Baseball Hall of Fame ballot packed full of worthy candidates

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Hall of Fame Class of 2018 is chock-full of candidates with strong by-the-numbers qualifications.

Released Tuesday, the ballot of 33 players includes last year’s narrow misses Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero, and newcomers including Chipper Jones and Jim Thome.

It also includes Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, and their presence is part of the reason there’s a logjam with more qualified candidates than voters can process. PED concerns have kept them on the ballot, so instead of entering the Hall with the Class of 2013, Bonds and Clemens are still there.

Would Hoffman and Guerrero have been elected last year had Bonds and Clemens been in the Hall, thereby opening a bloc of votes? Maybe, maybe not. One thing is certain: All four are there again, potentially limiting votes available to other candidates.

Jim Thome of the Chicago White Sox swings at the pitch in 2009. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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There are enough qualified candidates that some metrics people have suggested that at least for now, every honoree should raise the caliber of the Hall. Once those above Hall averages were enshrined, voters could reconsider borderline candidates.

In a metric view, that would suggest every new honoree should be above Hall averages in WAR or JAWS, which balances peak and career value by averaging total WAR with the WAR in a player’s best seven seasons.

The BBWAA ballot includes 10 candidates who exceed average WAR and/or JAWS as listed at Baseball-Reference.com:

Left fielders (HOF average 65.2 WAR, 53.3 JAWS): Bonds, with 162.5 WAR and 117.6 JAWS; Manny Ramirez, with 69.2 WAR and 54.5 JAWS.

Right fielder (73.2, 58.1): Larry Walker, just below Hall average with 72.6 WAR but just above with 58.6 JAWS.

First baseman (66.4, 54.6): Jim Thome, with 72.9 WAR and 57.2 JAWS.

Third basemen (67.5, 55.2): Jones, with 85.0 WAR and 65.8 JAWS; Scott Rolen, with 70.0 WAR and 56.8 JAWS; Edgar Martinez, with 68.3 WAR and 56.0 JAWS.

Starting pitchers: (67.9, 62.1): Clemens, with 140.3 WAR and 103.3 JAWS; Mike Mussina, with 83.0 WAR and 63.8 JAWS; Curt Schilling, with 79.9 WAR and 64.5 JAWS.

Not included are Hoffman, who was named on 74 percent of ballots last year, and Guerrero, named on 71.7 percent.

Hoffman, with 28.4 WAR and 24.0 JAWS, is under the relief pitcher averages of 40.6 and 34.4, but voters are just coming to grips with what to do with relievers.

There are only five pitchers in the Hall who relieved in at least 50 percent of their appearances, and numbers are skewed by Dennis Eckersley, who compiled 45.7 of his 62.5 career WAR as a starter.

In Guerrero’s case, a .318 career batting average with 449 home runs and 1,496 RBI present a traditional numbers case likely to overcome his borderline status in advanced metrics.

There are many others on the border, with Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Jeff Kent and Andruw Jones among them.

With 10 candidates above Hall averages, Guerrero, Hoffman and some solid borderliners, there will be qualified candidates left out. And that means a crowded ballot for years to come.

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