A Jack Morris Post

… Well, it must be that time of year.

I’ve written so many Jack Morris posts through the years that I think it’s plain: I am entirely on record with Jack Morris.

1. He was a very good pitcher who doesn’t quite reach my Hall of Fame standard.

2. I think he will get elected and inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.

3. I don’t see that as a bad thing … Morris was a fine pitcher and I’ll be happy for him. In fact, I hope he gets in this year because I think the yearly Jack Morris bickering that I’m a huge part of is tiresome and unfair to him.

I get the sense that people have issues with all three of these, which is fine. The only one I really care that people understand is the first one. I have absolutely nothing against Jack Morris. I had absolutely nothing against Jim Rice or Andre Dawson either. All of them brought me great joy as a baseball fan. I just didn’t vote for any of them for the Hall of Fame. When you are voting for something like the Baseball Hall of Fame, you draw lines. Everyone can probably agree that Stan Musial was a Hall of Famer. And everyone can probably agree that Bob Uecker (as a player) was not. And the the more you go down one list and up the other, the more likely it is that you are getting closer to your own line.

At some point in the array of players, you will come upon two very similar players. And — this is inevitable — you will view one of those players as a Hall of Famer and one of them as not a Hall of Famer. The Hall of Fame is FILLED with such quirks. I have been fooling around with a Hall of Fame Lookalike quiz where I ask brilliant readers to look at the stats and pick the Hall of Famer. Here are three of them:

Case No. 1:

Pitcher A: 300-244, .551 win pct., 3.54 ERA, 4,564 IP, 2,334 K, 1,775 W, 107 ERA+
Pitcher B: 283-237, .545 win pct., 3.45 ERA, 4,620 IP, 2,461 K, 1,083 W, 108 ERA+

Case No. 2:

Pitcher A: 90-87, 424 saves, 1,245 IP, 974 Ks, 2.89 ERA, 139 ERA+
Pitcher B: 68-71, 300 saves, 1,042 IP, 861 Ks, 2.83 ERA, 136 ERA+.

Case No. 3

Second Baseman A: .255/.293/.383, 407 doubles, 58 triples, 160 homers, 886 RBI, 912 runs, 8 Gold Gloves.
Second Baseman B: .260/.299/.367, 294 doubles, 62 triples, 162 homers, 853 RBI, 769 runs, 8 Gold Gloves.

Case 1 is easy to figure — the first pitcher had 300 wins so you know he’s the Hall of Famer (all eligible 300-game winners are in the Hall of Fame). Pitcher A is Hall of Famer Early Wynn. Pitcher B is non-Hall of Famer Jim Kaat. I do believe that Kaat was a better pitcher than Wynn.

Case 2 is trickier because of the peculiarity of the save statistic and how the game has changed around it. Pitcher B is the Hall of Famer — that’s Bruce Sutter. When he retired, 300 saves was a benchmark. Pitcher A came along later. That is John Franco. He got 27 votes his one year on the ballot and then fell off.

Case 3 is a personal favorite — one of those guys is Bill Mazeroski and the other is Frank White. It really doesn’t matter which is which, does it? They were the same hitter. They were both breathtaking defenders. Many people believe neither of them belongs in the Hall of Fame, but Maz is in thanks to a now defunct veteran’s committee. Now, many people think because Maz is in, White has to be in too.

But you have to ask: Does Bill Mazeroski deserve the Hall of Fame just SLIGHTLY more than Frank White? Maybe. He hit one of the most famous home runs in baseball history. There are pretty sound statistical arguments that suggest they were both defensive wizards, but Maz was a touch better — indeed was the best defensive second baseman who ever lived. These are tiny shards of glass that separate excellent players, but at some point it is a shadow’s difference between greatness and goodness.

In our neighborhood school, a 93.50000000001 is an A.

In our neighborhood school, a 93.49999999999 is a B.

So, when I say that Jack Morris doesn’t quite meet my Hall of Fame standard, what I’m really saying is that there are pitchers out there, not in the Hall of Fame, who I think were better than Morris. How many? Good question. According to Baseball Reference WAR there are 66 retired non-Hall of Fame pitchers with a WAR better than Morris.

Take away the pitchers who definitely will go into the Hall of Fame or will be kept out because of PED usage — Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz — and you are down to 60.

Take away a couple pitchers who I think have a reasonable shot of being elected — Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling — and you are down to 58.

Now, do I think there are 58 pitchers who are more worthy of the Hall of Fame than Jack Morris? No. I don’t think WAR is that precise. And I think Morris’ remarkable World Series Game 7 and his extraordinary pitching stamina and consistency do add to his Hall of Fame value beyond his aggregate statistics. But I do think there are a few pitchers who should go into the Hall of Fame before Jack Morris does. I want to talk about one of them: Kevin Brown.

Numerous people told back in 2011 that I was making a mistake in leaving Kevin Brown off my ballot and not at least propping him up so that he could get a fuller discussion. In retrospect, they might be right. Brown tumbled off the ballot with only 12 votes, so he never got that fuller discussion. I think Brown was one of the first excellent pitchers to fall victim to what I will call the “wins gap.” We all know starting pitchers are winning fewer and fewer games.

18-game winners by decade:
1940s: 85
1950s: 100
1960s: 122
1970s: 156
1980s: 87
1990s: 80
2000s: 79
2010s so far: 22

The 1980s and 1990s were a bit skewed down because of strike years. But as you can see, the 1960s and 1970s were kind of golden years for pitchers who won a lot of games and — not coincidentally — these were golden years for 300-game winners: Ryan, Seaver, Carlton, Niekro, Perry, Sutton. And a handful of others — Kaat, Blyleven, Tommy John — came close to 300.

There was talk that the 300-game winner was extinct … he wasn’t. Roger Clemens won 300. Greg Maddux won 300. Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson won 300. But, more and more, we began to see the really dominant pitchers in baseball NOT winning a lot of games. Every so often, I go to Johan Santana’s Baseball Reference Page just to be blown away by his win total. Santana was absolutely the best pitcher of the 2000s. He won two Cy Young Awards and and probably deserved at least one more, maybe two more. He won 20 one year, lead the league in wins another, and posted a 156 ERA+ over his six dominant seasons. By comparison, that’s PRECISELY the same ERA+ Sandy Koufax posted over his six dominant seasons.

Johan Santana has 139 wins. Over his entire career.

Roy Halladay, who has been the best pitcher if you look over the last dozen years, is still one win away from 200. Tim Lincecum won back-to-back Cy Young Awards and has pitched for two World Series winners — he only has 79 victories. Pedro Martinez from 1992 to 2005 was, perhaps, the greatest pitcher in baseball history. He only has 217 victories — and he picked up 20 of those in garbage time seasons at the end when he was a shell of himself.

Still, when it comes to Hall of Fame voting, people cannot help but look at wins. Kevin Brown won 211 games. Yes, his 127 ERA+ would put him Top 20 among Hall of Famers — tied with Bob Gibson, nestled between Carl Hubbell (130) and Jim Palmer (125). But those wins, I think, kept him from being considered a serious candidate.

Well, look, he wasn’t a likable guy. He was a mercenary. He pitched for six different teams. He was wildly inconsistent — a 4.82 ERA in 1994, a 1.89 ERA in 1996, unpitchable in the 1997 World Series, untouchable in the 1998 Division Series — and when it comes down to it, there just weren’t too many people who wanted to stick their neck out for him at Hall of Fame time.

But when you compare his career to Morris? No comparison. Morris pitched in the relatively low-scoring 1980s, Brown smack in the middle of the steroid era, and yet Brown’s 3.28 ERA is WAY better than Morris’ 3.90. Brown twice led the league in ERA, Morris never finished better than fifth. Morris did strike out about 80 more batters over a career (he pitched about 600 more innings), but Brown walked almost 400 fewer batters and allowed 181 fewer home runs.

Morris threw 11 more shutouts, which is something. But that’s really a function of their times. Morris pitched when starters were allowed to finish games; Brown did not.

If you look at number of starts when the pitcher threw at least seven innings and gave up zero runs:

Brown: 43
Morris: 32

Morris has a few of those extras — like the amazing postseason performances — but Brown was a better pitcher than Morris. By Baseball Reference WAR, it isn’t close (Brown 64.5 WAR; Morris  39.3 WAR). By Fangraphs WAR, it isn’t close (Brown 77.2, Morris 56.9). By Baseball Prospectus’ WARP it is close but Brown is on top (Brown 35.8, Morris 33.3). I don’t think Kevin Brown is quite a Hall of Famer and I did not vote for him. And this gets to my point. A Hall of Fame with Jack Morris and without Kevin Brown … or Tommy John … or Jim Kaat … or David Cone … or a few others doesn’t make much sense to me.

If we want a big Hall of Fame with everyone that was at least as good as Jack Morris, hey, that’s OK with me. I actually would like a bigger Hall of Fame. In fact, I have this Hall of Fame idea that I’ve been toying with that I’ll spell out later today — an idea that could help with the steroid question too. But the way the Hall of Fame is now, I just think there are too many pitchers in front of Jack Morris. That’s why I won’t vote for him. But, as mentioned, I’ll still be happy for him when he gets elected.

117 thoughts on “A Jack Morris Post

  1. Unknown

    Is there any evidence that pitchers are getting fewer starts or throwing fewer innings in their careers? Because if there isn’t, a lack of 18-win seasons is not particularly relevant. As long as pitchers continue to make 600+ career starts, they will keep reaching 300 wins.

    Reply
    1. adam

      On a per season basis, absolutely. Not sure if career longevity has changed much.

      In order to start 600 games you’d have to have 17 injury free seasons while pitching well enough to keep your job (600 / 35). Only the very best will do that.

      The real problem is that we are placing way too much value on pitcher wins.

      Reply
    2. JRoth

      To get wins, you have to get decisions. And starting pitchers get far fewer decisions than they did back in the day. The Nats had arguably the best rotation of 2012; their starters compiled 117 decisions. The 1965 Dodgers of course had a legendary rotation; their starters compiled *150* decisions. Heck, in 1965 the teams with the fewest starter decisions were the White Sox and Orioles with… wait for it… 117 decisions.

      I didn’t do that on purpose, but I think I made my point.

      Reply
    3. Badfinger

      The 2011 Phillies, the best production from a starting rotation in recent memory, had only 7 pitchers make a start that season. That means only 2 spot starters besides the normal rotation that went out and pitched every 5th day, all season. They had 119 starter decisions. The “4 Aces” all have a winning percentage greater than .600 for their careers to this point.

      Blyleven, Morris, Carlton all had decisions in 80%+ of their games. Roy Halladay (since 2000 when essentially all his games have been starts) has decisions in about 79% of his games. Cole Hamels has decisions in 71% of his games. All this to basically echo what Adam said. If you are a legendarily good pitcher, a WP of .620 or higher you need decisions in 80% of your starts in 605 games to win 300. Even those 1960s-1980s guys didn’t start 35 times a season. Let’s say 31-32 starts. 19 seasons.

      Sorry Moose, you only started 30 games a season for 17 years. Even with a .638 winning percentage, no 300 wins for you!

      Reply
    4. Pastor

      I think your thinking about comparing Jack Morris to others is silly. If you had to have a starter in the world series in the decade in which Jack Morris pitched you wanted Jack Morris. Name one Yankee, One Red Sox that wouldn’t have wanted Jack on their team.

