September 23, 2023

The BBWAA Report Card for the 21st Century: Part 4

July 14, 2011 by · 4 Comments 

In Part 1 of this series, I indicated that the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) has been quite successful since 2001 in their selection of major league players for induction into the Hall of Fame.  Of the eighteen inductees from 2001 through 2011, sixteen do indeed have Hall of Fame numbers according to the strict benchmarks of the CAWS Career Gauge.  That is a success rate of 89% so I initially awarded the writers a grade of  B+ for their efforts in this regard since 2001.

In Part 2, we looked at the ten players inducted by the writers from 2001 through 2006.  All ten of those players did have Hall of Fame numbers according to the CAWS Career Gauge.

In Part 3, we took a look at the eight players elected to the Hall by the writers from 2007 through 2011.  Six of those eight players have obvious HOF Numbers.

As a result of these articles, an interesting question has been raised.  How many players who have appeared on the ballot since 2001 actually do have HOF numbers and have NOT been elected to the Hall by the BBWAA? And should this be taken into consideration when awarding the grade?

The answer to the second question is an obvious YES.  And so we will look at those players now and consider adjusting that grade of  B+  based on these considerations.

We will look at this question in two parts:

  1. Are there any players who appeared on the BBWAA ballot since 2001 who have HOF numbers and who are gone from the ballot without being elected?
  2. How many players on the 2011 ballot have HOF numbers and have not yet been elected?

The Two Players Who Have Gotten No Respect At All

I was somewhat surprised to see that there are only two players who have appeared on the ballot since 2001 and have HOF numbers — but are no longer on the ballot.  I think it is fair to point out that according to the tough CAWS benchmarks these are two of the lowest ranked players who DO HAVE HOF numbers. So, one might argue that the BBWAA can be forgiven to some extent for this oversight.

However, at the same time, I should emphasize that ONLY 100 position players since 1920 have HOF numbers according to the CAWS Gauge.  And you would expect that each of them would garner some support when his name appears on the ballot. But neither of these two players got even the 5% necessary to appear on the ballot beyond their first year. How is that possible?

The two players are Lou Whitaker and Will Clark.  As mentioned above, these are two of the lowest ranked position players among the 100 (since 1920) who have posted HOF numbers during their careers.  But to be among these 100 players at all is quite an achievement.

Lou Whitaker was an outstanding second baseman who played for the Detroit Tigers for nineteen seasons and was an All Star five times and a Gold Glover three times.  His numbers place him as the #11 best second basemen since 1920.  Look at these numbers.  Bold print means the player is in the Hall of Fame.

Rogers Hornsby
502 381 411
Joe Morgan
512 341 384
Craig Biggio
428 294 328
Charlie Gehringer
383 280 306
Roberto Alomar
375 278 302
Ryne Sandberg
346 278 295
Rod Carew
384 257 289
Frankie Frisch
366 256 284
Jeff Kent
339 252 274
Bobby Grich
329 253 272
Lou Whitaker
351 232 262
Nellie Fox
304 242 258
Billy Herman
298 243 257

The CAWS Gauge has established a career score of 260 as representing HOF numbers for a second baseman.  As you can see, Whitaker just makes the grade at 262 and his core value of 232 is the lowest of the group.  Note that the ten above him are all above 270 and only Bobby Grich has been passed over completely for the Hall.  Nellie Fox and Billy Herman are both in the Hall of Fame even though they fall short of the CAWS benchmark.

Will Clark also has what could be called “minimum HOF numbers.”  A CAWS score of 280 is the required benchmark for a first baseman, or a left or right fielder to achieve the numbers.  Only fourteen first basemen have done that since 1920 and Clark is one of them.  Here are a few players whose career numbers are comparable to Clark’s.  I have also included Jim Rice and Andre Dawson here to show how much better Clark’s numbers are than either of these two recent Hall of Fame inductees.

Goose Goslin
355 263 286
Mike Piazza
325 273 286
Frank Baker
301 280 285
Lou Brock
348 264 285
Will Clark
331 269 285
Frankie Frisch
366 256 284
Andre Dawson
340 234 261
Jim Rice
282 233 245

OK, so Lou Whitaker and Will Clark are two players who should have been elected to the Hall by the BBWAA but were not.  Which means that we now have two more “misses” by the writers.  Therefore, instead of sixteen good choices and two bad choices since 2001, we now have sixteen good ones, two bad ones and two misses — for an 80% “success rate.”  If we stop here, the BBWAA would still manage a grade of  B – which, in fact, is not bad.

The Seven Players Who Are Currently on the Ballot

But we still have one big question to answer.  How do we handle those players who are still on the ballot (2011) and have Hall of Fame numbers — but have not yet been elected by the writers?

