Thursday, January 30, 2014


Gerard Philipe (with Madeleine Robinson) in UNE SE JOLIE PETITE PLAGE:
getting wet in all the wrong ways. 
Still in the thrall of film noir (the 12th edition of Noir City in San Francisco, where the seven deadly sins have sailed out from America to embrace their inner impulses around the globe), so our denouement--a word, BTW, never uttered by Jean Gabin, Yves Montand, or Gerard Philipe--has been delayed a bit. But a slam-bang finish, set to the sound of whimpering, is something deep in our (non)-Gallic blood--so here goes.

Is there a pattern in the Baseball Reliquary carpet? By that, we aren't referring back to the well-known "adversity/extremity/otherness" rap that we've spun over the years, though that remains a solid thematic analysis of the forces at work in selecting the Shrine of the Eternals. No, we're here to quantify, dammit--so themes be damned.

So, let's quantify already. In earlier installments we referred to the "classes" (the yearly crop of new candidates) that have been featured since the massively successful inaugural ballot, from which 21 Shrine inductees originated. We isolated one statistic associated with these classes--the percentage of the yearly vote that the new candidates received. Here, in the chart at left, we collect that data, along with the percentage of the inductees in any given year who have eventually become inductees.

Is there a pattern in that data? As M. Philipe would say, mais oui. As the chart shows, there is a relatively linear pattern between the percent of the vote garnered by the candidates in their first year on the Reliquary ballot and the percentage of those who become Eternals.

Of course, it only makes sense: the top-notch candidates (whoever they are) will draw more votes at the outset, and will rise to the top of the vote. The voting process (top three, with no set percentage of the vote required) pretty much guarantees that we will have a pattern of the type seen in the chart. That doesn't explain why certain candidates are the anointed ones, of course, but it gives us a cut-off point between success and failure. And, as you can see by the handy color-coding, that cut-off point is right around 12 percent.

In fact, the difference (expressed this way) is astonishingly stark. If a class gets 12% or more of the vote in its first year, nearly one-fourth of the candidates will become members of the Eternals. If a class gets less than 12%, less than 1% of the candidates make it in. (And that singular candidate who bucked the odds is none other than Lester Rodney, the leftist sportswriter who was a tireless--and occasionally tiresome, at least to his detractors--proponent of integration. Perhaps there was some finely tuned sense in the Reliquary voters when they inducted Rodney in 2005 along with Jackie Robinson.)

As you can see, the first-year candidates have a varied success rate. (We're not going to create a "running percentage" chart to track their level of success, because that's not relevant--a situation that occurs more and more often in baseball numberology these days. Such a chart would have no real meaning.) What's clear is that the Reliquary brain trust has not lost its touch over the years--they've had very successful years in recent times, as a look at 2008 and 2010 will demonstrate. There's also a good bit of hope in the last two recent classes--2012 and 2013. They look likely to pay off well over time.

So what about 2014? We're going to leave you with only the names of these new candidates, in order to let you ponder and puzzle over them, to try to examine what their chances of being viable members of the Shrine. As always, Terry and Buddy create an impossible range of possibilities, allowing whim and fate to take hold of their voting population--they strip-mine the history of the game in a way that leaves you slack-jawed with simultaneous wonder and confusion.

Roll the names over in your heads, let 'em roll off your tongues (but for G's sake, don't start speaking in tongues--if that starts happening, you've got the wrong Shrine, baby). Based on the data that was assembled in part two, we think we might be able to pull a Chris Jaffe on our old pals here and actually make some prognostications as to how the class of 2014 will fare in the voting. We will do that after several quite protracted commercial messages, and a series of adventures that will rival those of Gerard Philipe in the rainy, redolent tale of woe we referenced at the top, a film that probably should have been titled Camus at the Beach.

But the only beach involved with the Reliquary is the one where Terry and Buddy go every time they fashion a new list of potential Eternals, where they cavort with those magic balloons that they can let go of with impish impunity, knowing that instead of flying away and being lost forever, they will magically return to the hands who've released them.