      Reply
    5. Bob M

      plenty evidence fewer starts. League leader rarely even reaches 35 these days – in AL over past decade only 9 times did a pitcher reach 35 starts with 2003 last (and only time) anyone even got to 36
      NL also has not seen 36 since 2003

      picked 1977 at random MLB had 17 pitchers with 37 or more starts

      starters are the new specialists – last year of all pitchers with 30 or more starts (63 in MLB) there were only 4 relief appearences in total for them. Contrast with 1950′s where starters who made 30 or more starts (remakably small numbers BTW) also relieved – on average – 10-20% of their total appearences

      post WWII the 4 man rotation really only existed for about 10-15 yrs straddling the 1960′s-70′s

      biggest difference is that top starters on each team pitched much more than top starters today

      in 1950′s it was combo relief and starting and during that 60-70′s period top starters went every 4 games

      nowadays an ace is only expected to pitch better – not more often

      Reply
  2. Donald Walcott

    Kevin Brown (1989-2003, toss out 2001-02).

    13-year Totals: 182-122, 2843 IP, 3.14 ERA, 70 CG, 52 CGW, 17 SO.

    Average Prime Year: 14-9, 3.14 ERA, 218.2 IP, 33 GS (6.63 IP/GS), 5 CG, 4 CGW, 1 SO.

    5 years in top-10 Cy Young. Twice in MVP voting.

    Started one All-Star Game.

    Was the Ace on 5 teams, and arguably the Ace a couple of other times. He had some good playoff series, but in two shots at the WS, he pitched poorly in each. He was the Ace in the WS in 1997 and 1998. The Marlins won in 1997 despite his poor performance. In 1998, he lost to the Yankees twice in a sweep. His ratio numbers were greatly enhanced by the years he spent in the NL in weak-hitting divisions. His career ERA in the AL was 3.93.

    Jack Morris (1979-1992, toss out 1989):

    13-year Totals: 227-148, 3208 IP, 3.65 ERA, 440 GS, 159 CG, 104 CGW, 27 SO.

    Average Prime Year: 18-12, 3.65 ERA, 246.2 IP, 34 GS (7.3 IP/GS), 12 CG, 8 CGW, 2 SO.
    7 years in top-10 Cy Young (check the list on who did better). 5 years in MVP voting.

    Started 3 All-Star Games (check the list on who did better).

    Ace of his team in all 13 Prime years, leading teams in wins and innings pitched every year (including playoffs – not including playoffs he was2nd in wins in 1991 to Scott Erickson). Best pitcher by far in 1984 and 1991 playoffs, winning 1984 Babe Ruth Award and 1991 WS MVP. Pitched his entire career in a much, much better hitting league and best-hitting and most competitive divisions in AL. Lead three franchises as Ace to WS title, and each franchise has only won it 2 times in last 50 years. Of his 254 career regular season wins, 111 were CG, 37 were less than 7 innings (18 of them from 1992-1994).

    Top-10 in League:

    ERA Wins Ks IPs CGs

    Brown 7 5 5 7 9
    Morris 5 9 8 9 10

    “No comparison”?

    Reply
    1. RedMenace

      Donald uses a lots of deceptive techniques that I’m sure the readers of this blog aren’t taken in by. But let’s dispel them for any newcomers, shall we?

      Morris finished top 10 in CYA voting 7x to Brown’s 5x. 7 is more than 5! I humbly submit that Morris’ 1987, when he finished 9th in Cy Young voting, was a much worse season than Brown’s 1997, when he didn’t finish in the top ten. If I wanted to be sneaky I could say that they both finished in the top 6 six times, or that Brown finished in the top 2 once while Morris never did. Let’s take a larger view. Brown’s career Cy Young award share is 1.21 to Morris’ 0.73 (Morris beats Brown in MVP share .18 to .03).

      Next we turn to All Star games. Brown was named to 6 to Morris’ 5. Wait, what? Oh, I see. It’s ASG starts that are important. A lot of thought and analysis goes into that every year. Touche, Jack.

      I notice strike outs, walks and home runs allowed are not included in the 13 year totals or prime year averages. These stats, which are most under the pitcher’s control, all favor Brown. The stats cited do show Morris’ advantage in innings pitched and thus wins. As Joe noted times were different and pitchers were used differently. But Morris certainly deserves credit for being an innings eater/bulldog.

      Morris pitched in the AL which was a harder league to pitch in than the NL during his time. But was it a more difficult pitching environment than the NL of the late 90′s-early 00′s? In 1986 the AL averaged 4.61 runs per game. The 1997 NL averaged… 4.60. In 99-00 the Brown’s NL averaged 5 runs per game! I won’t take the time to thoroughly average all the years and account for park effects, not when ERA+ tells the tale much more succinctly (spoiler alert: Brown comes out way ahead).

      As for number of times being an ace… whoa boy. First of all I really love this effort. I love everything about it, from the overall concept of tallying up the times a subjective/nebulous threshold is achieved then presenting it as an objective marker, to the subtle nuances (capital A for Ace!) And the thing is this really is the crux of Morris’ Hall campaign. It can’t be refuted. Sure you could argue for instance that Dan Petry was a better pitcher for the 84 Tigers than Morris, perhaps citing his better stats and higher finish in the CYA, and the Morris defender would counter with opening day and game 1 playoff starts, but this is missing the forest for the trees. Ace is a special feeling inside you. I’m just glad I don’t argue with the side that has to use such rhetoric.

      Reply
    2. Donald Walcott

      It seems that Red Menace has no argument that anything I originally posted was wrong factually, except to say that Jack Morris was the Ace of his team all 13 full healthy Prime seasons. Rather, Red Menace has a problem with my citing statistics because I didn’t cite every possible permutation of each statistic, which would take a long time to do.

      As for whether Dan Petry was better in 1984? Morris led them to the 35-5 start, stopped their first 3-game losing streak immediately thereafter,at which point, Morris had started 12 of his team’s first 44 games, pitched 100.1 innings in those starts (8.1 per game), went 9 innings 8 times, and was 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA. Then, he beat the 2nd place Jays when they were 3.5 games out in June, which is the closest anyone got to the Tigers that season.

      Morris won Game 1 of the ALCS easily. Morris then shut down the Padres twice in CGWs in the World Series.

      He was the Ace for the #1 staff in the AL, and the Tigers won 104 games, swept the ALCS, and lost one game in the World Series. The 1984 World Series was the first World Series victory for the franchise since 1968, one of only four in the franchise’s history, and the only World Series the Tigers have won in the last 44 years.

      As far as how many seasons a player finishes in the MVP voting being important? In each of those seasons, people who follow the game considered him among the top-3 pitchers. Three times, managers of the prior season’s pennant winners considered him the best pitcher available. I think those are important measures of how good Morris was.

      I agree that Brown was named to one more All-Star team than Morris. I agree that it’s relevant. But does that mean there’s no comparison here?

      As far as other statistics cited, go ahead and actually compare them. I showed how many times each was in the top-10 in certain categories, including Ks. And I consider that to be a relevant inquiry.

      Comparing one season of one career against one season of a different career in two different eras is interesting, but I don’t really see it as a good argument about Hall of Fame careers.

      I’m a newcomer to this site as of today. I’m sorry if my argument upset anyone. Just trying to join the debate with knowledgeable fans. And yes, I adamantly believe Morris deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

      Reply
    3. RedMenace

      Donald
      First of all welcome and I’m enjoying this back in forth. No hurt feelings here.

      And I agree: nothing you wrote was factually wrong (the ace stuff seems highly opinion based, but whatever).

      Your arguments, factually though they are, are tailor made to present Morris in the best possible light against Brown. Nothing wrong with that per se. I would take a longer view and conclude that Brown was the better pitcher, mostly as a peak performance candidate.

      In January you’ll be able to add that Morris is a Hall of Famer and Brown isn’t, so enjoy that.

      Reply
    4. Donald Walcott

      Muchas Gracias, Menace Rojo.

      Here’s my definition of “Ace”

      What is a “Staff Ace”? There are many writers who use this term. There are few actual definitions of the term. Generally speaking, the Ace is the best pitcher on his team. However, there’s more to it than that. After all, the “best” pitcher on a team (according to rating systems like WAR and ERA+, and statistics like WHIP, K/9, etc.) might be a reliever who pitches 60 innings in a season. The Ace has to be the guy who leads the pitching staff, and has the most impact on his team’s chances of winning and losing. This, of course, assumes the premise that the goal of a baseball team is to win games, division titles, pennants, and ultimately to win the World Series.

      Subjectively, the Staff Ace is the guy who the Manager wants to have the ball the most – assuming the overall goal of the manager is to win the most games possible. So the Ace starts on Opening Day and never skips a turn in the rotation unless he’s injured. When you get to the playoffs, he’s the guy the manager tries to have start Game 1, and in a 3-man rotation, he pitches Games 1, 4 and 7 – assuming the overall goal of the manager is to win the series. You’d hope that your Ace would be a leader of your pitching staff, and would be the guy who won important games. The manager is more likely to leave the Ace in an important game, rather than go to the bullpen.

      Objectively, a team’s Ace should lead his team in innings pitched and wins. The guy who pitches the most innings generally has the most effect on whether his team wins or loses and, of course, you’d hope your Ace was winning games, not losing them. The Ace should lead his team in winning streaks and stop losing streaks. The Ace of your team finishes off his opponents, needing little or no bullpen assistance. The Ace actually does win the big games for your team.

      Reply
    5. Donald Walcott

      Menace Rojo,

      I’d put Morris 1983-1984 up against just about anyone. He should have won the Cy Young in 1983, and 1984 was brilliant except for a spell dealing with elbow problems. He was also TSN Pitcher of the Year in 1981. Morris had some truly great seasons, which is why he was considered worthy of Cy Young votes 7 times.

      That said, I agree that Brown had a great series of seasons. But he did get some help from really good pitcher’s parks in the NL for his ratio numbers.

      Reply
    6. nickolai

      Regarding Morris as his team’s ace for 13 years (or whatever), this recent post gets at some of the truth of that…

      http://mlb.sbnation.com/2012/12/17/3752250/jack-morris-hall-fame-case

      I know that the definition of the term “Ace” is somewhat subjective, but I would think a pretty good place to start is being the best pitcher in a team’s starting rotation. And it’s clear that for at least several of these 13 years, Morris wasn’t the true ace of this squad.

      Reply
    7. Donald Walcott

      Other than 1989, Morris led his team in IP and Ws each year, except 1991, when Scott Erickson had more Ws during the regular season. If you include the Playoffs, Morris had more wins than Erickson at the end of the season.

      In 1989, Morris had a severe elbow injury. So that doesn’t seem like a solid basis for the Ace argument.

      There was no question during each of those seasons listed that Morris was the Ace of those teams. He pitched the most, was relied upon the most, and won the most. He won the important games, he led the teams through winning streaks and stopped losing streaks. He was great down the stretch and against division rivals. These are all verifiable facts.

      If your definition of Ace is based on ERA or ERA+ or WAR, you have to change the entire framework for discussing staff aces, which usually means starters, and make room for guys who pitch 60-80 innings in a season. That’s why I would insist that the Ace lead the teams in Innings Pitched and Wins.

      Reply
    8. Masa Chekov

      Honestly, I am not sure the value of saying a pitcher is the Ace of his team. Is 5 years in a row as the ace of your team better than 5 years of being second best on your team?

      To put it another way, would you rather have 5 prime years of Glavine/Smoltz or say Kevin Appier? All excellent pitchers but Glavine/Smoltz were clearly better pitchers despite not being the ace.

      Reply
    9. nickolai

      Donald, most Wins and IP on the team = Ace? Really that simple?

      Take 1992, when Morris had 5 more wins than Guzman, yes. But he also had a 4.04 ERA over 241 IP, vs. Guzman’s 2.64 ERA over 181 IP. Big difference in ERA and in innings.