I am going to be very arbitrary here.  It seems to me that if a player with HOF numbers has been on the ballot for eight years and has not been elected — that represents a very definite “miss” by the writers.

There are currently seven players who were on the 2011 ballot who have HOF numbers and have not yet been inducted into the Hall.  Six of these are position players.  Here are their numbers.  (The number in parentheses is the number of years on the ballot.)

Jeff Bagwell (1)
388 287 312
Tim Raines (4)
390 275 304
Mark McGwire (5)
342 283 298
Rafael Palmeiro (1)
387 257 290
Barry Larkin (2)
347 258 280
Alan Trammell (10)
318 238 258

Here are these six position players in alphabetical order.

1. Jeff Bagwell  – Among first basemen in the modern era, Jeff Bagwell ranks as #7.  Those ahead of him are: Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Albert Pujols, Willie McCovey, Dick Allen and Eddie Murray.  That ranks him ahead of Johnny Mize and Harmon Killebrew — to name just two other great first basemen.  When compared to all the position players, Bagwell is the #36 ranked player of the modern era.  He should have been elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.

2. Barry Larkin  – According to the CAWS Gauge, through the 2010 season, there are only seven shortstops in the modern era who have achieved better numbers on the playing field than Barry Larkin.  They are Alex Rodriguez (yes, he has still played more games at short than at third), Arky Vaughan, Robin Yount, Cal Ripkin, Luke Appling, Derek Jeter and Joe Cronin.  Of course, all of these are in the Hall except for ARod and Jeter who are still active.  Barry Larkin got 51.6% of the votes in 2010, his first year of eligibility.  That means that he should be elected at some point.  Let’s hope that is the case.

3. Mark McGwire  – There are only nine first basemen in the modern era who had better numbers on the playing field than Mark McGwire.  They are (in order) Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Frank Thomas, Willie McCovey, Dick Allen, Eddie Murray, Jeff Bagwell, Johnny Mize and Harmon Killebrew.  All of these who have been eligible have been elected to the HOF except Dick Allen.  Of course, McGwire suffers from the “steroids stain.”  And, judging from how the voting has gone in his first few years of eligibility (never more than 26% of the vote), there is no reason to believe that Big Mac will ever be elected to the Hall.

4. Rafael Palmeiro -  Palmeiro certainly has Hall of Fame numbers.  He played for twenty seasons in the majors and is just one of four players who have both 3000 hits and 500 home runs during their careers.  Unfortunately, like Mark McGwire, he suffers from the “steroids stain.”  And there is no logical reason to think that the writers will vote for his election if they will not vote for McGwire.  It looks like Rafael will never get into the Hall despite having the numbers.

5. Tim Raines  – According to the CAWS Gauge, in the modern era, only eight left fielders have put together better numbers on the playing field than Tim Raines.  They are (in order) Barry Bonds, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Pete Rose, Rickey Henderson, Carl Yastrzemski, Gary Sheffield and Manny Ramirez.  All of these players who have been eligible are in the Hall of Fame.  During his career, Raines was never a “big name player.”  In the 2011 election, he got 37.5% of the vote.  This did represent a 10% increase over 2010, so I am optimistic that he will be inducted within a few years.

6. Alan Trammell  – There have been only fourteen shortstops since 1920 who have put together HOF numbers on the playing field according to the CAWS Gauge.  We have mentioned eight of these above when discussing Barry Larkin.  The others are: Ernie Banks, PeeWee Reese, Lou Boudreau, Alan Trammell, Miguel Tejada and Ozzie Smith.  All of these other players who have been eligible are in the Hall.  Only Alan Trammell among this elite group has been eligible and has not been elected.  It is true that his credentials are not as strong as the six others on this list.  But he still has the numbers and deserves election.

Here are a few other position players on the 2011 ballot for comparison purposes.  None of these players has HOF numbers according to the CAWS Gauge.

Dave Parker
327 248 268
Fred McGriff
326 240 262
Larry Walker
311 234 253
Dale Murphy
294 228 245
Edgar Martinez
305 222 243

Check out the core values here.  It would be very unusual for a first baseman or an outfielder to post HOF numbers (a CAWS score of 280) without a CV of at least 250.  And you will note that none of these players reached that core value.

There was one pitcher on the 2011 ballot who has HOF numbers and has not yet been elected.  And this was his ninth year on the ballot.  That pitcher is Lee Smith.

According to the CAWS Gauge only 40 pitchers since 1920 have accumulated HOF numbers on the playing field.

