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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.


As we saw in the previous chapter, Mariano has HOF numbers because he is one of just eight pitchers who have earned a CAWS score of at least 180 in fewer than 2400 innings pitched.   But Mariano is the extraordinary exception, not the rule.


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 true 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 three pitchers since 1901 who have achieved a CAWS score of 160 while pitching fewer than 1500 innings.  Here are those pitchers.   (I should note that Billy Wagner came very close – with a CAWS score of 159 in 903 innings.)



                                       IP                 CWS               CV               CAWS


Mariano Rivera           1283                272                  175                  199

Lee Smith                    1289                198                  152                  164

Bruce Sutter              1042                168                  163                  164     


Bruce Sutter is already in the Hall and Mariano is a shoo-in when he becomes eligible.   Only Lee Smith has been passed-over at this time.


So, I have established the 1500/160 benchmark as the standard for relief pitchers to have HOF numbers.   As you can see, neither of these other two pitchers comes anywhere close to what Mariano achieved in his career – even though Sutter is in the Hall of Fame.


Notice that both Smith and Sutter had a CAWS score of 164.  Then note that Mariano has a CAWS score of 199 – a full thirty-five points ahead of both of them.



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 160 CAWS benchmark.


                                       IP                 CWS               CV               CAWS


Billy Wagner               903                 182                  151                  159

Dan Quisenberry         1043                157                  155                  156     

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     


I should note that Rollie Fingers is in the Hall of Fame and is generally considered by many to be a “reliever” (as are Hoyt Wilhelm and Goose Gossage who were discussed in the previous chapter).    I feel that a pitcher should be considered a “reliever” only if he pitches fewer than 1500 innings in his career.   In any case, Fingers does not have HOF numbers by the CCG.


Rollie Fingers             1701                188                  144                  155


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



Note:   Trevor Hoffman was elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA in 2018 – even though he does not have the numbers according to the CAWS Career Gauge.   The number of “saves” that he accumulated in his career seemed to impress a sufficient number of voters.   He joins Rollie Fingers and the other sixty-one (61) players (since 1901) who are in the Hall of Fame but do not have the numbers to be there.   See the list of these players later in this monograph.




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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