      Guzman would have had to pitch 60 more IP and allow 55 more Earned Runs in those innings to match what Morris did that year: an 8.26 ERA over those add’l 60 IP. But Morris is still the Ace to you, because he mustered 5 more wins over 60 garbage innings. Hmm.

      Reply
    10. RedMenace

      Just a little correction Donald, because I’ve seen you say this twice now.

      WAR is not a rate stat like ERA or ERA+. It’s a counting stat like RBI or pitcher wins. In general the more you pitch the higher your WAR will be (although unlike traditional counting stats if you play poorly your WAR can go down–neat!)

      So a quick glance at WAR won’t show relievers to be the staff “ace”. Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel were 3.6 and 3.2 this year, about the same as Ryan Dempster or Mark Buerle. And those were crazy outlier years. Most relievers would be amazing/lucky to put up a WAR of 2.

      Reply
    11. Donald Walcott

      Red Menace, WAR isn’t a statistic, it’s a rating system that is based on some questionable assumptions, like adjustments for defense and park factors. It’s based on the hypothetical question, “How would this team have done with a replacement level pitcher instead of a certain real pitcher?” It’s an interesting inquiry, and it’s not a waste of time or anything. However, it’s not a fact-based inquiry. When we can actually talk about what happened, why does the hypothetical world someone creates make any difference?

      Nickolai, with respect to my definition of Ace, it’s primarily based on innings pitched and wins. But other things also make a difference. Morris was, subjectively, to his manager, the Ace of the 1992 Blue Jays. He started on Opening Day, and Game 1 of the ALCS and WS.

      Objectively, in a relatively tight pennant race, Morris went 9-2 with a 2.97 ERA during the last two months of the season in 13 starts, during which he pitched 103 innings (8 IP/GS). During those two months, Guzman pitched 43.1 innings in 8 starts, going 4-3 with a 4.56 ERA. During those two months the Blue Jays ranged from being in 1st by .5 games to 5 games.

      In fact, if you ask most Blue Jays fans, I’ll bet they’ll tell you that Jimmy Key was the #2 starter on that team. Guzman had a really good year as a #3 guy in the rotation, going nearly 6.2 innings per start, and then handing the ball to a great bullpen for all but 1 of his 28 starts. He was also the starting pitcher for 20 of the Jays wins. Again, that is really good production from a #3 or 4 guy.

      However, the Ace that year was the starter for 25 Jays wins. Those extra 6 starts and 60 innings pitched, were starts and innings pitched that didn’t have to be assumed by replacement players and relievers during a season when the Jays were holding off division rivals the entire season.

      Morris was the Ace of the 1992 Blue Jays. That’s the way the Manager lined them up, and that’s the way it played out.

      Reply
    12. Donald Walcott

      Red Menace brings up another interesting point about WAR and relievers. One thing WAR doesn’t credit Morris for enough is finishing off games, 111 of them to be exact.

      It’s also another interesting difference between Morris and Brown. Brown was not nearly as good in innings 7-9, and specifically the 9th inning, as he was earlier in games. Morris was best in the 9th inning. In fact, in games he pitched that would have been save situations entering the 9th inning, Morris was 49 out of 52. Add to that 6 walk-offs when he held on to a game through 9 at home. That’s one reason why Morris won so many more games than Brown.

      Reply
    13. Rob Smith

      Donald is hereby knighted as Sir Cherry Picker of Stats (second in waiting to the Earl of Sandwich). Ignore Morris’ paltry 39 WAR (earned over 18 seasons), ignore his 389 Homeruns allowed. Ignore that he NEVER had an ERA under 3.00. Ignore his ugly 3.90 lifetime ERA. Ignore his near league average ERA+ of 105 and his lack of elite seasons using advanced stats. But remember his Game 7 performance, his Opening Day Starts and his All Star starts & forget he was only an All Star 5 times. I guess to elect Morris, we should close our eyes and remember the 10 inning masterpiece against the Braves, remember his “grit” and determination. And, above all, avoid carefully reviewing the stat book.

      Reply
    14. Donald Walcott

      Rob, WAR is not a statistic. It is a rating system based on assumptions about defense and ballparks, that attempts to quantify the difference between a hypothetical replacement player and a real player.

      As for whether a player ever had an ERA under 3.00, what’s so special about that number? Why not an ERA under 3.11, 3.22, 3.33 or 3.44? Is that really an argument?

      As for ERA+, you have to accept the very questionable assumption that Tiger Stadium magically became a pitcher’s park during Morris’ Prime, despite being a hitter’s park before and after. You also have to accept a defensive rating system that is questionable.

      If ERA and ERA+ and WAR are primarily what you care about, you have to start with an assumption that the Tigers in the 1980s would have rather had a pitcher who pitched 6 innings and gave up 2 runs per game than one who pitched 8 innings and gave up 3. Moreover, the career ERA includes Morris’ injury riddled seasons of 1989, 1992 and 1993, and two seasons where he wasn’t yet a starter, 1977-78. In his Prime 13 seasons, his ERA was 3.65. Not spectacular, but certainly not bad for a guy who also pitched way more innings than any of his contemporaries during that stretch.

      As for your debunking of stupid Morris Arguments:
      (1) I never said anything above about Game 7 of the 1991 World Series (despite it being my second favorite memory of that series); (2) I said nothing about Opening Day starts, except to point out that he was the Ace of the 1992 Blue Jays; (3) I never said anything about grit or determination; and (4) my arguments above are all based on statistics and historical facts rather than hypothetical rating systems.

      Can we knight you Sir Straw Man Argument?

      I’m surprised you left out the most wins of the ’80s argument that I also didn’t make.

      Reply
    15. Rob Smith

      Donald, I just hope you’re not a HOF voter. I can accept it when average fans with agendas & fond memories try to piece together a flawed HOF argument. I’ve started to post a few of them myself, but I never hit enter after reviewing the actual facts and stats. I just can’t embarrass myself that way. That’s the difference between you and me.

      Reply
    16. Rob Smith

      Donald, saying you are embarrassing yourself by straying from the facts on Jack Morris is a mild Ad Hominem attack at the most. Let’s just say, I’ve seen far worse posted elsewhere, I think you know what I mean. You’ve already mentioned that you are a Twins fan and (obviously) a Morris fan. All I said was I didn’t mind that you were doing that, but I personally wouldn’t embarrass myself by putting together such a loud argument for a sub borderline player. That’s it. And my “straw man” argument was accompanied by many, many facts. You didn’t argue against any of them, you just dismissed the advanced stats as being invalid (and not stats at all) & conjured up a few of your own cherry picked stats. I don’t mind sticking to the facts if you do as well. But, I don’t think the facts help the Morris HOF argument out much. Which, I guess is the point of the tact you’ve taken so far.

      Reply
    17. Donald Walcott

      I don’t see how I’ve strayed from facts at all. They’re listed above. WAR and ERA+ are not facts, nor are they statistics, they are hypothetical rating systems. In fact, I didn’t see any criticism of my actual arguments, facts and history in the first post in this string in any post of yours.

      As stated in that first post, Morris was in the top 10 in major pitching categories more than Brown. Morris was considered worthy of Cy Young votes, MVP votes and All-Star starts more than Brown. Brown was named to one more All-Star team than Morris. Morris led his team in Innings Pitched and Wins each of his healthy 13 seasons as a starter (including playoff games, and without playoff games he didn’t lead the 1991 Twins in wins during the regular season), he led three different franchises to division titles, pennants and championships. In two of those three years, he was the best pitcher in the playoffs by a substantial margin. Brown was not that good in the playoffs, though he was the Ace when the Marlins won the WS in 1997 despite his poor performance (similar to 1992 for Morris). In the same number of seasons Morris won way more games and pitched way more innings than Brown. Brown had a better ERA.

      Based on these facts, many argue that Brown was better because of ERA, ERA+ and WAR. Those are the only measures you can base that opinion on.

      Based on winning and leading teams to success, I choose Morris. He was better than Brown and he achieved more than Brown because of that.

      Reply
    18. Rob Smith

      Your comparison of Morris to Kevin Brown, a non HOFer… and an ineffective biased comparison, at that, is hardly persuasive towards putting Morris in the HOF.

      Reply
  3. Scott

    Just for the heck of it…

    Pitcher A: 224-166, 3.26, 3449.1 IP; 2012 K, ERA+ 104; Five 20-win seasons.

    Pitcher B: 229-172; 3.30; 3486.1 IP; 2416 K; ERA+ 114; Four 20-win seasons.

    Pitcher A is Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter.

    Pitcher B is his contemporary Luis Tiant.

    Reply
    1. rastronomicals

      When I was a kid in the ’70′s, I saw a picture of Jim Hunter every year in my Guiness Book of World Records; for 11 years–including the entire decade of the ’70′s–each edition noted that he was the last pitcher with a perfect game, which at the time seemed an almost inconceivable achievement.

      Finley’s nickname was oh-so-colorful (if totally invented) and he had the SI covers and then he signed with the Yanks after again almost inconceivably breaking free of that lovable whacko Finley, and then Dylan even wrote a song about him.

      If the Hall of Fame is truly about fame, man, Hunter sure had it nailed.

      If it’s about numbers, well, you might notice his similarity score is quite close . . . to Kevin Brown’s.

      Reply
  4. Abe Clark

    Joe:

    Do not hope for consistency in the Hall of Fame. Baseball Reference could, and easily does, show us many lists of the “best” baseball players. Years ago, before either of us typed on laptop computers, there were books full of statistics that, while providing slightly different answers, could have done the same thing. We have a Hall of Fame because we want something more.

    Jack Morris will be in, and Kevin Brown will not because one was a Hall of Fame player and the other was not. Is that circular logic? Okay, so it is. Jim Kaat and Tommy John should be in, and who knows how many should be out? For those who want consistency there is the Hall of Merit; for everyone there will always be baseball.

    I have always liked the way Whitman put it. “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

    And there is Emerson to put it in the negative. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

    Thank you for your work.

    Reply
    1. Rob Smith

      Jim Kaat is not a great pitcher. I saw him live many times. He was good, not great. He was annoying in his early years with his ponderous delivery. He was even more annoying in later years when he started quick pitching players. He almost started a couple of on the field riots with his antics. Certainly he benefited from pitching during a big pitcher’s era. Tommy John was a guy who just never quite (the narrative) and certainly paved the way for a great number of pitchers to continue their careers after Tommy John surgery. But while there’s a great narrative, a long career, and a good number of career wins, he’s just not a HOFer. He’s a guy any team should want in their rotation (and he was on a lot of different team’s rotations). But, he was never one of the top pitchers. I’m not sure he was ever an ace, except possibly early in his career with the White Sox.

      Reply
  5. Mark Daniel

    This has nothing to do with Brown vs. Morris, but I don’t like ERA+ for comparing players between eras. Especially elite players.
    The reason is ERA+ is simply league avg ERA divided by player era. The problem is that league average ERA varies significantly between eras (and sometimes from year to year). But for elite pitchers having great seasons, ERAs don’t have as much variation. For example, if you are an elite pitcher having a season with a 1.85 ERA, it takes extraordinary effort to lower that ERA to 1.75. Thus, whether you are pitching in 1965 or 1995, it’s not easy to lower your ERA at this extreme end of the spectrum. The league average ERA, however, varies as a matter of course.

