Early Induction Odds for the 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame Class

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2016

Early Induction Odds for the 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame Class

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    Voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America have until Dec. 31 to submit their Hall of Fame ballots, and the results will be announced Jan. 6.

    It's not too early to stack up odds for the 2017 class, though, using past trends and exit polling of BBWAA voters as a guide.

    There are no first-ballot locks in this group. There are, however, several guys who should keep their schedules clear for the July 30 induction ceremony, including a perennial HOF also-ran in his final year of eligibility. 

    Voters will once again wrestle with Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, statistical titans stained by the steroid era, and they'll consider a handful of borderline cases sure to spark debate.

    Feel free to sound off with your picks in the comments, and proceed when ready. 

The Slim-to-None Club

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    This is an eclectic group. The only thing they all have in common is that they won't be punching a ticket to Cooperstown.

    Among the first-year candidates, some will fall off immediately after failing to get the requisite five percent. Others might cling on for a year or more but will never get close to the 75 percent needed for induction. Here's that contingent:

    • Mike Cameron, OF
    • Casey Blake, INF/OF
    • Pat Burrell, OF
    • Orlando Cabrera, INF
    • J.D. Drew, INF
    • Carlos Guillen, INF
    • Derrek Lee, 1B
    • Melvin Mora, INF/OF
    • Magglio Ordonez, OF
    • Edgar Renteria, INF
    • Arthur Rhodes, LHP
    • Freddy Sanchez, INF
    • Matt Stairs, 1B/OF
    • Jason Varitek, C
    • Tim Wakefield, RHP

    There are several returning candidates and two first-year offers who appear likely to stick on the ballot but show no trend toward 75 percent. 

    Among returners, Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield, Lee Smith, Billy Wagner and Larry Walker fall into the Hall of the Very Good. Smith, it should be noted, is in his 15th and final year of eligibility.

    First-year candidate Jorge Posada also seems destined for the non-existent HOVG, though the former New York Yankees catcher could be considered a long shot for eventual enshrinement into the actual Hall. 

    Manny Ramirez, also a first-year man, has impressive stats but will be weighed down by his performance-enhancing drug baggage. The same goes for Sammy Sosa, who is on the ballot for the fifth time and has seen his support drop each year.

    Here's a rundown of this group, with last year's vote percentage in parentheses where applicable:

    • Jeff Kent, 2B (16.6 percent)
    • Fred McGriff, 1B (20.9 percent)
    • Jorge Posada, C 
    • Manny Ramirez, OF
    • Gary Sheffield, OF (11.6 percent)
    • Lee Smith, RHP (34.1 percent)
    • Sammy Sosa, OF (7 percent)
    • Billy Wagner, LHP (10.5 percent)
    • Larry Walker, OF (15.5 percent)

Mike Mussina

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    Year on Ballot: 4th

    2016 Percentage: 43

    Mike Mussina made the biggest voting jump of any player on the ballot last year, bumping up 18.4 percent, per ESPN.com's Jayson Stark

    He's still well below the 75 percent threshold, however, and got fewer votes than two other starting pitchers who likewise missed the cut.

    There's a statistical case to be made for Mussina, who won 270 games, made five All-Star teams and won six Gold Gloves in his 18-year career.

    If his vote total edges northward again this year, he could be on track for eventual induction, but it's tough to imagine him getting a 32 percent boost this time around.

    2017 Induction Odds: 20-1

Edgar Martinez

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    Year on Ballot: 8th

    2016 Percentage: 43.4

    Edgar Martinez's Hall of Fame candidacy hinges on voters' willingness to let in a designated hitter.

    It's rare, but it has happened, as Sports Illustrated's Jay Jaffe outlined:

    Not until 2014 was the first player ever to spend a majority of his career as a DH inducted into the Hall of Fame: Frank Thomas, who made 57% of his plate appearances in that capacity. Thomas's election came a full decade after Paul Molitor became the Hall’s first player to spend the plurality of his career (44%) as a DH after bouncing all around the infield. By comparison, Martinez took 72% of his plate appearances as a DH...

    A lifetime .312 hitter, Martinez was a seven-time All-Star and two-time batting champion who finished with 2,247 hits and a .933 career OPS.

    His vote total jumped 16.4 percent last year, but like Mussina he's well below the 75 percent threshold.

    He almost certainly won't get in this year. But as he creeps closer to the 10-year mark when his name will come off the ballot, it's possible to imagine a surge of support.

    2017 Induction Odds: 20-1

Curt Schilling

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    Year on Ballot: 5th

    2016 Percentage: 52.3

    Schilling edged above 50 percent in the last round of voting after getting 39.2 percent the year before. A similar jump would place him just shy of induction.

    Schilling's HOF case isn't a slam dunk statistically. His playoff numbers, however, gild the lily.

    The right-hander won three rings with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox, owns an 11-2 record and 2.23 ERA in 19 career postseason starts and was named MVP of the 2001 Fall Classic.

    Add six All-Star appearances and five top-four Cy Young Award finishes and you've got a Cooperstown-worthy body of work.

    This probably isn't Schilling's year, but it looks like he's on a path to get in before his eligibility runs dry.

    2017 Induction Odds: 5-1

Roger Clemens

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    Year on Ballot: 5th

    2016 Percentage: 45.2

    On the stats alone, Clemens is a HOF shoo-in.

    A seven-time Cy Young Award winner and one-time American League MVP, Clemens ranks third on the all-time strikeout list (4,672) and ninth all time with 354 wins.

    Ties to performance-enhancing drugs sullied his legacy, however, and have thus far kept him out of Cooperstown.

