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Wagner's HOF vote trajectory promising

@AnthonyDiComo
January 21, 2020

NEW YORK -- Among the most intriguing subplots to the 2020 Hall of Fame vote was the ballot total for Billy Wagner, who nearly doubled his support from 16.7 percent in 2019 to 31.7 percent this year. Widely considered one of the best closers in Major League history, Wagner --

NEW YORK -- Among the most intriguing subplots to the 2020 Hall of Fame vote was the ballot total for Billy Wagner, who nearly doubled his support from 16.7 percent in 2019 to 31.7 percent this year. Widely considered one of the best closers in Major League history, Wagner -- a Met from 2006-09 -- now appears to be on something approximating a Hall of Fame arc.

Complete 2020 Hall of Fame voting results

Consider this perspective: Larry Walker, who joined Derek Jeter in the Hall of Fame Class of 2020, appeared on just 11.8 percent of Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballots in his fifth year of eligibility. Edgar Martinez, who went into Cooperstown last year, appeared on 25.2 percent of ballots in year five. With half a decade remaining in his own candidacy, Wagner must follow the blueprint of those two and others who spiked during the second half of their eligibility.

Voters who support Wagner tend to base their arguments on how he compares to closers already in Cooperstown. For example, Wagner owns a better ERA and league-adjusted ERA+ than Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman -- both by significant margins. He is second in baseball history in those categories among relievers with at least 700 innings, trailing only first-ballot Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. His ERA also rates second-lowest among all qualified pitchers whose careers began in the Live Ball Era (since 1920).

In addition, Wagner sports the highest strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate among pitchers with at least 700 innings, and more total punchouts than Rivera (1,196 vs. 1,135). He does have a relatively low saves total (422) compared to Rivera (652) and Hoffman (601), as well as a relatively low innings total of 903, both of which have hurt his candidacy. But voters’ views on that appear to be changing.

In receiving increased support, Wagner leapfrogged Jeff Kent, another former Met whose path to Cooperstown appears more clouded. In his first year on the ballot, 2014, Kent received checkmarks from 15.2 percent of voters. His support has since zigzagged, peaking this season but still topping out at just 27.5 percent of the vote. The good news for Kent? That’s still more support than Walker received in his seventh year on the ballot, though it’s less than Martinez.

Over a 17-year career, Kent batted .290 with 377 home runs and an .855 OPS, making him one of the top offensive second basemen of all time. He spent five of those seasons with the Mets, hitting 67 homers.

Other former Mets on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot included Gary Sheffield and Bobby Abreu, who received 30.5 and 5.5 percent of the vote, respectively. That will be enough for both to return on the 2021 ballot. J.J. Putz, Jose Valverde and Heath Bell received one vote combined (for Putz), and will no longer be eligible for inclusion.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.