Final Predictions for 2021 MLB Hall of Fame Voting Results

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2021

Final Predictions for 2021 MLB Hall of Fame Voting Results

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame voting results will be revealed Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling are among the top holdover candidates, while Mark Buehrle and Torii Hunter lead a thin crop of newcomers.

    Before the balloting totals are released, let's make one final round of predictions on how the voting will play out.

    These predictions could not have been made without the early voting data tirelessly compiled by Ryan Thibodaux and his team at Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Tracker and his data from past years.

    Will Schilling reach the 75 percent needed for enshrinement?

    Will Bonds and Clemens take another significant step forward in their second-to-last year on the ballot?

    Will any of the newcomers hit the 5 percent needed to hang around for another year?

    All of those questions and more will be answered in our 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame voting predictions.

Torii Hunter Will Narrowly Reach the 5 Percent Minimum

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    A five-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove winner who finished his career with 353 home runs, 1,391 RBI and 50.7 WAR over 19 seasons, Torii Hunter is a classic "Hall of Very Good" candidate.

    That said, as one of the best two-way outfielders of his era, he deserves to stick around on the ballot and have his case dissected for a few years.

    He is polling at 5.1 percent on the publicly known ballots, which leaves him in a precarious spot relative to the 5 percent cut line.

    The long-shot candidates often do better on private ballots. Andy Pettitte was a perfect example last year as his support was 7.3 percentage points higher among non-public voters.

    That would bode well for Hunter's chances of hanging around another year, and his vote total will be one of the more compelling down-ballot stories to follow.

Mark Buehrle Will Also Stick Around Another Year

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Also hovering near the cut line is workhorse left-hander Mark Buehrle, who is garnering 7.9 percent of the vote.

    While he was never one of the game's elite starters, his 14 straight seasons of at least 200 innings was extremely impressive in an era when starters pitched deep into games less and less often.

    In terms of counting numbers, he finished with 214 wins and a 3.81 ERA in 3,283.1 innings, and his 60.0 career WAR ranks 65th all-time among pitchers.

    The list of his closest comparable pitchers based on Similarity Score at Baseball Reference lumps him in with guys like Milt Pappas, David Wells, Orel Hershiser, Kevin Brown and Rick Reuschel, along with Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter.

    It's hard to imagine he climbs all the way to 75 percent, but expect to see him on the ballot for multiple years.

Omar Vizquel Will Suffer a Dip in Support

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    JOHN FROSCHAUER/Associated Press

    Omar Vizquel owns one of the most polarizing Hall of Fame cases in years, at least among players not bogged down by PED allegations.

    The 11-time Gold Glove winner is undoubtedly one of the best defensive shortstops ever, and his Hall of Fame candidacy has gained steam over his first three years on the ballot:

    • 2018: 37.0 percent
    • 2019: 42.8 percent
    • 2020: 52.6 percent

    However, Vizquel had a middling 82 OPS+ for his career and fell short of the magical 3,000-hit milestone, so detractors say he was too one-dimensional to be worthy of enshrinement. Pointing to Bill Mazeroski doesn't do it for some voters.

    A thin crop of newcomers was expected to be a boon to some of the ballot holdovers from recent years, but Vizquel is polling at just 40.4 percent.

    More importantly, he did not receive a boost from the private voter community last year with a 0.3 drop in percentage points among that group. In other words, a big spike in his vote totals relative to current polling appears unlikely.

    A slide below his 2019 support level is very possible.

Andruw Jones and Todd Helton Will Make Meaningful Jumps

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    GREGORY SMITH/Associated Press

    Andruw Jones and Todd Helton were two of the game's premier players during the 2000s.

    Jones is a 10-time Gold Glove winner in center field, a total surpassed by only Roberto Clemente (12) and Willie Mays (12) among outfielders, and he also slugged 434 home runs in his 17-year career.

    Helton hit .316/.414/.539 with 369 home runs and 1,406 RBI in 17 seasons, all spent with the Colorado Rockies. He had an .855 OPS with 142 home runs away from Coors Field, so he was not simply a product of his environment.

