Shortly after Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson announced the results of this year's BBWAA voting, I weighed in with a few quick thoughts. Here I'll delve more fully into the results, candidate by candidate for all 24 of those that I profiled at length. I won't belabor their cases, which you can read about via the links to each of my JAWS-flavored profiles.
Before I dive in, one aspect of this year's results that's worth noting is that just three of the 17 holdovers saw their shares of the vote drop relative to 2014, neither of them by more than 1.2 percentage points. While the raw number of ballots dropped from 571 to 549, the number of names per ballot crept upwards, from 8.39 last year to 8.42, a new high for the period since the writers returned to annual voting in 1966. Likewise, the percentage of voters using all 10 spots rose from 50 percent to 51, both more than double the rate of any other election during that timespan.
With apologies to Rich Aurilia, Aaron Boone, Tony Clark, Jermaine Dye, Darin Erstad, Cliff Floyd, Tom Gordon, Eddie Guardado, Troy Percival and Jason Schmidt — who were indeed one-and-done, collecting just nine votes (0.2 percent) combined — away we go.
Randy Johnson (97.3 percent): No surprise here. The Big Unit will take his rightful place in Cooperstown as befits a pitcher with the all-time record for strikeouts by a lefty (4,875) and for strikeout rate by a pitcher with at least 3,000 innings (10.6 per nine).
Pedro Martinez (91.1): Prior to the announcement of the results, Ryan Thibs' Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker, which gathered all of the individual ballots published online or on-air, showed Johnson (98.5 percent) and Martinez (98.0 percent) neck-and-neck for the top share of the vote. A much lower percentage of those unpublished ballots contained Martinez's name, but no matter. He'll get his plaque, and you can bet that his induction speech will be one for the ages.
Craig Biggio (82.7): Aside from test-flunking Rafael Palmeiro, no other modern member of the 3,000 hit club failed to gain entry on the first ballot before Biggio. Thankfully, after missing by a mere two votes last year and even getting bumped by voters who quite rationally saw him as somewhere between the 11th and 15th-best candidate on this ballot, he gained 7.9 percentage points over 2014, clearing the bar with plenty of room to spare.
Mike Piazza (69.9): It shouldn't take the best-hitting catcher of all-time four election cycles to be elected to the Hall of Fame, but for the second year in a row, Piazza gained substantial ground. His 7.7-point gain was the fourth-largest of any holdover, and he's well-positioned for election next year. Since 1966, only one player out of 22 receiving at least 69 percent failed to reach 75 the next year: Roy Campanella, who pulled the same 69.9 percent in 1967, inched to 72.4 percent in 1968 and finally topped 75 percent in 1969.
Jeff Bagwell (55.7): Progress has been agonizingly slow for Bagwell, who gained 1.4 percentage points but is still shy of his 2013 share (59.6 percent) and now halfway through his candidacy. He should benefit greatly next year by the dearth of obvious first-ballot candidates (Ken Griffey Jr. will get in, Trevor Hoffman will linger, Jim Edmonds will languish) and could position himself for a 2017 entry.
Curt Schilling (39.2): He didn't crack 50 percent as the exit polling suggested he might; in fact, nobody lost more ground relative to the published ballots than his 12.3 points. But perhaps more importantly, no holdover candidate gained more ground than the 10 points he added from last year. With so many 300-win pitchers out of the way and with two non-300 winners now elected by the writers as well, he should continue to progress upward toward the magic 75 percent.
Roger Clemens (37.5) and Barry Bonds (36.8): Some see their lagging vote shares as the definitive word that they'll never be elected, but even amid a flood of strong candidates, each gained 2.1 percentage points over 2014. As the "whisper candidates" gain entry in the next few years, joining what those in the know say are already-elected PED users in the Hall of Fame (and I don't mean amphetamines) — I predict resistance to this pair will soften. Warts and all, they'll be elected before their seven remaining years of eligibility pass.
Lee Smith (30.2): It was already clear that the former all-time saves leader had an uphill climb in his remaining time on the ballot, but for Smith's final two years, he'll be joined by the man who broke his record, Hoffman.
Alan Trammell (25.1): He gained 4.3 percentage points over last year, tied with the man below him for the fifth-biggest gain, but it's too little, too late, as he heads into his 15th and final vote in 2016.
Mike Mussina (24.6): Yes, he gained ground beyond his disappointing 2014 debut, but he also lost more ground relative to the exit polling (10.6 points) than any player besides Schilling. The good news is that the pair will reign as the heavyweight champions among the starting pitchers on the ballot until at least 2019, when two-time Cy Young winner Roy Halladay (who scores significantly below them in JAWS) becomes eligible.
Jeff Kent (14): Remarkably, no candidate lost more ground from his 2014 share than Kent did; he fell by 1.2 points. That's negligible in the grand scheme of things, but it hardly suggests he's going to climb toward election in his remaining eight years on the ballot.
Fred McGriff (12.9): He received enough support to prevent him from falling off the ballot, but that's not saying much as he heads into his 10th and final turn. His supporters will have to hope that the Expansion Era Committee meets on a farm upstate, where the Crime Dog can run around freely…
Larry Walker (11.8): Park effects, a short career and an overcrowded ballot have created a perfect storm to prevent a great all-around player (and a JAWS-approved one) from gaining any traction. Walker added just 1.6 points from last year and is now halfway through his time on the ballot.
Gary Sheffield (11.7): Particularly given the early exit polls, it looked as though he might be one-and-done — an astonishing thing for a player with 509 career homers — but he gained enough ground among the unpublished ballots for his candidacy to survive. It will take at least another year to get a better sense of whether it was the competition on the ballot or the BALCO connection that held his vote total down.
Don Mattingly (9.1): In his 15th and final turn, Donnie Baseball gained less than a full percentage point from the year before. If he's ever going to get into Cooperstown without a ticket, he'll need to work on managerial tactics and strategy. Is Don Zimmer available?
Sammy Sosa (6.6): Like McGwire, he didn't fall off the ballot as some expected, but he did fall from 7.2 percent last year.
Nomar Garciaparra (5.5): Given that he was below two percent in the public balloting, it rates as a small surprise that his candidacy lives on, but his credentials on both traditional and sabermetric merits (including a seven-year peak above that of the average Hall of Fame shortstop) aren't so easily dismissed as many expected.
Carlos Delgado (3.8): Once upon a time, a player who hit at least 30 home runs for 10 straight seasons, as Delgado did from 1997 to 2006, would have been on his way to Cooperstown in short order. Times have changed, both with regards to the overcrowded ballot and to the attention paid to other aspects of a slugger's game, so he falls off.
Brian Giles (0): A career .291/.400/.502 hitter with a solid JAWS score and no PED scandal next to his name deserved better than a complete shutout, but who was going to make room for him even as a token vote? I guess we have our answer.