With the Hall of Fame still fresh on everyone's mind, we thought it would be fun -- yes, fun! -- to look ahead to next year's Hall of Fame class.
We asked a panel of 40 media members from across the spectrum what their hypothetical 2015 Hall of Fame ballot would look like today, and the results -- which should give you a good sense of what next year's HOF class will look like -- are listed below.
As was the case in 2014, the '15 ballot is loaded with big names, with Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz all making their debut and joining the likes of Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.
Please note that this is by no means a rigorous scientific study. Only a portion of our voters are members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and while our panel is a somewhat random sampling of media types, there is no guarantee that is a representative sample of the voting pool. Furthermore, we don't know how voting behavior will change -- if at all -- with the new rules implemented over the weekend that limit players to 10 years on the ballot (as opposed to 15).
But Hall of Fame debates are fun, so we decided to start the discussion a little early.
Making the cut (> 75 percent of vote)
Randy Johnson, 97.5 percent:
The record for highest percentage in Hall of Fame voting is held by Tom Seaver, who got 98.84 percent of the vote in 1992. If Johnson does manage to get 97.5 percent next summer, that would be the eighth-highest total in history, right ahead of Greg Maddux (97.20 percent in 2014) and Mike Schmidt (96.5 percent in 1995). The Big Unit did win 303 games and strike out 4,875 hitters, so a vote total like this would be no surprise.
Craig Biggio, 90 percent:
The guy missed induction by two measly votes in 2014, and it's almost a foregone conclusion he is going to get over the hump next year. With the exception of Pete Rose and Rafael Palmeiro, everyone else with more than 3,000 hits is in the Hall, so why shouldn't Biggio be there?
John Smoltz, 77.5 percent:
The closest comparable player for Smoltz is Dennis Eckersley, who had a stellar career both as a starter as a closer. Eck got into the Hall on his first time on the ballot in 2004, and it would be no surprise if the same happened for Smoltz.
Pedro Martinez, 75 percent:
By our count, Pedro gets the exact percentage of votes needed for induction. He didn't have the longevity of some of his peers, but his peak right around the turn of the century might have been the best for any pitcher in history. Fun fact: Martinez's career ERA+ of 154 is the best ever for a pitcher with at least 2,500 innings pitched.
Wait 'til next year? (50-74.9 percent of vote)
This is where our vote gets interesting. In the past two years, Bagwell has gotten more votes than both Bonds and Clemens in the BBWAA vote. Here, Bonds and Clemens do a little better. This could be a case where our panel differs slightly from the BBWAA voting pool. (Remember, there were 571 Hall of Fame ballots case last year, and our panel is less than one-tenth of that.)
The upshot is the possibility that Bagwell's total could end up getting squeezed by the addition of Martinez, Johnson and Smoltz to the ballot. Piazza, who finished fifth in voting last year -- right behind Biggio at 62.2 percent -- is inching toward induction, and if past voting trends are any indication he should get in no later than 2016.
Missing the cut (5-49.9 percent of vote)
Tim Raines (45), Curt Schilling (27.5), Lee Smith (27.5), Alan Trammell (25), Mike Mussina (22.5), Fred McGriff (20), Jeff Kent (20), Edgar Martinez (17.5), Gary Sheffield (15), Mark McGwire (15), Sammy Sosa (12.5), Larry Walker (7.5), Don Mattingly (5).
Trammell, Mattingly and Smith are the three players on the ballot who have been on the ballot for more than 10 years, but they will be grandfathered in under the new rules. The real loser here is Mattingly, who will be on the ballot for the 15th and final time and would need the help of the Expansion Era Committee to get in. Players like Edgar Martinez, Mussina, McGwire and Sosa are polling right around where they were on the BBWAA ballot, and they are unlikely to see much of an uptick until Johnson, Biggio, Pedro Martinez, Smoltz, Piazza and Bagwell get in. Ken Griffey Jr. is the only serious first-ballot candidate to join the mix in 2016, which should allow for some guys lower down on the '15 ballot to take a step forward.
Leaving the ballot (Less than five percent)
Also receiving no votes: Rich Aurilia, Paul Byrd, Tony Clark, Joe Crede, Jermaine Dye, Alan Embree, Darin Erstad, Kelvim Escobar, Cliff Floyd, Brian Giles, Tom Gordon, Eddie Guardado, Braden Looper, Mark Loretta, Troy Percival, B.J. Ryan, Jason Schmidt, Julian Tavarez, Ron Villone, Jarrod Washburn and David Weathers.
In any other era, guys like Delgado (and possibly Garciaparra) would have gotten enough votes to stay on the ballot for another year. That's looking unlikely with this crowded class.
NOTE: Our hypothetical ballot featured 44 names, and it was based on Baseball Reference's list of candidates, which includes all players who retired following the 2009 season with at least 10 seasons in MLB and a score of 10 or higher on Bill James' Hall of Fame monitor.
Participating voters: Jonathan Bernhardt, Mike Bauman, Barry M. Bloom, Hal Bodley, Mark Bowman, Corey Brock, Anthony Castrovince, Jim Duquette, Robert Ford, Joe Frisaro, Steve Gilbert, Alden Gonzalez, Chris Haft, Paul Hagen, Bryan Hoch, Richard Justice, Dick Kaegel, Brian Kenny, Molly Knight, Danny Knobler, Bill Ladson, Jenifer Langosch, Will Leitch, Joe Lemire, Mike Lieberthal, Adam McCalvy, Scott Merkin, Doug Miller, Carrie Muskat, Mark Newman, Tracy Ringolsby, Phil Rogers, Steve Sax, John Schlegel, Joe Sheehan, Tom Singer, Lyle Spencer, T.R. Sullivan, Wendy Thurm and Todd Zolecki.