Jaffe: JAWS and the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot: The final 10

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at SI.com on December 26, 2014:

There’s no such thing as a perfect Hall of Fame ballot. As with last year, that’s true again this time around. Even with the possibility of the writers electing at least three players for the second year in a row — something that hasn’t happened since 1954-55 — the BBWAA’s 2015 Hall of Fame ballot contains a backlog of qualified candidates, more than can fit into the maximum of 10 slots each voter is allowed. With any change in that limit at least a year away, and with ballots required to be postmarked by Dec. 27 (yes, the Hall still works in analog), each voter has to make some extremely difficult and often unpopular choices in order to participate in the process, leaving off deserving candidates and decreasing the likelihood that even the worthiest are elected this year.

As I have pointed out at length in the past, this problem has multiple causes. Currently, there exists a significant split in the electorate regarding how to handle candidates linked to performance-enhancing drugs, with little direction from the institution itself. Beyond that lies the fact that the 10-slot rule dates all the way back to 1936, when the Hall of Fame first empowered the writers to vote, and it’s remained at 10 despite the major leagues nearly doubling in size from 16 to 30 teams. That has created a bottleneck via which voters have failed to keep pace in terms of electing modern players — not just those who played in the 1990s, but also in the ’70s and ’80s as well. Limiting the field to those elected by the BBWAA, my research shows that the average number of active Hall of Fame players per team per season from 1923 through 1941 is 1.5. From 1946 through 1988, that level falls to 1.34; it’s been below 1.0 since 1988, and below 0.5 since 1993.

This past year, I was part of an eight-member BBWAA committee charged with reviewing the Hall of Fame voting process with an eye toward proposing changes to it. We examined various ideas, from lowering the threshold for election down from 75 percent, to expanding beyond 10 slots to 12, 15 or even an unlimited number — the so-called “Binary Ballot,” as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Derrick Goold recently termed it — to doing away with the five percent minimum eligibility requirement or changing the threshold based upon the number of years a candidate has been on the ballot, and so on.

Read the full article here: http://www.si.com/mlb/2014/12/26/jaws-2015-hall-of-fame-ballot-final-ten

Originally published: January 2, 2015. Last Updated: January 2, 2015.