Stat of the Week: Who does the public want elected to the Hall of Fame?

By Mark Simon

The 2020 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot came out on Monday, which will inevitably lead to discussion on who deserves to go into the Hall of Fame and who meets the standards of being a Hall of Famer.

But what about the question of whom the public would most like to see go into the Hall of Fame?

Bill James attempted to answer this question in the lead article in the 2020 Bill James Handbook. He made a list of 156 current and retired players whom he felt would receive some suport and had each candidate polled six times over a three-month period this past summer, comparing that player’s Hall of Fame support to three other candidates on each poll.

That resulted in 234 polls and nearly 290-thousand votes, which were analyzed by 12 formulas to measure each player’s Hall of Fame support.

The result of all of the polling was that each player received a Support Score, indicative of how much public support they received. From that, Bill grouped players into six levels of Hall of Fame support. There were 14 players who received overwhelming support – a Support Score of more than 200 (an average score is 100). Some of them are still active. Some are long retired. One (Lou Whitaker) is on the Modern Era Committee Ballot. Four who are on the 2020 BBWAA ballot are marked in bold.

Highest Hall of Fame Support Score
Name Support Score
Barry Bonds 1,445
Justin Verlander 772
Adrián Beltré 742
Clayton Kershaw 558
Roger Clemens 473
Max Scherzer 439
Pete Rose 414
David Ortiz 343
Joe Jackson 335
Larry Walker 292
Alex Rodriguez 258
Lou Whitaker 247
Manny Ramírez 223
Carlos Beltrán 220

“The most striking thing about the list of players most-favored for Cooperstown selection is the concentration on the list of those who have been kicked out of baseball in gambling scandals (two) or kept out of the Hall of Fame in righteous indignation about PEDs or suspended for some period of time for failing a PED test,” Bill wrote, referring to Barry BondsRoger ClemensPete Rose, and Joe Jackson. Further, he pointed out that this isn’t a case of the public being willing to let PED usage slide. The public does care about PED usage, as evidenced by Rafael Palmeiro’s low Support Score (53).

Granted, the polling system was imperfect because it was only polling Twitter users, but Bill noted that any system is going to have sampling issues, and he thinks this survey is “the largest and most extensive study ever of who the public WANTS to get into the Hall of Fame. That’s the goal, anyway.”

Clemens, Bonds, and Walker are within sight of the 75% of votes needed to be elected, but still have a ways to go. Clemens received 59.5% on the last ballot, Bonds 59.1%, and Walker 54.6%.

Clemens and Bonds have inched their way up slowly the last two years, making a gain of about 5 percentage points in that time. They have three ballots left to pick up the remaining votes needed. Walker made a jump of 20.5 percentage points from 2018 to 2019. He needs to do that again this year, in his final year on the ballot, to be elected. Ramirez has much more of an uphill climb, having received 23% of the votes in the last BBWAA balloting.

If it were up to the Twitter-voting public, those four players would be on their way to Cooperstown. We’ll see if there’s any change among the writers to reflect that sentiment. In the meantime, buy the Handbook and check out the rest of Bill’s article to see how the public feels about the rest of the 156 notable players he included in the study.

For more baseball content, check out the Sports Info Solutions Blog or the SIS Baseball Podcast.

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