Editor’s note: This newsletter contains graphic descriptions of allegations of sexual abuse and domestic violence. If you or someone you know is a survivor of domestic abuse, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or at https://www.thehotline.org/.
Scott Rolen on Tuesday took the biggest surge in modern Baseball Hall of Fame voting history. After receiving only 10.2% support in his first year of eligibility, he was elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in his sixth year with 76.3% of the vote—clearing the required threshold by five votes out of 389 cast. Here’s a deeper dive into what else we learned from the voting trends.
Well, obviously, that would be Rolen. But let’s look past the person who entered.
Without a strong first-year candidate and on the heels of Fred McGriff being selected by the Contemporary Baseball Era committee, Todd Helton made the biggest jump, going from 52.0% last year to 72.2% on this ballot – 11 votes short of the threshold. The five-time All-Star who spent his entire 17-year career with Rockies now looks set to join Adrián Beltré, a rookie candidate, in the Hall of Fame class of 2024.
In January 2020, after receiving 52.6% of the vote, Omar Vizquel appeared on his way to Cooperstown. Since then, he has dropped three years in a row, to 49.1%, 23.9% and now 19.5%.
Vizquel’s steep decline began in January 2021, about a month after The AthleticKatie Strang and Ken Rosenthal reported that Vizquel had been arrested for allegedly assaulting his second wife, Blanca García, in December ’16. Vizquel was not charged with assault because, according to The Athletic, García wrote a letter asking the prosecutor to drop the charges. She told later The Athletic that Vizquel forced her to sign the letter. Strang and Rosenthal’s investigation also revealed that Vizquel allegedly assaulted García on several other occasions. Vizquel has denied all allegations of domestic violence.
Then, in August 2021, a former Birmingham Barons batboy sued Vizquel for sexual harassment when Vizquel was managing the team in ’19. In the lawsuit, the former Batboy, who has autism, says that Vizquel “repeatedly exposed his erect penis to [him] and forced [him] to wash his back in the shower,” and that Vizquel targeted him “because of his disability.” The team fired Vizquel in September ’19 after conducting an internal investigation into the alleged abuse. In June ’22, Vizquel entered into a confidential settlement with the formerly the Batboy.
Other players on the BBWAA ballot have also been accused of domestic violence (Andruw Jones, Manny Ramírez, Francisco Rodríguez), though it’s hard to know if or how much their alleged abuse affected their candidacies. Support for Jones has increased in each of his six years of eligibility, from 7.3% when he debuted on the ballot to 58.1% this year. Either way, Vizquel’s historic fall makes it clear that he won’t be entering the Hall of Fame.
Despite receiving 52 votes, Jeff Kent fell 111 votes short of election in his 10th and final year of eligibility on the writers’ ballot, never cracking 50% of the vote. The all-time leader in home runs and 100-RBI seasons by a second baseman is likely to be selected in December 2025 by the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee.
Billy Wagner, the hardest pitcher to hit in baseball history (minimum 900 innings) received between 10.5%, 10.2% and 11.1% of the vote during his first three years on the ballot. He has continued to gain ground steadily in the five elections since: 16.7%, 31.7%, 46.4%, 51.0% and now 68.1%. He has two years to pick up the last 6.9%.
Most reinforced trend
PED-tainted guys don’t get in. Gary Sheffield got a bump to 55%, but he doesn’t pick up 20% in what will be his last year on the ballot next year. Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Andy Pettitte going nowhere. In a thin ballot where many players took double-digit percentage jumps, Rodriguez (35.7%) received only four votes. Ramirez (33.2%), in his seventh year of eligibility, received 15 votes – but still received 10 fewer votes than Rodriguez. Pettitte added 24 votes, from 42 to 66, but is at just 17% with five years to go.
The most obvious penalty:
Despite Hall-worthy numbers, Carlos Beltran received 46.5% support in its first year on the ballot. His role in 2017 AstrosThe license plate theft scandal was too big and too recent for voters to ignore. Was it only a one year sentence? Beltrán will likely get a good bump next year, but will likely need a handful of years to break into it. His statistical doppelganger, Andre Dawson, needed nine ballots to get in.
This year’s ballot was relatively thin. According to the BBWAA website, the average number of votes per ballot decreased from 7.11 to 5.86; 13.9% of voters submitted 10-player ballots, down from 33.8% in 2021.
Next year, notable players such as Beltré, Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, David Wright and Matt Holliday will debut on the writers’ ballot. Beltré is the only one almost certain to be elected in his first year of eligibility, but Mauer and, to a lesser extent, Utley should get more than enough support to stay on the ballot and be in a good position to climb in future elections. Wright and Holliday will be closer to the average mark, and it will be interesting to see if they can earn enough votes to avoid the one-and-done fate.
These five debut candidates join the 14 holdovers: Helton, Wagner, Jones, Sheffield, Beltrán, A-Rod, Ramírez, Vizquel, Pettitte, Bobby Abreu, Jimmy Rollins, Mark Buehrle, K-Rod and Torii Hunter. There are 19 players competing for a maximum of 10 slots per ballot. It’s getting crowded.
