Who'll get the call? Tracking '21 HOF ballots

January 6th, 2021

Though the 2021 Hall of Fame voting results won't be revealed until Jan. 26 on MLB Network, it's never too early to take a look at some of the trends among ballots that have been made public.

Are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens inching closer to election? Which players are poised to make significant jumps without a surplus of surefire Hall of Famers clogging up the ballot? Are any newcomers making noise in their first year on the ballot?

We'll investigate some of those questions below, using data from Ryan Thibodaux's Baseball Hall of Fame Tracker. As of Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET, the tracker included 123 ballots -- or approximately 31 percent of the estimated total ballots.

Keep in mind, players need to get 75 percent of votes to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

Let's take a closer look at some of the notable ballot trends so far.

Bonds and Clemens still treading water

On the surface, it appears that Bonds and Clemens are within striking distance of the 75-percent voting threshold needed to earn a spot in Cooperstown. To this point, Bonds has received a vote on 74.0 percent of the known ballots, while Clemens sits at 73.2 percent. Digging a little deeper, however, it's obvious that both players are still facing a significant uphill battle.

Though Bonds has gained one vote from a voter who did not vote for him last year, the all-time home run leader has also lost one tally from a voter who did vote for Bonds in 2020. As for Clemens, he's gained one vote from someone who did not vote for him last year, but he's lost two votes, leaving him with a net total of -1 among known voters returning from last year.

Making the path to election all the more difficult is the fact that Bonds and Clemens typically fare much better among the voters who release their ballots publicly prior to the announcement. For example, Bonds was tracking at 70.9 percent prior to the results being released last season -- and his actual final total was 60.7 percent. Similarly, Clemens was tracking at 70.0 percent, but finished with just 61.0 percent in the actual vote.

That's not a good sign for either player, considering Bonds and Clemens would need to receive votes on 75.5 percent and 75.8 percent of the remaining ballots, respectively, to gain entry into the Hall of Fame.

Helton, Rolen among those gaining steam

Though a congested ballot in recent years had resulted in certain players potentially being overlooked, the BBWAA has seemingly rectified that issue by voting in 13 players over the past four years. That has allowed voters to start spreading their selections around a bit more -- and no player has benefited more thus far than Todd Helton. The Rockies legend has gained 24 votes (and lost zero) from returning voters. Helton, who earned just 29.2 percent of the vote in 2020, still has a long way to go, tracking at 55.3 percent even with the newfound votes.

Likewise, Scott Rolen appears poised to make another jump after his significant leap last year. After receiving just 10.2 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot in 2018, Rolen was selected on 17.2 percent of ballots in '19 before that total more than doubled to 35.3 percent last year. He's gained 20 votes from returning voters this time around, though his net gain is 18 as a result of losing two votes. Regardless, he's tracking at 69.1 percent of the known ballots, though that number will likely be considerably lower in the final results. Last year, he was listed on 47.7 percent of the pre-result ballots, but he saw that number dip by 12.4 percent to the 35.3 total in the final tally. Though he's unlikely to be elected this year, Rolen will almost certainly keep the momentum going with another sizable increase.

Three other players -- Billy Wagner, Gary Sheffield and Andruw Jones -- have registered double-digit net gains, though none are likely to be elected this time around. Wagner, who received 31.7 percent of the vote last year, has a net gain of 16 votes thus far, having been selected on 50.4 percent of the known ballots. Sheffield (30.5 percent last year) has gained 13 votes and has been listed on 52.8 percent of the ballots so far, while Jones (19.4 percent in 2020) is sitting at 44.7 percent after gaining 15 votes to this point.

Schilling cutting it close

Curt Schilling has received a vote on 72.4 percent of ballots to this point, but the metrics seem to indicate that he is unlikely to be elected in his ninth year on the ballot. After all, Schilling (70.0 percent last year) has lost three votes from returning voters while gaining only one -- leaving him with a net loss of two votes.

As with others, it's also noteworthy that his total usually decreases from the pre-results number to the actual tally. Schilling was sitting at 77.3 percent in the final pre-results tracker last year, but that number dipped below the necessary threshold once all votes were calculated. Given the current numbers, Schilling would need to receive votes on 76.2 percent of the outstanding ballots to reach the 75-percent mark.

Not much support for first-timers
Only one newcomer to the ballot has received double-digit votes to this point -- and seven of the 11 first-timers have yet to receive a single tally. Mark Buehrle is leading the way for first-timers with 13 votes, though it's already mathematically impossible for him to reach the 75-percent threshold this time around.

Tim Hudson and Torii Hunter have received six votes apiece, while Aramis Ramirez has a single vote. The other seven players appearing on the ballot for the first time -- A.J. Burnett, Michael Cuddyer, Dan Haren, LaTroy Hawkins, Nick Swisher, Shane Victorino and Barry Zito -- have not received a vote. Players who receive less than five percent of the total votes will drop off the ballot for next year.