Morris vs. Reuschel

Well,we’ve got Sports on Earth up and running. That should be a lot of fun. This blog will continue to be a part of SOE. It will take some time, I imagine, to figure out what appears here and what appears there. I suspect this blog will become more personal and more focused on goofy and eccentric interests. For instance, the National League breakdown by WAR is up at SOE now. And here, I’m writing about Jack Morris and Rick Reuschel.

Well, this one is more like a challenge … issued by the brilliant Tom Tango.

Tango sent along an email that discusses a fascinating point about analyzing baseball (and perhaps everything), something that has to do with consistency. Maybe the best way to explain it is through Bill James’ classic piece on Ken Keltner and the Hall of Fame. You might remember that Bill had received several letters from an advocacy group (a group that included Bud Selig) making an impassioned case for former Indians third baseman Ken Keltner as a Hall of Famer.

A central part of that case was that Keltner:

1. Had a higher lifetime average than Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews.

2. Had more RBIs than Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.

3. Had more hits than Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner.

If you look now — with the benefit of years and years of such pleasant-sounding Hall of Fame arguments — the absurdity smacks you right in the face. Matthews, of course, made it into the Hall of Fame DESPITE his .271 batting average, not because of it. You could argue that low batting average kept him out of the Hall for his first four years of eligibility, a blight on the writers’ Hall of Fame voting records. Robinson was elected DESPITE his mere 734 RBIs (and it’s still striking to see that he receives 77.5 percent of the vote). Ralph Kiner made it DESPITE a rather paltry looking 1,451 hits — and it took him the full 15 years to get elected.

It’s clear that Kevin McReynolds should not be in the Hall of Fame because he was better defensively than Hall of Famer Ted Williams or, to take it up another notch, that Rick Rhoden should not be in the Hall of Fame because he was a much better hitter than Sandy Koufax … well, that’s basically the argument being made with Keltner.

But the larger point is that nobody in the Keltner group really believes the Keltner Standard should be applied for the Hall of Fame. There are 234 players currently not in the Hall of Fame who meet the Keltner Standard, and 90 percent at least are not even viewed as viable Hall of Fame candidates. They are perfectly fine players, but that’s about it. The list includes Willie Montanez (whose lifetime WAR is 0.0). The list includes B.J. Surhoff and Richie Hebner and Wally Joyner and Rico Carty and so on.

But I’m sure the Committee to Elect Ken Keltner would tell you they would not want that standard to be used in other cases. They would tell you that Keltner is different because he was a great defensive player (he was), because he was a hero for the 1948 World Champion Indians (he was) and because he was a fine gentleman who represented the game well (he was and did).

The thing is … a fan of any player can come up with such exceptions if they choose. The point is not the exceptions. The point is that because the Ken Keltner group began with their conclusion — that Keltner belongs in the Hall of Fame — the rest was amplifying numbers that backed that argument, conveniently passing on the ones that didn’t, playing hide and seek with a fair argument.

And while the Ken Keltner example seems kind of obvious and transparent, Tango believes — and I agree — that this is the sort of inconsistent analysis we often get in. I’ll quote him:

“A fan will sometimes want to consider clutch and other times not. He will give bonus points for making the playoffs, but not always, and maybe not to the same degree each year. Maybe he thinks a low BABIP should be rewarded for Verlander, and maybe a high BABIP should be dismissed in some cases.”

I think that’s right. The MVP races are a great example. My editor often gripes about how, when it comes to the MVP races, many people will choose from the enormous menu of options to get to the player they wanted in the first place. If the player of choice plays for a winning team, then that becomes important — how can you be “valuable” for a losing team? If he doesn’t play for a winning team, however, then the argument becomes that a player should not be penalized for having lousy teammates. If he has a high on-base percentage, then that’s important. But if he doesn’t then perhaps his job is not to get on base but to drive in runs. Leadership is wielded often and usually without anything more concrete than vague stories about helping out a teammate or giving a speech. Same goes for clutch performance and fielding performance (sometimes with numbers, sometimes without). Obviously not EVERYBODY works this sort of conclusion first analysis, but many do … at least to some extent.

