Who gets the call? Tracking '22 HOF ballots

January 17th, 2022

Although the final results of the 2022 Baseball Writers' Association of America Hall of Fame balloting won't be announced until Jan. 25 on MLB Network, it's a good time to identify some important trends in the voting so far as we near the announcement.

Will Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and/or Curt Schilling be elected in their final year of eligibility on the writers' ballot? How will major newcomers on the ballot, like David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez, fare in their first year of eligibility? Which candidates might make significant gains with enough time left on the ballot to potentially crack the 75-percent threshold required for election someday? And which candidates might fall off the ballot altogether if they don't reach at least five percent?

Utilizing data from Ryan Thibodaux's Baseball Hall of Fame Tracker, we'll take a snapshot of where things stand with just over a week to go before the announcement. As of Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET, the tracker included 170 ballots -- or approximately 43.4 percent of the estimated total ballots.

Let's have a look at the notable trends in the balloting:

Will anyone be elected?

That's the big question. It appears Red Sox legend David Ortiz has the best chance at being elected to Cooperstown, based on where things stand at the moment -- he has received 83.5 percent of the known vote so far, but that's no guarantee he'll be above 75 percent when all of the ballots are counted. Private ballots that are not submitted to Thibodaux's tracker tend to result in declines from the figure in the tracker, particularly for players who have been connected to performance-enhancing drugs (Ortiz reportedly failed a PED test back in 2003, though there were no penalties in place at the time and the results were meant to remain confidential).

"The question that remains for Ortiz is whether his drop from what the Tracker shows on announcement day resembles what we've seen from Bonds and Clemens (they dropped more than 11 percent last year) or less (Andruw Jones, for example, dropped 5.1 percent, while Todd Helton only fell 2.4 percent)," Thibodaux said. "If the post-results public voters and private voters treat Ortiz like they treat Bonds and Clemens, Ortiz is likely to fall short of 75 percent. If they treat him more charitably as they tend to do for most other candidates, then he has a real chance to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer."

Ortiz certainly has the statistical credentials to merit election -- he launched 541 home runs, was a 10-time All-Star, a three-time World Series champion and one of the most clutch postseason hitters in history, winning the 2004 American League Championship Series MVP Award and the 2013 World Series MVP Award. The question is, how much will the PED connection hurt his vote totals when it's all said and done?

Will Bonds, Clemens and/or Schilling be elected in their final year?

Four controversial names are on the writers' ballot for the final time this year -- Bonds, Clemens, Schilling and Sammy Sosa, whose vote totals in prior years have suffered due to PED connections. Sosa has never received more than 17 percent of the vote, so it's safe to say he won't be elected this year. Schilling's chances aren't looking great, either -- while he was knocking on the Hall's door last year by garnering 71.1 percent of the vote, he's currently tracking at 60 percent, representing a large decrease that may be a result of voters declining to vote for him after offensive comments he has made in recent years, including on social media.

Bonds' and Clemens' vote totals over the years have virtually mirrored one another. Last year, they reached 61.8 percent and 61.6 percent, respectively. So far this year, Bonds -- who won a record seven MVP Awards and is the all-time home run leader (762) -- is tracking at 77.1 percent, and Clemens -- who amassed 4,672 strikeouts and won a record seven Cy Young Awards -- is at 75.9 percent. If the two experience similar drops from the public ballots to the private ones as in years past, it doesn't look as though either would be elected.

"Their final percentage should improve again this year due to the turnover in the electorate and a small number of voters changing from "No" to "Yes" on them (they are net +2 so far)," Thibodaux said. "But we don't yet see evidence that there will be enough changed minds or enough turnover in the electorate to make enough of a difference.

"The wild card for Bonds and Clemens is that since they do so poorly historically among private voters, that also means they have the chance to pick up more votes there than they do among the early public voters who already overwhelmingly support them. If the private voters come closer to matching the public voters this year, then Bonds and Clemens still have a chance."

Another notable candidate connected to PED usage during his career, Alex Rodriguez, is making his debut on the Hall of Fame ballot this year -- he is tracking at 40.6 percent.

Who will be big gainers this year?

Four candidates appear to be making significant gains on this ballot -- Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, Billy Wagner and Andruw Jones.

Rolen, a seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove Award winner at third base, has gained 12 votes from returning voters over last year, placing his percentage of the vote at 68.8 percent -- he garnered 52.9 percent of the vote in 2021.

Helton, a five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner at first base for the Rockies, has gained 11 votes among returning voters and is tracking at 56.5 percent -- he received 44.9 percent last year.

Wagner, a seven-time All-Star closer who saved 422 games, is up nine votes from returning voters -- after getting 46.4 percent of the vote in '21, he's tracking at 47.6 percent.

Jones, a 10-time Gold Glove Award winner in center field who belted 434 homers, is +6 among returning voters, placing him at 48.2 percent after he got 33.9 percent last year.

Who might fall off the ballot entirely?

Candidates who are in danger of not reaching the 5 percent threshold required to stay on the ballot are Mark Buehrle (tracking at 5.3 percent in his second year of eligibility), Ryan Howard (at 1.8 percent in his first year), Tim Hudson (at 2.9 percent in his second year), Torii Hunter (at 1.8 percent in his second year), Tim Lincecum (at 2.9 percent in his first year), Joe Nathan (at 2.4 percent in his first year), Jonathan Papelbon (at 0.6 percent in his first year) and Mark Teixeira (at 0.6 percent in his first year).

Particularly notable names here, considering their career statistics, are Nathan, Papelbon and Teixeira. Nathan had 377 career saves to go along with a 2.87 ERA over 16 seasons. Papelbon, who got the final out of the 2007 World Series for the Red Sox, posted a 2.44 ERA with 368 saves over a 12-year career.

Teixeira hit 408 home runs, was a five-time Gold Glove Award winner at first base and won a World Series ring with the Yankees in 2009. His 50.6 career WAR (Baseball Reference) is 6.7 more than Gil Hodges, the great Dodgers first baseman who was recently elected to the Hall of Fame by the Golden Days Era Committee.