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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


The 1800/255 Benchmark  -  Jackie Robinson

Michael Hoban, Ph.D.

 

If there is anyone who believes that Jackie Robinson does not belong in the Hall of Fame, I have yet to meet him or her.  Jackie’s contributions to the game and to the social consciousness of the country have left an indelible mark on all true baseball fans.

But, as most fans know, Robinson had a rather short career – only ten seasons.  This was due, in large part, to the color barrier that had existed for so long in baseball.  And it is certainly true to say that a player who has such a short career usually will not have sufficient time to post the numbers that most fans would look for in a Hall of Fame career.  And so, most fans may believe that Robinson is in Cooperstown solely on the basis of his other accomplishments.  Consequently, it may come as a surprise when I state that Jackie actually did post HOF numbers during his brief career.

In creating the CAWS CAREER GAUGE, I have examined the careers of all the great position players and pitchers of the 20th century and I have identified benchmarks to determine who does and who does not have HOF numbers. 

It will come as no surprise to most fans to learn that there are some players who are in the Hall of Fame who do not have the numbers to be there.  Players such as Chick Hafey and Rick Ferrell come readily to mind.  And there are other players such as Dick Allen and Sherry Magee who do have HOF numbers but who have not been elected to the Hall for one reason or another.

In examining the credentials of the players for the Hall of Fame, I discovered a small group of position players who played in relatively few games but still were able to post impressive numbers. 

Since 1901, I have found only eleven position players who attained a CAWS score of 255 while playing in fewer than 1800 games.  Which would imply that these eleven players must be rather special.  And indeed they were. 

Every one of the eleven has been elected to the Hall of Fame despite playing in relatively fewer games than their contemporaries.  Here are the eleven players.

 

                        Games                       CWS               CV               CAWS

 

Joe DiMaggio            1736                            387                  325                  341

Elmer Flick                1483                            291                  280                  283

Earl Averill                1668                            280                  268                  271

Hank Greenberg       1394                            267                  262                  263

Lou Boudreau           1646                            277                  255                  261

Bill Terry                   1721                            278                  255                  261

Larry Doby                1533                            268                  257                  260

Jackie Robinson        1382                            257                  257                  257

Mickey Cochrane      1482                            275                  250                  256

Kirby Puckett            1783                            281                  247                  256     

Bill Dickey                  1789                            314                  235                  255

 

 

Of course, Joe DiMaggio stands out among the players in this group as the one who achieved the most in a relatively short career.  But note that Jackie Robinson played the fewest games among this elite group – and yet he was still able to achieve the CAWS benchmark. 

As an interesting aside, note how close the numbers place Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby – the two players credited with integrating the National League and the American League, respectively.  Each of these players had a core value (CV) of 257 meaning that each averaged almost 26 win shares over his ten best seasons – an outstanding accomplishment.  So, aside from being the integration pioneers, both Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby were terrific ballplayers.     

Keep in mind that there have been other outstanding players such as Ralph Kiner and Don Mattingly who also played in fewer than 1800 games in their careers – but who did NOT achieve the 255 CAWS benchmark.  Kiner is in the Hall of Fame (even though he does not have HOF numbers) but Mattingly is not.

 

                      Games                         CWS               CV               CAWS

 Don Mattingly             1785                            263                  241                  247

Ralph Kiner               1472                            242                  242                  242     

 

Consequently, if someone should suggest that Jackie Robinson is in the Hall of Fame ONLY because of his unique role in baseball history, we now know that he would deserve to be there based ONLY on his on-the field numbers.


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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