    This manifests itself in ERA+. Pedro (1.74 ERA in 2000) had a 291 ERA+. Ron Guidry (1.74 ERA in 1978) had a 208 ERA+. Both great seasons. Both seasons are worthy of being the best seasons of a 1st ballot HoFer. But 291 and 208 are hugely different.
    And it’s because in 2000 the league average ERA was 4.92, while in 1978 it was 4.20.
    The argument that’s made is that it was easier to get a 1.74 ERA in 1978 than in 2000, and no doubt that’s true. But I don’t think the relationship is linear. For that to be the case, a 291 ERA+ in 1978 would be somewhere around 1.45 (assuming league average park effect). And 1.45 is lower than any pitcher’s ERA since 1920, other than Bob Gibson’s 1.12 in 1968.
    My point is that the ERA+ stat breaks down at these low extremes, because a pitcher can’t easily lower his ERA further, and thus the ERA+ is more a function of league average ERA.

    Reply
    1. Donald Walcott

      The attempts to quantify the effects of defense on ERA and Runs Against often have been criticized as being pretty dubious. Specifically, there can be huge statistical variations among the many variations of basically two newly developed defensive rating systems – “plus/minus” and “zone rating.” Moreover, the latest and most accurate methods of observing and quantifying defense rely on methods that were not available for most of Morris’ career. There’s really no objective scientific way of determining how much the defenses behind any particular pitcher helped prevent runs from scoring. There’s also currently no “metric” for a pitcher’s contribution to defense by doing things such as pitching to the way the defense is playing, hitting spots called for by the catcher, controlling the running game (which is partly quantifiable for the pitcher specifically), and speeding up or slowing down the game, as appropriate to the situation of the game. To some extent, all of these things also factor into pitchers who can tailor their game strategy to better suit the Ballpark in which they play, which also cannot be quantified.

      The Ballpark Factor is equally dubious. Anyone who actually experienced Tiger Stadium in person would say that it was a hitter’s park. However, ERA+ doesn’t operate on reputation, it operates on the actual runs scored in the ballpark for that season, and (in more recent versions) considering the couple of seasons around it. From 1979-1990 the Tigers’ pitching staff pitched much better at home than on the road, and their hitters were about the same at home and on the road. As a result, Tiger Stadium, according to Park Factor, became more of a pitcher’s park during that time period – or more specifically, from 1983-1989. Prior to 1983, apparently Tiger Stadium was more of a hitter’s park. But as Morris and the Tigers’ staff got better pitching at home, Tiger Stadium magically transformed into a pitcher’s park. As a result, Morris and his Tigers teammates have worse ERA+s during his Prime.

      According to Baseball Reference, the Park Factor for Tiger Stadium went from 105 in 1977, Morris’ 1st year in the majors, to 96 in 1983, after Morris had been leading the Tigers’ staff for a few years. It stayed below 100 until, not coincidentally, 1990, the year after Morris’ elbow injury and the horrific 103-loss season. It would seem that Tiger Stadium was a pitcher’s park only while Morris was a healthy and dominant Staff Ace. Roy Halladay seems to have had a similar effect on both Rogers Centre and Citizens Bank Park, turning each of them into pitchers’ parks while he was the Ace of those staffs. Rogers Centre has precipitously shot up as a hitter’s park since Halladay was traded to the Phillies.

      Reply
    2. Robert Rittner

      But to make it relevant to the Morris/Brown discussion, Morris’s ERAs were not at the margins. They were generally in the 3′s and 4′s. Brown had a few more years at the extreme, but also tended to be in the 3′s.

      In any case, aside from the point already made that the hitting environment of Morris’s AL years were not really different from that of Brown’s NL seasons, just comparing ERAs is terribly misleading. While ERA+ is rather rough also, it is somewhat more illuminating that ERA alone, and considering that, Brown completely skunks Morris.

      At his peak, Morris had an ERA+ of 133 and during the middle of his career it ranged from 100-127. For his career it is 105

      Brown at his peak ranged in ERA+ from 100-215! He had a 6 year period with ERA+s of 215, 150, 164, 143, 167 & 151. If you start a year earlier, it is 133, his lowest in that span matching the highest of Morris’s career. He had another one of 169 later. His career number was 127.

      None of this is intended to say Morris was not a fine pitcher or that Brown is a definite HOFer. If Morris gets in, he will not be the least qualified member of the Hall. But I do think he would lower the standard, will be in the lower quintile of pitchers enshrined, and make it easier for the next weak candidate to make a case. And it would another example of inconsistency when candidates like Brown are so quickly eliminated.

      Reply
    3. Donald Walcott

      Using ERA+, you have to accept the proposition that Tigers Stadium was a pitcher’s park for Morris’ Prime, even though it was a hitter’s park before and after. I don’t buy it.

      I do agree that the leagues had similar overall numbers.

      No question Brown had a great peak for about 5 seasons, but SD, LA and FLA parks helped a lot too.

      On average, Morris pitched much further into games than Brown in an era shortly after the mound was lowered, DH instituted, league expanded, and pitching was scarce. It was more important to his teams that Morris pitched so far into his starts, not requiring much of the team’s relievers during his turn.

      Reply
    4. Badfinger

      ERA+ is far from perfect, but I disagree Mark. ERA+ is a much better tool for comparing across eras, specifically because it’s measuring the pitcher’s season against his contemporaries.

      Bob Gibson was absolutely phenomenal in 1968. I will not argue against you if you attempt to place it as one of the best pitching seasons in baseball history. But his ERA+ was 258 because the league ERA was 3.43.

      Pedro Martinez’s 2000 season is probably THE best pitching season in baseball history, though. Yes he did give up half a run more per 9 than Gibson, but the league average ERA was 4.77 (AL ERA 4.91!). In a year where a 5.00 ERA was dead average, Pedro put up one of the best flat ERA season ever. It’s why Gibson and Martinez are right next to each other on the ERA all-time leaderboards, but why Pedro is #2 in adjusted ERA and why it makes perfect sense.

      You’ll notice you and I are making almost the same argument to different ends. It’s because ERA+ isn’t strictly linear, it’s a percentage. Jeff Suppan was a valuable commodity in 2000 because he was a league average pitcher, posting an ERA of 4.94. You can’t directly compare players in different eras to each other, so you can compare them to the people they played against.

      Reply
    5. Chris

      The point about park factor is fine, but does it not apply to every good pitcher. You mention Halladay, but really the same as any staff ace across the league.

      Regardless the difference in ERA+ is not really a factor even if you leave park factor out of it. In 1979 when Tigers stadium Morris posted a 3.28 ERA which resulted in a 133 ERA+. The league average ERA that season was 4.24, so without any park factor is ERA+ would have been 129. In 1986 when Tigers stadium had become a pitchers park, Morris posted a 3.27 ERA which resulted in a 127 ERA+. League average that year was 4.21 ERA, making his non park factor ERA+ 129

      So as you can see its not like the park factor creates some massive swing in his ERA+. I find ERA+ to be a quick way to evaluate a pitcher amongst his peers. I feel the same way about OPS+. There are certainly more factors and/or stats involved in a HOF discussion, but they aren’t a bad place to start.

      The point is that park factor is not what is holding Morris back from the Hall in the minds of sabr people.

      Reply
    6. Donald Walcott

      Park Factor itself isn’t on the minds of many people at all. It seems like most just use the 105 lifetime ERA+ as if it’s simply another statistic. It isn’t.
      I appreciate your breakdown regarding Park Factor. 1983 seems to be the most egregious example of this in Jack Morris’ case. Moreover, the defensive factor always hurt his ERA+ according to Baseball Reference. I actually think FanGraphs comes closer to the truth when you compare WAR of different seasons, making 1983 Morris’ best (which it was) as opposed to Baseball Reference making 1979 Morris’ best (which it definitely wasn’t).

      I still have a problem with ERA+ as a yard marker because it’s a rating system based on some assumptions that are questionable. It’s not a statistic and it’s not a reflection of history. It’s an attempt to measure people against each other and simultaneously equalize all outside influences. No doubt it’s a worthwhile inquiry, but it shouldn’t be taken as fact.

      Add to that, that Morris had some very bad injury-plagued seasons, seeing his ERA rise way above his normal years in 1989, 1993 and 1994 — similar to Halladay’s in 2012, when he probably played hurt, then came back rusty. I’ve never seen one argument by a “sabr person” (as you say) take those seasons out of the equation and analyze Morris’ 13 healthy seasons as a starter. I believe that is because making any argument that might give a benefit of the doubt to Morris is simply not on certain people’s agenda.

      I admit that I’m biased. I’m a Twins fan and a St. Paul native (like Jack). I admit that I am posting statistics that show him in a good light. Everyone jumps on me for that, even calling me Sir Cherry Pick above. That’s fine. I think we should all keep an open mind to different ways of looking at the statistics and the history.

      I’m enjoying the debate, so I’ll keep holding this end of it mostly alone!

      Reply
    7. Chris

      I just think when it comes down to do it, Jack Morris is a borderline candidate and all this discussion reflects that. You happen to be on the side of Jack Morris, hall of famer, while some of the rest of us fall on the other side.

      The reason I find ERA+ useful is that in my opinion, above all else, the pitchers job is to prevent runs. That gives his team the best chance at winning the game. There are certainly a variety of other statistical measures to use when evaluating pitchers, but for me run prevention is the most important.

      Reply
    8. Donald Walcott

      I understand your point, and I think that most people agree with you. However, if one pitcher goes 9 innings and gives up 3 runs and wins the game, and the opposing pitcher goes 6 innings, gives up 1 runs and loses, the losing pitcher will have a better ERA, ERA+ and WAR. In my opinion, the winning pitcher contributed more to his team.

      In general, giving up less runs is obviously a good measure, and is highly indicative of to what extent a pitcher helped his team win. However, in the case of Jack Morris, getting 111 CGWs in the regular season and 3 more in the WS, and pitching way more innings than anyone in his era, the results and championships may be the more important statistics in assessing his contributions to his teams.

      Reply
  6. Pastor

    At the end of the day it is about winning the biggest games on the biggest stage. Jack Morris did that several times. In the 80′s was very good in a difficult league versus the Orioles Palmer, the Yankees and very good Boston teams. Jack pitched in arguably the toughest division in baseball. All he did was win. You can’t compare apples and oranges.

    Reply
    1. Rob Smith

      Morris appeared in the post season only four times in eighteen seasons. He was 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA. By way of comparison, John Smoltz was 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA in postseason. That’s what I would call a big game pitcher. But don’t let me mess up your narrative with those pesky stats.

      Reply
    2. Donald Walcott

      Why not look closely into the stats, rather than just continue to post the same conglomerated stats over and over that gloss over the exceptional performances? And it is interesting to hear about John Smoltz at this point. He should be a first ballot Hall of Famer. But what’s his most memorable moment in baseball history?

      Reply
    3. Rob Smith

      Donald, you’re probably thinking about the 9 shutout innings Smoltz threw, eventually won by Morris. We get it. Morris threw one helluva monster game. It was huge. And, he won four other world series games. Good stuff. But you don’t (shouldn’t) make it to the HOF with one monster WS game and mediocre career numbers.

      Reply
  7. denopac

    This Jack-Morris-as-invincible-postseason-pitcher meme doesn’t really stand up to the evidence. Yes, there were some well-pitched games in the post-season. But there was also this:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN198710080.shtml
    (6 ER allowed in a loss to Bert Blyleven)

    and this:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIN/MIN199110080.shtml
    (4 ER in 5 innings, got the win, I guess pitched to the score)

    and this:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/OAK/OAK199210110.shtml
    (5 ER in 3 innings)

    and this:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/ATL/ATL199210170.shtml
    (3 ER in 6 innings, took the loss, for some reason didn’t pitch to the score)

    and this:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/TOR/TOR199210220.shtml
    (7 ER in 4 innings, absolutely clobbered).

