By Mark Simon
This year’s BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot is headlined by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and understandably so, given his excellence in both the regular season and postseason, and his longevity.
Jeter is a lock for election, perhaps even joining Mariano Rivera in receiving unanimous support.
In the 2019 Bill James Handbook, Bill James unveiled a new stat (explained here and here) to show a player’s Hall of Fame Value and set the standard for election as receiving a HOF-V score of 500 or higher (the score is based on a combination of a player’s WAR and Win Share totals).
There are 14 candidates on this year’s ballot who meet that threshold. Putting aside those whose cases are hindered by PED-related issues or other matters, let’s touch on three candidates from that list who have gotten varying levels of Hall of Fame-related support and warrant a closer look.
Larry Walker is also going to get a lot of attention. He’s in his final year on the ballot and has a lot of public support. In the 2020 Bill James Handbook, Bill revealed the results of a study of public support for Hall of Fame candidates. Walker ranked in the top tier. Walker rates worthy of election by Bill’s Hall of Fame Value stat (598.8). He’s 12th all-time in slugging percentage and 66th in Runs Created, and won seven Gold Gloves.
Walker received 54.6% of the vote last year and needs a bump up to 75% to be elected.
Scott Rolen got 10% of the BBWAA vote in his first year on the ballot and 17% last year. The Athletic senior baseball writer Jayson Stark recently wrote that Rolen could receive a sizable bounce in his third year on the ballot given that the ballot is less crowded with Hall-worthy players than it had been in recent years.
Rolen’s offensive numbers were very good (he ranks 10th among third basemen in career Runs Created), but it’s his defensive stats that push him across the Hall of Fame line. Rolen’s 114 Defensive Runs Saved rank second among third basemen to Adrian Beltre’s 202 since Baseball Info Solutions began tracking the stat in 2003. He was the only third baseman to record 30 Runs Saved in a season until Matt Chapman did it in 2018.
Rolen isn’t the perfect Hall of Fame candidate. Injuries cost him time and likely skill, so his numbers aren’t as eye popping as other players from his era. But he rates as worthy by Bill’s Hall of Fame Value stat (584.8) and made it to the second tier of Bill’s list of the most highly-supported players.
Bobby Abreu isn’t going to be shut out of the Hall of Fame voting, but he’s not likely to be a popular choice among voters. His level of fan support in Bill’s Twitter polls was modest (he ranked just outside the top 75 in Support Score).
However, Abreu’s candidacy is statistically credible. He hit .291/.395/.475 with 2,470 hits, 288 home runs and 400 stolen bases, and ranks in the top 20 in walks. He didn’t just clear the Hall of Fame Value bar, he did so with room to spare (596.1).
Candidates like these three are what make Hall of Fame voting season such an interesting time. If nothing else, they spark more discussion about baseball excellence, which is always a good topic.
Highest Hall of Fame Value Score – 2020 Ballot