That what's being an anti-organization can do for you. Try it sometime!

Saturday, January 25, 2014


In installment #1 of this series, we looked at the yearly ballot origins for the current inductees in the Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals. To recap, 21 of the 45 current inductees appeared on the initial 1999 ballot--a fact that demonstrates the prescience and judgment of the Shrine's fathers (Reliquary honchoes Terry Cannon and Buddy Kilchesty).

Here, in installment #2, we'll look at the voting results in greater detail. (Thanks to our old friend and occasional confederate G. Jay Walker for doing the lion's share of the compilation efforts.) Here we'll look at each new "class" of Shrine candidates from 2000 to the present and provide some brief commentary, followed by a summary analysis.

Some color-coding explanation at the outset. A yellow line across the candidate's data in each table indicates someone who has been inducted into the Shrine; a blue line indicates someone who is still on the 2014 ballot (which was recently released to the public; voting will commence in April, and the sixteenth class of Eternals will be announced in early May). A name in italics indicates someone who is in the Hall of Fame.

The 2000 ballot has produced two inductees: Jim Abbott and William "Dummy" Hoy. It's an interesting coincidence that both of these men are players who played with significant physical handicaps. Four "class of 2000" members remain on the ballot, two of whom have returned after being removed previously. Five candidates were dropped after receiving little support in the first year of voting.

The 2001 ballot is one of the most successful after the massive success story in 1999: no less than six members of this "class" have been inducted (Rod Dedeaux, Fernando Valenzuela, Kenichi Zenimura, Bill Buckner, Luis Tiant and Eddie Feigner). Dizzy Dean, on the ballot continuously since 2001, has gained support over the years and is a leading candidate for induction in 2014. Sy Berger, who revolutionized the baseball card business during his tenure with Topps, debuted on the 2001 ballot, was dropped after his second year, but returned on the 2013 ballot with an impressive vote total and appears to have a good shot at induction in the near future. Only two candidates were dropped after the first year of voting.

The "class of 2002" did not gather much support (only 9% of the ballots were cast for these candidates in their initial year, third lowest percentage in the history of the Shrine voting). Half of the candidates (five of ten) were dropped after the first year; three of the remaining candidates were dropped after year two. Only Charles Conlon, the famed baseball photographer, and Fay Vincent, the "martyred" baseball commissioner, have been on the ballot continuously and remain on it for 2014. Joe Pepitone was returned to the ballot in 2012 and has gained more support in his second go-round with the Reliquary voters.

2003 proved to be another extremely successful group of candidates, yielding five Shrine inductees (Ila Borders, Roberto Clemente, Ted Giannoulas aka the San Diego Chicken, Bill James and Dr. Frank Jobe). There is more diversity in this gaggle of inductees than in any other "class," and arguably in any other "Hall of Fame"-type organization anywhere. There's an odd fact elsewhere in the voting results, however: several candidates with 10% or more of the vote were dropped after the first year (not usually the case in these elections). Only legendary LA-based coach and scout Phil Pote remains on the 2014 ballot.

A huge influx of new candidates arrived in 2004 (eighteen in total), but only one (pioneering leftist sportswriter Lester Rodney) emerged as an Eternal. Several of the 2004 nominees hung around the ballot for a number of years, but only Ernie Harwell and Tug McGraw are still on the current ballot.

2005 had a better-than-average vote percentage for new candidates (12%, a bit better than the historical average of 11.7%), but it has produced only one inductee thus far (Jim "Mudcat" Grant, one of the most gracious--and loquacious--of "in person" guests at the annual induction ceremony). Don Zimmer, considered by some to be the Jack Morris of Shrine of the Eternals candidates, was just fractions of a pecentage point from being enshrined in 2013 and may well make it this year. Writer Eliot Asinof (of Eight Men Out fame) is the other "class of 2005" holdover. (Doug Rader's low vote count in this election suggests that Jim Bouton's Ball Four tales have weak coattails when it comes to the Shrine).