    Reply
  8. astorian78759

    If we’re going to elect Jack Morris to the Hall of Fame based on his supposedly phenomenal record in the post-season, shouldn’t be double check his lifetime record in the post-season?

    Over his career, Morris was 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA in the post-season. In other words, far from “elevating his game” in the clutch, Morris was exactly the same good but not great starter in October that he was in April.

    Reply
  9. Donald Walcott

    Morris dominated the 1984 and 1991 post-seasons. He won the Babe Ruth Award in 1984 and the MVP of the 1991 WS. That’s where his “reputation” comes from. Curt Schilling comes to mind, but there are few other pitchers in the modern era who were absolutely dominant in two different post-seasons.

    When you add 1987 (1 CG loss) and 1992 (not very good but his team won the WS), the ERA doesn’t looks so great. However, it doesn’t diminish Morris’ post-season accomplishments.

    Moreover, out of 4 post-seasons, Morris is pointing at the scoreboard to his detractors for 3 of them. 3 historic championships for those franchises, thanks in large part to Morris.

    Reply
    1. Robert Rittner

      Even if you accept the argument that Morris was stellar in the post-season-an argument that has to focus rather narrowly on his successes not his overall performance-it still only provides bonus points, not a core reason for enshrining him. As a matter of fact, the HOF does recognize such achievements throughout the museum for what they are-individual moments of glory.

      But if the overall career case is weak, they do not make it strong. But once again, Joe’s post is not so much about whether Morris belongs in the Hall as to whether Brown (and by implication many other pitchers) are equally or more deserving. And on that score, I think his argument is convincing. Morris was a very good pitcher who also had, among some rather pedestrian performances, some brilliant post-season performances. But he was not a better pitcher than Brown or quite a few other non HOFers.

      As others pointed out, consistency is not the Hall’s strong point, and perhaps we should not expect or even want it to be. If he gets in, it is no travesty. I am among those who do not want the decision to elect to be automatic based on some mathematical formula, not the least because there can be no consensus as to exactly what formula-what numbers-to use. But it is interesting to compare him to some who have received less support and wonder at the inconsistency of it and to elevate the statistical concerns so that the narrative is held accountable to the facts.

      Reply
    2. Donald Walcott

      I’m not sure what you mean by bonus points. However, I was addressing specific arguments that Morris wasn’t really that good in the post-season, which I believe are false arguments against him.

      I believe Morris is a HOFer without the playoffs, but that’s a hypothetical world that doesn’t exist. He actually did dominate the 1984 and 1991 playoffs. He also actually did lead 3 separate franchises to the playoffs, in historical seasons for those franchises, each of which made MLB.com’s top 40 teams of the last 60 years. That’s a pretty impressive “contribution to the teams on which he played.”

      The 7 years in which he received Cy Young votes are all based on the regular season. And I’ll reiterate a comparison above, based on how these pitchers rated among their peers while they were pitching (with better typesetting, I hope):

      Top-10 in League:

      ERA Wins Ks IPs CGs

      Brown 7 5 5 7 9
      Morris 5 9 8 9 10

      Morris’ narrative is grounded in facts. I believe it just takes some time for people who dominate the statistics arguments to accept that there are different ways of analyzing statistics and historical facts consistently.

      Reply
    3. matthew clark

      The idea that success in one post-season should not be colored by a relative lack of success in another has a long history. Any moderately educated baseball fan knows that the greatest World Series pitching performance of all time was turned in by Christy Mathewson in 1905 (3 shutouts, 27 innings, 13 hits, 1 walk, 18 strikeouts.) Far fewer remember, or care, that in his three subsequent trips to the post-season, 1911-1913, Mathewson went 2-5, with the Giants loosing all three series. Do people think of Mathewson as a 5-5 post-season pitcher, ar as the most dominant pitcher in the history of World Series play? I think the later.

      All this is to say that Jack Morris’s achievement in pitching a game 7 10 inning shutout of the Braves in 1991 was singularly amazing; and that he pitched wonderfully in the 1984 post-season, with 2 complete game wins in that World Series; and that the fact that he pitched poorly in the post-season in 1992 is really beside the point.

      And no, I am not comparing Morris to Mathewson, only suggesting that Morris’s achievements should be looked at in their proper light.

      Reply
    4. Robert Rittner

      Here is what I mean by bonus points. I think Curt Schilling belongs in the HOF based on his career, but I understand that some see him as borderline. In his case, his post-season brilliance should put him over the top.

      Dave Stewart, despite 4 excellent seasons, is not close to HOF caliber, and the extra credit he might get for his outstanding post-season performances do not push him over the top.

      With Morris, his wonderful game 7 and excellent performance a couple of other times, in my view, do not add the enough value to his good but not great career. Obviously there is legitimate disagreement here, and you might argue he is close enough without it so that (despite the overall post-season record) he deserves enshrinement. But my basic point is that post-season success is not fundamental to a candidate’s resume (any more than failure in an otherwise clear HOF career should diminish his chances). Even accepting matthew’s point, which I think is valid, it would mean using 3 or 4 high profile games to add enough value to an otherwise less than HOF career.

      Of course there are different ways, if not always equally valid ways, to analyze statistics and facts. But I think it clear that simply comparing ERAs for a few specific seasons without considering more nuanced stats is not just different; it is plain wrong. If you point out that Don Sutton had more wins than Bob Gibson, you are stating facts, but if you use that as an argument that he was therefore a better pitcher, unless you qualify it almost out of existence, I will not accept that as legitimate. And I do think it valid to ignore the accumulation of obviously flawed statistics, no matter how abundant or impressive sounding, such as most wins in the 80s or opening day starter x number of times. To repeat those kind of “true” statements weakens an argument by indicating the poverty of legitimate arguments.

      Morris was a very good pitcher on some very good teams which he made better. He has a strong narrative and left an indelible memory for many who followed him and his team(s). If enough voters think that qualifies him, I have no objection. I simply don’t think it is enough. I don’t think he was one of the greatest pitchers in history, not better or even as good as many who have not gotten into the Hall.

      And to reiterate, Joe’s post is not really about whether he belongs in the Hall. It is comparing him to someone who dropped out after the first ballot but whose career seems to outclass Jack’s. So to stay on topic, these responses ought to be about a comparison of those two careers or of those two and others like Tiant or John or Pierce or Warneke or Reuschel et al. Was he as good a pitcher as they were? Better?

      Reply
    5. Rob Smith

      Player A Postseason 7-4, 3.80
      Player B Postseason 8-3, 3.80
      Player C Postseason 19-11, 3.81
      Player D Postseason 10-5, 3.17

      Player A – Jack Morris
      Player B – David Cone
      Player C – Andy Pettite
      Player D – David Wells

      I guess we should immediately put David Wells in the HOF since he’s such a “Big Game” pitcher.

      Reply
    6. Donald Walcott

      Do the same analysis showing World Series MVP and Babe Ruth Award. How about Complete Games? How about how many different teams each led to a WS title? How about taking out divisional series games (which Morris never played in) and only having ALCS and WS? Would that be apples to oranges or would that be cherry picking?

      Reply
    7. Donald Walcott

      Robert, I understand what you mean about Bonus Points for playoffs. I disagree. The Hall of Fame isn’t the Hall of great statistics during the regular season. There’s nothing in the definition of qualification that excludes the playoffs or makes playoff performances some kind of extra credit. I think you have to view all performances together when analyzing players.

      That said, I think Morris’ playoff performances have overshadowed the real argument for him. It seems like there are lots of Anti-Morris arguments out there that set up Straw Man arguments, claiming Morris supporters only think he should get into the Hall of Fame because of “most wins of the ’80s,” “pitched to the score,” “fierce competitor,” “14 Opening Day Starts,” and all too often “Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.”

      I think that each of the above are terrible arguments. That’s why I am attempting to present facts and history in this debate. But these arguments continue to come up, not from me or most Morris supporters, but in Anti-Morris arguments. This is a form of logical fallacy called Straw Man Argument.

      My argument for Morris over Brown is that Morris was actually more successful leading his team to and through the playoffs than was Brown. Morris pitched way more innings, finished off way more victories, and actually won way more games. His rankings among the top 10 pitchers in various categories is better than Brown, he was considered good enough to get votes for Cy Young and MVP more, and he was chosen to start All Star Games more. Why? Because he was, compared to his contemporaries, better than Brown was compared to Brown’s contemporaries.

      Why did Morris win more for his teams than Brown? He was simply better. He was a dominant force for the 1984 Tigers. He was the difference for the Twins in 1991. In 1992, a similar Twins team didn’t win anything, but the team they beat in the 1991 ALCS did — with Morris as their Ace. This is history and these are facts. Morris was a dominant Ace and big game pitcher.

      I have nothing against Kevin Brown. I actually remember him as a dominant pitcher who, unfortunately, had problems staying healthy at some point in his career (which is why I toss out 2001-02 for his statistical analysis). At least he’s a better comparison to Morris than Reuschel, which I find to be completely ridiculous.

      I’d like to see blogs on the more direct and relevant comparisons, such as Stieb and Guidry, at some point.

      Reply
    8. Robert Rittner

      I did not see your response until just now. Some of the points you make I address in another post below. I think you need to consider in comparing the way Morris was viewed and the way Brown was viewed that the 1980s was pretty much bereft of HOF pitchers during much of Morris’s time. He was certainly never comparable to Clemens or to early Gooden in the NL, but there were few others who went on to long and extraordinary careers. Brown on the other hand was contemporaneous with Maddux (and Glavine and Smoltz) as well as Clemens, Pedro and Randy Johnson. That competition certainly outclasses Stieb (as good as he was) or Dennis Martinez against whom Morris competed. Blyleven was better. Ryan only returned near the end of the 1980s at the tail end of his career. That was pretty much it for any pitcher who played during most of Morris’s career.

      In any case, the fact that writers often missed the qualities that made players successful or not does not qualify as strong evidence. Voters have given gold gloves to players who barely played the position or to those who have done so poorly. They have ignored great seasons to give MVPs and Cy Youngs to undeserving candidates. It is surely something to consider, the reputation of a player in his own time, but it is by itself a weak argument unless bolstered by fuller examination of the realities.

      As for Reuschel, don’t dismiss him too quickly. Look at his career record, keeping in mind that for the first 9.5 years of his career, his prime seasons, he pitched for an abominable Cubs team that exceeded .500 only once, his rookie season, and managed to reach it just once more in that period. During that period, Reuschel was 125-114 for teams that were cumulatively 682-768. Every year (except his rookie season) he started from 35-41 games and pitched 234-260 innings. He ended his career with a 114 ERA+.

      I am not saying he was equal to Morris, only that by picking and choosing the kinds of history/data that supports one’s position, one can make a case that he is. When you make statements such as Morris was the difference for the Twins or Tigers or that he was a dominant ace or a big game pitcher, that is not history nor data. It is generalization only questionably supported by data to the extent such arguments can be supported. When you say he led the teams on long winning streaks, that discounts the overall play of the team. The Tigers were 35-5 to start 1984. How many games did Morris contribute to directly?

      In fact he got 9 victories. That is outstanding, but it means other pitchers won 26 games, and surely the hitters and fielders played a role. After all, he won games 9-4, 6-5, 5-4 and got 8 runs in his opening day victory. Don’t misunderstand, he was terrific, but he was one of 25 players on a tremendous team, and while he deserves great praise and credit for his performance, it is hyperbole to say he “won more for his team than did Brown”, or that “he was the difference”. Those are not statements about history or facts; they are gushing praise fit for retirement dinners.

