September 20, 2019

Koufax and Kershaw and the Hall of Fame

February 12, 2019 by · 1 Comment 

Consider a pitcher who recorded the following distinctions during his career:

  1. Won the Cy Young Award three times
  2. Won the ERA title five times
  3. Was an All Star seven times
  4. Was voted MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Sandy Koufax did all of these things in twelve seasons in the major leagues with the Dodgers.   And, of course, he is in the Hall of Fame.

But here is an interesting coincidence.  Clayton Kershaw has accomplished the exact same distinctions in eleven seasons with the Dodgers.  And so, it would appear obvious that he has already posted “Hall of Fame numbers” during his career.

But is there a MORE PRECISE WAY to “demonstrate” that Koufax and Kershaw have the numbers to justify their being in the Hall?

Well, yes there is, and it is called the CAWS Career Gauge (where CAWS is an acronym for career assessment/win shares).   The CAWS Gauge has been developed over a period of fifteen years by a retired mathematics professor who is a member of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) – and it is arguably one of the best systems to determine whether a player posted “HOF numbers” during his career.

The Gauge has established a series of “Hall of Fame benchmarks” to determine whether a player has posted the numbers during his career that would appear to make him a valid candidate for the Hall.   For a pitcher, a CAWS career score of 220 would normally indicate that he had numbers worthy of possible HOF induction.

But what of a pitcher who had a shorter but great career like Koufax and did not reach the 220 benchmark for that reason?   After a great deal of research, the CAWS gauge has established other benchmarks as well.  And both Koufax and Kershaw have met one of the more interesting benchmarks.

I have found that there are only eight pitchers in the modern era (since 1920) who did not reach the 220 benchmark but who did achieve another distinction: a CAWS score of 180 in fewer than 2400 innings pitched – and EACH HAS BEEN ELECTED TO THE HALL WHEN ELIGIBLE.  Here are those pitchers.

[IP = innings pitched, CWS = career win shares, CV = core value (the ten best seasons) and CAWS = CV + .25(CWS – CV)]

IP CWS CV CAWS
Pedro Martinez 2297 224 200 206
Mariano Rivera 1283 272 175 199
Sandy Koufax 2324 194 190 191
Hoyt Wilhelm 2254 256 168 190
Goose Gossage 1809 223 173 186
Roy Halladay 2297 194 183 186
Clayton Kershaw 2096 188 182 184
Dizzy Dean 1967 181 180 180

For five of these players, the numbers represent career numbers.   For Pedro Martinez, Roy Halladay and Clayton Kershaw, each of them reached the benchmark at some point during their career (Pedro and Halladay after thirteen seasons and Clayton after just eleven seasons).

So, each of these players has been elected to the Hall as he became eligible – indicating that the voters certainly seem to agree that the 180/2400 CAWS benchmark does indicate obvious HOF numbers for a pitcher.

Mike Hoban, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus (mathematics) – City U of NY

Author of DEFINING GREATNESS: A Hall of Fame Handbook

profhoban@gmail.com

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  1. […] If he were to retire today, Clayton Kershaw would go down in the record books side-by-side with another southpaw Dodger legend, Sandy Koufax.  In fact, some might even say Kershaw is better than the Hall of Famer, accomplishing in only 11 seasons, what Koufax did in 12: […]



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