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Morris has become the whipping boy for those who lean more on numbers, who refuse to acknowledge that as vital as stats are in examining a Hall of Famer, there also is a value to the so-called “wow factor” the player created among his peers during his playing days.
With Morris it wasn’t wow. It was WOW.
Ringolsby did not vote for Saberhagen. His 2007 ballot: Gwynn, Ripken, Gossage, Lee Smith, Morris, Trammell, Concepcion, Blyleven.
That's because he wins on talent; Jack Morris is the only pitcher in baseball history who Wins On Will, thus he is the only player in history who was WOW.
Hey, if the pro-Morris argument was about his durability compared to the other starters mentioned above who towered over Morris in any given year and compiled most of their value in the '80s, it wouldn't change my mind about Morris as a HOFer, but I'd appreciate the intellectual honesty.
January 17, 2002
The Legend of Jack Morris
Slowing a Bandwagon
by Michael Wolverton
...What caught my attention was Jack Morris. No, Morris didn't get that much attention from the BBWAA voters. His total of 21% of the vote was up slightly from last year, but still miles away from the 75% needed for induction. However, Morris got very enthusiastic support from a number of high-profile analysts, including three of ESPN's most visible personalities: Joe Morgan, Peter Gammons, and Jayson Stark. Page 2's Bill Simmons also gave Morris a strong endorsement.
It wasn't so much the fact that they supported Morris that caught my eye, but the arguments the four used. They discuss Morris as if he were a mythological entity, a baseball legend who single-handedly carried teams to world championships. Like a lot of legends, this one focuses on individual anecdotes at the expense of the big picture, and it stretches the truth a little to make the character larger than life.
•Bill Simmons: Morris "served as the ace for three championship teams."
That depends on how you define "ace"...
...So maybe Morris was only the ace for two world champions. Isn't that still impressive? Not really. At least it hasn't impressed Hall voters in the past. Don Gullett was the staff ace for two world champions, and I've never noticed a campaign to get him in the Hall. Same with Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, and Mort Cooper.
•Simmons: "That 10-inning, complete-game shutout in Game 7 of the '91 Series was the best 'big-game' pitching performance I've ever seen."
It was an amazing game, and Morris pitched wonderfully. He deserves some of the mileage he gets out of it. But as I've argued before, if Lonnie Smith and Bobby Cox enter the park with two functioning neurons between them that night, the Braves score at least one run off Morris in the eighth, and John Smoltz is the one whose "big-game performance" is frozen in our memories. Morris gave up the go-ahead run in that inning twice; the Braves were just too slow-witted to accept it.
•Stark: "There was a reason Morris was the winningest pitcher of his era by such a vast margin."
There was a reason, and it's called "run support."
...What I'm trying to do is determine if we've missed something. Did Morris actually "pitch to the score" in such a way that inflated his 3.90 career ERA?
...With that goal in mind, I entered every one of Jack Morris' 527 career starts into an Excel file, along with the starts of his teammates in that time. I charted the innings pitched and runs allowed in each start, along with whether the starting pitcher left with the lead, tied or losing. I charted run support (both while the pitcher was in the game, and for the entire game) and what the relievers in that game did. For Morris, I also tracked whether he gave up the lead during the game (and if so, how many times) and whether he allowed the first run of the game.
I can find no pattern in when Jack Morris allowed runs. If he pitched to the score-and I don't doubt that he changed his approach-the practice didn't show up in his performance record.
I tracked a couple of extra categories for Morris, things that I thought might fit someone "pitching to the score." Morris made 527 starts, and in 235 of them, 44.6%, he gave up the first run of the game.
Setting aside those games in which he allowed the first run, Morris gave up a Tiger lead in another 109 starts. [Note: the definition of "blowing a lead" is extremely generous. Morris had to be on the mound when the go-ahead run scored. This excludes all leads blown by relievers, even if the runs scoring were charged to Morris.]
Of everything I've presented here, I believe this is the one point that best refutes the arguments for Jack Morris as a Hall of Famer... What we now know is that instead of "pitching to the score," as his supporters claim he did, Morris actually put his team behind in 344 of his 527 career starts. All told, Morris blew 136 leads in 527 starts, or about one every four times out, and that's using a generous definition of "blown lead."
As I said, I don't know what the performance record of someone who had successfully pitched to the score would look like. I am certain, though, that for a pitcher to build his Hall of Fame case on the notion that he did such a thing, he couldn't have put his team behind in nearly two-thirds of his career starts, and he couldn't have blown leads once a month throughout his career.
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