Wagner headlines former Astros on HOF ballot

November 18th, 2019

HOUSTON -- Of the seven retired players who spent portions of their Major League careers with the Astros and appear on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot, is the most prominent, in terms of accomplishments reached while wearing a Houston uniform.

Wagner, who logged 225 of his 422 career saves while with the Astros from 1996-2003, appears on the Hall of Fame ballot for the fifth time. He could see a spike in vote support this time around, thanks in part to a crowded ballot thinning out a bit following the 2018 and '19 elections.

Wagner, who has not exceeded 20 percent of the vote total in his four prior years of eligibility, received his highest total last year, when he garnered 16.7 percent of the vote. Prior to that, his percentages were 11.1 in 2018, 10.2 in '17 and 10.5 in '16. A player must receive 75 percent of the votes submitted to gain election to the Hall of Fame.

The 48-year-old Wagner certainly has a case. Where the lefty lacked in longevity that worked in the favor of some of his predecessors, including 2018 Hall inductee Trevor Hoffman, Wagner made up in other areas -- specifically, power and strikeouts.

During his 16-year career that concluded in 2010, Wagner logged 1,196 strikeouts and posted 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, the best of any pitcher with at least 900 innings. His saves total is the sixth highest in history, and the second highest among left-handed relievers. Wagner's career 2.31 ERA is lower than two of the three relievers who have more saves than him and who are in the Hall -- Hoffman, who had a 2.87 ERA during his 18-year career, and 2019 inductee Lee Smith, who compiled a 3.03 ERA, also over 18 seasons.

Wagner's innings total (903) appears to have been the main factor working against him. No Major League pitcher has ever been elected to the Hall having thrown fewer than 1,000 innings. But his 0.998 WHIP and .187 batting average against could serve as a counterpoint to the longevity argument, especially considering Wagner's WHIP is the fourth lowest among relievers since 1913 who pitched at least 10 seasons.

In addition to Wagner, six other former Astros appear on the Hall of Fame ballot this year: pitchers (2004-06), (2004-06), (1991) and (2008-09), second baseman (2003-04) and infielder/DH (2013).

Candidates must be named on 75 percent of ballots cast by selected members of the Baseball Writers' Association of American (BBWAA) with 10 or more consecutive years of Major League coverage to gain election. Among the players who were not elected to the Hall last year but were named on more than half the ballots were Schilling (60.9 percent), Clemens (59.5), Barry Bonds (59.1) and Larry Walker (54.6).

Derek Jeter, who compiled 3,465 hits during his 20-year Yankees career, headlines a list of 32 candidates eligible for Hall election in 2020. The full list includes: Bobby Abreu, Josh Beckett, Heath Bell, Bonds, Eric Chávez, Clemens, Adam Dunn, Chone Figgins, Rafael Furcal, Jason Giambi, Todd Helton, Raúl Ibañez, Jeter, Andruw Jones, Kent, Paul Konerko, Cliff Lee, Carlos Peña, Brad Penny, Pettitte, J.J. Putz, Manny Ramírez, Brian Roberts, Scott Rolen, Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Alfonso Soriano, Sammy Sosa, Valverde, Omar Vizquel, Wagner and Larry Walker.

Results will be announced by Hall of Fame president Tim Mead at 5 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Jan. 21, live on MLB Network.