So if I’m understanding Tango, he’s not so concerned about the FRAMEWORK people use. It can be WAR, VORP, Win Shares, whatever. But he thinks once you choose that framework you have to be consistent about implementation … no matter the results. That — and that alone — tells you the value of the framework. If you believe RBIs trump all for instance, that’s fine, but then you have to live with the fact that in 1957, the year Mickey Mantle won the MVP, five players were better than him because they drove in more runs — this would include Vic Wertz and Frank Malzone. Pick a framework … any framework you want. But live with the results.

Which leads us to the Tango challenge … and Jack Morris … and Rick Reuschel.

You probably know — it’s been mentioned here a time or two — that Baseball Reference’s WAR says Rick Reuschel was a better pitcher than Jack Morris. WAR is not so precise that you can feel supremely confident that a player with a 5.4 WAR season was definitely better than a player with a 5.1 season.

But with Reuschel and Morris, um, it’s not that close.

Career WAR:

Rick Reuschel: 64.6
Jack Morris: 39.3

No, that’s not close. Of course, you might then argue that Morris had better individual seasons than Reuschel. WAR says no soup for you.*

*WAR prefers outdated “Seinfeld” references. WAR is like that.

Best seasons by WAR

1. Reuschel, 1977, 9.2
2. Reuschel, 1985, 6.0
3. Morris, 1979, 5.6
(tie) Reuschel, 1973, 5.6
5. Reuschel, 1979, 5.5
6. Reuschel, 1980, 5.4
7. Reuschel, 1978, 5.2
8. Morris, 1986, 4.8
(tie) Morris, 1987, 4.8
10. Morris, 1986, 4.6

So six of the top seven WAR seasons belong to Reuschel, including the top two.

Of course, not many people outside the statistical world think Reuschel was even close to as good a pitcher as Jack Morris (though it is noted that at this moment, he leads the poll on this blog). In 1997, Reuschel got exactly two Hall of Fame votes. Morris, meanwhile, is on the brink of being elected. People talk about Morris quite a lot; nobody seems to talk about Reuschel (except, perhaps, in reference to Morris). Some of this is fairly easy to explain — these are those famous “exceptions” that the Ken Keltner crowd used. Morris pitched for winning teams. He was Opening Day starter a lot. He pitched one of the most famous games in baseball history. He had a certain bulldog presence that Reuschel lacked.

But none of these are particularly convincing arguments that Morris WAS better than Reuschel, either at his peak or over a whole career.

So the Tango Challenge — come up with a framework that shows that Jack Morris was better than Rick Reuschel. On the bright side, you don’t have to defend the framework itself — that is to say, if you want to say Morris is better because he won more games (254-214) then that can be your framework.

On the downside, however, you would have then concede that every pitcher who won more games than Jack Morris was a better pitcher than him and is more deserving than Morris for the Hall of Fame. This would include Jim Kaat and Tommy John and Jamie Moyer. Maybe you could live with this. However, if you are really going to use career wins as your framework, you would also have to live with Bob Forsch (168) being better than Sandy Koufax (165) and Jerry Reuss (220) being better than Pedro Martinez (219).

You could go with winning percentage — Morris’ .563 was quite a bit better than Reuschel’s .528. But again, you would be opening the door. Dwight Gooden had a much higher winning percentage than Morris, and so did Bob Welch, David Wells, Dave McNally and Wes Ferrell, who also hit a lot better than Morris.

No, these are obviously flawed methods. OK, how about this? Morris won 20 three times, Reuschel only once. But again, there’s Wes Ferrell with six 20-win seasons. Wilbur Wood, Mike Cuellar, Luis Tiant, Dave McNally, Johnny Sain all won 20 more often than Morris … no, if you’re trying to make Morris’ case you don’t want to measure by 20-win seasons. Strikeouts will lead down the same path.

You could go with Morris’ amazing Game 7 as the critical factor. But then you would have to think hard about Don Larsen as a Hall of Famer, and Jim Lonborg, and Mickey Lolich and Allie Reynolds and so on.

So you look elsewhere. The advanced stats seem to be conspiring. Win Shares? No. Morris had 225 Win Shares; Reuschel had 240. FanGraphs? Definitely not. Reuschel had 73.4 FanGraphs Win Shares, Morris only 56.9. How about Baseball Prospectus’ VORP? It’s close but … no. Reuschel 35.1 WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player) and Morris 33.3.

