Hall of Famers, as a percentage of those eligible

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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32 Comments on "Hall of Famers, as a percentage of those eligible"

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marc
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I’m pretty tired, so I might be missing something here–but isn’t the breakdown short by 100 players? It says above that 1005 position players are eligible, but the primary position totals only add up to 905. And the primary position percentages seem high given that the total position percentage is only 14.4.

Hartvig
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These numbers seemed high at first but a few moments thought put them into perspective. Almost everyone who manages a 10 year Major League career is a pretty decent player, with the possible exception of a few left handed relievers, in at least one aspect of the game. Yes there is no way anyone can justify Bill Bergen being what was essentially a full-time catcher for the era in which he played but he was still an outstanding defensive player. When you consider the number of players- some of them quite good for a few years- who never made it… Read more »
Ed
Guest

And several 3rd basemen!

Mike L
Guest

Interesting. It’s a higher percentage than I would have expected. Presumably playing in ten seasons means you meet a minimum standard. One question and one hypothetical. What’s the rough average of ops+ and era+ of the qualifiers. And second, with the rise of salaries and arbitration, tenders, etc. will there be fewer ten year players in the future?

Dr. Doom
Guest

Aaaaaaaand here’s where someone asks an annoying (and incredibly time-consuming-to-answer) question. How much has this changed over time? Like, since 1939? My guess is that this is the most exclusive the Hall has been since the first or second class.

MikeD
Guest

Bingo. I’m glad you asked it first!

My gut also says that it’s more difficult now to make the HOF, yet it’s not just an easy percentage question since players from fifty, sixty, seventy etc. years ago are still being inducted all these years later, as we saw recently with Joe Gordon. That means the percentage of old-time players will keep rising. So we should expect a lower percentage of more recent players in the Hall, yet by how much I don’t know.

scott-53
Guest

208 players is a very small percentage when you consider over 15,000 men have played Major League Baseball. The 6th edition of the “The Baseball Encyclopedia” (1985) lists 13,000. I have not seen one in years. I guess they put out a 7th,8th,and 9th edition. First edition was 1969.

scott-53
Guest

Thanks John, Fast as usual. “The Baseball Encyclopedia” made it to at least the 10th edition in 1996 according to (Amazon.com).

kds
Guest

The front page of B-ref has 17,943.

Adam Darowski
Guest

Huh, I used their data so I wonder where the discrepancy is.

Adam Darowski
Guest

Since I just pulled all this data for the Hall of Stats, I suppose I can share some numbers I have… 🙂

17.939 have played major league baseball.
208 in the Hall of Fame.
1.16% of all players.

2,575 players have had either 3000 PAs or 1000 IP and are eligible for the Hall of Fame (by years retired, not counting lifetime bans)
208 in the Hall of Fame.
8.1% of this subset of players.

kds
Guest

In his HoF book, Bill James gave historical figures for % of ABs by inductees. Noting that for a lot of the time it was about 10%, but rose to over 20% in the era most dominated by the Veterans Committee, 1924-34, with a peak of 24% in 1929.

Adam Darowski
Guest

Yes, not to be a troll, but I updated that too. 🙂 I thought AB was not the right way, so I went by PA (and I did IP, too).

http://darowski.com/hall-of-wwar/hofpct/

kds
Guest

I agree that PA is better than AB. Did the relevant edition of the Baseball Encyclopedia not have PA info when James was writing? I generally prefer PA=BFP numbers, and here it would give a better way to ask if we have too many pitchers compared to batters. However, I think IP is a better way to compare pitchers to other pitchers, as the fewer batters faced per IP by better pitchers gets hidden if we use BFP.

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