Barry Bonds

Will Barry Bonds ever get into the Hall of Fame?

There will be four new members inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015. This group of four does not include the home run king and arguably the best hitter to ever play the game.

This year Barry Bonds was named on 36.8% (202 of 549) ballots cast, falling well short of the 75% required for induction. His numbers are up from last year by six votes and are about even with his first year on the ballot (he had four more votes, but more people voted in that year so his percentage is 0.4 higher).

With a maximum of just seven more years on the ballot, will Bonds ever be elected? Let’s take a look at a few different methods to hazard a guess.

1. How Bonds compares to his peers in left field

Name WAR WAR7 JAWS Yrs From To ASG R H HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS+
Barry Bonds 162.4 72.7 117.6 22 1986 2007 14 2227 2935 762 1996 514 2558 1539 .298 .444 .607 182
Ted Williams HOF 123.1 69.2 96.2 19 1939 1960 19 1798 2654 521 1839 24 2021 709 .344 .482 .634 190
Rickey Henderson HOF 110.8 57.4 84.1 25 1979 2003 10 2295 3055 297 1115 1406 2190 1694 .279 .401 .419 127
Carl Yastrzemski HOF 96.1 55.4 75.8 23 1961 1983 18 1816 3419 452 1844 168 1845 1393 .285 .379 .462 130
Pete Rose 79.1 44.7 61.9 24 1963 1986 17 2165 4256 160 1314 198 1566 1143 .303 .375 .409 118
Ed Delahanty HOF 69.5 48.5 59.0 16 1888 1903 0 1600 2597 101 1466 455 741 439 .346 .411 .505 152
Al Simmons HOF 68.7 45.7 57.2 20 1924 1944 3 1507 2927 307 1828 88 615 737 .334 .380 .535 133
Tim Raines 69.1 42.2 55.6 23 1979 2002 7 1571 2605 170 980 808 1330 966 .294 .385 .425 123
Goose Goslin HOF 66.1 43.3 54.7 18 1921 1938 1 1482 2735 248 1610 176 949 585 .316 .387 .500 128
Manny Ramirez 69.2 39.9 54.6 19 1993 2011 12 1544 2574 555 1831 38 1329 1813 .312 .411 .585 154
Billy Williams HOF 63.5 41.3 52.4 18 1959 1976 6 1410 2711 426 1475 90 1045 1046 .290 .361 .492 133
Fred Clarke HOF 67.8 36.1 52.0 21 1894 1915 0 1622 2678 67 1015 509 875 511 .312 .386 .429 133
Jesse Burkett HOF 62.9 37.2 50.0 16 1890 1905 0 1720 2850 75 952 389 1029 613 .338 .415 .446 140
Sherry Magee 59.0 38.5 48.7 16 1904 1919 0 1112 2169 83 1176 441 736 624 .291 .364 .427 137
Willie Stargell HOF 57.5 38.0 47.7 21 1962 1982 7 1194 2232 475 1540 17 937 1936 .282 .360 .529 147
Joe Medwick HOF 55.5 39.7 47.6 17 1932 1948 10 1198 2471 205 1383 42 437 551 .324 .362 .505 134
Zack Wheat HOF 60.2 34.7 47.4 19 1909 1927 0 1289 2884 132 1248 205 650 572 .317 .367 .450 129
Bob Johnson 57.2 36.0 46.6 13 1933 1945 8 1239 2051 288 1283 96 1075 851 .296 .393 .506 139
Ralph Kiner HOF 49.3 43.7 46.5 10 1946 1955 6 971 1451 369 1015 22 1011 749 .279 .398 .548 149
Lance Berkman 51.8 38.9 45.3 15 1999 2013 6 1146 1905 366 1234 86 1201 1300 .293 .406 .537 144
Jose Cruz 54.2 36.2 45.2 19 1970 1988 2 1036 2251 165 1077 317 898 1031 .284 .354 .420 120
Minnie Minoso 50.1 39.8 45.0 17 1949 1980 9 1136 1963 186 1023 205 814 584 .298 .389 .459 130
Joe Kelley HOF 50.6 36.2 43.4 17 1891 1908 0 1421 2220 65 1194 443 911 430 .317 .402 .451 134
Luis Gonzalez 51.5 33.8 42.7 19 1990 2008 5 1412 2591 354 1439 128 1155 1218 .283 .367 .479 119
Bobby Veach 47.7 37.6 42.6 14 1912 1925 0 953 2063 64 1166 195 571 370 .310 .370 .442 127
Jim Rice HOF 47.4 36.2 41.8 16 1974 1989 8 1249 2452 382 1451 58 670 1423 .298 .352 .502 128
Roy White 46.7 37.0 41.8 15 1965 1979 2 964 1803 160 758 233 934 708 .271 .360 .404 121
Jimmy Sheckard 49.6 33.1 41.3 17 1897 1913 0 1296 2084 56 813 465 1135 849 .274 .375 .378 121
Charlie Keller 42.9 38.6 40.8 13 1939 1952 5 725 1085 189 760 45 784 499 .286 .410 .518 152
George Foster 43.9 36.7 40.3 18 1969 1986 5 986 1925 348 1239 51 666 1419 .274 .338 .480 126
Heinie Manush HOF 45.8 34.7 40.2 17 1923 1939 1 1287 2524 110 1183 113 506 345 .330 .377 .479 121
Brian Downing 51.4 29.0 40.2 20 1973 1992 1 1188 2099 275 1073 50 1197 1127 .267 .370 .425 122
Ken Williams 42.5 36.5 39.5 14 1915 1929 0 860 1552 196 916 154 566 287 .319 .393 .530 138
Matt Holliday 43.9 34.3 39.1 11 2004 2014 6 1032 1837 271 1056 105 670 1110 .308 .385 .523 136
Lou Brock HOF 45.2 32.0 38.6 19 1961 1979 6 1610 3023 149 900 938 761 1730 .293 .343 .410 109
Harry Stovey 45.1 31.1 38.1 14 1880 1893 0 1492 1771 122 908 509 663 450 .289 .361 .461 144
Albert Belle 40.0 35.9 38.0 12 1989 2000 5 974 1726 381 1239 88 683 961 .295 .369 .564 144
Jim O’Rourke HOF 51.3 24.2 37.8 23 1872 1904 0 1729 2639 62 1208 229 513 362 .310 .352 .422 134
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/7/2015.

