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Thursday, December 13, 2012

CBS: Ranking the 2013 Hall of Fame candidates: Nos. 20-16

To Tweequote Jon Heyman on this…“i dont believe this for 1 sec, but i like @EyeOnBaseball guys, so ... their case against jack morris”

18. Jack Morris; SP; Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays, Indians; 1977-1994

...Here’s the problem: Morris wasn’t great at anything but racking up innings and wins (as the beneficiary of mostly playing for winning teams). He wasn’t great at run prevention (3.90 ERA, good for a 105 ERA-plus—meaning only five percent better than average in the era), keeping guys off base (1.30 WHIP) or taking pressure of his defense by striking guys out (5.8 K/9, in addition to a lackluster 1.78 K/BB ratio).

In terms of the postseason, let’s not be fooled into thinking Jack Morris was Curt Schilling. Morris was 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, a low strikeout rate and a lackluster K/BB ratio in 13 career postseason starts. Yes, he had the unbelievable 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, but overall Morris in the postseason was what he was in the regular season. He was a grinder who occasionally came through with a big-time gem for his team.

If you really, truly believe that Morris “pitched to the score” (that is, got a big lead and then needlessly allowed baserunners and runs on purpose—as if any pitcher would actually do that) and that only wins/losses matter, then you can discuss his 254 wins—which is still only good for 42nd of all-time, hardly a travesty to leave out of the Hall.

If you believe there’s more than meets the eye here and look deeper, you realize Morris was a good pitcher with incredible stamina who was blessed to garner lots of wins due to circumstances. We should respect his outstanding moments and his ability to eat so many innings in so many different seasons for his teams, but that doesn’t mean we have to enshrine him.

I also find it curious that some BBWAA members now talk about how if you “saw him pitch, you knew.” That’s interesting, because Morris never finished higher than third in Cy Young voting. He only received Cy Young votes in seven of his 18 seasons. He also only received 22.2 percent of the vote his first year on the ballot and dipped down to 19.6 percent the next year. Not only that, but he was only an All-Star five of 18 seasons. Where was the respect at the time from the managers around baseball?

Simply: How did so many guys who watched Morris pitch treat him for years as merely a good, but not great, pitcher yet now believe he’s an easy Hall of Famer? What happened in the past decade? It’s hard to figure.

The good news for all the Morris supporters: You can probably rest easy. When a player reaches more than 2/3 of the vote with at least two years left on the ballot, he’s a veritable shoo-in. I fully expect Morris to get in on this election.

Would we vote for him? Snyder: No (15); Rosecrans: No (19); Perry: No (21)

Repoz Posted: December 13, 2012 at 01:29 PM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hof, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 13, 2012 at 01:53 PM (#4323847)
I like Mattingly more than any of the others on that list, but they're off to a good start.
   2. John Northey Posted: December 13, 2012 at 02:03 PM (#4323854)
Lots of guys who would be vets committee selections in past times but shouldn't get in really. Interesting how many ex-Blue Jays are getting onto the ballots now (Wells, Morris, McGriff on this group of 5, two developed in the Jays system although McGriff was signed originally by the Yankees).
   3. Mendo Posted: December 13, 2012 at 02:05 PM (#4323859)
For all the arguments about Morris, it seems clear to me he would never have been a candidate at all if it weren't for the (undeserved) W-L record. Without the padding provided by his teams' excellent defense and hitting, the discussion would never have gotten to all the other stuff. "Pitching to the score" wouldn't come into it, Game 7 wouldn't come into it, etc.

254-186 gets you over the threshold of plausibility, and allows the discussion to happen. But if 14 cheap wins become losses, he's 240-200, and who's going to vote for that?
   4. OsunaSakata Posted: December 13, 2012 at 02:47 PM (#4323911)
Do you know which team had the most wins in the 1980s? The Yankees, when all they had to show for it was one strike-shortened pennant. It was probably the worst time for a Yankee fan in their 30s. Only time worse was the decade after the 1964 pennant, but you have to be in your 50s for that. Just showing how valuable most wins in the 1980s is.
   5. Topher Posted: December 13, 2012 at 02:57 PM (#4323932)
@3

I don't disagree with that point. However, I'm pretty sure he never would have been a candidate at all if it weren't for the reluctance to put steroid drug users in the HOF. Ballots that would have had McGwire, Palmeiro, Bagwell*, and Raines at the top instead "need" somebody else and Morris has benefited tremendously from that. (I seriously doubt Raines would be elected at this point but he'd have more votes if there wasn't the cocaine scandal.) I know that on most ballots there would be room to include Morris along with the drug users but there is plenty of evidence that most voters won't turn in a full ballot. Morris has gained votes that otherwise would have gone elsewhere.

When the drug users started hitting the ballot, the group of players that was in the best position to take advantage included Dawson, Blyleven, Rice, Morris, and Smith. The first three have since made it and Smith's resume looks worse every year as more and more closers match his accomplishments. So now you just have Morris of those that played in a clean era and he's getting votes because of that.

