March 23, 2023

Starting Pitchers: Judging Their Careers

March 7, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

How do you judge whether a starting pitcher had a Hall of Fame career?  Obviously, there are many fans who will have different opinions on this question.  And many of the answers may be influenced by which team the fan supports.  But is there a completely objective way to answer this question? Yes, according to the CAWS Career Gauge, there is.  At least we can identify those pitchers who had obvious HOF numbers.  And it appears that this method is quite accurate as to who actually gets elected.

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 had.

Starting pitchers who have obvious Hall of Fame numbers fall into one or more of these three categories:

1.      A CAWS score > 235.
2.      300 career win shares.
3.      A CAWS score of 180 with fewer than 2400 innings pitched.

The PI Era (post-integration)

Let’s take a look at each category and examine those pitchers who qualify during the PI (post integration) era.  I will define the PI Era to be 1947-2010.  Who are the starting pitchers who posted obvious HOF numbers during their careers during this era?  According to the CAWS Gauge, only twenty-two (22) starting pitchers posted HOF numbers during the PI era: sixteen (16) had a CAWS score of 235 or greater, three (3) others did not make this benchmark but did have 300 or more career win shares and three (3) others compiled a CAWS score of 180 in fewer than 2400 innings.  Here are the twenty-two (22) starting pitchers who have posted obvious HOF numbers during this era.

CAWS > 235

Here are the sixteen (16) starting pitchers who achieved a CAWS score of 235 during the PI era.

All numbers include the 2010 season.

Bold  =  Hall of Famer
Italic  =  Active Player in 2010
CWS  =  Career Win Shares
CV      =  Core Value (sum of win shares for 10 best seasons)
CAWS  =  Career Value  =  CV  +  .25(CWS – CV)

Player Years CWS CV CAWS
1. Roger Clemens
1984-2007 432
2. Warren Spahn 1942-1965 412 259 297
3. Tom Seaver 1967-1986 388 255 288
4. Greg Maddux
1986-2008 398
5. Gaylord Perry 1962-1983 369 243 275
6. Bob Gibson 1959-1975 317 258 273
7. Steve Carlton 1965-1988 366 240 272
8. Phil Niekro 1964-1987 374 235 270
9. Robin Roberts 1948-1966 339 246 269
10. Jim Palmer 1965-1984 312 252 267
11. Fergie Jenkins 1965-1983 323 233 256
12. Randy Johnson
1988-2009 326 230
13. Bob Feller
1936-1956 292 239 252
14. Bert Blyleven 1970-1992 339 218 248
15. Early Wynn 1939-1963 309 217 240
16. Juan Marichal
1960-1975 263 229 238

These sixteen pitchers all have obvious Hall of Fame numbers.  And every one of them who has been eligible is in Cooperstown.  You will note that all except two had more than 300 career win shares.  The presence of Bob Feller and Juan Marichal on the list indicates that it is possible to achieve Hall of Fame numbers as a starting pitcher without accumulating 300 win shares.

300 Career Win Shares

There are three other outstanding starting pitchers who earned 300 win shares during their careers but did not make the benchmark of CAWS > 235.

Tom Glavine 314 203 231
Nolan Ryan 334 191 227
Don Sutton
319 187 220

All three pitchers have obvious HOF numbers and the two who have been eligible, Ryan and Sutton, are in the Hall of Fame.  The CV (core value) is the average number of win shares that a player posted during his ten best seasons.  You will note that none of these three players reached the 235 benchmark primarily because their CV was not quite strong enough.

A CAWS Score of 180 in Fewer than 2400 Innings

The first two groups were relatively easy to identify.  But now comes the part where the CAWS Gauge really earns its keep.  The Gauge has determined that only very special starting pitchers earn a CAWS score of 180 in fewer than 2400 innings.

In fact, in the entire 20th century, I have found only five starting pitchers who have done this (who have not achieved either of the distinctions above).  And only three (3) of these have pitched during the PI era.  Here they are:

Pedro Martinez 2297 224 200 206
Sandy Koufax 2324 194 190 191
Roy Halladay 2297 194 183 186

For Sandy Koufax, these are his career numbers.  For Pedro Martinez and Roy Halladay, they each achieved this benchmark after thirteen seasons.  (Addie Joss and Dizzy Dean are the other two pitchers who have done this.)  Of the five pitchers mentioned here, all three who have been eligible have been elected to the Hall of Fame.

Think about that for a moment.  Of the twenty-two (22) starting pitchers identified by the CAWS Gauge as having obvious Hall of Fame numbers, all sixteen (16) who have been eligible have been elected to the Hall.

I do not think that too many fans are going to argue with the CAWS conclusion that all twenty-two of these starting pitchers have posted Hall of Fame numbers.  Of course, there may be fans who would argue that the CAWS criteria are too stringent and that other pitchers who are not on this list may qualify as Hall of Famers.  And, that may be true.

Be that as it may, the CAWS Career Gauge has come up with a completely objective way in which to determine those starting pitchers who have obvious HOF numbers.

Is this a very tough standard?  Yes, it is.

Should it be such a tough standard?  Yes, it should.

Thank you for your time.

Mike Hoban
Professor Emeritus – City U of NY
Author of A GOOD CAWS: A Hall of Fame Handbook,


2 Responses to “Starting Pitchers: Judging Their Careers”
  1. David says:

    I would be interested to see how pre-integration pitchers shake out. Is this standard too low for them? And why is Bob Feller listed as post-integration? The vast majority of his value was accumulated before 1947. I guess he’s kind of a ‘tweener. But still, I’d love to see a follow-up on earlier pitchers.

  2. Mike Hoban says:


    Yes, Feller is a “tweener.” And the CAWS Gauge is equally tough on the pitchers in the modern era before integration (1920-1947). Here are the only ones from that time frame with CAWS > 235: Lefty Grove, Cerl Hubbell, Burleigh Grimes, Hal Newhouser, Eppa Rixey, Red Ruffing, Carl Mays, Ted Lyons and Stan Covaleski.

    For more info, check out my book, A GOOD CAWS: A Hall of Fame Handbook (2011) at



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