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1. THE OPENER
“With a ban on shifts and a restriction on infield depth starting this year, it might be a good time to take a chance on a big return from a lefty. Here are the five most exciting left-handed hitters looking for a comeback campaign – and the odds that it will happen.”
In his column from yesterday, Verducci analyzes five lefty hitters who signed with two new teams this offseason on buy-low, prove-it deals. So if you’re wondering if Cody Bellinger will ever be good again, or if eliminating the shift will matter to players who don’t make much contact anyway, then you should definitely read this.
Five Left-Hitting Fallen Stars Looking to Come Back in 2023 by Tom Verducci
Let’s keep you updated on some of our other stories from the past week.
Explaining my 2023 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot by Tom Verducci
Here’s why Scott Rolen and three other players got my vote.
Revealing our hypothetical baseball Hall of Fame ballots by Emma Baccellieri and Matt Martell
No, we are not voting members of the BBWAA yet, but that didn’t stop us from making our choices anyway.
Luis Arraez Trade Is Smart for the Twins, Puzzling for the Marlins by Emma Baccellieri
Minnesota resumed its rotation, but Miami oddly added another hitter without much power.
3. WORTH NOTING from Matt Martell
After Rolen’s election to the Hall of Fame Tuesday night, FanGraphs senior writer Dan Szymborski used ZiPS, the projection system he created, to project what the top 30 first basemen of all time would look like, based on JAWS, after all the active third. cellars have retired.
Quick reminder: JAWS is a metric created by FanGraphs writer Jay Jaffe, who previously worked on Sports Illustrated, which averages a player’s career WAR and WAR from his best seven seasons. It’s a way to evaluate players on their peak production and overall career in one number. One thing to mention: JAWS and ZiPS use Baseball Reference’s version of WAR.
Have it? OK, here’s the list:
It’s pretty epic. Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado are each projected to finish as top-10 all-time third basemen, according to JAWS. And then four other active players – José Ramírez (16), Evan Longoria (21), Alex Bregman (22) and Josh Donaldson (26) – fill out the top 30.
Some of you may be asking why Arenado and Machado aren’t higher on this list considering they are still relatively young. The two main reasons, as Szymborski says on Twitter: “Not likely to add much in peak WAR from now on, and people tend to overestimate how good a star’s 30s will be.”
I reached out to Szymborski via Twitter DM about the two players and he broke down each player’s ZiPS projections for me.
Current WAR: 52.2
Current WAR7: 44.6
Current JAWS: 48.4
ZiPS Projected WAR: 73.1
ZiPS Projected WAR7: 45.8
ZiPS Projected JAWS: 59.4
Current WAR: 52.0
Current WAR7: 42.5
Current JAWS: 47.3
ZiPS Projected WAR: 72.0
ZiPS Projected WAR7: 43.4
ZiPS Projected JAWS: 57.7
Notably, there is no Kris Bryant, whose production has declined in recent years due to injury. Over the last three seasons, he has combined for 4.2 WAR, which is less than his 4.4 WAR in 2019. At 31 years old, he is entering his second season with the Rockies and is slated to be their everyday left fielder , tasked with covering a lot of ground in the large Coors Field outfield at high altitude. Doesn’t exactly sound like the best way for him to stay healthy.
I also asked Szymborski about Bryant. His response: “ZiPS isn’t happy with Bryant. Only eight projected WARs remain; as a below-average left fielder with increased injury risk, he falls a little short of the list.”
What’s interesting is how many other active third basemen ZiPS projects to rank ahead of Bryant. “After Donaldson who made the list,” writes Szymborski, “the active players in the order that missed the list are Austin Riley, Matt Chapman, Anthony Rendon, Rafael Devers, Justin Turner, and THEN you get to Bryant.”
It’s still puzzling that the Rockies signed Bryant to be their starting left fielder, when he’s a better third baseman than he is an outfielder, and because playing the outfield usually takes more of a toll on the body than playing third.
Regardless of Bryant, it’s clear we’re looking at some truly great third basemen, and eventually at least a few of them will join Rolen in the Hall of Fame.
4. TRIVIA from Matt Martell
Previous questions: In 2018, the year he won the AL MVP, Mookie Betts hit 32 home runs and stole 30 bases, winning the batting title with a .346 average. Who is the only player with a higher average in a 30/30 season?
Answer: Larry Walker hit .366 with 49 home runs and 33 stolen bases in 1997. Remarkably, he did not win the NL batting title that year because Tony Gwynn hit .372. Still, Walker’s performance was enough to earn him the NL MVP award.
Questions: Who has won the most batting titles among active players?
5. THE CLOSER from Emma Baccellieri
For some additional baseball content elsewhere: The Society for American Baseball Research announced its annual award nominees this morning, and as always, the list is full of great articles worth your time. And don’t be put off if you’re not a stathead—even though sabermetrics gets its name from SABR, outside of the analytics category, there’s a lot of work that doesn’t require a statistics degree to understand. (As a history geek, I’m biased, but the historical work is always my favorite to delve into.) Happy reading!
That’s all from us today. We’ll be back in your inbox next week. In the meantime, please share this newsletter with friends and family and ask them to sign up at SI.com/newsletters. If you have any questions or comments, please email us at [email protected]