      Reply
    9. Donald Walcott

      During the 35-5 stretch, Morris was 9-1 with a 1.97 ERA in 11 starts. He threw a no-hitter against the White Sox on national television on April 7, 1984. The game he lost was a complete game, 9-inning, 1-0 loss. The no-decision was a Tiger win 4-3 in 10 innings, after Morris pitched 9 (yes, someone else got the win for pitching 1 inning). Morris threw 91.1 innings in his first 11 starts. It’s pretty safe to say that Morris was most responsible for the streak among the Tigers pitchers.

      On May 24, 1984, Morris was the winner in the historic 35th win for the Tigers. At the end of the streak, the Tigers were 8.5 games ahead in first place. However, they then lost the next 3 in a series in Seattle. Morris went back out for another CGW on May 28. As of May 28, Morris had started 12 of his team’s first 44 games (they went 36-8), pitched 100.1 innings in those starts (8.1 per game), went 9 innings 8 times, and was 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA. And he ended his team’s only 3-game losing streak up to that point.

      The closest anyone got to the Tigers that year was when the Blue Jays were only 3.5 games back on June 6, after taking two in a row from the Tigers. On June 7, 1984, Morris pitched another CGW against the second-place Jays, giving up only one earned run, and the Tigers never saw anyone come that close again for the rest of the season.

      I agree that saying “he was the difference” sounds like mere opinion. That is more in reference to the 1991 Twins, which is a team and a season I followed closely. My opinion is primarily based on my memories of that season.

      However, you can also look at the story of the 1991 Twins for some verification of this opinion.

      The 1991 Twins had a 24-3 streak from May 27-June 25. On May 27, the Twins were 20-24 and 7.5 games back. On June 25, the Twins were 44-27, up 4.5 games, and they were never out of first place for the rest of the season.

      Similar to the 35-5 start of the Detroit Tigers, the pitcher most responsible for the Twins’ streak was Jack Morris. Morris went 6-0 during the streak. He had also won the last game the Twins had won before the streak started. Just like the 1984 Tigers, Morris won the last game of the streak, then the Twins lost 4 in a row. Morris then stopped the losing streak with a 3-0 complete game shutout over the White Sox and their Ace, Jack McDowell. From May 24-June 30, Morris was 8-0, with three complete games, pitching 65.1 innings, with a 2.07 ERA.

      Later in the season, Jack won a crucial game against the dominant force at that time in the AL West, the Oakland A’s. The A’s had won the division and the ALCS the past three seasons, and the World Series in 1989. On August 16, the Twins were only 1.5 games ahead of Oakland. The Twins won that night in 12 innings. The next day, the Twins broke the A’s backs, winning 12-4, and Morris got the CGW, giving the bullpen a rest after a long night when they went 4.2 innings, and before the next night’s win when the bullpen pitched 6 innings. The rest of the way down the stretch, Morris pitched great, with a 2.00 ERA in 9 starts, and the Twins never looked back.

      Then, of course, it is subjective again, but basically the same team, except with John Smiley couldn’t beat the A’s in the division in 1992, and the Blue Jays, who lost the 1991 ALCS, won the 1992 WS.

      Reply
    10. Chris

      Donald,

      Its not very reasonable to just single out stretches of a season in which Morris was lights out. Last time I checked a season is 162 games and all of them count towards the standings. So while it is great that Morris was outstanding for his first 12 starts of 1984, He still had to pitch another 13 starts to complete the year. In those remaining 13 starts he went 9-10 with a 4.82 ERA. Not exactly a strong finish.

      In 1991 its a similar story. Sure in the limited stretch you point out, Morris was aces, but looking at his start to the season before the big streak. 4-5 with a 4.93 ERA. Or how about the month long stretch from July to August where he posted a 2-4 record with a 5.31 ERA.

      The point in all this is that when we are talking HOF, it simply isn’t good enough to point out stretches of seasons as being Hall worthy. In my mind a Hall of Fame pitcher has to put together a stretch of elite seasons.

      Reply
    11. Donald Walcott

      Chris,

      It’s also not reasonable to take one snippet of an argument, pretend it’s the only argument made, and debunk it as an insufficient argument.

      Above, I have repeatedly listed facts and statistics over a 13-year period when Morris was a healthy starting pitcher. When questioned regarding the narrative of Jack Morris, that he helped his teams win by leading them through winning streaks (among other things), my response above was to further explain my point with facts about certain historic streaks that basically won division titles for a couple of teams who had historic streaks during historic seasons for those franchises. It seems reasonable to me to respond to a specific criticism with specific facts addressing that criticism.

      If all I had done on this blog was make this one specific argument, I would agree with you. However, I believe I have done much more than point out stretches of seasons as being Hall worthy above. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect someone to make every argument in every post, no matter what the specific topic is. It would take up too much space, and would be annoying. So instead, I point you to my numerous points above as my complete response.

      Reply
  10. astorian78759

    Christy Mathewson would have been a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer if he’d NEVER pitched in the World Series, so his inconsistent play in October is not relevant.

    Jack Morris, on the other hand, is NOT a sure-fire Hall of Famer. He’s a borderline case. It’s his SUPPORTERS who are trying to use Morris’ performances in the post-season to bolster his case. I Merely point out that, unsurprisingly, Jack Morris was no better and no worse in the post-season than he was the rest of the time.

    If you think he’s a worthy candidate for the Hall of Fame, by all means, support him! But his post-season stats don’t really improve his case, in my opinion.

    Incidentally, Joe has been arguing for a long time (and continues to argue) that, while he doesn’t support Morris, he’s sure Morris’ election is inevitable. I disagree. I think Jack Morris has already HAD his best opportunities. More and more superior players will be on the ballot for the next few years, and I think Morris will fall by the wayside.

    Reply
    1. Robert Rittner

      I agree, of course, about Mathewson. Just as a conversation point, he actually was pretty consistently good in the post-season. In 1911 he went 1-2 but in 27 innings allowed just 6 earned runs (8 total) with 2 BBs and 13 Ks for a 2.00 ERA. In 1912 he was 0-2 but pitched 28.2 innings allowing 11 total runs but just 3 earned (.94 ERA) and 5 BBs against 10 Ks. And the next season he was 1-1 over 19 innings with 2 earned runs (3 total) and 2 BBs with 7 Ks. (.95 ERA).

      I suppose such data might be used to demonstrate the crude nature of stats such as wins or ERA, and one does have to account for the era to understand the meaning of such pitching numbers. But your point stands, of course. His case rests not at all on that incredible 1905 World Series.

      I think Joe is right about Morris’s chances not just because he seems to have gathered strength recently, but because so many newcomers are linked to PEDs that some voters may very well cast what is almost a protest vote for Morris to have someone on the ballot rather than leaving theirs blank.

      Reply
    2. matthew clark

      To Astoria and Robert: Of course Mathewson was a lead pipe cinch HofF’r, and of course his 1911-1913 WS results (Ws and Ls) do not fully measure his performance(he pitched exceptionally well to no purpose.) My point, as I said, was not to compare Morris and Mathewson, but to suggest that it is normal and proper to evaluate a player based on his achievements and not on his failures. Mathewson was the difference in 1905, and his team won the WS on account of that. In his subsequent performances he did not pitch as well, and his team lost. He is remembered for 1905, and not for 1911-1913.

      In just that way Morris is remembered for 1991, and to a lesser extent for 1984, and not for 1992.

      I like the arguments for Morris that are based on his statistics, and those based on his peak achievements, whether in regular or post-season play. I had forgotten almost just how well he pitched down the stretch of the 1992 season. But I have another point that isn’t entirely related.

      Have you seen The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance? I think that the message in that movie is (partly) what Morris’s case is about. Sure Morris’s case is partially based on legend and story, and if his career is disected into its bits and pieces perhaps it doesn’t amount to as much as it initially appeared. But is Stewart less worthy because we know what “really” happened? I say not. And in a similar way Morris stands out from the crowd of 1980s hurlers whose stories seem dull and bland by comparison. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

      Reply
    3. astorian78759

      Let me clarify my point about Jack Morris’ post-season record by comparing him to another (probably) borderline Hall of Fame pitcher: John Smoltz.

      Smoltz may or may not get a lot of love from Hall Voters with his regular season record as a starter and/or closer. At that point, his supporters will surely say, “But look at his record in the POST-season!” And they’ll have an undeniable point. Smoltz’s record in the post-season was remarkable! His post-season stats are actually MUCH better than his regular season stats- and it’s NOT as if he only played in the post-season a few times.

      John Smoltz may or may not be a Hall of Famer, but his post-season numbers give him a HUGE boost, and they SHOULD.

      Jack Morris had a few magnificent moments in the post-season, and he has every right to be proud of them. But his overall stats are almost EXACTLY the same as his regular season stats.

      Which means they just don’t add anything to his case, in my humble opinion.

      Reply
    4. Robert Rittner

      Matthew, I don’t disagree that one’s achievements should be more significant than failures. After all, the cliche about baseball is that all players fail considerably more often than they succeed.

      But there is a difference between giving credit for achievements and focusing narrowly on a few specific incidents of greatness. Bucky Dent was outstanding in the 1978 post-season. Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the World Series. Roger Maris won consecutive MVPs. But unless the overall career brings any to the doorstep of Cooperstown that is not enough.

      And I think therein lies the dilemma. For many, Morris is at that doorstep, so his special achievements (the legend, exaggerated without noting the full story, but based on fact) should push him through. For others, his career is well short of HOF and so the anecdotes about his great moments cannot get him in.

      So here is the question. If he had never had that game 7, would the legend (exaggerated but based on fact) have developed about his clutch play or his carrying his team? That is, would there have been the same passion for the narrative? If yes, then perhaps the list of those great moments that accumulate because of the memory of game 7, a list that can be made for most players*, should put him in. But if it is doubtful, then it seems to me he would have no chance, nor should he.

      *I mean that most players, if you search their careers, can create a video of highlight moments that seem to make them into stars. You see it every day on TV, the quick cut videos of players hitting home runs, making web-gems or striking out batters. Once a player gets a reputation for either greatness or failure, we accumulate more memories of incidents that confirm the reputation. It doesn’t mean they did not occur, just that the evaluation of them becomes part of the image, as if it is the norm. So with Morris and game 7. And that is where the failures do need to be considered, so that the image does not become “The Truth”.

      Reply
  11. Stephen

    As a devout Blue Jays fan who has venerated every single member of the 1992 team since they brought me my first taste of sports joy at the cherubic age of 8, I will love Jack Morris forever.

    And I will never accept that he belongs in the Hall of Fame without buying a ticket first.

    Reply
    1. RedMenace

      Or seeing Morris from 79-84 might bias your view toward him, clouding your judgement. Probably not though, since he wasn’t much thought of as a Hall of Famer then. Dale Murphy and Steve Garvey on the other hand…

      Reply
    2. Stephen

      From 1979-1984, an average Jack Morris season was 17-12, with a 3.61 ERA, 140 K, and a WHIP of 1.224.

      There’s no split, no period of dominance in Morris’ career that you can point at rather than his overall totals to make a HOF case. He’s well-regarded for Game 7, and rightfully so, but that’s nowhere near enough.

      I think a great deal of push-back against Barry Bonds is due to his breaking of Aaron’s records, records that were set when a great deal of BBWAA writers were young, and still had the naivete that comes with youth. Morris strikes me benefiting from that very same nostalgia; wherein a pitcher who throws complete games and tosses WS shutouts is the bee’s kenes, regardless of what objective evaluation says about his career.

      Reply
    3. Donald Walcott

      Those 5 year totals are a bit understated since Morris missed out on 11-12 starts in the strike-shortened season of 1981, when he only started 25 games, completed 15, won TSN Pitcher of the Year and led the league in wins. And in 1977, he missed the month of April, and only had 27 starts. But I get your point.

