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Edgar Martinez voted into Hall of Fame in his final year on the ballot

24 players in the last 52 years got as high as 70 percent without getting inducted, including Martinez. All 24 are now in Cooperstown.

Indians v Mariners X Martinez

Edgar Martinez in his final season on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He fell just short in 2018, but reached a point that historical precedent suggested the longtime Seattle Mariners designated hitter was bound for Cooperstown.

Martinez was named on 85.4% of Hall of Fame ballots, up from 70.4% last year, making it to Cooperstown in his 10th and final year on the BBWAA ballot.

Though he fell short in 2018, by even reaching 70 percent he put himself in excellent position to eventually get inducted.

Martinez last year was named on 70.4 percent of Hall of Fame ballots, falling shy of the 75 percent standard. The bad news for Martinez is that he didn’t get into Cooperstown, yet, and that he only had one year — this year — left on the BBWAA ballot. But by even reaching 70 percent he put himself in excellent position to eventually get inducted.

That 70 percent show

After a decade of BBWAA elections every other year, the Hall of Fame in 1966 restored annual elections for Cooperstown induction, a practice that continues to the present. In the 53 years since, 23 different players before Martinez received at least 70 percent of the vote without reaching the 75 percent required for induction.

Of those 23 players, three were on their final ballot — Red Ruffing in 1967, Nellie Fox in 1985, and Orlando Cepeda in 1994 were all in their 15th year; the limit now is 10 years — and that trio eventually made it to Cooperstown. Fox (1997) and Cepeda (1999) were voted in by the Veteran’s Committee, while Ruffing was inducted by a runoff vote in 1967, a since-discarded practice used in years when nobody reached 75 percent of the vote.

Getting 70%, but not 75%, of the Hall of Fame vote

Player 70% year Vote% Votes shy Election year
Player 70% year Vote% Votes shy Election year
Craig Biggio 2014 74.8% 2 2015
Nellie Fox 1985 74.7% 2 1997 (veterans)
Jim Bunning 1988 74.2% 4 1996 (veterans)
Bert Blyleven 2010 74.2% 5 2011
Billy Williams 1986 74.1% 4 1987
Trevor Hoffman 2017 74.0% 5 2018
Roberto Alomar 2010 73.7% 8 2011
Juan Marichal 1982 73.5% 7 1983
Orlando Cepeda 1994 73.5% 7 1999 (veterans)
Don Sutton 1997 73.2% 7 1998
Robin Roberts 1975 72.7% 9 1976
Gary Carter 2002 72.7% 11 2003
Joe Medwick 1967 72.6% 7 1968
Red Ruffing 1967 72.6% 7 1967 (runoff vote)
Roy Campanella 1968 72.4% 8 1969
Jim Rice 2008 72.2% 16 2009
Gaylord Perry 1990 72.1% 13 1991
Hoyt Wilhelm 1984 72.0% 13 1985
Harmon Killebrew 1983 71.9% 12 1984
Vladimir Guerrero 2017 71.7% 15 2018
Jeff Bagwell 2016 71.6% 15 2017
Duke Snider 1979 71.3% 16 1980
Goose Gossage 2007 71.2% 21 2008
Edgar Martinez 2018 70.4% 20 2019
Jim Bunning 1987 70.0% 21 1996 (veterans)
Since 1966

That leaves 20 players who, like Martinez, received 70 percent of the vote without getting to 75 percent, and 19 were voted into the Hall of Fame the very next year. The only exception was Jim Bunning, who reached 70 percent in 1987 and then 74.2 percent in 1988, just four votes shy of induction. Bunning still had three more years on the ballot but never got that final push by the BBWAA. He received 63.7 percent in 1991, his 15th and final year on the ballot, then had to wait until 1996 to be voted in by the Veteran’s Committee.

Martinez didn’t have the luxury of any more years on the ballot after 2019. This was his 10th and final try with the BBWAA.

He fell just 20 votes shy of induction last year, which sounds like a lot, but there were 422 total ballots submitted. Voters have until Dec. 31 to turn in their 2019 ballots, and based on the publicly known ballots Martinez is gaining ground.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Ryan Thibodoux and his Hall of Fame tracker, we can see that through Christmas Day and 93 known ballots, Martinez already gained nine votes over 2018.

Last year Martinez was selected by 76.3 percent of voters who made their ballots public, compared to just 52.4 percent of voters who chose to remain anonymous. So far this year, through those 93 known ballots, Martinez is at 91.4 percent. The gains are real.

The case for Edgar

Just three Hall of Famers have played 1,000 games at designated hitters. Paul Molitor (2004 induction) played 44 percent of his games at DH, and Frank Thomas (2014) was a DH in 56 percent of his games. Harold Baines, who was elected by the veteran’s committee in December and will be inducted this July, played 58 percent of his games at designated hitter.

Martinez, who was a vastly superior hitter than Baines, was a DH in 68 percent of his games. If inducted, he would be the most designated hitter in the Hall of Fame. But that’s okay, since Martinez was better than anyone at it.

Among players with at least 3,000 plate appearances as designated hitter, Martinez ranks best at the position in batting average (.314), on-base percentage (.428) and OPS (.959). He ranks second in doubles (370) and RBI (1,003) as a DH, and third in home runs at the position (243).

Overall, Martinez hit .312/.418/.515 in 2,055 career games. In the modern ERA (1901-present), his .418 OBP ranks 17th all-time. The only right-handed batters ahead of Martinez are Rogers Hornsby, Jimmie Foxx and Thomas.

Martinez’s is tied for 35th with a 147 OPS+, the same as Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell and Jim Thome.

The Hall of Fame class of 2019 will be inducted on Sunday, July 21 in Cooperstown.