* I know there is no proof for Bagwell, that's not my point. He's losing votes because of his "steroid use".
   6. DL from MN Posted: December 13, 2012 at 03:29 PM (#4323972)
It is irritating that drug use would be held against Raines but not Molitor
   7. bachslunch Posted: December 13, 2012 at 03:44 PM (#4323996)
Good article with reasonably intelligent analysis and perceptive voting thinking. Of the five players listed (Bernie W., McGriff, Morris, Mattingly, Wells), the only one I'd likely vote for is the Crime Dog.
   8. Bourbon Samurai Posted: December 13, 2012 at 03:47 PM (#4324001)
Fun to see the reviews of the marginal guys. I didn't realize Todd Walker was on the ballot.
   9. Bug Selig Posted: December 13, 2012 at 04:56 PM (#4324134)
It is irritating that drug use would be held against Raines but not Molitor


Probably because Molitor developed some power as he got older. Wait, what?
   10. DanG Posted: December 13, 2012 at 05:14 PM (#4324165)
I didn't realize Todd Walker was on the ballot.
Seriously, I believe he only made the ballot because the screening committee confused him with Larry Walker. When in doubt...
   11. Walt Davis Posted: December 13, 2012 at 05:32 PM (#4324188)
Raines isn't a factor in any of this and I doubt he's losing more than a handful of votes due to drugs. If he'd gotten 3000 hits, he'd have been in long ago.

Morris is now benefiting from something that was hurting him when he first came on the ballot. When he first came on the ballot, he paled in comparison to the long run of 300 win, 3000 K, 4000 inning guys the writers had been electing for the last decade. Blyleven (fewer votes than Morris), John and Kaat were still on the ballot. He looked like nothing special by the standards to which they had become accustomed.

But starter usage had changed and, by bad luck, almost all the other good starters of Morris's generation had injury problems. John, Morris and Blyleven spent a decade as the best starters on the ballot. From 1999 (Ryan) to 2011 (Blyleven) the BBWAA elected no starting pitchers. The days of 20-win seasons and 20 CG seasons were gone. Morris (and Blyleven) looked better and better every year as SP standards started to adjust.

Had Morris continued stuck at 50, he'd be toast now with the great pitchers of the 90s-00s coming onto the ballot as SP standards will probably go back up. Some of these guys have even managed impressive career IP totals along with 300 wins and 3000 Ks -- i.e. their careers look like the 60s-70s studs just without 20-win seasons and 200 CGs. Really, Morris couldn't have timed his time on the HoF ballot any better.

Anyway, even if he doesn't make it over the threshold in the vote, he's a slam-dunk VC selection having come this close to election.
   12. RollingWave Posted: December 13, 2012 at 10:30 PM (#4324408)
Hmmm, if I had a vote the upcomming one will probably be

Bonds
Clemens
Piazza
Schilling
Biggio
Raines
Trammel
Martinez
Walker
Bagwell

This has gotta be the strongest ballots since the first couple batch were introduced right?



   13. The District Attorney Posted: December 13, 2012 at 10:54 PM (#4324414)
David Wells is quite comparable to Morris, really. That would be a good point to hit.
   14. Sunday silence Posted: December 13, 2012 at 10:55 PM (#4324416)
Do you know which team had most wins in the 1980s? The Yankees, when all they had to show for it was one strike-shortened pennant


By this logic you could argue against Clemens, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, Blyleven etc. Wins have to mean something, or rather they have to reflect some sort of skill be it longevity or something...

I prefer simply looking at ERA or some derivative coupled with IP; because obviously pitching fewer innings should help your effectiveness and also the ability to eat innings should really help your staff if the first proposition is true. Wins will take care of themselves if you have a proper component variable that reflects sustainability. Depends on if you want seasonal or career too. So perhaps that's why wins figure into it, there's no other career type measure of pitcher's longevity. At least not one that is well accepted.

I never got the Blyleven love because when we had him at the Pirates I never the feeling: "Oh we got Carleton on the mound today, I feel really good about our chances."

You know with Morris, though I actually did have that feeling (at least at times, I dont remember his full career). He wasnt on my team, but we went to see him pitch once in Balt. and he was the main reason we went. Also I think Kenny Lofton was on that team.

Of course when I think of dominant pitchers, I think of Carleton, Seaver, Gibson. I never thought Blyleven was on their level, or Neikro or Ryan. There were guys John Tudor who were maybe on that level for a short time.
Sutton is one that I can never be too sure about by this method but there arent too many that are on the bubble.

There were times when I did fear seeing Sutton on the mound for Dodgers. I dont think I felt the same way about Palmer but I didnt really see him until the early 70s. I can even see Sutter as on that level in a way, because when he stepped on the mound you were toast or should be. So I can sort of understand Sutter in the HoF. Not so for Gossage and not for Lee Smith (who's not in).
   15. Jim Kaat on a hot Gene Roof Posted: December 14, 2012 at 12:38 AM (#4324483)
(that is, got a big lead and then needlessly allowed baserunners and runs on purpose—as if any pitcher would actually do that)


As if anyone would actually claim that.

