December 4, 2023

The BBWAA Report Card for the 21st Century – Part 1

June 27, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

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.  Given this assumption, let’s take a look at how successful the voters have been during the 21st century – 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 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.  The CAWS Gauge is based on a player’s core value (his ten best seasons) plus additional credit for his other seasons.  It is an objective tool which attempts to assess career value.  The Gauge has established benchmarks for each position as well as for starting pitchers and relief pitchers – 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.  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.  So, the writers were accurate with 89% of their choices.  Given all the variables involved, I would have to say that represents an outstanding job.

I would award the BBWAA a  voting grade of  B+  for this time frame.

From 2001 to 2008 the BBWAA was really on a roll.  During this time, they elected thirteen (13) major league players to the Hall of Fame and they were accurate 100% of the time!!  Wouldn’t it be great if they could do this all the time.

Here are those players.  Each of them has obvious Hall of Fame numbers according to the strict standards of the CAWS Career Gauge.

2001  -  Dave Winfield and Kirby Puckett

2002  -  Ozzie Smith

2003  -  Eddie Murray and Gary Carter

2004  -  Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley

2005  -  Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg

2006  -  Bruce Sutter

2007  -  Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn

2008  -  Rich Gossage

Alas, in 2009, the BBWAA streak came to an end.  They struck gold that year, of course, with Rickey Henderson but they really struck out when they inducted Jim Rice into the Hall. Rice’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 Dawson’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 “borderline Hall of Famer” – 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.  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.  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 – 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.

Mike Hoban
Professor Emeritus – City U of NY
Author of A GOOD CAWS: A Hall of Fame Handbook (2011)


2 Responses to “The BBWAA Report Card for the 21st Century – Part 1”
  1. Pull My Finger says:

    You guys have really got to get over Jim Rice. How in the world can you claim Kirby Puckett or Paul Molitor were better qualifed than Rice? Three HR titles, 2 RBI, MVP, 8 All Star games, 128 OPS+, .298/.352/.502. Yea, he isn’t Ted Williams, but he was a great hitter in an era where .300 and 30HR didn’t go together very often. Yea, he hit into a lot of DPs, but you would too with Dwight Evans and Wade Boggs in front of you.

  2. MIKE HOBAN says:

    Thanks for the comment. Quoting random stats as you have done here has always been a fan’s way of advocating his player’s argument for the Hall of Fame.

    But I think we have come to realize that only an OBJECTIVE COMPARISON with other players really lets us know who is a true Hall of Famer. And that is what the CAWS Gauge does.

    Check out Part 3 of this series where I demonstrate that Jim Rice’s career numbers are NOT AS GOOD as Heinie Manush – long considered a Hall of Famer who does not deserve to be in the Hall.

    Jim Rice was a very solid player. But so were a lot of other guys. But a Hall of Famer? Not even close!!

    Mike Hoban

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