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Voting trends favor Hoffman for HOF in 2018

MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- It's the offseason in San Diego, which means it's time to rekindle the Trevor Hoffman Hall of Fame chatter.

Should Hoffman -- arguably the second-best closer in baseball history -- be enshrined in Cooperstown? That's the question posed to 400-or-so voters from the Baseball Writers' Association of America. A year ago, 74 percent said yes, putting him agonizingly close to the 75 percent required for induction.

SAN DIEGO -- It's the offseason in San Diego, which means it's time to rekindle the Trevor Hoffman Hall of Fame chatter.

Should Hoffman -- arguably the second-best closer in baseball history -- be enshrined in Cooperstown? That's the question posed to 400-or-so voters from the Baseball Writers' Association of America. A year ago, 74 percent said yes, putting him agonizingly close to the 75 percent required for induction.

2017 Hall of Fame ballot

There's another question worth analyzing in the early stages of Hall voting, with Hoffman's name back on the ballot for a third year. Namely: Is this the year Hoffman gets inducted?

Notice the difference? One question pertains to Hoffman's worthiness. That hasn't changed since his name first appeared on the docket in 2015. The other takes a look at the likelihood he'll be elected. That question changes based on voting trends. And there are two that seem to favor Hoffman this time around.

Vote totals
Historically, Hall voting follows a pattern. Even with a question as simple as "Hall of Famer or not?" the numbers trend in certain directions. And if we look to the past for those trends, we can glean projections for the future.

The projections favor Hoffman. No doubt, last January was a disappointment for Padres fans, given that Hoffman fell only five votes shy of election. But -- disappointment aside -- there are three key takeaways from that number.

• Five players have missed out on election by one percent. All five -- Craig Biggio, Bert Blyleven, Jim Bunning, Jimmy Williams and Nellie Fox -- are currently enshrined in Cooperstown.

• The current Hall of Fame voting procedure was largely set in 1969. Since then, 15 players have received 70 percent and returned to the ballot the following year. Only Bunning was not elected, but he was later enshrined via the Veterans Committee.

• Under modern voting rules, each candidate to receive more than 50 percent of the vote in his second year on the ballot has since been enshrined. Hoffman's 74 percent puts him in excellent shape.

Video: Hoffman reached epic milestones with the Brewers

The 2018 ballot
For voters, there's more to answer than the question: "Is Trevor Hoffman a Hall of Famer?" Like it or not, the Hall has rules. And one of its most controversial rules is the limit of 10 players on each ballot.

For voters who believe there are more than 10 qualified candidates, the question has instead become: "Is Trevor Hoffman one of the 10 most deserving eligible Hall of Famers?" A year ago, at least four writers would've voted for Hoffman without the limit, according to BBHOF Tracker -- a site which logs all publicly available ballots.

Here's where the 2018 ballot helps Hoffman's cause. Three players -- Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez and Tim Raines -- received more than 75 percent and were inducted in July. This year, Chipper Jones is the only newcomer who seems like a lock.

Jim Thome should knock on the door, while Omar Vizquel, Andruw Jones and Scott Rolen have cases, too. But there's no question this year's ballot has more space for Hoffman, with three big-time vote-getters off the board.

Video: Hoffman saves three consecutive games to win NL West

The verdict
It's early in the process, and there aren't yet any indicators of which way Hoffman is moving in the eyes of the electorate.

But this much is clear: If recent trends hold, Hoffman should be Hall-bound in 2018.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres