Sunday, January 11, 2015

Finding Bagwell's Votes - A Post Mortem Analysis

I was over the moon excited when they called Biggio's name on MLB Network on Tuesday. Then, they announced Bagwell's percentages and the full results, and my excitement was tinged with disbelief. Bagwell was over 60% in the Gizmo at the time of the announcement, and fell all the way to 55.7%. While a slight gain in percentage (his raw vote total dropped, with fewer voters) over last year, it was well short of what I was expecting and hoping. The day of the announcement, I tweeted this.

The actual result was 0-4 on the best case scenario and even 2-4 on my likely scenario. Leading to this tweet.

Is there hope on the horizon though? Maybe. At 306/549, he ended up 106 votes short of election. After adding three per year apparently clear first ballot hall of famers the past two years, next year adds only Griffey Jr. as a clear cut, without a doubt, first ballot guy. I mean, he's got 77.3 fWAR, how could they not vote for him? With Biggio, Smoltz, Johnson and Pedro coming off, that is a lot of available slots for Bagwell and his 80.3 fWAR to gain votes (see what I did there?).

I have taken a look at some of the data from Ryan Thibs' wonderful spreadsheet to see if I can come up with some idea for where Bagwell's gains might come from. UPDATE. Ryan Thibbs is proving indefatigable, and continues to update the tracker with additional voters. The following numbers are based on the numbers as of 1/11/2015. There might be some changes, although I'd expect them to be minimal, at this point.

Looking at the results, you can divide the anti-Bagwell voters into two distinct groups, the pro-Bonds group and the anti-Bonds group. I am presuming the anti-Bonds group is most likely to have rejected Bagwell based on some sort of steroids suspicion. Case in point, of the 17 ESPN voters, 9 of them voted for Bagwell, and the same 9 voted for Bonds. Seems the other 8 were withholding their vote based on a suspicion of steroids, some more vocally than others.

Of the 116 public anti-Bagwell voters, 71 also said no to Bonds. Of those, only 14 used all 10 slots, which means 57 anti-Bagwell voters had room on their ballot but still chose not to add him. In my mind, this is the group in which Bagwell has the smallest room to make gains. Sure, there will be some who change their minds, or who have said they are merely waiting for additional evidence, but by and large, this group is unlikely to budge significantly, at least not next year. I would expect Bagwell to add maybe half of the available 10 slot voters, plus maybe 5 to 10 of the remaining 57, for a gain of 15-20. The group to watch is the portion of this group that said yes to Piazza (30). This group might not be as hard lined on mere suspicions as others, and might be Bagwell's biggest chance of movement in the anti-Bonds group.

Of the remaining 45, the situation looks a little better. A full 29 of these voters used all 10 slots, and the vast majority have at least 3 more slots to work with next year. Some have publicly said Bagwell will have their vote next year (Caple, Rozner, Lacques). I wouldn't be surprised to see Bagwell pick up 20 votes from this group alone. 15 seems like a conservative estimate. Total, from the pro-Bonds group, I'd expect him to add 20-25 votes.

The most interesting group to me in this group is the yes to McGwire/no to Bagwell and yes to Sosa/no to Bagwell. This group clearly has no problem with steroids, being the rare group that is voting for even the more borderline steroids tied candidates. Of the 30 public voters who voted for McGwire, 17 of them did not vote for Bagwell. With Sosa, there were only 15 public voters, with 10 of them not voting for Bagwell. Now, this is weird, because to me Bagwell is better than McGwire and miles ahead of Sosa in value. This is the group that looks at shiny homerun totals and little else. Still, this group almost uniformly voted for 10, so I'd expect Bagwell to appear on most of these ballots next year.

If Bagwell picks up 35-45 votes total from the public ballots, that would put him at 60-63% total, without even considering gains from the non-public. Unfortunately, I think that group will be the toughest to budge, especially next year.

Honestly, I don't know what to make of the non-published ballots. The total percentage in the non-published dropped from nearly 54% in 2014 to 49% in 2015. This group was also much less likely to fill their ballots, averaging nearly a vote per ballot lower than the public group, and was less likely to also support Bonds.

My pet theory on this group is that they are entirely momentum driven. Biggio and Piazza were the only two to gain total support on the crowded 2014 ballot, and were among the only ones to make significant gains among the non public voters this year, along with Raines, who perhaps benefited from a public campaign from Jonah Keri and others.

I'd expect modest gains from this group, maybe adding 15-20 more voters, pushing the percentage up to close to 65% . If that happens, Bagwell will have momentum in his favor, and more of the public voters will add him the following year, leading to a larger jump.

If Bagwell can jump to 65%+ in 2016, it will set him up nicely for a possible 2017 induction. Anything less than that, I think it will be difficult to make up the difference in one year, and we are possibly looking at 2018 or 2019 target. 2020 will be his last year on the ballot under the new 10 year rule, and I sincerely hope it doesn't come to that, or, even worse, a veterans committee. Silver lining though? After the 2015 trip, the longer wait might make a return trip to Cooperstown a little more manageable on the wallet.