So now what? That’s your challenge. If you believe Jack Morris was better than Rick Reuschel — ESPECIALLY if you believe this should not even be a discussion — then throw out a framework that proves it. And then, let’s test it.

72 thoughts on “Morris vs. Reuschel

    1. Jimbo

      I assume you mean whoever pitched first should make the hall of fame.
      Unfortunately that does not work as Rick Reuschel pitched before Jack Morris.

      Also a lot of poor quality pitchers pitched before Jack Morris so I think this method would lead to a bloated Hall of Fame.

      Reply
  1. Dinky

    I followed the same reasoning only using ERA+, which seems somewhat more objective, than WAR, which varies from web site to web site. I also note that even though Reuschel appears to be a better fielder (3 GG to none) Morris has a better dWAR (0.4 to 0.2) for their career. The only justification for Morris over Reuschel is perhaps the best pitched game seven of the World Series, in the history of the World Series, and outpitching the other starter by an inning and the other guy might have had the second best pitched game seven in the history of the World Series. Huge game. Best game 7 ever, second best WS game ever behind only Larsen. Adds a lot. Doesn’t add enough, to me.

    Reply
    1. Brian

      Top WS Game 7 pitching performances by game score:

      88 – Sandy Koufax, 1965
      84 – Jack Morris, 1991
      83 – Ralph Terry, 1961
      80 – Dizzy Dean, 1934
      80 – Bob Gibson, 1967

      Morris’ and Terry’s seem the most impressive b/c they were only given 1 run to work with (although Koufax only had 2). The argument for Morris over Terry is that he worked one more inning and struck out 8 to Terry’s 4. The argument for Terry is that he was pitching against a more potent offense (’61 Giants 5.3 RPG vs. ’91 Braves 4.6 RPG) and he didn’t need Lonnie Smith’s baserunning gaffe to bail him out.

      Reply
  2. Richard

    Joe, I don’t seem to be able to comment over at the other site, but in reference to your NL-WAR piece, you fall victim to the “national writer parachuting in to comment on a team he doesn’t really follow” problem. In this case, the Phillies. Your basic point about age is, of course, correct. And we really have no idea what will happen next year. Those guys will indeed be yet another year older. But this season? The age of the guys on offense has really not been the problem. It has been the pitching. Full stop. Whether luck or just bad pitching, or some combination, it’s been too many runs allowed. Granted, part of this was Roy Halladay hitting the DL for 6 weeks or so, and he is the oldest starting pitcher on the staff. But you don’t mention him. Truth is, the offense was holding its own through most of the troubles in June & July, but the pitching had cratered. June is the month that really killed them. Yet they had a collective wRC+ of 102 that month. Not awesome, but not bad. Unfortunately, Halladay was out, Lee & Hamels were giving up ill-timed homers, the younger starters weren’t fantastic, and the bullpen, which is almost entirely made up of young arms, was giving up runs by the truckload.

    The problem with parachuting in, is you see what you expect to see. The prevailing narrative on the Phillies is that they got old, it was a good run, etc. Well, sure. Maybe. But if you look closer, maybe not.

    Reply
  3. Mr. Colby

    Pardon the tech question, but is the SoE content – either just Our Genial Host’s, or all of it – available on an RSS feed? My attempts to put the new joint into Google Reader have failed me.

    Reply
  4. IndifferentDisdain

    I like the idea of a framework, but to a certain point: in my ideal world, the framework would set a certain benchmark that you’d have to hit in order to be eligible for consideration. Then, after that, those ‘in the know’ could potentially use intangibles to further rank those that qualified. Of course, any self-respecting framework won’t include wins or RBIs in the discussion.

    Reply
  5. MuseumTwenty

    Hi, Joe- I’m not necessarily against this argument:

    “You could go with Morris’ amazing Game 7 as the critical factor. But then you would have to think hard about Don Larsen as a Hall of Famer, and Jim Lonborg, and Mickey Lolich and Allie Reynolds and so on.”

    It is a Hall of Fame, and these men seized the moment with the hottest spotlight upon them. They gained Fame in a moment, or a couple moments in a series. That counts.

    If you want a benchmark, how about this:

    Cooperstown is an inspiring place. It is meant to be inspiring. It is meant to be a place where the Love of the Game is passed, one generation to the next.

    So if I’m introducing a young person to baseball, when I describe a player on a plaque, I want that youngster to have a WOW! moment.

