December 2, 2023

The BBWAA “Report Card” for the 21st Century

March 8, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

The CAWS Career Gauge (CCG) has ranked all of the outstanding players of the modern era (since 1920) according to the numbers that they produced on the field.  (CAWS is an acronym for Career Assessment/Win Shares.)   In addition, the CCG has also created a series of benchmarks to determine whether a player seems to have the numbers to suggest he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

The question arises:  What is the correlation between the benchmarks established by the CAWS Gauge and those players actually elected to the Hall?   And the answer is – quite good.

Here are the CAWS benchmarks for a pitcher:

  1. Career win shares (CWS) = 300. There have been 23 pitchers who have attained this benchmark and all are in the HOF except for Roger Clemens.
  2. CAWS score = 220.   There are 13 other pitchers who did not have 300 win shares but still managed a 220 CAWS score.   Ten of the thirteen are in the HOF.
  3. Core value (CV = sum of win shares for the ten best seasons) = 200. There are only 3 pitchers who did not reach either of the two previous marks but had a CV of 200: Whitey Ford, Pedro Martinez and Urban Shocker.  Two of these three are in the Hall.
  4. CAWS score of 180 in fewer than 2400 innings pitched.   There are 6 other pitchers (Pedro Martinez also did this) who have attained this distinction:  Sandy Koufax, Hoyt Wilhelm, Rich Gossage, Dizzy Dean, Roy Halladay and Clayton Kershaw.   All have been elected to the Hall when eligible.
  5. CAWS score of 160 in fewer than 1500 innings pitched (these are the true relievers). Only 3 pitchers qualify under this benchmark:  Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith and Bruce Sutter.   All three are in the HOF.

In the modern era (since 1920), 48 pitchers attained HOF numbers under one or more of these benchmarks.   Note that benchmarks #4 and 5 above are quite unique to CAWS.   I do not know of any other “career assessment system” that has identified such HOF benchmarks for pitchers with fewer innings pitched.

From 2001 through the 2018 ballot, the BBWAA had elected 35 major league players to the Hall of Fame. And, of course, there is sometimes a difference of opinion as to whether a particular player really “belongs in the Hall.”

According to the CCG, the BBWAA had done a rather good job of electing players to the Hall in the 21st century through 2018.  That is, 31 of the 35 players that were elected do indeed seem to have “HOF numbers.” And one other player (John Smoltz) came so close that he can hardly be called a “mistake.” Which means that the CCG and the BBWAA voting results agreed about 91% of the time (a grade of A for the BBWAA).

I find this “level of agreement” between the CAWS Gauge and the actual voting results of the BBWAA to be significant.

Here are the 16 players elected between 2001 and 2010. 14 of these players appear to have HOF numbers. Some of these are “no brainers” as far as HOF credentials are concerned.  I will comment on some of these choices.

2001 – Dave Winfield and Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett’s election was a bit controversial because he did not have the “obvious HOF numbers” of someone like Dave Winfield. But the CCG suggests he did meet the benchmark for a “shorter but great career” = a CAWS score of 250 in fewer than 1800 games.

I have found only 10 position players in the modern era who satisfy this benchmark and ALL ARE IN THE HALL OF FAME Here they are: Joe DiMaggio, Earl Averill, Hank Greenberg, Lou Boudreau, Bill Terry, Larry Doby, Jackie Robinson, Mickey Cochrane, Kirby Puckett and Bill Dickey.

2002 – Ozzie Smith

Perhaps the greatest fielding shortstop of all time. He has HOF numbers when given the defensive adjustment for shortstops built into the CCG.

2003 – Eddie Murray and Gary Carter

Two easy choices. Gary Carter is ranked as the #4 catcher of the modern era (behind only Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench and Mike Piazza) while Eddie Murray is ranked as the #7 first baseman.

2004 – Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley

Paul Molitor is one of only two DHs who have HOF numbers (Frank Thomas is the other).

Dennis Eckersley may have been a somewhat controversial choice. But the CCG suggests he does have HOF numbers because he meets a CAWS benchmark = 300 career win shares for a pitcher.  Consider that in the modern era only 23 pitchers have earned 300 career win shares and ALL ARE IN THE HALL OF FAME (except Roger Clemens).

2005 – Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg

Again, two easy choices. Wade Boggs has the #4 best numbers for a third baseman (behind Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews and George Brett) while Ryne Sandberg is the #7 second baseman of the era.

2006 – Bruce Sutter

Bruce Sutter’s election was controversial because he had pitched only 1042 innings and was the first “true reliever” (fewer than 1500 innings) ever elected.

The CCG suggests that he did meet the benchmark for true relievers = a CAWS score of 160 with fewer than 1500 innings. Only three pitchers have done this. With the expected election of Mariano Rivera in 2019, all three (Mariano, Lee Smith and Sutter) will be in the Hall of Fame.

2007 – Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn

Both have obvious HOF numbers. Cal Ripken is the #3 shortstop of the modern era (behind only ARod and Arky Vaughan). And Tony Gwynn checks in as the #10 right fielder.

