Scheidigger: Hall of Fame voting trajectories

From Carlos Scheidigger and Kenny Shirley at on December 10, 2013, with mention of SABR member Chris Volinsky:

Baseball Hall of Fame voting can drive the average fan crazy. Year after year, great players fail to be voted in unanimously, mediocre players receive votes, and long-retired players experience wild swings in the percentage of voters who name them on their ballot, despite not having played an inning, thrown a pitch, or swung a bat during the previous five to twenty years. How can we explain this nonsense?

The answer is, for the most part, we can’t. All a fan can do is accept that Baseball Hall of Fame voting, conducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), is a phenomenon unto itself. If we can’t understand baseball Hall of Fame voting, though, maybe the next best thing is visualizing the data behind it. The set of interactive plots on this webpage is our attempt to do that. We were especially interested in two things: (1) viewing the trajectories of BBWAA vote percentage by year for different players throughout history, and (2) simultaneously viewing the career statistics of these players, to help find patterns and explain their trajectories (or to reassure ourselves that the writers really are crazy).

The main figure above is a plot of BBWAA Hall of Fame voting by year for all 1,070 players who have appeared on the ballot since Hall of Fame voting began in 1936. The circular points represent each player’s vote percentage in his final year on the BBWAA ballot, and the lines represent his vote percentage in prior years if he appeared on the ballot multiple times. Recall that a player needs to be listed on at least 75% of the ballots in a given year to be inducted. If he gets less than 5% of the votes he is removed from future ballots, and if his vote percentage is between 5% and 75%, he stays on the ballot for at least one more year, up to a maximum of 15 years. (See for a full description of the BBWAA voting rules).

A number of additional interactive tools help you select subsets of players to view in the main plot, including (1) the “Player Name” search box, (2) the two legends to the right of the main plot that encode each player’s method of induction and primary position, and (3) the histograms below the plot, which allow subsets of players to be selected by their career statistics. There is also a scatterplot with dropdown menus for each axis that allow users to explore the relationship between any two statistics. We hope the interactive tools are intuitive; full instructions for interacting with the plots are available below, including instructions for how to share the URL of a version of the visualization that you created. We also describe the raw data and software used for the plots, and a few interesting footnotes and examples.

We’re interested in seeing what you find with this visualization.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: December 11, 2013. Last Updated: December 11, 2013.