    Despite their impressive resumes, neither player has received much support.

    Jones jumped up to 19.4 percent of the vote in his third year on the ballot in 2020 after falling short of the 10 percent mark in his first two years. Helton moved from 16.5 percent in his first year of eligibility to 29.2 percent last year, but he still faces an uphill battle.

    Both players are trending well in the early balloting results:

    • Helton: 51.7 percent
    • Jones: 41.0 percent

    Even if those figures drop by 10 percentage points once the full results are released, it would represent a meaningful increase for two players who have plenty of time to build toward the 75 percent threshold.

Scott Rolen Will Set Himself Up for Enshrinement in the Next 2-3 Years

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Scott Rolen should already be in the Hall of Fame.

    Voters are notoriously fickle with third basemen, but it's hard to argue with how his case stacks up to the 13 players enshrined at the position.

    His 70.1 career WAR trails only seven of them—Mike Schmidt (106.9), Eddie Mathews (96.2), Wade Boggs (91.4), George Brett (88.6), Chipper Jones (85.3), Brooks Robinson (78.4) and Ron Santo (70.5).

    His 316 home runs rank sixth among the Hall of Fame group, while his 1,287 RBI rank seventh. With his eight Gold Glove Awards added to the mix, there's an easy case to be made that he's one of the 10 best to ever man the hot corner.

    Despite all of that, he did not even receive half the requisite vote total in 2020 when he checked in at 35.3 percent of the ballot. That more than doubled his support from the previous year.

    The positive takeaway is that he's trending in the right direction, and quickly.

    He is carrying 62.4 percent of the vote. While a dip can be expected after he recorded a differential of 12.4 percentage points between his pre-announcement total and final total last year, results in the 50 percent range would still put him in great position to pick up the remaining votes needed in the next few years.

    Rolen belongs in Cooperstown, and 2021 will be another big step toward enshrinement.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens Will Not Make Significant Progress

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    JEFF ZELEVANSKY/Associated Press

    Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are running out of time to punch their Hall of Fame tickets.

    This is each player's ninth year of eligibility, meaning 2022 will be their final chance before falling off the ballot.

    Both players received their highest vote totals in 2020, as Clemens pulled in 61.0 percent of the ballot with Bonds right behind him at 60.7 percent. But that still leaves a lot of votes to make up in two years' time.

    The early results are promising:

    • Bonds: 71.9 percent
    • Clemens: 71.3 percent

    However, both players have historically seen their percentages drop substantially when the full balloting results are released.

    Bonds had a differential of 10.2 percentage points between early results and final results last year, while Clemens saw a difference of 9.0. If we see that same kind of shift in this year's final totals, their support would look like this:

    • Clemens: 62.3 percent
    • Bonds: 61.7 percent

    A gain of less than two percentage points would not be a promising sign for either player to get over the hump in 2022.

Curt Schilling Will Lose Support, No One Will Be Enshrined in 2021

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    That brings us to Curt Schilling, a controversial figure and the player most likely to keep the 2021 ballot from being shut out of Cooperstown.

    His actions and comments have overshadowed a career that is Hall of Fame-worthy.

    He ranks 15th all-time with 3,116 strikeouts, his 3.46 ERA and 127 ERA+ are both up to Hall of Fame standards, and he's one of the greatest postseason pitchers in MLB history with an 11-2 record and a 2.23 ERA in 133.1 career playoff innings.

    His candidacy has been gaining traction, peaking at 70 percent of the vote a year ago, and he is just below the enshrinement mark with 74.7 percent of the early voting this year.

    However, he too has seen his final total wind up lower than his pre-results total with a drop of 7.3 percentage points when the results were released a year ago.

    That trend, coupled with the fact that some voters are reportedly trying to retract their previously cast votes for him following his public support of the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol earlier this month, would not seem to indicate his bust will be added to the wall in 2021.

    Like Bonds and Clemens, he'll have one year of eligibility left in 2022.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.