Why This Year's Baseball Hall Of Fame Class Is So Big

The size of the class makes it look like standards are dropping, but the opposite is true.
Posted at 10:28 PM, Jan 25, 2018

This year's Baseball Hall of Fame class is big. Like, one of the biggest in decades big. Four players were elected to the Hall by the Baseball Writers Association of America and two more by a special committee. 

Sixteen players have made the Baseball Hall of Fame in the past five years, so you can understand why some folks are worried the Hall is getting watered down. But there's evidence the process is actually getting stricter. Here's how that's possible. 

Thanks to Dave Cameron of FanGraphs and statistician James Smyth, we know a player born in the '70s is more than half as likely to make the Hall as a player born in the '40s. And the percentage of Hall of Famers has dropped every decade since the '40s.

So, why the change? A lot of it has to do with baseball's biggest elephant in the room: steroids. 

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were two of the greatest players ever by any statistic, but they both almost surely took steroids, so they still haven't been elected after six years on the ballot. 

Recent inductees Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza also were rumored to have used steroids during their playing days, hurting their vote totals and likely delaying their inductions.

This is important because of another quirk in the process — writers can only vote for 10 Hall of Famers per year. This means when guys like Bonds and Clemens get stuck on the ballot, there's less room for other players.

There's data to back this up. Ryan Thibodaux's Hall of Fame Tracker keeps record of all the writers who made their ballot public. The day after the voting results were announced, nearly 59 percent of public ballots voted for 10 players. Many of those writers said they'd have rather voted for more. 

There was also a run on small classes before this recent surge. Only 11 players made the Hall from 2007 to 2013. That year the writers didn't elect any players at all, largely because of steroid concerns for many of the players on the ballot. 

So if you're unhappy about waiting for all the players' speeches to get done on induction day, just think of this as the Hall of Fame making up for some lost time.