From here on in, we're shrinking the charts, since we don't really need to see all of those blank spaces in the preceding years.

2006 has proven to be a fallow year; only two of the twelve candidates remain on the ballot. Interestingly, perhaps, those two (Mike Marshall and Rusty Staub) share a connection with the late and still lamented Montreal Expos franchise.

The class of 2007 produced two enormously popular candidates: pitcher-writer Jim Brosnan, the pioneer of the in-season player diary, who was elected in his first year; and Emmett Ashford, pioneering African-American umpire, who was selected in his second year. (The Shrine voters truly do love pioneers, though they probably won't be fooled into voting for Danny Boone.)  Two other candidates from this class remain on the ballot, and they're good ones: Fred Merkle (he of the famous "Boner"...ranks high in "adversity") and Dan Quisenberry (ranks high in the "he is one of us" factor). Neither looks to be a strong factor in the 2014 voting, however.

2008 is a classic "boom or bust" year, with three inductees (Buck O'Neil, Jim Eisenreich, and Manny Mota) surrounded by a group that was resoundingly rejected by the voters. One exception to that, however, and it's a big one: in one of their most canny connections between baseball and American culture, Cannon and Kilchesty tabbed the hero-victim of Charles M. Schulz' classic cartoon strip Peanuts, Charlie Brown--long-suffering pitcher and manager of his rag-tag team (that featured a beagle playing shortstop)--as perhaps the ultimate Eternal. Thus far, however, the round-headed kid has not quite captured the imagination of the voters. It's a shame, because this is one of the best "high concepts" that the Reliquary has come up with, at least on a par with the "Walter O'Malley tortilla."

The 2009 ballot contains some kind of glitch that we hope Mr. Walker (who compiled 95% of this data from source materials) will one day rectify. We have no idea who "Oriole Parl" is supposed to be, but the data we've received indicated that someone or something by that name (if it is a name...) received 5% of the vote from the Shrine constituency that year. What we can tell you is that only one member of the "class of 2009" is still on the ballot in 2014--Vic Power. We like Vic, but we don't think he's going to become an Eternal unless they (heaven forfend) create their own "Veterans' Committee."

[UPDATE: The mystery of "Oriole Parl" has been solved, thanks to Terry Cannon himself. It was a transcription error in Jay Walker's spreadsheet--and one simple enough that a bright third-grader (which we once were, but are clearly no longer...) could figure out. It's "Oriole Park," short for "Oriole Park at Camden Yards," and this was Buddy Kilchesty's brainchild--that the first of the "new breed" of modern ballparks was a tipping point of sufficient force that it should be commemorated as a key moment in baseball history. Alas, a superbly impassioned mini-essay on the subject did not resonate with Reliquary voters, and Kilchesty's kinetic prose went for naught, as the voting results indicate.]

2010 was a very successful ballot-year, with three quick inductees in Roger Angell, Pete Rose, and Maury Wills. Full disclosure: Angell had been on the 1999 ballot, but got lost in the wealth of those names, polling only 4%. Eleven years later, he outpolled Rose. Neither of them came to the induction ceremony, but Rose was thoughtful enough to send Greg Goossen, who gave one of the funniest speeches in the history of the Eternals ceremonies. Shockingly, less than two years later, he passed away.

The "class of 2011" had the second lowest overall percent of the vote (7.7%) of any yearly group. Only Annie Savoy, fictional baseball groupie memorably portrayed by Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham (1988), remains on the 2014 ballot. Like Charlie Brown, Annie is an inspired idea for the Eternals: we hope the two of them might wind up going in together someday.

2012 produced two very strong candidates: Lefty O'Doul, who was elected in 2013 in his second year on the ballot; and Steve Bilko, the legendary PCL slugger who had three electrifying seasons with the old Los Angeles Angels in 1955-57. Four other candidates aside from Bilko remain on the 2014 ballot, but, sadly, not Toni Stone, the pioneering female African-American who played second base in the 1950s Negro Leagues.