    Jack Morris had a WOW! moment that can amaze a youngster. So did Larsen, Lonborg, Lolich, Allie Reynolds, maybe a few others.

    I want one or more of the WOW! moments to click in with the youngster, to bbe something they can take away & pass on to their kids as well.

    Maybe the measure should be the WOW!, because the Hall is not for you or me. It’s for the Kids. And it’s for passing the torch.

    Is that fair to Rick R.? Maybe not. But, in case you’ve not noticed, Life’s Not Fair.

    Reply
    1. Hartzdog

      What about the Dave Roberts steal heard round the world? Or those Jim Leyritz home runs against Atlanta?
      Those were both major, major “WOW” moments for me.

      Reply
    2. clashfan

      Another problem with your argument is about the moniker “Hall of Fame”. The Hall doesn’t reward fame, it confers it. It rewards excellence. Curt Schilling is famous; it doesn’t make him a Hall of Famer.

      Reply
    3. Scott

      People often feel the building is the entire Hall of Fame. The official name is the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

      The Hall of Fame is one room in the museum. Pete Rose is in the museum. But he isn’t in the Hall of Fame. When bats, balls, bases, etc. get sent to the HoF, they are actually going to the museum. So, David Freese and Dave Roberts are definitely there for their moments. They are worthy. But they don’t have a plaque in the Hall.

      Reply
  6. Neel

    How about this: Number of All-Star game appearances + Number of top 5 Cy Young award finishes + Number of 20 win seasons. Morris has 13, Reuschel has 6.

    Looking at the other pitchers mentioned in the post as comparisons: Kaat (7), Cuellar (9), Moyer (5) Tommy John (10), Gooden (10), Welch (4), David Wells (6), McNally (10), Wes Ferrell (8), Allie Reynolds (6), Wilbur Wood (10), Luis Tiant (9), Sain (7), Don Larsen (0!!!), Lolich (7), Lonborg (2), Bob Forsch (1), Jerry Reuss (3).

    By this metric, Morris outclasses all of them. Incidentally, Koufax (13) and Pedro Martinez (17) were alluded to in this post as being worth of the HOF, and both of them are equal or better than Morris. So far, this metric looks to be consistent. (Although old timers are hurt by the fact that there was no Cy Young Award before 1956, and only one award winner for both leagues from 1956-66)

    By the way, I really don’t believe that Morris should be in the HOF. But before Sabermetrics became so popular, 20 win seasons, top 5 Cy Young placement, and All Star game appearances were all considered benchmarks of high achievement. And certainly among many HOF voters, all three are held in the same esteem.

    By combining all three, you can definitely make a consistent argument for Morris in the HOF above others.

    Reply
    1. Mike

      David, you’re being obtuse. Walter Johnson was dead 10 years before the first Cy Young awards were given.

      Neel’s system is obviously only valid for players since 1956, and not for comparing pitchers across all eras.

      Reply
    2. David

      But that’s Joe’s direction: you’re supposed to come up with a consistent system that you can implement to make these comparisons. That is, in fact, exactly the point of this whole exercise. Even coming up with something totally common-sense like this doesn’t always work. I was being obtuse on purpose. That’s the idea.

      Reply
  7. rdcobb

    I accept Tango’s challenge and go with Morris’ mustache as the deciding factor. And that’s iron-clad because no starting pitcher has ever had a greater mustache.

    Reply
    1. Unknown

      C’mon, Pete Vuckovich could totally give Morris a run for the ‘stache title. Also, your argument is wrong because the modern equivalent to Morris would be decidedly un-HOFer Carl Pavano.

      Reply
  8. rdcobb

    Seriously enough … I’m not saying, *I* believe this but challenge accepted.

