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Baseball Analysis  Michael Hoban, Ph.D

Part 1 - Career Assessment
The Win Shares System
How to Judge a Career
The 1800/255 Benchmark - Jackie Robinson
The 2400/180 Benchmark - Pedro Martinez and Sandy Koufax
The 1500/150 Benchmark - Mariano Rivera

Part 2 - The Players
3000 Hits – All Have Hall of Fame Numbers

The 1500/150 Benchmark  -   Mariano Rivera

Michael Hoban, Ph.D.

“Mariano Rivera is the best reliever in baseball history.”  If I were to make such a claim, there would surely be fans who would agree with me and many who would not.  And, of course, all would want to know on what basis I made such a claim.

In trying to establish reasonable benchmarks for Hall of Fame numbers, I naturally came up against the question: Since a relief pitcher who has never been a starter will normally pitch many fewer innings than a starting pitcher, how are you going to determine whether a relief pitcher has HOF numbers?  Obviously, the same standards cannot apply for a starting pitcher and a relief pitcher.

In wrestling with this question, I looked at the careers of all the great relief pitchers to try to establish a benchmark that would recognize the best – but would not be “too easy.”  And I believe that I have accomplished this task.

Consider the following statement.  I have found only five pitchers in the 20th century who have achieved a CAWS score of 150 while pitching fewer than 1500 innings.  Here are those pitchers. 

                                   IP        CWS        CV        CAWS
Mariano Rivera        1283        272        175        199
Lee Smith                  1289        198        152        164
Bruce Sutter              1042        168        163        164    
Billy Wagner               903        182        151        159
Dan Quisenberry       1043        157        155        156    

So, I have established the 1500/150 benchmark as the standard for relief pitchers to have HOF numbers.  And, as you can see, none of these pitchers comes anywhere close to what Mariano achieved in his career – even though Bruce Sutter is in the Hall of Fame.

Notice how tightly bunched the numbers are for the other four pitchers on this list – with a CAWS score from 156 to 164 – a spread of only nine points.  Then note that Mariano has a CAWS score of 199 – a full thirty-five points ahead of Lee Smith.

And, in case you are wondering about some other relievers, here are the numbers for some of the best ever.  Note that none of them achieved the 150 CAWS benchmark.

                                   IP        CWS        CV      CAWS
Trevor Hoffman       1089        188        135        148
John Franco              1246        183        128        142    
Mike Marshall          1387        146        139        141    
Kent Tekulve            1436        159        135        141
John Hiller                1242        146        136        139    
Sparky Lyle              1390        161        132        139    
Tom Henke                 790        140        130        133    
Doug Jones               1128        146        128        133    
Jeff Riordan              1132        157        121        130
Jeff Montgomery        869        134        127        129    
John Wetteland          765        127        125        126    

So, you can see why I feel very comfortable in saying that Mariano Rivera appears to be the best “pure” reliever in baseball history.

Michael Hoban, Ph.D is Professor Emeritus of mathematics at the City University of N.Y.  He has been an avid baseball fan for over 60 years and has become a serious baseball analyst, since joining SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) in 1998.  He is the author of five baseball books including:  DEFINING GREATNESS: A Hall of Fame Handbook (Booklocker, 2012)   BASEBALL'S COMPLETE PLAYERS (McFarland: 2000) and FIELDER'S CHOICE (Booklocker: 2003). 

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