There are no inductees yet from the 2013 candidates, though Bo Jackson showed astonishing strength (as was always the case, of course, in real life) with 32% of the vote; Rocky Colavito also polled well.

We still hold out hope, however, for Octavius Catto, whose life (and early, violent death) intersected the dangerous age of post-Civil War reconstruction, the often-overlooked backdrop for the rise of professional baseball. Catto is one of the most inspired choices for the Shrine since their first, ultra-visionary ballot, adding the kind of historical depth that makes the Reliquary project unique. A voting body that has shown a strong tendency to support the African-American experience in baseball and the social meaning associated with it should eventually connect the dots and induct Catto, who is the original, largely forgotten symbol of the long, difficult struggle for integration.

We will take a look at the 2014 ballot, including the new candidates, in Part 3. We'll also look at some patterns in the voting results that might prove interesting from a variety of perspectives. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Now this might be the ultimate sacrilege. After years of extolling the virtues of the Baseball Reliquary (you know: the mysterious, quirky-but-visionary anti-organization with its "Hall of Fame for the rest of us"), we're going to turn around and "murder to dissect" the voting practices of that mystical, far-flung group with more je ne sais quoi than any random collection of a thousand Frenchmen?

Well, sure. After all, there are no sacred cows here (possibly a lone udder somewhere in the outlying precincts, but we wouldn't bet on it and would caution you against it). And, hey, what if the numbers actually told us something?

Now, some of you may already know the reason for this untrammeled (and most assuredly unpasturized) introduction: the Baseball Reliquary, heading into Year 16 of its Shrine of the Eternals voting ritual, has released the names of their newest candidates on their annual ballot. We'll discuss them in a later installment (which, yes, is why there's a "/1" in the title: we're going to drag this out for awhile).

So we are going to look at the Shrine of the Eternals voting results from something that somewhat resembles a statistical perspective. (Mark Twain's remarks might be appropriate here--or, rather, appropriately inappropriate...keep in mind those damned outlying precincts!)

Our lone chart for tonight (next time we promise a floodtide of visual aids: come to think of it, that's a threat--and a promise...) will show you just how "locked in" the Reliquary brain trust was when they first formulated the ballot for their voters. (In case you don't recall, the extraordinary twins of the Reliquary, Terry "Chang" Cannon and Buddy "Eng" Kilchesty, are the prime movers behind the fifty names that appear on the yearly Shrine of the Eternals ballot.)

As the chart shows (by listing the Shrine's inductees by the year in which they first appeared on the ballot), that first year in 1999 was one of extraordinary prescience and vision.

21 of the 45 current inductees in the Shrine of the Eternals first appeared on the ballot in that first year. That's just under half of the Shrine's total population.

The Reliquary's jolly jugglers got things off to an extraordinary start, with results that are, in fact, odds-defying.

Now it's true that things have been a bit different since that first magnificent collection of nominees in 1999. It could only be thus. We'll see more evidence of why that is when we come back for Part 2. But it's clear that the process has become more hit-and-miss since that original grand synthesis.

As you can see, the "classes" of 2001 and 2003 were extremely successful, bringing a total of eleven more Eternals into the pantheon. Since then, the 1999 class produced eight more inductees, while the ongoing new classes from 2004-2012 contributed a total of eleven. 2010 was a rallying point, with two first-year inductees for the first time since the first year, but it's a slower process now.

A couple of interesting tidbits before we sign off. Note that the irrepressible Jim Bouton is the inductee who had the lowest initial vote total of anyone who's been elected into the Shrine. He got just 4% of the vote in 1999.

And note that the amazing one-armed outfielder, Pete Gray, received 44% of the vote in that first year...but it took him twelve more ballots to finally be inducted. As they say: go figure.

