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2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot Series Part 1: ‘Tis My Season

IntroductionNoNo+Yes?
Yes*YesMy BallotLooking Ahead

Hello everyone. Welcome to one of my favorite (and simultaneously least favorite) times of the year: Hall of Fame season! Last year, at my personal blog writingabovereplacement.com which I ran at the time, I started a series of articles on the BBWAA ballot for the election cycle. The specific goal of the series was to use the system I have for determining Hall of Fame worthiness to break the candidates down into one of five buckets. One article would be written about each bucket of players, followed by a final decision about which players would be checked on my ballot and a look ahead at the notable players who will debut on the next few years’ worth of ballots.

The purpose of this article itself is not to evaluate any players. Instead, I wanted to provide context and an explanation for the system I’m using, and for what the buckets mean. To start, I’ll explain the numbers you’ll see in these articles by using a candidate from last year who is no longer on the ballot as an example.


Score: Score is a single-number rating of a player’s career. It’s based on several different length peaks within a career, as well as career totals, and value produced per amount of playing time. There is no real scale for Score, so in a vacuum, the number itself is rather useless. It’s here to provide a point of reference for the next two numbers. A final point of note about Score is that it is limited to regular-season performance—playoff accomplishments are not part of the formula.

Mean: The arithmetic mean of the Score for current Hall of Famers at a player’s primary position. Following statistical custom, outliers at the position, as determined by the typical Quartile ± (1.5 * IQR) formula, are excluded from the calculation of Mean.

Median: This is the median of all of the Scores for current Hall of Famers at the player in question’s primary position.

HoF+: This one is the main decision maker. Like all metrics on a “+” scale, HoF+ is centered at 100 with each one point away from 100 being a 1% difference from the center. As for what the center is, that’s a complicated and math-y answer. The short, digestible version is that 100 represents a player who would be at the 40th percentile of Hall of Famers at his position if he was inducted, assuming the distribution of players is normal.

HoF+ is scaled, meaning that any HoF+ of 100 or higher indicates a player is likely worthy of induction. Those with HoF+ in the 90’s are candidates who need serious consideration, but would have to have another reason for me to push them over the hump, for instance a decorated Postseason statline. The further below 100 a HoF+ is, the more compelling an additional argument the player would need to get my vote. I’m rolling this out as a new metric this year, so it may have some kinks in the system I need to work out, but to my mind it looked accurate enough to be made public.

zHoF: Last year when doing this series, this was the metric I used as the main deciding factor. As the name implies, zHoF is based upon z-scores, though with some adjustments. Z₁ is the standard z-score using Mean, while z₂ is the same concept but measuring spread from the Median instead. The final result, zHoF, is found by the formula 100 + (50 * (z₁ + z₂)), so that a player right at the mean and median would have a zHoF of 100; positive z-scores create a zHoF over 100, and negative mean under 100.

Another scaled metric, when using this as the main factor in decisions, I tended to have as a rule of thumb that a zHoF of 75 or higher was meritorious of a plaque in Cooperstown. I would strongly consider all candidates above 50, but, like with HoF+, players below the mark need to convince me by other means.

Percentile: No long explanation here, this is simple. I simply convert the player’s average of z₁ and z₂ and convert that result to a percentile, again assuming a normal distribution among the Scores of Hall of Famers at a player’s position, with the player himself included in the data.

Ahead Of: This is the simplest of all of the numbers listed for each player. It tells how many of the current Hall of Famers at a player’s position that player has a higher Score than, then shows that result as a percentage.


I already said earlier that I classify all of the players on the ballot into one of five buckets. The buckets are the variations of yes and no listed on the opening table of this article (as I write this series I’ll be adding the link to each article to that table). What I’d like to do is give a quick rundown on what each bucket means, as well as say how many of the 25 players on this year’s ballot fit into that bucket. All of the buckets are based off of a hypothetical dichotomous system wherein I would simply vote yes or no on each candidate, as opposed to the actual process of checking off up to 10 names. It’s worth noting that the articles on each group will be slightly different, and will go in order of the table, the reverse order of how I’m about to explain them now.

Yes (6 Players): The “Yes” bucket of players are the ones myself and my metrics have deemed clear-cut Hall of Famers. They are worthy of Cooperstown induction on the merits of their playing career, and also avoided the PED-related issues that hound the cases of some of the other players on the ballot. Barring extraordinary circumstances (of which there is one this year) I will always vote for these players, and prioritize them on my personal ballot.

Yes* (5): Another group who, by playing career alone, are definitive Hall of Fame players. These, however, are those who may owe some of their numbers to chemical-alteration. I have no problem voting for players with known or suspected PED use, but I won’t vote for them over deserving clean players. After filling out the players from the previous bucket, the top players in this one would be used to finish out my ballot. Please note, players only find themselves here because of steroids; other character-clause issues remain in the “Yes” bucket, and are the extraordinary circumstances to which I referred if their offenses are egregious enough in my eyes.

Yes? (1): If I was given a binary yes/no choice for each candidate, I’d tentatively vote yes for the players in this group. Typically, they’re just a bit below the standards in HoF+ and zHoF, but have another hook in their argument to convince me. Rarely will players in this bucket make my 10-person ballot, as I would vote for both “Yes” and “Yes*” before them, but if there happens to be a slot or two remaining, I’ll happily, though not confidently, check off the names of players in this bucket.

No+ (5): These are players I wouldn’t vote for given a yes/no choice. Yet I still thought of these players as serious candidates. There are two ways into this group: one is by having a strong but not quite strong enough Hall of Fame case, while the other is being receiving a high percentage of the actual vote the year prior or on the tracker of public ballots. Essentially, I don’t support voting for the players in this bucket, but I do think they require discussion of their merits.

No (8): This bucket contains the players who are clearly not Hall of Famers. They won’t come close on any of the metrics, nor will they last more than a year on the ballot. Their careers, however, are still worth remembering, and their year on the ballot gives an easy excuse to do so.


Over the next two months I’ll savor the time of year that I get to write about a topic where I have strong opinions and numbers to back them. Hopefully you’ll savor reading it. Remember, if you disagree with what I have to say, and on this topic I’m sure people will, my Twitter handle is in my bio. Happy Hall of Fame season everyone!

Sean Huff

Sean is a psychology major and mathematics minor in his senior year at Fordham College at Rose Hill. He is a lifelong baseball fan with a nominal affinity for the Phillies. You can follow him on Twitter at @srhkthew2 for occasional comments on baseball and assorted esoterica.

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