Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Will Craig Biggio Make the Hall of Fame After All?

When I last assessed the Hall of Fame vote four days ago, I concluded the piece by applying the average error of past Hall of Fame "exit polls" to the current exit polls to arrive at an estimate for their final vote totals tomorrow. This method yielded some good insights, such as the fact that Jack Morris and Lee Smith will almost certainly overperform their polls, while Tim Raines will almost certainly underperform them. But it also told us precious little about other players—namely, the ones for whom it is their first year on the ballot. This was a particularly frustrating shortcoming because the player who is currently on the cusp of induction according to exit polls—Craig Biggio, with 70% of the vote so far—is also on the ballot for the first time.

I felt that I couldn't apply an adjustment to Biggio's exit polls because we're not sure what type of voter is likely to vote for him. He could overperform his polls, in the event that he gets wide support from the old-school contingent that tends not to publish their ballot early (and thus that is most likely to be underrepresented in the exit polls). He could also underperform, as similar infielders like Barry Larkin and Roberto Alomar have done in the past couple years.

Then I read Nate Silver's column today with his own Hall of Fame vote analysis. In it, Nate looked at @leokitty's compilation of all published Hall of Fame ballots to see which players' support lined up with which other players' support. Nate specifically looked at the behavior of the pro–Barry Bonds bloc in an attempt to decipher the impact that the steroids scandal will have on this year's electorate, but his method can also be used to see who else Biggio voters are more or less likely to vote for.

As mentioned above, my previous research indicated that certain players consistently over- and underperform their exit polls. If we find, using Nate's method of analysis, that Biggio voters also tend to be Raines voters, or Morris voters, or Smith voters, then we can make an educated guess that Biggio will over- or underperform his exit polls by comparable margins.

As of this writing, 50 out of 65 pro-Morris voters were also voting for Biggio—that's 76.9%. The 46 anti-Morris voters gave 28 votes to Biggio: 60.9%. Thus, Biggio appeals more to the pro-Morris crowd than to Morris's detractors, by a 16-point margin.

Of 36 pro-Smith voters, 28 were also voting for Biggio (77.8%); meanwhile, 50 of the 75 non-Smith voters also voted for Biggio (66.7%). So Biggio is also more popular among Lee Smith fans, though the difference is smaller (11.1 points).

And 54 out of 70 pro-Raines voters were also voting for Biggio (77.1%). That leaves 41 anti-Raines voters, 24 of whom included Biggio on their ballot (58.5%). That's the biggest difference yet: 18.6 points.

As should be obvious from the above, if pro-Morris (76.9%), pro-Smith (77.8%), or pro-Raines (77.1%) voters were the only voters, Biggio would be in the Hall of Fame. It is their opponents who are also dragging Biggio down.

Thus, if the exit polls are undersampling Morris and Smith proponents (as they almost certainly are), then Biggio could be in for a boost. On the other hand, if exit polls are undersampling Raines opponents (as they almost certainly are), that could undo a lot of that boost.

In other words, Biggio is not conclusively a favorite of either the old-school crowd or the new sabermetrics- and statistics-oriented crowd. He seems to be a favorite of both—just not enough of a favorite to break that 75% threshold.

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