We'll have a lot more detail--and by "a lot" we mean "a lot"--in part 2. Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Here's a quickie for you (and we should never disparage "quickies," especially given the state of the world's "cultural economy"...) to show how things change when an offensive explosion starts to resemble a fallen soufflé.

Fourteen years into "the new century," we can look at the percentages of low run scoring games (those games where the total number of runs for both teams is six or less) and see how the offensive landscape has changed.

The rising line in the single-year chart (at right) shows how much (and how fast) things have changed. When we divide those fourteen twenty-first century years into two seven-year groups (2000-06, 2007-13), we see that each team, on average, has increased from 44 low-scoring games in the first seven years to 51 such games in the second seven seasons. That's a 16% uptick; the chart shows you that we are approaching the percentages that were in place in the 1988-92 time frame.

We can go a bit further, though, and look at the results by team. When we do that, we get an interesting result that tracks with the title of our not-so "quickie." The table at left shows the results by team in low-scoring games, with 2000-06 in yellow, 2007-13 in orange.

What you'll see in the data (the bolded WPCTs in the 2000-06 data, the bracketed WPCTs in the 2007-13 section) is that when there are a higher number of low-seoring games, the performance range between teams becomes tighter. In 2000-06, four teams (Braves, Yankees, Giants, Cardinals) played over .600 ball in low-scoring games, and the A's were close at .592. In 2007-13, however, no team came close to a .600 winning percentage over those seven years. The Phillies were the best, at .561, and there were only three teams who were over .550.

The STDEV (standard deviation) for team performance in low-scoring games was cut nearly in half in the 2007-13 time frame, as opposed to what it had been in 2000-06.

The other percentages shown in the chart's rightmost columns measure the change in the number of low-scoring games, and the change in WPCT in those games. For the most part, the teams that have increased their number of low-scoring games in 2007-13 have been contending teams during those years; the key exception--as you might expect, given what you know about the data we present--turns out to be the Kansas City Royals. (In their defense, we can say that they have come a long way from their lowly performance--.410 WPCT--in 2000-06.

The top teams in imprpved WPCT in low-scoring games are not quite as cut-and-dried--only the Tampa Bay Rays seem to have parlayed this particularized improvement into consistent contention. What we need to look at--and it won't be a "quickie"--is to see if improvement in this data subset, whether in single season comparisons or longer combinations, correlates with future improvement. For teams like the Braves, GIants and Cardinals, losing greound in these games has not proven fatal to their ability to contend.

So what's interesting here is mostly the systemic tendency for performance range to narrow in low-scoring games when overall offensive levels decline. We'll push back again at this topic a bit later on...

Sunday, January 12, 2014


No one should be surprised by the timing of MLB's release of arbitrator Fredric Horowitz' decision in the A-Rod witchhunt:

--After a Hall of Fame vote that restored a certain level of "normalcy" for that embattled process;

--On the weekend, when the full force of the media cycle would be necessarily muted.

We knew that would be the case, since we still have Superfly Buzzy™ on duty; from what we could glean from his many carefully choreographed interventions (along with the up-and-coming new style of "oblique hacking" that will soon make Julian Assange and Edward Snowden look like blushing Boy Scouts...) the plan had been in place even before Horowitz tipped his hand, when bullet-proof car salesman turned MLB poo-poo bah Bud Selig was allowed to skate instead of play hopscotch.

And Buzzy also noted that several of Budzilla's "thug squad" (since Bud doesn't appear to have the chutzpah to man the phones in his "hail fellow well-met" arm-twisting chicanery of years past) had already crafted the "fib line" for the media to follow:

"MLB arbitrator reduces A-Rod's sentence to 162 games."

For any of you who may still be spitting out watermelon seeds in the back of the truck, this is nothing more than bait-and-switchery at its most consummately condescending. The plan was always to force A-Rod off the field in 2014. And it took the full-throttle shillery of the arbitrator to toss out all of the unsavory (and quite possibly criminal) activity of MLB so that it could enforce its ruling.