    Morris led a decade in wins. That’s awesome and that’s my standard:

    1900′s – Christy Mathewson
    1910′s – Walter Johnson
    1920′s – Burleigh Grimes
    1930′s – Lefty Grove
    1940′s – Hal Newhouser
    1950′s – Warren Spahn
    1960′s – Juan Marichal
    1970′s – Jim Palmer
    1980′s – Jack Morris
    1990′s – Greg Maddux

    I can accept anyone with more wins in a decade than Morris had in the 80s (162) is better than him:

    1900s

    Christy Mathewson236
    Cy Young 230
    Joe McGinnity218
    Jack Chesbro 192
    Vic Willis 188
    Eddie Plank 186
    Rube Waddell 183
    Sam Leever 166
    Jack Powell 160
    George Mullin 157

    1910s

    Walter Johnson 265
    Pete Alexander208
    Eddie Cicotte 162
    Hippo Vaughn 156
    Slim Sallee 149
    Rube Marquard 144
    Eddie Plank 140
    Christy Mathewson137
    Claude Hendrix 135
    Hooks Dauss 125

    1920s

    Burleigh Grimes 190
    Eppa Rixey 166
    Pete Alexander165
    Herb Pennock 162
    Waite Hoyt 161
    Urban Shocker 156
    Eddie Rommel 154
    Jesse Haines 153
    George Uhle 152
    Red Faber 149

    1930s

    Lefty Grove 199
    Carl Hubbell 188
    Red Ruffing 175
    Wes Ferrell 170
    Lefty Gomez 165
    Mel Harder 158
    Larry French 156
    Tommy Bridges 150
    Paul Derringer 148
    Dizzy Dean 147

    1940s

    Hal Newhouser170
    Bob Feller 137
    Rip Sewell 133
    Dizzy Trout 129
    Dutch Leonard 122
    Bucky Walters 122
    Mort Cooper 114
    Claude Passeau 111
    Kirby Higbe 105
    Harry Brecheen 105
    Bobo Newsom 105

    1950s

    Warren Spahn 202
    Robin Roberts 199
    Early Wynn 188
    Billy Pierce 155
    Bob Lemon 150
    Mike Garcia 128
    Lew Burdette 126
    Don Newcombe126
    Whitey Ford 121
    Johnny Antonelli 116

    1960s

    Juan Marichal 191
    Bob Gibson 164
    Don Drysdale 158
    Jim Bunning 150
    Jim Kaat 142
    Larry Jackson 141
    Sandy Koufax 137
    Jim Maloney 134
    Milt Pappas 131
    Camilo Pascual 127

    1970s

    Jim Palmer 186
    Gaylord Perry 184
    Steve Carlton 178
    Tom Seaver 178
    Fergie Jenkins 178
    Catfish Hunter 169
    Don Sutton 166
    Phil Niekro 164
    Nolan Ryan 155
    Vida Blue 155

    1980s

    Jack Morris 162
    Dave Stieb 140
    Bob Welch 137
    Fernando Valenzuela128
    Charlie Hough 128
    Bert Blyleven 123
    Nolan Ryan 122
    Jim Clancy 119
    Frank Viola 117
    Rick Sutcliffe 116

    1990s

    Greg Maddux 176
    Tom Glavine 164
    Roger Clemens 152
    Randy Johnson 150
    Kevin Brown 143
    John Smoltz 143
    David Cone 141
    Mike Mussina 136
    Chuck Finley 135
    Scott Erickson 130

    Sam Leever? Well, he was pretty good. So, yeah, I can live with this. THAT’s my framework.

    Reply
    1. Tangotiger

      Ok, so who finishes ahead of Pedro in the 1990s and who finishes ahead of Pedro in the 2000s? Here, I’ll tell you. In the 1990s, you have, among many others: Jaime Navarro, John Burkett, Todd Stottlemyre. Not to mention his own brother. In the 2000s: Jeff Suppan, Linan, Kevin Millwood.

      So, try again.

      Reply
    2. macomeau

      The corollary is that any pitcher with fewer than 162 wins in a decade is a worse pitcher than Morris:

      Feller, Ford, Koufax, Ryan, Clemens, R. Johnson, P. Martinez.

      All worse pitchers than Jack Morris.

      Reply
    3. rdcobb

      Right. I get that. I thought this was a little silly/fun question and took it as such.

      WAR, for instance, rates Reuschel ahead of:

      Palmer
      Sutton
      Feller
      Marichal
      Halladay
      Smoltz
      Ford
      Koufax

      etc. etc.

      It’s easy to play “gotcha” all day long with ANY framework – even the most logical ones. There is no magic bullet. Which is why we have to look at the bigger picture and take everything into account.

      For the record, I don’t *personally* think “wins by decade” is a good standard at all. I just threw it out there in the spirit of good fun.

