Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bonds and Clemens Gaining Ground? Or are they?

 Today we learned the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) voters found Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza fit to be enshrined within the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. For what it's worth, I'm glad Griffey earned the highest percent of votes ever and I hope his plaque features The Kid wearing a backwards hat. I didn't really have a vested interest in Piazza, but he was a great offensive force for many years and his numbers stack up quite nicely, especially when considering those gaudy numbers came from behind the dish.

What about Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens? I've seen it mentioned more than a handful of times around the web this evening that both players received a slight bump in the voting percentages and momentum may be swinging their way.

Yes, Bonds went from 36.8% in 2015 to 44.3% this year. Clemens saw an increase during the same time frame of 37.5% to 45.2%. I don't question the nearly eight percent increase for each player, but I do wonder if an increase of that size is sustainable during future elections.

Typically, one only discovers they have plateaued once they are in the midst of a flat, but I wonder if the two have found the beginning of their voting plateaus.

Hear me out and see if my explanation makes any sense.

In 2015, when Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, and Craig Biggio were inducted, there were 650 BBWAA voters active. Of those, 549 chose to complete a ballot and Bonds received 202 votes and Clemens garnered 206. Then the Baseball Hall of Fame shook things up this past July and declared that BBWAA members would no longer be awarded a ballot for the remainder of their lifetime. Only writers who have held an active voting status in the last ten years would have the right to vote. As a result, many of the older, retired writers were shown the door. As they exited they took their beliefs about steroids with them. In all, 440 BBWAA members voted for this year's ballot. That's quite a drop in the number of ballots received, and Bonds and Clemens votes totals each dropped by seven this year to 195 and 199, respectively.

Let's look a little closer at Barry Bonds' voting numbers. If the number of current voting members and members who lost their voting rights led to a decrease in votes by 109 (549 voters to 440), and if each group favored Bonds the same, then Bonds would have lost 36.8% of his votes from 2015 when those older writers lost their votes. Bonds should have lost approximately 40 total votes from the 109 if this were true, but he only lost seven votes from 2015 to 2016. (Yes, I realize I'm taking some liberties with my assumptions, because I don't who lost a vote and how they voted in the past, how many voters changed their vote from 2015 to 2016, or how many new voters were given a ballot.  Even still, I think the argument holds some water.)

My hypothesis is this: in general the older writers, those who lost their vote, were not supporters of those players who were linked to HGH or steroids, while most of those who voted for Bonds and Clemens in 2015 did so again in 2016 and they are still active voting members of the BBWAA.

Am I out of line in my thinking that younger writers are more forgiving of HGH or steriod users than their older voting peers? Perhaps. But, if I am correct, then Bonds and Clemens will be hard-pressed to gain more than a couple of percentage points a year from now

I suppose only time will tell.

I'd love to hear to your thoughts on the matter in the comments!


  1. I'm still unsure why the heck we need a Hall Of Fame.
    Is it to remember and acknowledge great baseball players? Because we have the internet for that now.
    To learn about baseball history? Again, we have the internet. Plus it is going to be a sad and dark day when the Hall Of Fame becomes the only resource where one can find info on baseball history.

    I mean the hall of fame still thinks the game of baseball is purely an American sport created on American soil. That's a big red flag right there.

  2. I think you are right about the older voters. As they phase out the steroid guys will get more of a push. Bonds and Clemens will eventually get in.

  3. Didn't know about baseball's taking away the lifetime ballot. You just made my day. Next step... look into the three guys who didn't vote for Griffey and ask for an explanation on why they left him off their ballots.

  4. I think your analysis is spot-on. It would take something serious for either of them to gain more than a few percent each year.

    Nothing else to add, but I feel compelled to comment anytime someone makes a good math post. :-)