With enough media lapdogs on board (we've considered sending Tyler Kepner a poster-sized image of Roy Cohn so he can see where his true calling lies...) the skullduggery that has increasingly come into play in the escalating "steroid revenge hysteria" can be kept from public view.

By focusing on A-Rod as something akin to an "enemy of the state," a great deal of tainting (if not outright poisoning) of the legal zeitgeist can be achieved, thus shrinking the odds that any kind of legal remedy on A-Rod's behalf can even get off the ground. (Mike O'Keefe at the New York Daily News is already on the job, shamelessly shilling for Horowitz.)

The best outcome of this incredibly tawdry effort on the part of Budzilla and his trained seals in suits would be if A-Rod got an injunction permitting him to play in 2014 pending a full trial, with Budzi-poo forced to testify in open court right smack in the middle of his (Bud's) last post-season. At which point he'll have to find the right seal to fall on his suit to take the rap for the illegal efforts (up to and including the purchase of falsified testimony--you know...perjury!!) in order not to wind up with a scandal that could keep that placard with his craggy mug from being forcibly put on display in Cooperstown.

Now, it's true...A-Rod has had way too many g-friends
who've looked just like this...if these are the ones who
"dig the long ball," then bunting might well be the best strategy.
We aren't holding our breath for such a scenario, of course, and neither should you. While A-Rod is no saint, he's about six rungs down on the Anti-Christ Ladder™ than Budzilla, a man who deserves to be suspended for the rest of recorded time.

In this crazy-quilt world of "do as I say, not do as I do," the "tragedy then farce" progression is all too common; in that light, we need to guard against a fatal dose of cynicism by remembering to root out the type of capitalist who graduates to fascism whenever the chips are down. The pattern in Bud Selig's carpet has revealed a design that is, incredibly, uglier than his own face. That such could actually be the case, in a world where life imitates art and man bites dog, is something that should give all of us pause.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


First, understand that we in no way mean to impugn the efforts or the intellect of historian and baseball writer Chris Jaffe, whose long-standing work on the Hall of Fame, its history, and the interpretation of voting patterns is of the highest quality.

We are surprised, however--just a little bit--that he is so surprised to see what will certainly be a significant uptick in average votes per ballot on the BBWAA's 2014 ballot. (That figure has been close to nine per ballot, or 90% of maximum, for most of the tracking period underway since right before Christmas, when Darren Viola, aka Repoz, at Baseball Think Factory, began to publicly monitor voting announcements from eligible electors. Last year, that average was around 6.5 votes per ballot.)

Chris (and others) have professed to be "stunned" by the uptick. A good bit of this stems, we believe, from a pervasive negative expectation that has locked itself into place over the past four years of voting results, in large part due to the ongoing "moral crusade" that a relatively small but vocal plurality of the baseball writers have been on regarding steroid usage.

That expectation very likely produced predictive scenarios in which candidates such as Tom Glavine (currently receiving upwards of 95% of the reported vote) and Frank Thomas (currently receiving upwards of 90%) would be denied admission to Cooperstown on at least their first (2014) appearance on the ballot. Even an eminent and well-respected baseball historian such as Bill Deane made public predictions that such would be the case.

We know now that this is not going to be the case. And if we'd been able to pull out of that pervasive negative expectation, it's likely that we could have predicted this massive uptick--as we did back in 2011 in these pages, when we presented a somewhat overly optimistic scenario of the voting results for much of the 2010 decade.

We're not trying to refashion our own mouthpiece for the purposes of tooting our own horn, however. We're just pointing out how easy it is to fall into the trap (paging Admiral Ackbar...) of negative projection.

What we should have seen in the otherwise reviled 2013 voting results was a set of conditions that would produce a massive uptick. Consider: no players elected, but ten of them gathering at least 35% of the vote.

There has never been anything like that type of backlog in the history of the Hall of Fame voting. The closest analogue we can find in past elections is in 1971, a year in which no one was elected and seven players had at least 35% of the vote. It took two years to create a voting peak (8.4 votes per ballot), but seven players were elected in the three years following the stalemated 1971 ballot.