      Reply
    4. BSChief

      A neat compilation, nevertheless. Even with the arbitrariness of starting each decade with a year ending in 0, look at who was in the top 10 in two separate decades — Matthewson, Plank, and Ryan. Thanks, rdcobb!

      Reply
    5. Christopher Wojciechowski

      I think that the goal was to create a framework by which you would avoid anybody WORSE than Morris qualifying for the Hall of Fame. By bringing up pitchers with fewer wins and claiming that the framework’s creator is saying that those guys are worse than Morris you’re being facetious.

      His framework does not call those players worse than Morris. His framework shows that Morris belongs in the Hall of Fame crowd, by creating a standard by which an absolutely minimal number of players ahead of him are not Hall of Fame caliber.

      Reply
    6. Christopher Wojciechowski

      (wish there was an edit function)

      Basically the goal of the exercise is to create a statistic by which Jack Morris becomes the Hall of Fame standard within that statistic, and that statistic alone. Therefore: although not qualifying by that metric, those players behind him still qualify by other metrics. Just as how Ozzie Smith qualifies despite the fact that he didn’t achieve 500 homeruns. As a power hitter – you must achieve 500 to achieve the Hall. But non-power hitters have other metrics to achieve.

      Jack Morris achieved a successful “Jack” (or decade beginning with a 0 leading the game in wins). 1 Jack is automatic inclusion in the Hall. Players that didn’t specialize in achieving a “Jack” can still qualify by other metrics and may even be better overall players.

      Reply
  9. rdcobb

    Of course, the above standard is still fraught with issues. But, then again, so is using WAR. Or ERA. Or whatever other single standard you want to use.

    Reply
    1. rdcobb

      I’m just using what I understood JOE’s definition to be for the purposes of this exercise. Pick *one* framework and you are married to it, warts and all.

      Reply
  10. Ian Devine

    This is so simplistic as to be facile. No responsible thinker would ever posit use of a single standard or a framework of combined matrices as absolute. We should use information at our disposal to approach truth from numerous directions, in full knowledge that our set of knowledge is inaccurate and flawed, and that it will continue to be so. I don’t support Jack Morris as a Hall of Famer, but this challenge needs a clear rejection.

    Implicit in Tangotiger’s above response to rdcobb is that he believes we should use multiple standards. Why, then, force a candidacy into a single, quantifiable box?

    Reply
    1. Tangotiger

      I thought Poz did a great job at explaining it. In my email to Poz, I said:

      However, the key point is the implementation of that framework. Some are transparent about it (Win Shares, fWAR, rWAR). But others are not, like your typical fan “I consider everything”. Except the typical fan really means “I consider everything, in an inconsistent and ad-hoc manner”.

      Reply
  11. W. Blake Gray

    While I agree with you that Morris shouldn’t be a Hall of Famer, here is a pretty solid framework.

    Morris was more famous. And it is the Hall of Fame.

    Play around with that framework for awhile.

    Reply
    1. macomeau

      Even if we just stick to baseball, Don Larsen.

      Doc Gooden?

      Fernando-mania?

      Every flash in the pan who makes a huge splash when they first come up?

      Heck, I’m sure there are hundreds of thousands of fans who remember who Todd Van Poppel is, just because of his rookie card. There’s an A’s blog called ‘The Todd Van Poppel Rookie Card Retirement Plan’.

      Reply
    2. W. Blake Gray

      Have put a little more thought into this since I first posted it. Now I believe Fame is a better standard than I first imagined.

      You guys arguing against it are posting straw men. Nobody during Don Larsen’s career would have argued that he merited Hall of Fame induction. Same with Gooden and Valenzuela.

      Jack Morris’ Hall credentials were actively debated at the end of his career both by the statistically minded, and others. By the Fame standard, he’s borderline, not a shoo-in.

      I can think of two players who might have been voted in under the Fame standard who don’t deserve it: Steve Garvey and Keith Hernandez.

      But think about the players who were considered most famous in whatever past decades you remember. How many of them really don’t deserve Hall of Fame recognition? I think you’ll be surprised to find it’s not that many, and Fame is a better standard than we think.

      My friend Glenn asked me to quantify Fame. That kind of ruins the point. I’ve spent most of my baseball fan life as a believer in stats as descriptors of history. But think about the Fame standard: what active players would people in 1995 have thought deserved to go in the Hall? And how accurate were they?

