August 15, 2022

The 21st Century Hall of Famers

May 4, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Here is an interesting question.  How many of the “great baseball players” of modern times have fans of the game been able to see during the 21st century (since 2001)?  Let’s first take a look at this question for position players and then for pitchers.

The Position Players

At the end of the 2009 season, there were only ninety-seven (97) position players from the modern era (since 1920) who had posted obvious Hall of Fame numbers during their playing careers.  That is the conclusion of the CAWS Career Gauge.

Bill James’ Win Shares system is the most comprehensive tool available to understand how good a season a player had.  It includes offensive and defensive contributions and adjusts for all relevant factors.  The CAWS Career Gauge (Career Assessment/Win Shares) uses win shares to measure how good a career a player has had.

Of the ninety-seven “modern” position players with HOF numbers, ten were active during the 2009 season.  And eleven others were still playing in 2001 or later.  That means a total of twenty-one (21) players or 22% of the “great” position players of modern times were still active in the 21st century.

This is NOT meant to be an argument for who “belongs in the Hall of Fame.”  This is simply a presentation of those players who have posted obvious HOF numbers. We are all aware that “other considerations” sometimes keep “great” players out of the Hall.  The two best examples of this from the modern era are Pete Rose and Dick Allen.  And it would appear that questions about steroid use will hamper the chances of some of the following players ever being elected to the Hall.  My goal is simply to point out that these players had the best careers based on their numbers.

Here are the ten position players who were active during 2009 and who have obvious HOF numbers. The first number is career win shares, the second is core value (the win shares for the ten best seasons) and the third is the CAWS score.  [CAWS = CV + .25(CWS – CV)].

Alex Rodriguez
SS 402 329 352
Albert Pujols
1B 350 350 350
Gary Sheffield LF 430 305 336
Manny Ramirez LF 397 285 313
Ken Griffey Jr. CF 403 278 309
Chipper Jones 3B 369 271 296
Derek Jeter SS 348 273 292
Jim Thome 1B 352 267 288
Jason Giambi 1B 309 271 281
Ivan Rodriguez C 326 225 250

Mention should be made here of two other active players who are on the verge of establishing HOF numbers and should do so in 2010.  They are Vladimir Guerrero and Bobby Abreu.

Here are the eleven retired position players who according to the CAWS Gauge have obvious HOF numbers (and played during the 2001 season or later).

Barry Bonds
LF 707 427 497
Craig Biggio
2B 428 294 328
Frank Thomas 1B/DH 405 301 327
Jeff Bagwell 1B 388 287 312
Tim Raines LF 390 275 304
Roberto Alomar 2B 375 278 302
Mark McGwire 1B 342 283 298
Rafael Palmeiro 1B 387 297 290
Mike Piazza C 325 273 286
Barry Larkin SS 347 258 280
Jeff Kent 2B 339 252 274

It is interesting to note the distribution by position of these twenty-one position players: five outfielders, five first basemen, three shortstops, three second basemen, two catchers, one third basemen and one designated hitter.  One might be inclined to argue about the appropriate position for Alex Rodriguez and Frank Thomas.  But the fact of the matter is that A-Rod has played more games at shortstop than anywhere else and the Big Hurt played more games at DH than at first base.

The Pitchers

Through the end of the 2009 season, the CAWS Gauge suggests that there have been only thirty-nine (39) pitchers since 1920 who have posted obvious Hall of Fame numbers during their careers.

Of the thirty-nine “modern” pitchers with HOF numbers, three were active during the 2009 season.  And three others were retired but were still playing in 2001 or later.  That means a total of six pitchers or 15% of the “great” pitchers of modern times were still active in the 21st century.

Here are the three pitchers who were still active in 2009 and who have obvious HOF numbers.

Randy Johnson
326 230 254
Pedro Martinez
256 206 219
Mariano Rivera 227 175 188

Three other pitchers are still active and have a shot at establishing HOF numbers. They are: Trevor Hoffman, John Smoltz and Billy Wagner.

Here are the three recently retired pitchers who have obvious HOF numbers and were still pitching in 2001 or later.

Roger Clemens
432 260 303
Greg Maddux
398 246 284
Tom Glavine 314 203 231

So, the CAWS Career Gauge has identified a total of 21 + 6 = 27 players who have played in the 21st century and who have obvious HOF numbers.  Of course, most of these players began their careers well before 2001.   Since 1920, there have been a total of 97 + 39 = 136 players who have posted such numbers during their careers.

The question could be asked: Is this number of Hall of Famers in this time frame “reasonable?”  And the rough answer would be: Yes, it seems so.  1920 to 2010 is a 90-year period.  If we take any 20-year time frame, it seems that approximately 20/90 = .22 = 22% of the HOF players from the whole period should be playing during that time frame.  Well, 22% of 136 players = 30 players.  So, when the CAWS Gauge suggests that there have been 27 such players in this time frame (plus a few others who may make it), this certainly is within the realm of “reasonableness.”

As mentioned above, some of these twenty-seven (27) players who have put up obvious HOF numbers during their careers may have been tainted by the steroids scandal.  Whether or not they will ever be elected to the Hall of Fame is at this point a matter of conjecture.

The purpose of this essay is not to argue for the place of these players in the Hall of Fame.  Rather it is to document that in terms of the numbers they put together during their careers, each of these players was very special – that is, they had the best careers.

At this point in time, given the evidence of the Hall of Fame voting for Mark McGwire through 2010, I would assume that a number of these players will never be elected to the Hall despite their outstanding careers.

If you would like to get a free e-copy of Michael Hoban’s 100-page monograph: A HOF HANDBOOK: Who Belongs and Who Does Not, please e-mail him at


2 Responses to “The 21st Century Hall of Famers”
  1. David in Toledo says:

    I once went through baseball-reference’s database, looking to see how many HofF players were active in every particular year, up through about 1990. Numbers very from the high teens (during WWII) to, as I remember, the high 30’s. On average, the number for any single year is pretty close to the 27 Michael has identified for the past decade.

    Some, of course, are at the end of their careers and are no longer playing like Hall of Famers. Some are rookies and will not achieve Michael’s CAWS cutoff for many, many years. But at any time, there are several dozen active players who will eventually be selected for the Hall.

    Outfielders find it easier to put up high CAWS scores than catchers. Is that because the position is inherently more difficult, resulting in lower yearly WS totals? Because catchers wear out faster, resulting in lower career totals? Because the best athletes, who will naturally score highest, are steered away from catching and toward the outfield? Perhaps the standard for catchers should be lower than that for outfielders (and perhaps not).

    I am not yet persuaded to vote for Giambi, McGwire, Palmiero, Kent, and Clemens.

  2. aArthur Cohn says:

    @David in Toledo
    Giambi, McGwire, Palmiero, and Clemens have been accused of doping. I haven’t heard of that accusation against Kent. So aren’t you persueded about Kent?

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