With three exceptionally strong candidates in Greg Maddux, Glavine, and Thomas (along with Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent), and an established group of ten candidates with at least 35% of the vote, something had to give. Voters could not ignore the first three, and enough were entrenched with other candidates that such a massive uptick was not only not surprising, but virtually inevitable.

The BBWAA has not elected four players to the Hall of Fame
in a single season since 1955. Craig Biggio looks to be "on the
cusp" in's hoping that he clears the bar to join Maddux,
Glavine, and Thomas (above.)
We prefer to think that Chris Jaffe was influenced by the negative expectations of those in the sabermetric community who've contributed to a pervasively combative atmosphere concerning the Hall of Fame, an atmosphere that was put into play by Bill James's magnificently grouchy Politics of Glory, a book that has cast a long and uniquely invidious shadow. Its tone has crept into the mindset of the numbers field like those increasingly resistant weeds that defy all efforts at eradication. At worst, it turns those who purport to wield reason into their own version of a lynch mob.

Chris is by no means part of such a mentality, but it's easy to be influenced--and it may be a key component in his level of surprise at the 2014 voting results. As a well-trained historian, he's likely to assimilate what we've just seen and improve his already useful predictive methods. What's clear now is that things are never so fixed as they might seem, and that the landscape surrounding the ongoing issues that have clouded the Hall of Fame is shifting a good bit more than what the nay-sayers believe to be the case.

In fact, there is every reason to believe that the problems will resolve themselves over the course of  few more years. Should the problems have existed in the first place? Of course not. But so much in life is bound up in such situations--problems that could have been avoided--that it seems childish to insist that this particular problem is so inexcusable. Possibly, after the 2014 results, it will be possible for both sides in this surreal skirmish to sit back and take a very-much-needed deep breath.


[EDIT: Chris Jaffe has posted a retrospective prediction of the total votes per ballot which was not influenced by the ongoing public revelation of voting results. The average for that initial projection was 7.7 votes per ballot. Much of the gap between the two estimates is due to the underestimation of the votes being cast for the new candidates--about half of the difference, in fact. This is more confirmation of an influence from the negative expectations, as well as the hstorian's tendency to discount the likelihood of a truly extreme departure from statistical norms.]

[POST-EDIT: The official results are now in. As we'd surmised, the non-public portion of the BBWAA voters did not equal the ballot surge that had been seen in the publicly-revealed voting. The overall average of players/ballot wound up at right around 8.3--which means that even the non-disclosing voters cast nearly eight votes per ballot. We still should have seen this coming, of course.

Craig Biggio becomes the latest figure of sympathy in the often cruel world of privileged voting: he was one vote and one blank ballot shy of induction, winding up with the agonizing percentage of 74.8. While we're sure that Biggio will be elected in 2015, his circumstances point out the glaring need for one vital correction needed in the Hall of Fame voting process: that ballots returned as blanks should not be counted in the totals.

Even in the "age of steroids," the idea that a blank ballot is possible is beyond unacceptability. It is a kind of self-indulgent nihilism that should not be condoned by the BBWAA. It is one thing in a democracy to not vote at all due to apathy or protest, but it is nothing more than mean-spirited and meaningless contempt to submit a blank ballot in a context such as this one. The first voter of 2014 to not cast his ballot for Greg Maddux has been subjected to a great deal of scorn since that decision was announced; the person who submitted the blank ballot is infinitely more odious. He or she not only deservers to not have the ballot count in the tally--he or she deserves to be publicly kicked out of the BBWAA.]

Monday, January 6, 2014


The ecliptic returns, and there may be some of you who are apoplectic about that.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend's dog knocked out a lens in my reading glasses while we were horsing around (rule of thumb: never horse around with a dog) and it disappeared down a crack in the stairs. Therefore we are doing what a number of you thought was the case already: we're flying blind.