      Reply
  12. Unknown

    I have a fairly silly one: Jack Morris ranks 3rd all time in putouts by a pitcher with 387, behind only Kevin Brown and Greg Maddux. Reuschel is actually also in the top ten, but with a much more pedestrian 328 putouts to his name. The top ten (also called OMG Maddux)

    1. Greg Maddux (23) 546 R
    2. Kevin Brown (19) 388 R
    3. Jack Morris (18) 387 R
    4. Phil Niekro+ (24) 386 R
    5. Fergie Jenkins+ (19) 363 R
    6. Gaylord Perry+ (22) 349 R
    7. Don Sutton+ (23) 334 R
    8. Orel Hershiser (18) 332 R
    9. Rick Reuschel (19) 328 R
    Tom Seaver+ (20) 328 R

    Reply
  13. Unknown

    Joe, I’m sad that Keltner came up and you didn’t even mention the DiMaggio streak. Game 57. Yankees – Indians. 67,468 in attendance at Muni Stadium. Keltner makes two reportedly fantastic defensive plays (1st and 7th innings) to aid in stopping the Streak at 56. DiMaggio also walked and, in his final at-bat, ground into a double play. That’s a good trivia question. In the at-bat that would end the streak, who were the fielder’s involved in the 6-4-3 double play?

    DiMaggio would go on to jokingly refer to Keltner as “The Culprit”. I find it rather neat myself that it was a true defensive whiz that was needed to stop ole Joe, not some bum bad luck.

    Reply
    1. bluwood

      You didn’t even mention that AFTER that game 57, D hit in another 21 (or something like it) consecutive games! And yet I still consider him to be ridiculously overrated.

      Reply
  14. Tux

    I haven’t done the math (and it would probably take an immense amount of time), but what about career average Game Score? Or number of seasons with a Game Score average a full standard deviation above the league average to adjust for era and changes in how pitchers are used.

    Reply
    1. Tux

      Strike that – B-R actually has it available. The standard deviation thing is probably way too much of a hassle so I’ll do five year peaks instead.

      Morris, over his career: 53, while the league average was 52. His 5 year peak: 59.5 (37 starts), 53.8 (35), 57.7 (35), 59.5 (35), 58.6 (34). It comes out to an average game score of 57.83.

      Reuschel, over his career: 53, while the league average over that time was 51. 5 year peak: 62.3 (31), 50.3 (35), 56.5 (34), 54.5 (36), 55.1 (32), coming out to an average of 55.58.

      Interestingly enough, despite this, the quality start percentages are in Reuschel’s favor over these same time periods – 72% to 66%.

      Reply
  15. Scott Lindholm

    Man, there’s no formatting in these comments–third time’s the charm, I hope…

    I’ve always liked Bill James’ HOF metrics, the Blank Ink Test, Gray Ink Test, HOF Standards and HOF Monitor. Full descriptions can be found at
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/leader_glossary.shtml#black_ink
    The numbers in parentheses are what the typical HOF achieved.

    Morris
    Black Ink (40) 20
    Gray Ink (185) 193
    HOF Monitor (100) 122
    HOF Standards (50) 39

    Reuschel
    Black Ink 7
    Gray Ink 111
    HOF Monitor 48
    HOF Standards 31

    For the full description, read Bill James’ 1995 book “Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame”.

    Reply
  16. Sid

    I’m with Scott above in looking to Bill James. In my mind, it’s the “Hall of Fame,” not the “Hall of Impressive Accumulated Statistics.” We can argue about the degree to which those things are correlated or not (or should be), but nonetheless among the things that in the past have been associated with fame are leading leagues, being on All-Star teams, winning awards and playing in the playoffs (all things measured by James’ analysis).

    This argument all boils down to how you define “Fame.” For decades it was defined by writers waxing poetic, whose judgment was colored by their own biases. Now I feel the pendulum has swing too far the other way (at least in the stat-head community) by those who want their notion of “Fame” defined purely through statistical methods (which seems absurd by definition when you think about it)…

    The reality is that everybody has their own definition of what makes a ballplayer “famous,” and they live along a spectrum from purely mythological to purely statistical, with the great distance in between representing a blend of the two…

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  17. Tangotiger

    The question isn’t necessarily about the Hall of Fame. It may lead to that, but that’s not really the question.

