Annually the announcement by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (BBWAA) of which players have been elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame has been one of the most dissected and discussed moments of the year. It’s also long been the true start to the year for most baseball fans, learning who will make up that next class of heroes who will take their rightful place in Cooperstown.
This year has been no different, with plenty of speculation about just how many names may end up receiving the greatest honor of their career. Some candidates appeared like certainties, while others retained hope.
677 members made up the BBWAA in 2014. 549 ballots were cast this year, in which they can select up to 10 players. This year’s pool consisted of 34 potential candidates. Players need to appear on 75% of the ballots in order to gain induction.
Johnson’s case was hardly in question, as the lanky left-hander was one of the greatest southpaw pitchers in baseball history. He won 303 games and posted a 3.29 ERA in over 4,100 innings pitched. Johnson’s 4,875 career strikeouts are second all time behind only Nolan Ryan.
Johnson also won five Cy Young Awards, including a remarkable four straight from 1999 to 2002, and was pivotal (think 2014 Madison Bumgarner) in the Arizona Diamondback’s 2001 World Series Championship.
Martinez was one also viewed as a no-doubt Hall of Famer, though his case isn’t quite as strong as Johnson’s. His career numbers don’t match up, with Martinez only winning 219 games and striking out 3,154 batters. He was a different kind of dominant throughout his career, clearly a different type of pitcher than Johnson was but equally as effective against his competition.
Martinez’s stretch from 1997 to 2000 is still one of the best four-year stretches for any pitcher in history. He posted a 2.16 ERA, 0.925 WHIP, and 11.5 K/9 while winning 77 games (a .755 W-L%) and taking home three Cy Young Awards.
Smoltz falls into a unique category, as Dennis Eckersley is really the only true comparable. Smoltz was a dominant force working out of the Atlanta Braves rotation but was often overshadowed by his own teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine (both of whom were elected to the Hall of Fame last year). He missed the 2000 season to Tommy John surgery, came back as a closer and dominated in that role as well, racking up 154 saves over the next four seasons.
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He’d step back into the rotation from there, finishing his career with 213 wins to go with the 154 saves, plus a 3.33 ERA and 3,084 strikeouts.
Finally, we have Biggio who fell just two votes shy of election a year ago in one of the closest margins in Hall of Fame voting history. Biggio spent time at catcher, second base, and in the outfield for the Houston Astros for 20 years. He finished his career as a .281/.363/.433 hitter with 3,060 hits and was hit by a pitch a MLB-record 285 times.
Mike Piazza drew close, but fell just short of election this time around. His percentage increased from 62.2% to 69.9% this year. Considered the greatest-hitting catcher in MLB history by many, Piazza batted .308/.377/.545 with 427 home runs in his 16 year career. He appears to be an early favorite to gain entry next year.