The BBWAA Report Card for the 21st Century â€“ Part 1
As all devoted followers of baseball know, the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) has an election each year to determine if any of the current candidates are worthy of induction into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
If we are talking about major league players, it is my assumption that the writers who are responsible for voting for the players are intent on rewarding those players who have had the best careers during their playing days. Â Given this assumption, letâ€™s take a look at how successful the voters have been during the 21st century â€“ that is, since 2001.
So, the question becomes: How many of the major league players elected to the Hall of Fame since 2001 by the BBWAA really have HOF numbers?
Bill Jamesâ€™ Win Shares system is the most comprehensive tool available to understand how good a season a player had.Â It includes offensive and defensive contributions and adjusts for all relevant factors.Â The CAWS Career Gauge (Career Assessment/Win Shares) uses win shares to measure how good a career a player has had.Â The CAWS Gauge is based on a playerâ€™s core value (his ten best seasons) plus additional credit for his other seasons.Â It is an objective tool which attempts to assess career value.Â The Gauge has established benchmarks for each position as well as for starting pitchers and relief pitchers â€“ to determine whether a player has posted obvious HOF numbers during his career.
Since 2001, twenty (20) major leaguer players have been elected to the Hall of Fame.Â Of these players, eighteen have been elected by the BBWAA and two by the Veterans Committee.
The CAWS Career Gauge suggests that of the eighteen players elected by the BBWAA, sixteen have HOF numbers while two do not.Â So, the writers were accurate with 89% of their choices.Â Given all the variables involved, I would have to say that represents an outstanding job.
I would award the BBWAA a Â voting grade ofÂ B+ Â for this time frame.
From 2001 to 2008 the BBWAA was really on a roll.Â During this time, they elected thirteen (13) major league players to the Hall of Fame and they were accurate 100% of the time!!Â Wouldnâ€™t it be great if they could do this all the time.
Here are those players.Â Each of them has obvious Hall of Fame numbers according to the strict standards of the CAWS Career Gauge.
2001Â -Â Dave Winfield and Kirby Puckett
2002Â -Â Ozzie Smith
2003Â -Â Eddie Murray and Gary Carter
2004Â -Â Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley
2005Â -Â Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg
2006Â -Â Bruce Sutter
2007Â -Â Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn
2008Â -Â Rich Gossage
Alas, in 2009, the BBWAA streak came to an end.Â They struck gold that year, of course, with Rickey Henderson but they really struck out when they inducted Jim Rice into the Hall. Riceâ€™s career achievements are so far below Hall standards that it is difficult to understand what the voters were thinking.
Then in 2010, they blew it again when they elected Andre Dawson. But in this case, the selection was somewhat more understandable since Dawsonâ€™s career achievements were at least relatively close to the CAWS HOF benchmark.
As we will see in a later section, Andre Dawson is one of those players who could accurately be described as a â€œborderline Hall of Famerâ€ â€“ that is, a player who put up impressive numbers during his career but fell somewhat short of obvious HOF numbers.
However, based on his numbers, Jim Rice is not even a borderline Hall of Famer.Â As we will see, there are many other major league players whose career achievements are superior to his but who have never been serious candidates for the Hall.Â His election represents one of the poorest choices ever by the BBWAA.
Happily, in 2011, the writers bounced back again and resumed their winning ways. They selected Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar for induction â€“ both of whom have very strong Hall of Fame numbers according to the CAWS Gauge.
In subsequent articles, I will look at the career numbers of each of these eighteen (18) players and explain how the CAWS Career Gauge judges their numbers.
Thanks for your time.
Professor Emeritus â€“ City U of NY
Author of A GOOD CAWS: A Hall of Fame Handbook (2011)