One doesn't have to believe the argument (I have my doubts) to be able to state it honestly. It's not that Morris allowed runners and runs on purpose; it's that he didn't try as hard if he had a comfortable lead, presumably because he didn't care as much about personal stats, excluding wins. Again, I don't think I believe it, but at least the "pitching to the score" argument has a logic to it, which of course can't be acknowledged. Since the evil dinosaurs of journalism are its proponents, it must be made into a cartoon at all costs.
   16. LargeBill Posted: December 14, 2012 at 01:15 AM (#4324496)
14. Sunday silence Posted: December 13, 2012 at 10:55 PM (#4324416)

Do you know which team had most wins in the 1980s? The Yankees, when all they had to show for it was one strike-shortened pennant



By this logic you could argue against Clemens, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, Blyleven etc. Wins have to mean something, or rather they have to reflect some sort of skill be it longevity or something...


Your comparison would almost make some sense if those other pitchers were being touted for the Hall of Fame for a similarly ridiculous argument. The arguments for those pitchers were based on what they did to stop the opposition from getting on base and from scoring (the job of a pitcher). Wins do mean something - for ranking teams not players. Do we rank one shortstop or outfielder better than another because his team won more games that he started?
   17. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: December 14, 2012 at 01:41 AM (#4324506)
#15:

Okay. So you debunked the hyperbole of the inane "pitching to the score argument." Would you like to address how the ACTUAL argument has been thoroughly debunked (i.e. Morris did no better in close games than non-close games) before you go to bat for the boo hoo hoo "dinosaur sportswriters" who continue to cling to this non-fact as the linchpin of their decision to cast votes for Morris?

Or is it more fun to tilt at windmills made of straw?
   18. homerwannabee Posted: December 14, 2012 at 09:28 AM (#4324561)
OK, I have not posted in awhile, but I have a thing for HOF candidates. I have a fairly loose HOF standard. For instance if you were the best at something, I will overlook the WAR, and want you voted in. For instance if someone came along,and got 900 Stolen Bases in a 10 year period I would want them voted in, even if they have a WAR of 15. Or if you have 4,000 strike outs I would want you voted in because not many people have done that, even if they have an ERA of 4.

That being said there is nothing "Special" about Jack Morris. He was never the big time fireballer. He does not come close to any top list of any pitcher stats like Wins, Strike Outs, Shut Outs. His WAR is pedestrian. So is his ERA. So is his ERA+.

The only thing you can say about him is that he had a boat load of wins, and innings for the 80's. Heck if we are going to give the Hall for playing great in the 80's I would rather give the award to Dwight Gooden who had 100-39 record in the 80's. And Dwight has a WAR that is over 10 points higher than Jack Morris as well.

Of course Dwight Gooden is not a deserving Hall of Fame candidate, and neither is Jack Morris.
   19. Elvis Posted: December 14, 2012 at 10:24 AM (#4324582)
Jack Morris and pitching to the score:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1815
   20. Ron J2 Posted: December 14, 2012 at 10:28 AM (#4324588)
at least the "pitching to the score" argument has a logic to it


Yeah but it's a testable hypothesis. (and I see #19 links to the first guy to actually test it. RIP Greg)
   21. SoSH U at work Posted: December 14, 2012 at 10:51 AM (#4324619)
Pitching to the score is a real thing, but it's a small thing and it's meaning has been changed considerably in the retelling.

It means, if you get a big lead, you throw strikes. Don't #### around nibbling at the edges. Throw strikes and make the defense work behind you.

But doing so doesn't lead to worse results. You give up a few extra solo home runs, and maybe back-to-back doubles that yield one run, but fewer crooked numbers from a couple of walks/HBP/bloop hit. In the long run, it's a wash, so it's not going to be reflected in the numbers. Otherwise, it makes no sense as a strategy/mindset. There's no value to a team or a pitcher in simply giving up more runs. It doesn't get you closer to the W. It doesn't save anything.

Jack Morris, like most pitchers, surely pitched to the score a time or two. But, as was the case with most pitchers, you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at his results.
   22. Mickey Henry Mays Posted: December 15, 2012 at 11:45 AM (#4325461)
It is irritating that drug use would be held against Raines but not Molitor



It has nothing to do with drugs and everything to do with perception, timing and milestones. Raines had his best years early in his career and seemed to hang-on forever, where as Molitor seemed to get better as he aged. The reality is, Molitor just figured out how to stay healthy. The bigger problem for Raines is he didn't reach 3000 hits. The avg. fan see's a non-power hitting OF as needing alot of hits to be considered a HOF, and fair or not, 3000 of them is the magic number.
Throw in playing in Montreal as well as limited playoff exposure and it's really not surprising he's having such a hard time gaining much HOF traction.

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