So in such dire circumstances, why would we not (re)turn our gaze to the skies, while it's so difficult to read all those tiny numbers in spreadsheets, while so many of you (OK, us) are looking heavenward in the hope that the "silent majority" of as-yet unannounced BBWAA voters don't exact the greatest revenge of all and induct Jack Morris the day after tomorrow.

And that brings us to our Zodiac League with nary a moment to spare. In this second installment, we collate the ninety or so best players born under the sign of Capricorn, aka the "sign of the goat." Will the two squads that can be created from the 95 players who made the cut take the Zodiac League by storm, or will they live up to their mascot's broader meaning? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, let's look at who's here.

There are more Hall of Famers here than on the Sagittarius squad we looked at last month, a total of eighteen: ten position players (first baseman Hank Greenberg, Johnny Mize and Willie McCovey; second baseman Nellie Fox; shortstop Ozzie Smith; third baseman Jimmy Collins; outfielders Rickey Henderson, Max Carey, Elmer Flick and King Kelly; and catcher Carlton Fisk) and eight pitchers (righty starters Pud Galvin, Ted Lyons, Tim Keefe, Early Wynn, and Dizzy Dean; lefty starters Steve Carlton and Sandy Koufax; and righty reliever Bruce Sutter).

That's kind of a "soft" squad of HOFers, and unlike the Sagittarians, the Goat Boys (guess we gotta have John "Giles" Barth as manager of one of these squads...) don't have too many future inductees (there's Albert Pujols and Edgar Martinez) and they only have a few Hall of Merit types that argualby ought to be in the HOF (Bobby Grich, Bill Dahlen, Bob Caruthers). But they have a nice nucleus, particularly if we "pack" the best folks onto the "A" team. Here's their "top o'the line" squad:

Pitching--Carlton, Koufax, Keefe, Dean, Cone and Caruthers, starters; Forster, Mossi, Sutter, Miller and Marshall, relievers.
Catchers--Fisk, Cooper, Daulton.
Infield--starters: Mize, 1b; Grich, 2b; Smith, ss: Giambi, 3b; reserves: Mitchell, Grebeck, Madlock.
Outfield--starters: McCovey, Henderson, Flick; reserves: Chapman.
Hitter: Edgar Martinez.

That is a fun team, particularly with the chance to use Caruthers as a two-way player--spot starter and occasional long man plus platoon outfielder. We can only imagine what it was like to have such players in the game.

We've left these guys with some defensive "issues" (McCovey in the OF), but you can expect a lot of Ben (Mr. Integration) Chapman in center field late in the games, with Rickey back in left.

The "B" team has its moments:

Pitching--Galvin, Lyons, Leever, Wynn, King and Hough, starters; Lavelle, Jackson, K-Rod, McMahon, Balfour and Otsuka, relievers.
Catchers--Porter, Battey, Victor Martinez.
Infield--starters: Pujols, 1b; Pratt, 2b; Dark, ss; Collins, 3b; reserves--Fox, Hanley Ramirez, Hauser.
Outfield--starters: Greenberg, Carey, Matt Holliday; reserves: Flood, Soriano.

Yes, you should be able to tell that we've gone for the "modern" roster construction, with all the extra pitchers. (They must be slipping something in the water with which we're making our iced tea...)

Anyway...Hanley Ramirez could very likely displace either Dark or Collins in the lineup for the cheesier of the two "Goat Boy" squads. Their pitchers don't have the same "name value," but they could turn out to be a rather effective squad--so long as K-Rod doesn't decide to walk the park in the closer role.

Looking back at the Sagittarian teams, though, we think you'll agree that they have more punch in the batting orders. The Goat Boys have deeper (and probably better) pitching, though. And they're going to need it to be working on all cylinders. The "A" team looks like it could definitely get into the mid-high 80s in wins, but the "B" team is probably somewhere in the low 70s. Sometime in the not-too-distant future, we'll find out.

Meanwhile, back to the ecliptic...