      During those 5 years, he received Cy Young votes in 3, MVP votes in 2 and started an All Star Game. In 1983, he should have won the Cy Young because he was better than Lamarr Hoyt in every way except wins. He threw 293.2 innings, which was matched once by Bert Blyleven in 1985, but hasn’t been approached since, and likely won’t every again be matched. Similarly, he completed 20 games that year, which only happened a few more times in the mid-80s, and won’t ever happen again.

      From June 1983 through the end of May 1984, Morris went 27-9 with a 1.90 ERA, in 317 innings with 24 complete games. Those stats were compiled over a 1-year period.

      in 1984, Morris led the Tigers to a best ever 35-5 start, stopped their first 3-game losing streak immediately thereafter,at which point, Morris had started 12 of his team’s first 44 games, pitched 100.1 innings in those starts (8.1 per game), went 9 innings 8 times, was 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA, and had thrown a no-hitter on national television on April 7. Then, he beat the 2nd place Jays when they were 3.5 games out in June, which is the closest anyone got to the Tigers that season.

      He injured his elbow in June 1984, was held back a couple of starts, and used more carefully the rest of the season until the playoffs.

      He then won the Babe Ruth award in the 1984 World Series in which he had 2 complete game wins, after winning Game 1 of the ALCS.

      Those 5 years were pretty impressive, and capped off by a historically great season in 1984 for Morris and the Tigers.

      I only stopped there, because you indicated that’s the year you were born.

      Reply
  12. Rob Smith

    OK, let’s play the game one more time:

    Player A – 287-250, 1.198 WHIP, 118 ERA+, 3,701 K’s, 90.7 WAR.

    Player B – 254-186, 1.296 WHIP, 105 ERA+, 2,498 K’s, 39.3 WAR.

    Player C – 224-184, 1.179 WHIP, 115 ERA+, 2,855 K’s, 56.7 WAR.

    Player B is, of course, Jack Morris. Player A is Bert Blyleven and Player C is Jim Bunning. These two are arguably the most borderline HOF starting pitchers ever elected. They’re at least in the Top 5 in that regard.

    Notice that these borderline HOFer numbers are far superior to Jack Morris. So, you Morris fans better lean really hard on that Game 7 performance of his. Other than that, and grit, he’s got nothing. If Morris is elected, he will lower the bar for HOF pitchers. You’d be hard pressed to find a less qualified starting pitcher in the HOF…. maybe Ted Lyons? Actually, probably not. If Morris gets in, he will be the least qualified HOF starting pitcher ever.

    Reply
    1. matthew clark

      The general argument that a particular player’s election would lower the bar for the HOF has always bothered me. I went on BRef a minute ago and looked through the list of HOF pitchers. Sort them however you like and then only look at the members that are “below average.” Makes for one heck of a list of great pitchers. Sure, the bottom few may not inspire the same type of awe and reverence as the names at the top of the list, but we are talking about flat out great pitchers/players however you slice it.

      The Hall of Fame is not a zero sum game, where every addition must naturally push someone off the bottom of the ladder. Baseball is being played now, with stars now, and they are achieving great things now. Do they match the myths of the past? No. I so many ways today’s players exceed those myths.

      Would Jack Morris really stand out as unworthy among the 70 pitchers listed? No. To say so is really an argument in favor of disenfranchising every pitcher “below” Chief Bender’s 40WAR. And maybe that is the general idea, that a small Hall equals a great Hall. I just don’t buy that idea. Were there really 47 pitchers worthy of the Hall whose careers began before ’42, and only 23 in the 70 years since? And of those 23, five were relievers and one was Satchell Paige?

      I will take a rotation of below average starters (Koufax, Ford, Drysdale, and Marichal) and go against a rotation of top starters (Seaver, Neikro, Blyleven, and Perry) any day.

      It’s funny; I am working with 5-7th graders on medians, means, and modes, and so the question arrises, average of what? When I see a list of HOF pitchers where the “average” pitcher is number 24 by WAR, and other historically significant measurements of pitching success (W, L, ERA, IP, G) bring the “average” pitcher in within a band of 32-34 it makes me wonder if the measuring tools aren’t comparing apples and antelopes.

      Perhaps it would be better to ask whether we are enshrining a greater or lesser percentage of players now than was the case in the past. I am pretty sure that by that measure the Hall is growing only more and more exclusive every year.

      Reply
    2. Rob Smith

      Matthew, if I get your drift, you’re simply arguing to let in any above average player, like Morris. The more the merrier. I say that since you didn’t offer a single fact to back up Jack Morris being put in the HOF except some vague reference to Chief Bender, whose last full season was in pre modern era 1917 & therefore is a tough comparison. I mean, I could have gone other directions with the comparisons I offered, but at least I offered up a couple of guys who either played at the same time as Morris, or missed overlapping by 6 years. I guess you didn’t offer any facts because there aren’t very many, and there are far more facts that go against Jack Morris in the HOF. BTW: if you want to use Bender, his WAR of 40.8 and ERA+ of 112 are still better than Morris. So, even picking a weak HOFer from the pre modern era still doesn’t get Morris a favorable comparison. That was the point I was making…. that virtually any starting pitcher in the HOF already would compare favorably to Jack Morris. So Morris, if he is elected, would be the new comparison point for all future borderline HOF pitchers. Well, if Morris is in, Andy Pettite or David Wells sure should be considered. And we really should relook at Dave Stewart. That’s where all this leads.

      Reply
    3. Rob Smith

      BTW: where did you get the idea that Drysdale, Koufax, Ford and Marichal are “below average”??
      Drysdale: 209-166, 2.95, 1.148 WHIP, ERA+ 121, WAR 57.4, 2,486 K’s. 8 All Star appearances and a Cy Young award.

      Koufax: 165-87, 2.76, 1.106 WHIP, ERA+ 131, WAR 50.3, 2,396 K’, 6 All Star appearances, 3 Cy Youngs and 1 MVP.

      Marichal: 243-142, 2.89, 1.101 WHIP, ERA+ 123, WAR 58.2, 2,303 K’s, 9 All Star appearances

      Ford: 236-106, 2.75, 1.215 WHIP, ERA+ 133, WAR 50.6, 1,956 K’s, 8 All Star appearances and a Cy Young.

      Morris: 254-186, 3.90, 1.296 WHIP, ERA+ 105, WAR 39.3, 2,478 K’s, 5 All Star appearances.

      All of the ones you named were clear HOFers (of course with a handful of naysayers). And certainly Morris doesn’t stand up to comparison with any of them.

      Reply
    4. Robert Rittner

      I think there are quite a few HOF pitchers who are about as qualified or less so than Morris. Jesse Haines, Rube Marquard, Herb Pennock are a few. In each case, the reason they are in is probably unrelated to their actual career value-along the lines of focusing especially hard on game 7 or the 1984 series for Morris. Marquard had that 19 game winning streak. Haines was on Frisch’s Cardinal teams, the one that Frankie Frisch worked hard to get represented in the Hall. Pennock pitched on Yankee powerhouses.

      Each was a pretty good pitcher, but in my view none were deserving of the honor. To me, Morris fits very snugly into that crew. A team with those 3 plus Morris in the starting rotation would probably do very well, assuming it had equivalent offense and defense, but would not be labeled an historically great rotation. It would be more like the Oriole rotation of 1971 without Palmer: Cuellar, McNally, Dobson. Excellent pitchers with honorable careers, all 20 game winners that year, but none of them HOF worthy. Or perhaps the Yankee rotation of 1950 without Ford: Reynolds, Lopat, Raschi, Byrne. (Reynolds has occasionally gotten some support for the Hall, but is not close to it.)

      So if he gets in, he doesn’t by himself lower the standards, but as a recent honoree, he becomes the new touchstone for arguments over other candidates like Pettitte, and wonder at his inclusion while pitchers like Tiant and Brown are excluded. That may not be a bad thing; that depends on your view of the purposes of enshrinement in the Hall and how much the narrative and specific incidents in a career should trump legitimate stats arguments.

      But to return to Joe’s focus, support for Morris does raise the question of why him and not others who have not been selected, Brown being a prime example of one who seems clearly more qualified.

      Reply
  13. Dave Alles

    Nice job as always, Joe. Wins are an intoxicating stat…even, I think, for those of us who would like to think we know better. It’s a phenomenon I call “Baseball Card Stats.” When I was young and baseball cards were the only ways to figure out how good a player was, those were the stats that resonated as important. There were no advanced stats on the back of a baseball card. Heck, I don’t even think OBP was on a lot of older cards. I value pitcher wins very little now, but I have to admit I still can’t help but check out a pitcher’s won-loss record every now and then. It’s just intoxicating for someone from the baseball card era.

    Reply
  14. Rob Smith

    Let’s have some more fun with some of Jack Morris’ contemporaries from the American League.

    Player A: 254-186, 3.90, 1.296 WHIP, ERA+ 105, WAR 39.3, 2,478 K’s, 5 All Star appearances. (18 seasons)

    Player B: 176-137, 3.44, 1.245 WHIP, ERA+ 122, WAR 53.5, 1,669 K’s, 7 All Star appearances. (16 seasons)

    Player C: 200-173, 3.85, 1.376 WHIP, ERA+ 115, WAR 54.3, 2,610 K’s, WAR 54.3. 5 All Star appearances. (17 Seasons)

    Player A, is of course, Morris. Player B is Dave Stieb, who got 1.4% vote on his first year of HOF eligibility & was off the ballot.

    Player B, is I think the most comparable player to Morris over the same time span. It is Chuck Finley. Finley got .2% vote on his first year of HOF eligibility & was off.

    You can call this a straw man argument, but I’ve come up with a lot of players who compare favorably to Morris, from his era, who are either not in the HOF, or in the HOF controversially.

    Reply
    1. Donald Walcott

      I can’t imagine how this could be called a Straw Man Argument.

      I think the Stieb comparison is the most relevant as they pitched in the same division at the same time. Stieb was great. Morris was better. Stieb never could lead some great teams to championships, though he did really well in leading them to a couple of division titles. Though he played no part in the playoffs in 1993, he ultimately got his ring when Morris joined the Blue Jays.

      Reply
  15. fivetwentyone

    someone above said:

    “There was no question during each of those seasons listed that Morris was the Ace of those teams. He pitched the most, was relied upon the most, and won the most. He won the important games, he led the teams through winning streaks and stopped losing streaks. He was great down the stretch and against division rivals. These are all verifiable facts.

    I have wracked my brain trying to figure out how to verify that he won the important games or led his team through winning streaks .

    it sems easier to inquire whether he stopped losing streaks .

    in games where the team had lost the previous 5 or more (and limiting to his 13 peak years),

    Morris: 5-5

    wow, he stopped the losing streak 5 times out of 10. amazing*.

    5 games in row is too many? lets look at 3.

    Morris: 21-9
    quite good. lets look at some of his contemporaries,

    Guidry: 14-6
    Petry: 16-9
    Maddux (in his peak years): 14-2
    R. Johnson: 40-26
    Jimmy Key: 19-5
    Stieb: 20-18
    Clemens: 43-15 (!)
    Pedro: 12-10 (?)
    Koufax: 11-3

    and finally, Kevin Brown,
    K. Brown: 30-19 (8-2 with the padres).

    so in conclusion? when it comes to “stopping losing streaks”, Morris was about as good as Guidry or Petry, much worse than Key, not to mention Maddux, Clemens, or Koufax. These are verifiable facts.

    as an aside, Pedro, Stieb, and Randy Johnson dont come out so well in this comparison (not to mention they were opening day starter less than 14 times); lets keep them out of the hall of fame.