    That could change now that former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is in.

    Selig was enshrined in early December by the 16-person Today’s Game Era committee, causing some writers to rethink their position on otherwise worthy PED-connected players.

    "When Bud was put in two weeks ago, my mindset changed," BBWAA voting member Kevin Cooney said, per Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan. "If the commissioner of the steroid era was put into the HOF by a secret committee, then I couldn’t in good faith keep those two out any longer."

    It's a solid argument, and it may explain why Clemens is sitting at 71 percent in the latest count of public ballots conducted by Ryan Thibodaux

    That number could tick down after all the ballots are counted. Even if it held, it would leave Clemens a tad short.

    It suggests, though, that anti-steroid sentiment is waning, at least against players who would have been first-ballot inductees without ties to chemical enhancement.

    Clemens falls squarely into that category. It doesn't appear 2017 will be his year, but his odds of eventually getting a bust have never been higher.

    2017 Induction Odds: 5-1

Barry Bonds

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    Year on Ballot: 5th

    2016 Percentage: 44.3

    Everything we said about Clemens is true of Bonds. He's baseball's all-time and single-season home run king. He won seven MVP Awards and eight Gold Gloves. HOF cases don't get more open-and-shut than that.

    Except, of course, when you're a suspected PED user.

    The Selig effect could give Bonds a bump. Like Clemens, Bonds is at 71 percent on Thibodaux's public-ballot count. 

    Bonds also spent 2016 as the Miami Marlins' hitting instructor. While he was fired after the season, the gig eased him out of the shadows and back onto the field. 

    He's never admitted to, let alone apologized for, PED use. He also has a longstanding adversarial relationship with the media, including the writers who hold his HOF fate in their hands.

    If assumed steroid users start getting in, however, Bonds had better be first in line. It'll be a PR headache for MLB and will inevitably stir controversy, but it's beginning to look inevitable.

    2017 Induction Odds: 5-1

Vladimir Guerrero

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    Year on Ballot: 1st

    The term "first ballot Hall of Famer" carries a certain mystique. Some writers hold it as a sacred honor, to be bestowed only on the cream of the crop.

    Because of that, Vladimir Guerrero may have to wait. 

    Vlad hit .318 and cracked 441 home runs over his 16-year career, making nine All-Star teams and winning an AL MVP Award along the way.

    He also played during the steroid era and could suffer from guilt by association. Ask Mike Piazza, who didn't get in until Year 4, or Jeff Bagwell, who's entering Year 7 (more on him in a moment).

    Guerrero will be a Hall of Famer eventually. Whether it's this time around depends on how many writers place stock in the sanctity of the first ballot. 

    2017 Induction Odds: 2-1

Ivan Rodriguez

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    Year on Ballot: 1st

    It took Piazza four years to get in, so it could take Ivan Rodriguez more than one.

    Not because Pudge isn't worthy based on the numbers—he ranks among the top 10 catchers all time in home runs, batting average and RBI and made 14 All-Star teams—but because he nearly confessed to PED use in 2009.

    Specifically, when asked if his name would appear on a list of players who tested positive for steroids in 2003, Rodriguez replied, "Only God knows," according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).

    That's not exactly a smoking gun, but it's far from an outright denial. Add the guilt-by-association and first-ballot mystique factors we discussed with Guerrero, and it's possible Rodriguez's induction will be delayed. 

    2017 Induction Odds: 2-1

Trevor Hoffman

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    Year on Ballot: 2nd

    2016 Percentage: 67.3

    Trevor Hoffman fell less than eight percent shy of induction last year and is tracking at 76 percent, according to Thibodaux's count.

    The Hall isn't an easy party for closers to crashjust ask Lee Smith. Hoffman, however, ranks second all-time with 601 career saves and joins Mariano Rivera as the only members of the 600-save club.

    There's a chance he'll fall short again. Maybe voters will be tempted to wait until 2019 when Rivera is eligible.

    Either way, it's only a matter of time.

    2017 Induction Odds: 1-3

Jeff Bagwell

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    Year on Ballot: 7th

    2016 Percentage: 67.3

    If patience is a virtue, someone should nominate Jeff Bagwell for sainthood.

    In his sixth year of eligibility, Bagwell came agonizingly close to induction. To salt the wound, Bagwell's old Houston Astros teammate, Craig Biggio, sailed in on his third try the previous year. 

    An NL Rookie of the Year and MVP winner, Bagwell finished his career with 488 home runs and 79.9 WAR, the second-highest total among position players on this year's ballot behind only Bonds.

    Sports Illustrated's Jaffe called him, "one of the best all-around first basemen since World War II," and he isn't wrong.

    Bagwell has denied any connection to PEDs but did admit to using at-the-time legal enhancers, including androstenedione.

    That's apparently been enough to delay his enshrinement. Barring an unexpected voting downturn, ballot No. 7 should be the lucky one for Bagwell.

    2017 Induction Odds: 1-3

Tim Raines

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    Year on Ballot: 10th

    2016 Percentage: 69.8

    It's now or never for Tim Raines.

    It says here it'll be now.

    Rock Raines should already be in the Hall. He ranks fifth all time with 808 stolen bases. He's got 2,605 hits. He owns a .294/.385/.425 career slash line, which compares favorably to Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson's career line of .279/.401/.419.

    Raines wasn't a model citizen. Persistent allegations of cocaine use and a sometimes prickly relationship with the media tarnished his image.

    He crept up to the edge of induction last year, however, and should get the 11th-hour boost he needs in his final year of eligibility.

    2017 Induction Odds: 1-4

       

    All statistics and voting results courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.