Lee Smith -  The CAWS Career Gauge suggests that there are only five “true relief pitchers” (maximum of 1500 innings pitched) who have obvious Hall of Fame numbers.  Here they are (in order): Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, Billy Wagner, and Dan Quisenberry.  Lee Smith is in very select company here.  Sutter is already in the Hall and Mariano and Wagner are still active.  (Dennis Eckersley, Hoyt Wilhelm and Goose Gossage also have HOF numbers but do not fit into this category of pitchers.)  In 2011, Smith got 45% of the votes in his ninth year on the ballot.  That is 2% less than he got in 2010.  Let’s hope that the voters see the light soon and elect him to the Hall of Fame where he belongs.

Here are three other pitchers who were on the 2011 ballot.  Blyleven, of course, was inducted as he deserved.  Kevin Brown is the highest ranking pitcher who does not have the numbers according to the CAWS Gauge and Jack Morris appears to be the only other serious candidate.  But the CAWS score of each of these two players falls well short of the 235 benchmark for starting pitchers.  By contrast, Bert Blyleven has a CAWS score of 248.

Bert Blyleven
339 218 248
Kevin Brown
241 193 205
Jack Morris
225 172 185

Even though neither has HOF numbers, notice how much better Kevin Brown looks when compared to Jack Morris.  In 2011, Jack Morris got 54% of the votes in his twelfth year on the ballot.  Kevin Brown got only 2% in his first year and is off the ballot.  How is that possible?  Isn’t anyone on the BBWAA doing his homework?

OK, so what about the grade for the BBWAA in light of this further information?  Two of these players with HOF numbers have been on the ballot for at least eight years: Alan Trammell and Lee Smith.  As mentioned above, that makes two more “misses” for the writers.

So, since 2001, the BBWAA has sixteen good choices, two bad choices and four misses.  This yields a “success rate” for the writers of sixteen out of twenty-two or 73%.  Therefore, it looks like the grade for the BBWAA for its Hall of Fame efforts for the 21st century has slipped to a  C.

Thanks for your time.

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


4 Responses to “The BBWAA Report Card for the 21st Century: Part 4”
  1. David says:

    Good series, and thanks for taking up the cause (or should I say CAWS) of looking at the misses by the BBWAA. I guess if it were up to me to assign grades, I would keep the denominator fixed as the number of eligible players who SHOULD be in – in this case, 23 for the decade. Those being the seven listed above, and the 16 who WERE picked into the Hall. I would then take the number of hits, and subtract the number of misses – in this case, 16 hits, 2 misses. Thus, 14/23=61%. So, I would give a D-. Of course, this method means its worse to elect a bad choice than it is to not elect a good choice (since the worst possible score with a fixed denominator like this and a numerator which can go negative is negative infinity, while electing no one at all would simply get a zero). But hey – I think that’s how people perceive it. And, let’s face it – if we’re assigning letter grades, anything below 60% is an F anyway, whether it’s 50% or -50%. That’s just my preference, because I don’t think the BBWAA should get 1/1 added to their grade just for electing someone who shouldn’t have been elected in the first place, as it artificially inflates the grade.

    But anyway, this has got me wondering about something. If one were truly industrious, one could go back in time and look at every year for the BBWAA and determine a sort of “rolling” grade. We could see what year was the high point, and which the low. We could actually use math to determine when the BBWAA was best, and when it was worst. My guess is that it wouldn’t start to even out until the 50s or 60s, since there were simply too many great eligible players in the early years, but at least that wouldn’t make them go negative. Anyway, it’s just a thought I had. Great job, and I really enjoyed the series. I’m already excited about the Hall of Fame talk for the upcoming year!

  2. MIKE HOBAN says:


    Thanks for the feedback. And maybe the BBWAA does deserve no better than a D- although I feel that may be a bit harsh.

    Your concept of going back in time would make an interesting study but it would certainly take a lot of work.


  3. Fart says:

    How did Morris get 54% while Brown got 2%? It’s the Hall of FAME, not the Hall of Statistics. Morris is famous for being the winningest pitcher of the 80’s, winning over 250 games, and pitching perhaps the most astounding WS Game 7 in baseball history. Brown is famous for being a world-class jerk, an overpaid crybaby who broke his own hand, a postseason failure and a name in the Mitchell Report.

    Was Morris a better pitcher? Not by any rational stretch of the imagination. But he WAS more famous for the right reasons – something that no statistic can truly capture. I will say that the metrics at BR (black/grey ink, monitor, standards) do a reasonably good job of predicting HOF induction, particularly the monitor. Other than steroid users, a score of 150 is just about a lock (the cutoff used to be 130, but tell that to Kaat and Smith).

    I also believe that it’s a mistake to exclude the postseason, which will most likely give Smoltz, Schilling, and possibly even Morris and Pettitte the extra credit they need to get into the Hall.


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  1. […] The BBWAA Report Card for the 21st Century – Part 4: continues their series grading the BBWAA’s Hall of Fame selections by looking at the players who have HoF credentials (according to Win Shares) but were not elected. […]

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