We know how many players are in the Hall of Fame. But have you ever wondered what percentage of eligible players is represented by those inductees?

I did, so I decided to figure it out. Click through for my results.

 

As best I can tell, about 8% of eligible players have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Here’s how I arrived at that figure:

HOF Players: The easy part. To date, 208 have been inducted as players on the basis of their MLB careers (i.e., not by the Negro Leagues Committee):

  • 145 HOF Position Players
  • 63 HOF Pitchers

Eligibles: The only formal requirements for HOF eligibility are (a) playing in at least 10 seasons, (b) being retired for 5 years, and (c) staying off the ineligible list. How many have met these HOF requirements? Approximately 2,614 players. (Counts are necessarily inexact.*) The breakdown of eligibles:

  • 1,661 eligible Position Players
  • 973 eligible Pitchers
  • minus ~20 on the ineligible list

The HOF/eligible breakdown (without adjusting for ineligibles):

  • Position players: 145/1,661 = 8.7%
  • Pitchers: 63/973 = 6.5%

_____ Note * In order to target players who have already appeared on a HOF ballot, I searched for Active=No (didn’t play in 2012) and Years=1871-2006 (because of the 5-year waiting period, players on the latest ballot had to be inactive for 2007-11), and counted the number of players with 10+ seasons. Then I subtracted those who had 10+ years through 2006 but were still active in some year from 2007-11.

These results are inexact for a number of reasons. The main problem is limitations in the Play Index for the task of finding those with 10+ years played, which forced me to do separate searches for position players and for pitchers. And there’s just no satisfactory way to specify a position-player season; I settled on a standard of at least 20% of games as a non-pitcher position in a given season. Consequently, I’ve failed to count some two-way players with 10+ years in total but not 10+ years in either role (e.g., Hal Jeffcoat), while double-counting at least one (Babe Ruth) who both pitched in 10+ years and had 10+ years as mainly a position player.

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Another kind of comparison: The fewest games for any HOF position player inducted for his MLB career is 1,215 by Roy Campanella; the fewest IP for a HOF starting pitcher is Dizzy Dean’s 1,967, and the fewest for a HOF reliever is Bruce Sutter’s 1,042. If we round those off as de facto minimums for the HOF — 1,200 games for a position player, 2,000 IP for a SP or 1,000 IP for a reliever — what percentage of those players is in the HOF?**

  • TOTAL: 14.0% (208 HOFers/1,484 meeting HOF minimums for G or IP)
  • Position players: 145/1,005 = 14.4%
  • Starting pitchers: 58/397 = 14.6%
  • Relief pitchers: 5/82 = 6.1%

_____ Note ** For this portion of the study, I used the unadjusted number of retired players who met the games or IP requirements through 2006. (Why? Because this wasn’t my main focus, and I’ve spent too much time on this post already.) Also, I defined relievers by the default P-I standard of 80% of games in relief (but still included Eckersley in the count of HOF RPs); I defined starters as anyone with 2,000+ IP who wasn’t a reliever.

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Lastly, here’s a breakdown of HOF position players by primary position,*** compared to the number of HOF-eligible players who (a) played at least half their games at that position and met the Games/IP standard described above (again using unadjusted numbers; see note ** above):

  • C — 13/91 = 14.3%
  • 1B — 20/115 = 17.4%
  • 2B — 18/107 = 16.8%
  • SS — 21/116 = 18.1%
  • 3B — 11/101 = 10.9%
  • OF — 61/392 = 15.6%
  • DH — 1/6 = 16.7%

Totals: 145/928 = 15.6%.

(As spotted by marc in comment #1, this total and percentage is different from those of the previous section. The discrepancy is because those previous figures did not have the requirement of 50% of career games at any one position.)

_____ Note *** Primary position = the position they played most. All but six HOF position players had at least half their games at one position; the exceptions are Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew and Ernie Banks (primary is 1B), Buck Ewing (C), Monte Ward (SS), and Paul Molitor (DH — the only HOF “DH” doesn’t meet the 50% threshold).

P.S. All corrections are welcome, but please remember that complete precision is beyond the scope of this inquiry.

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