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The Hall of Fame Black Ink Test January 11, 2015

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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The Baseball Hall of Fame‘s mission is “Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations.” An important measure of the excellence honored in Cooperstown is called the Black Ink Test. “Black ink” refers to the boldface type used to show the league’s leader in an important category.

The categories used for the Black Ink Test are, of course, different for pitchers and batters, but they also vary depending on the importance of the stat. A batter who excels in hitting home runs is more valuable to a team than one who takes the most at-bats regardless of outcome. For batters, points are awarded as follows:

  1. One point for games, at-bats, or triples
  2. Two points for doubles, walks, or stolen bases
  3. Three points for runs scored, hits, or slugging percentage
  4. Four points for home runs, RBIs, or batting average

Pitchers receive:

  1. One point for appearances, starts, or shutouts
  2. Two points for complete games, lowest Walks/9, or lowest Hits/9
  3. Three points for innings pitched, saves, or win-loss percentage
  4. Four points for wins, ERA, or strikeouts

That means that there are 30 black-ink points per year for batters and 30 for pitchers. (Multiple black-ink points can be awarded; for example, this year, at least 10 pitchers started 34 games in the National League, each of whom earns 1 point.) However, while it’s conceivable that a single batter could monopolize most of the categories, it’s not likely that a pitcher could – appearances and saves will go to a reliever, while most of the categories will go to a starter.

Because black ink requires a player lead his league, it’s hard to come by – and when there are more teams in a league, even the best players may not lead the league. One notable example of the bias toward older players is Ross Barnes, who was active for nine seasons from 1871 to 1881. (He didn’t play in 1878 or 1880.) Although Ross isn’t eligible for the Hall because he didn’t play ten seasons, he amassed an astonishing 60 points of black ink in the National Association by the age of 31. Since the National Association was only 9 teams, he competed against around 115 other batters for those points. During the 2014 season, the same 30 points of black ink were spread over 672 National League batters. Though Ross was truly an outstanding player, leading the league in nearly every category in 1873 and 1876, it was a lot easier to get those points then.

As of today, the batters with the most black ink not to be elected to the Hall of Fame are Barry Bonds (69), Pete Rose (68), and Alex Rodriguez (64). A-Rod and Rose, of course, aren’t eligible (A-Rod is still active). New Hall of Famer Craig Biggio had 17 and mediocre, forgettable middle-infielder Derek Jeter comes in at a whopping 10.

The pitchers with the most black ink not to be elected are Roger Clemens (100), Roy Halladay (48), Bucky Walters (48), and Justin Verlander (46). Verlander is still active and Halladay retired too recently to be elected, but Walters is truly a baffling case. New Hall of Famers this year were Randy Johnson (99), Pedro Martinez (58), and John Smoltz (34).