    The question is about accomplishments, or production, or performance, or talent. It’s not about how much press he got.

    Right now, the best someone has offered is the Bill James Hall of Fame monitor. While that framework was created to reflect how players have been voted into the HOF, it still has application outside of the HOF. It has a point system, and it’s transparent. It leads to reasonable results for the most part, though it’s only useful at the career level.

    Its problems are apparent, but given such a simple system, its results are fairly strong.

    And for people who think all of this is silly: well, I guess everything about baseball is really silly when you get down to it. But, to the extent that people are passionate enough to argue about who’s better than who, then this is not a silly exercise at all under that idea.

    The exercise here is to force you to be consistent and end the idea of starting with your opinion and then trying to justify it. That is, you should start with the evidence, and let that lead you to the conclusion, and not the other way around.

    I think that was Bill’s greatest contribution to the field: start with the question.

    Reply
  18. Dave

    The term “fame” in hall of fame refers to the fact that induction is meant to confer fame, not recognize it.

    The HOF was never intended to recognize and reward “famous.”

    Reply
  19. Charles Joseph

    When you search “Jack Morris” on Google you get “About 23,600,000 results.”

    When you search “Rick Reuschel” on Google you only get “About 152,000 results.”

    Of course if you go by this then Bo Jackson (about 20,000,000 results) is more worthy of the Hall than Albert Pujols (about 9,090,000 results)…

    Reply
  20. Phil

    Here’s the magic factor: leading the majors in wins over a five-year span. Apart from some of the 300-game winners and Don Drysdale, ALL the BBWAA-elected starting pitchers have at least one five-year title. Morris has three, Reuschel has none. I like the “decade” idea, but it turns out half of one is necessary. Only sixty pitchers since 1876 have led the majors in wins over at least one five-year stretch. Thirty-five of them are already in the Hall – twenty-four elected by the BBWAA and eleven by the Veterans Committee – while eleven pitchers are too recent to be considered for enshrinement just yet: and they include Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, and Roy Halladay. I have a whole study of it, for anyone who cares. . . .

    Reply
  21. Mark Daniel

    In cases like this, I would poll all of Morris’ and Reuschel’s former teammates and coaches and ask them what they thought of each pitcher’s HoF candidacy. I know player judgement is suspect at best, and probably uninformed in most cases, but it speaks to something, doesn’t it?

    In the wake of the Red Sox mess, doesn’t peer respect seem at least of at least slight importance?

    Reply
  22. W. Blake Gray

    My wife is Japanese and born into baseball fanship, but not in this country’s culture. When I made my pilgrimage to Cooperstown, I tried to explain to her that while I saw a photo of Roger Maris in the Hall of Fame, he was not actually in the Hall of Fame. I tried for a while. Then I realized she has a point.

    Reply
  23. John Eric Goff

    I’ve not been to the baseball HOF, so please correct me if I’m wrong here. The building in Cooperstown, NY is called the “National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.” The “museum” contains all kinds of “famous” bits of baseball history, including Don Larson’s perfect game and Ichiro Suzuki’s single-season record for hits. In other words, much of the game’s “fame” is celebrated and is on full display in the museum. Within the museum is the “Plaque Gallery,” which contains the plaques of all the inducted players.

    It seems then that those accomplishing famous feats in baseball can indeed have their “fame” celebrated in the museum, even if some of them don’t have induction plaques. It also seems to me that earning an induction plaque requires more than just fame, and that perhaps players should be inducted even if they were not involved in a any famous moments.

    Reply
  24. Grulg

    Statborgs hate Black Jack. Statborgs love Jimmy Wynn. They hate Jim Rice, now they’ve decided Rick Reuschel is the Borg pet du jour. They hate Andre Dawson, they love Raines. You can’t talk any sense to them, so don’t try. Morris goes in the Hall, expect Neyer, Tango and Lederer’s collective heads will explode. I can hardly wait.

    Reply
    1. Tonus

      The Hall of Fame already had numerous questionable members by the time the advanced statistics crowd came of age. “Statborgs” love baseball for the stories and for the numbers and for all of the really fun and amazing things you can do with the numbers, if you have just a bit of imagination. I don’t think that any traditionalists suffered exploded craniums when Blyleven was inducted, I’m sure the fans of sabermetrics will survive if Morris gets voted in.

      Reply
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