Photo: Ed Wolfstein/Icon Sportswire
Happy holidays and happy Hall of Fame voting season. Hall of Fame ballots are due on December 31 and there’s plenty of debate and discussion to be had in the week leading up to them being turned in.
As we’ve done each of the last few years, let’s present the top candidates by Bill James’ Hall of Fame Value system (HOF-V).
The formula for HOF-V is a player’s Win Shares plus 4 times his bWAR. A HOF-V of 500 generally represents a player worthy of Hall election.
Three newcomers to the ballot meet the criteria this year – Adrián Beltré, Joe Mauer, and Chase Utley. Beltre in particular has impressive numbers both as a hitter (477 home runs, 1,707 RBI) and as a fielder (200 Defensive Runs Saved are tied for the most since SIS began tracking the stat in 2003). We saluted both Beltre’s and Utley’s defensive excellence in this space a few weeks ago. Mauer was a great hitter who won 3 batting titles as a catcher before moving to first base because of injury concerns.
In all, 10 players clear the 500 HOF-V standard, though the value system does not take into account alleged PED usage, cheating scandals, or off-field behavior. For those looking for Billy Wagner, his score checks in below 300. Bill James noted when he devised this system that it doesn’t necessarily handle relief pitchers well, so take that into account when looking at this list (even Mariano Rivera didn’t reach a 500 HOF-V).
This may be a happy election season for Todd Helton. He received 72.2% of the vote last year, just under 3 percentage points shy of the 75% needed for election. Helton’s vote total has jumped by at least 7 percentage points in each year he’s been on the ballot since he garnered 16.5% of the vote in 2019. He took a 20-percentage point jump from 52% in 2022 to his current percentage in 2023, perhaps aided by the election of another prominent Rockies player, Larry Walker, in 2020.
As we’ve noted multiple times, Bobby Abreu continues to head the “he was better than you think” section of the ballot.
Abreu’s value was– in part– a product of his showing up – his 2,425 career games are more than any active player. His 13 seasons of at least 150 games are bettered only by Rafael Palmeiro among those whose careers began in the last 40 years. And when he showed up, he played well. His career OPS was 28% better than MLB average when adjusted for ballpark and era. He ranked in the Top 10 in his league in on-base percentage 8 times.
Abreu actually has a higher HOF-V than Helton but doesn’t have anywhere near the support. He got just over 15% of the vote in 2023. But he’s still on the ballot, so we’ll see how many voters change their minds this time around.