    * I know that wins and loses are a terrible way to evaluate a pitcher, but they are easiest to compile. and I figure if we want to verify that Morris “stopped losing streaks”, they are close enough. obviously, I am also ignoring all park + era + run support + etc… factors.

    Reply
    1. Donald Walcott

      Thank you. I’m impressed with the quick research, and happy to see Morris’ record in stopping losing streaks. Although I’m not sure how 21-9 is about as good as 16-9 nor why opening day starts are being argued (do I see yet another Straw Man?), nor why this statistic is being used as the only measure for whether a pitcher is a Hall of Famer . . . unless you are somehow attributing that argument to me even though I never made that argument.

      I apologize if I impliedly made a terrible argument that confused you.

      Reply
    2. Donald Walcott

      As far as winning important games, you can verify that by looking at the results, and seeing that, for example, Morris won a big game against the Blue Jays in June 1984 when they were only 3.5 back. He won a game against the A’s in 1991 when they were 2.5 back. He went 9 innings in an extra innings win on the second to last day against the Jays in 1987 to clinch at least a tie for the division.

      In 1983, from August 3-September 1, Morris had seven consecutive complete game wins, finishing with a shutout. From July 14-September 1, Morris was 10-0 with one no-decision in which he pitched 10 innings and the Tigers won in 12. Despite Morris’ incredible stretch, the Tigers were only able to go 28-21 – 17-21 when Morris wasn’t pitching. On September 1, due mainly to Morris’ efforts, the Tigers were only 3 games out.

      In August 1986, Morris almost kept the Tigers in a pennant race with the Red Sox by beating them twice, but his team couldn’t win any of the other five games against Boston. Prior to that, on July 9, the Tigers were 13 out, and Morris helped pull them back into the pennant race by pitching three consecutive shutouts, and going 32 innings without giving up a run, 45 innings without giving up an earned run, and pitching six consecutive complete games.

      The winning streaks I’m talking about are the 35-5 streak of the Tigers in 1984 and the 24-3 streak of the Twins in 1991. Each of those streaks were key to those great seasons.

      Reply
    3. Robert Rittner

      Well-done. Note too there might be some rather weak arguments that he was significantly better down the stretch. On the one hand, his Sept/Oct record was 47-37, a .560 % which is his 3rd best of any month. On the other hand, in that stretch drive he had his best ERA, WHIP, IP, Games started, Shutouts, CG and OPS against. Except for ERA, games, IP and CG (and perhaps OPS against), the differences are rather slight and not particularly different from his overall numbers. He had his second best K% and K/BB ratio in Sept/Oct. It would take a lot more detailed research to determine if he really pitched better down the stretch.

      Similarly, the evidence that he pitched better in clutch situation is inconclusive. There are some indicators to suggest he might have and others that indicate he most certainly did not.

      And this represents the problem with the Morris case. So much of it is narrative that can be checked against the data. That is, it is one thing to say he was a leader and inspiration. That might be true and would be hard to dispute with data. But when people say his ERA was high because he “pitched to the score” or that he delivered in the clutch or down the stretch, the truth of those statements largely lies in the data, and while one can dispute the interpretation of data, there are legitimate and illegitimate uses of it. It is not simply a matter of opinion.

      Here is an example of how the data can be interpreted different ways but, in my view, cannot be used to make the case for Morris. Who pitched better down the stretch in 1987, Morris or Tanana? I use 1987 because Detroit won the division by 2 games, not 15 games as in 1984, so the stretch meant something.

      On the one hand, Tanana was 2-1 with a shutout and a 3.29 K/BB ratio on 7 BBs and 23 Ks. The opponents’ OPS was .691 and Tanana’s WHIP was 1.235. Morris was 3-4 with no shutouts, a 1.70 K/BB ratio on 30 BBs and 51 Ks. His opponents OPS was .712 and his WHIP was 1.418. Clearly, Tanana was better down the stretch.

      But, while Tanana started just 6 games and went 30.2 innings, Morris started 8 games and went 61.6 innings. Morris also had a 3.08 ERA that Sept/Oct while Tanana’s was 4.11, and Morris struck out 7.5/9 while Tanana managed 6.8/9. Apparently Morris was the workhorse and elevated his game (ERA and K%) more than Tanana did despite his record. Or did he? Even on that, the data is mixed.

      Actually, an argument could be made that the Tigers’ best pitcher down the stretch that year was Walt Terrell who in 7 starts and 50.1 innings went 6-0!

      Reply
    4. Robert Rittner

      The problem with that kind of anecdotal argument, Donald, is that it is too narrow. For example, in 1987 the Tigers won the division by just 2 games over Toronto. Morris was no doubt a major contributor to their success, but in the last 4 games he pitched that season he was 0-3 including a loss to Toronto when the Tigers were 1.5 games behind them on Sept. 24.

      Now, to be fair, he did not pitch terribly in those games. He lost 11-4 on Sept. 20 giving up 9 hits and 6 runs in 6 innings, but just 2 were earned (if that really matters). He did allow 3 home runs. At the time, Detroit was up by .5 games. Four days later he lost 4-3 to Toronto. Not terrible as he went 8 innings giving up the 4 runs with 9 Ks, but he walked 8 batters. Four days later, he lost 3-0 this time striking out 10 in 8 innings but walking 5. In the next to the last game of the season, Detroit up by 1 game, he went 9 innings and gave up just 2 runs while walking 5 but got no decision as Henneman followed with 3 no-hit innings for the victory.

      The point is, I don’t think his performance can be qualified as clutch or leading the staff or coming up big. It is much closer to disappointing. And I am confident that examining the entire career would find plenty of similar cases to balance the undoubtedly impressive number of great performances in high profile games. Picking those moments does not clinch the case; for that, the entire career needs to be evaluated. Does his success rate in key moments so overwhelm his failure or mediocrity in those same types of situations to overbalance the substance of his entire career?

      Reply
    5. Donald Walcott

      Robert, I take your point.

      However, I don’t think any argument for any pitcher relies on claiming that they won every important game, and only lost unimportant games. Morris was actually pulled after 6 shutout innings in a game in 1981 so he could return on 2 days rest for the last game of the season against the first half division winning Brewers. Morris was up 1-0 in the bottom of the 8th, but gave up 2 runs, the Tigers lost the game and failed to make the playoffs.

      An interesting perspective on completing games and learning from late-inning mistakes was made on a Studio 42 interview by Bob Costas of Tom Seaver in reference to Seaver giving up a game-winning home run to Johnny Bench in Game 1 of the 1973 NLCS (he also gave up a tying home run to Rose in the 8th).

      I agree, Morris’ case for the Hall doesn’t rely on picking out individual moments. However, you can actually go to the stories of those teams he led to championships and see what his contributions to his teams were. I’ve made cases in various places on this blog that describe many ways I believe Morris deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, so I don’t think you need to buy any one individual argument as the lynchpin without which he has no case. See below.

      Reply
  16. denopac

    Donald from up above: …pitching way more innings than anyone in his era….

    This is true only if you define “his era” as the exact years in which he pitched (and even then I’m not sure if it is). Here is a list of pitchers who pitched more innings, in some cases “way more,” in careers that overlapped with Morris for at least ten years:

    P. Niekro 5404 (1964-1987)
    Ryan 5386 (1968-1993)
    Sutton 5282 (1966-1988)
    Carlton 5217 (1965-1988)
    Blyleven 4970 (1970-1992)
    Seaver 4783 (1967-1986)
    John 4710 (1963-1989)
    Tanana 4188 (1973-1993)
    D. Martinez 3999 (1976-1998)
    Morris 3824 (1977-1994)

    Morris simply didn’t have a long enough career for innings pitched to be one of his selling points. And if he had thrown another thousand or so innings he would have been elected years ago and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    Reply
    1. denopac

      Actually Clemens (4916, 1984-2007) belongs on that list too. And Maddux, Glavine and Johnson all pitched more innings but barely miss the arbitrary ten year overlap.

      Reply
    2. Donald Walcott

      denopac, I was talking about the era when Morris was pitching. Kind of like saying a player had more hits than anyone else during his playing career. Of course, you can bring up Pete Rose and Ty Cobb to show someone else had more career hits. That wasn’t the point. And I didn’t even think the point I was making was all that unclear.

      In 1969, the pitcher’s mound was lowered, and the top of the strike zone was lowered, in an attempt to help offenses score more runs. The DH was instituted in the American League in 1973. In its early years, the DH position was primarily a who’s who of aging sluggers. By the time of Morris’ Prime, teams were utilizing the DH to construct top-to-bottom solid lineups. In 1977, the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners joined the league. Quality pitching, which had already been at a premium, was now stretched even more thinly among the teams in the AL. Runs per game in the AL went from 3.5-4 pre-DH, to 4-4.5 post-DH, to 4.5-5 post-expansion. So in the ten years immediately preceding Morris’ Prime, the AL had become much more of a hitting league than it had previously been, and the AL was a much higher scoring league than the NL.

      During his 13 healthy seasons as a starter, Morris averaged 246.2 innings per season, despite starting one month late in 1979 and missing 11-12 starts in 1981 because of the strike. Morris also averaged 7.1 innings per game.

      In 19 healthy full seasons as a starter, Clemens threw about 230 innings per season.

      In 18 healthy seasons as a starter, Tanana threw 214.1 innings per season.

      In 18 healthy seasons as a starter, Martinez threw 201 innings per season.

      Morris had 175 CGs in 525 starts.
      Clemens had 118 CGs in 707 starts.
      Tanana had 143 CGs in 616 starts.
      Martinez had 122 CGs in 562 starts.

      Blyleven might also be somewhat comparable, except most of his years racking up big innings were in the early 1970s. If you just compare what he did during Morris’ Era to Morris, Morris pitched more innings per year. Bert had roughly 9 healthy full seasons and averaged about 238 innings per season from 1979-1989.

      Now, I have to get some actual work done.

      Reply
    3. denopac

      Donald, the trouble is that you’re defining “the era in which Morris was pitching” as exactly 1977-1994. So Nolan Ryan, who covered that entire “era” minus one year, doesn’t count since he pitched an additional nine years before the chosen era. So even if Ryan’s innings during the “Morris era” were less that those of Morris himself, we should discount his 1900+ previous innings and proclaim Morris the innings champ of 1977-1994 (henceforth to be known as the “Morris era.”) So you’re trying to turn Morris’s relative lack of longevity compared to the actual HoF pitchers of the Morris era into an argument in his favor.

      Reply
    4. Donald Walcott

      I’ve made my point about the era.

      If your argument boils down to the fact that Nolan Ryan lasted longer and pitched more innings than Jack Morris, I can accept that argument. I like Nolan Ryan, too.

      Reply
  17. Grulg

    Looks like the same old statborg zealots trying to protect their perceived Hof sanctity by trotting out the same old bullpuckey against Black Jack. Whatever dudes. Morris was an ace, he piled up mucho wins, innings, post season wins. He was who you thought of for over a decade whenever the Tigers were coming to town: their stopper, ace, spearhead, you name it. He doesn’t have a pretty ERA, his K-w ratio good not great, he won 254 not 300, he won some great Ws games, he had the Magnum PI stache, he was an all star.

    I think of him as a Hof, but I am also a big hall guy. I think he’s Tiant, Bunning, Hunter. If he gets in, guess what-you will live. And you can get back to pushing your own little borderline pets like Dale Murphy, Kenny Lofton and Jimmy Wynn. Its a free country.

    Reply
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