2008 – Rich Gossage

I do not know if Gossage’s election to the Hall could be considered controversial. But the CCG suggests that he does have HOF numbers. He meets the HOF benchmark for a pitcher = a CAWS score of 180 with fewer than 2400 innings pitched.

I have found only 8 pitchers who have not reached a score of 220 but have met this benchmark at some point in their careers. Here they are: Pedro Martinez, Mariano Rivera, Sandy Koufax, Hoyt Wilhelm, Rich Gossage, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw and Dizzy Dean. With the election of Mariano and Halladay, ALL WHO ARE ELIGIBLE are now in the Hall of Fame. The CAWS Gauge suggests all eight have HOF numbers.

2009 – Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice

From 2001 through 2009, the CCG suggests that the BBWAA elected 14 players in a row (including Rickey) who had HOF numbers = 100% accuracy for the BBWAA (Rickey Henderson is the #5 left fielder of the era).

Unfortunately, with the election of Jim Rice in 2009, the BBWAA dropped the ball. According to the CCG, Rice was a solid player but did not even come close to HOF numbers during his career. His CAWS score is 245 (where 280 is the benchmark).

Here are a few players who also did not achieve HOF numbers but whose career numbers are superior to those of Jim Rice: Rusty Staub, Bobby Bonds, Ken Singleton, Frank Howard, Vada Pinson, Reggie Smith, Dave Parker and Minnie Minoso ( and there are many others).

2010 – Andre Dawson

Andre Dawson is quite similar to Jim Rice in that he did not come close to posting HOF numbers according to the CCG – although his numbers are somewhat better than Rice. His CAWS score is 261 – well short of the 280 benchmark. The group of players mentioned above all had better numbers than Dawson.

So, from 2001 to 2009, the BBWAA elected 14 players in a row – all of whom had legitimate HOF numbers according to the CCG.   However, also in 2009, they stumbled when they elected Jim Rice and again in 2010 when they elected Andre Dawson.

OK, so what about 2011 to 2018? Nineteen players were elected in this time frame – seventeen of whom had HOF numbers according to the CCG (and both John Smoltz and Trevor Hoffman came quite close).

Here are those 19 players.

2011 – Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar

Roberto Alomar has obvious HOF numbers. He is the 5th best second baseman of the modern era. But Bert Blyleven’s election in his final year of eligibility represented a triumph for sabermetrics. With 339 career win shares and a core value of 218, he is the 16th best starting pitcher of the modern era – ahead of such Hall of Famers as Early Wynn, Juan Marichal, Tom Glavine, Jim Bunning and Don Drysdale.

2012 – Barry Larkin – An easy choice – the 8th best shortstop of the era.

2014 – Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine

All three have obvious HOF numbers. Frank Thomas is ranked #27 among all position players, Greg Maddux is the #5 best starting pitcher while Tom Glavine is #26.

2015 – Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio

Johnson, Martinez and Biggio are “no-brainers” for the Hall. According to the CCG, Smoltz fell just short of HOF numbers but came closer than just about any other pitcher – so it is hard to fault the voters here.

2016 – Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza

Griffey, of course, was an easy choice – the #4 center fielder of the era behind only Mays, Mantle and DiMaggio. And Piazza has the 3rd best numbers of any catcher of the era – behind only Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench.

2017 – Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez

All three have HOF numbers. Bagwell has the #37 best numbers of the era and the under-appreciated Tim Raines is not far behind at #45. Pudge Rodriguez (like Ozzie Smith) has HOF numbers according to the CCG when granted the defensive adjustment for his position.

2018 – Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman

Jones, Guerrero and Thome were all easy choices since all have a CAWS score above the 280 benchmark. But Trevor Hoffman does not have the numbers according to the CCG. Only three “true relievers” (fewer than 1500 innings) have HOF numbers: Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith and Bruce Sutter.

As mentioned earlier, the CAWS Gauge suggests that the BBWAA had done a good job of electing players to the Hall of Fame through 2018.

So, what happened in 2019?   Four players were elected to the Hall:  Mariano Rivera (unanimously), Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina.

As mentioned above (under Rich Gossage), both Mariano and Halladay have obvious HOF numbers and were elected in their first year on the ballot.

Mike Mussina can best be described as a very solid pitcher who just fell short of HOF numbers according to the CAWS Gauge.   And, so, his election is somewhat “understandable” – since he was so close.

Edgar Martinez is a somewhat different story.  His CAWS score of 269 is well below the 280 benchmark.  Here are a few other players with numbers comparable to his but who also do not have HOF numbers.

Ken Singleton 302 260 271
Frank Howard 297 260 269
Will Clark 321 252 269
Edgar Martinez 314 2524 269
Vada Pinson 321 252 269
Reggie Smith 325 250 269

Edgar Martinez joins Harold Baines as one of the “least deserving” players to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in recent memory.

Thank you for your time.

Mike Hoban, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus (mathematics) – City U of NY
Author of DEFINING GREATNESS: A Hall of Fame Handbook

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