 

Bonds is the best left fielder to ever play the game. He is well above the position’s average in every category, except for triples (77 vs. an average of 118), strikeouts (1,539 vs. an average of 810) and batting average (.298 vs. an average of .311). Overall, adding him to the Hall of Fame would make the average left fielder enshrined a much better player. The average triple slash line would improve from .311/.385/.489 to .310/.389/.496. He would also bump up the average home runs by 26, RBI by 35, and walks by 81.

By this standard, Bonds should’ve been a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. The only other players not in the Hall of Fame who come close to being his equal statistics-wise are Pete Rose and Roger Clemens. Rose isn’t eligible, and Clemens has the same PED issues hanging over his voting numbers as Bonds.

2. Taking his three-year vote total and extrapolating a trend line based on those numbers (yay, math!)

A simple linear equation gives us the following: % Vote= 0.3(Years) + 35.3

If we plug in the full ten years on the ballot we end up with him maxing out at 38.3% of the vote, well short of the 75% needed.

If we are super generous (and not at all scientific), throw out the first year from the calculation for the extrapolation you get  % Vote= 2.1(Years) + 32.6. Plugging in the maximum ten years with that formula equates to 53.6% of the vote.

Based on this method it looks like Bonds will never be voted into the Hall of Fame and will need the Veteran’s Committee  to vote him in.

3. Wildly speculating on how I *think* things will go

The issue that’s keeping out Bonds (as well as others that played in the mid-to-late-1990s through the early-2000s) is performance enhancing drugs, specifically steroids. The electorate is effectively split with about 25-30% not putting much or any consideration into PED use, another 25-30% passing on anyone with a hint of association to PED use, and another 40-50% that are deciding on a case-by-case basis.

With the hard line anti-PED voters holding a virtual veto on who gets into the Hall of Fame, it will take people in this camp softening their stance or some sort of ruling from the Hall on how to treat people suspected of PED use (or those who tested positive) to get many from that era into the Hall of Fame. The only drastic change I can imagine is that the hard line voters remember that PEDs have been deeply ingrained in the game for decades, as many already in the Hall are known to have used greenies and other drugs. However, I imagine too many voters see those as lesser forms of rule breaking/cheating … even if that line of thinking is pretty illogical.

With how slow things change in baseball, I can’t imagine too many minds changing or the Hall of Fame creating new ways for which PEDs should be considered. The backlog of deserving players and the ones that merit serious consideration will continue to grow — by my count for next year there are at least 11 deserving players and another seven on the cusp, with the backlog growing over the next few years.

Facing these realities, no matter how deserving Bonds is of being enshrined in Cooperstown, I cannot imagine the baseball writers ever voting him in. He believes he will get in eventually, but if that happens his inclusion will likely need to come from the Veteran’s Committee.

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