven years
- 58 players received votes
- nobody was initially elected
- Luke Appling was elected via a runoff
- the Veterans Committee managed to select six inductees
Clearly, things were a mess. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Obviously, the very first Hall of Fame ballots were stacked with the all-time greats. The voting rules for the first 32 years of elections were also wildly inconsistent. Here’s the same graph for the “modern era” (from 1968 to 2015):
As recently as 2012, the total for the entire ballot was only 2,141 (meaning in three years the quality of players on the ballot has increased 180%). That’s the year Barry Larkin was inducted and Jack Morris received two-thirds of the vote. The best first-year candidate was Bernie Williams.
1984 featured the lowest total. Interestingly, the BBWAA elected three players that year (Luis Aparicio, Harmon Killebrew, and Don Drysdale). I believe all three were fine selections, though Aparicio’s Hall Rating is below 100. The rest of the ballot was pretty thin, though Joe Torre and Thurman Munson should have received much more support and Wilbur Wood fell off the ballot after receiving just fourteen votes in his first try.
Next year’s ballot won’t be quite as high, thanks to Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez coming off the ballot and being replaced by Ken Griffey and Jim Edmonds. 2018 will be a year to watch, though. Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen, Jim Thome, and Andruw Jones will all hit the ballot with Hall Ratings over 125. I’m guessing Jones is the only one with a chance at first-year induction. Also, we’ll probably have Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Edmonds, Trevor Hoffman, and several players from the 2015 ballot still hanging around.
The Raw Data