November 16, 2013

One more year — keep Jack Morris OUT of #Cooperstown and the #HOF

Note: Not for reasons of hubris, but, if any readers do know a BBWAA voter, please forward this on.

This is an extensive overhaul of posts I've written the past few years about why I think Jack Morris, whom I call the anti-Bert Blyleven, should be kept out of the Baseball Hall of Fame, namely because just as sabermetrics proved the case for Blyleven, they prove the case against Morris.

First of all, I want to tackle the chief argument for Morris, raised by Murray Chass and other voters — Game 7, 1991 World Series, and Morris' 10-inning 1-0 shutout.

To which my blunt answer is: So what.

Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the World Series. Bill Wambsganss converted an unassisted triple play in the Fall Classic. Neither one is in the HOF or ever will be.

Or, if you want a closer parallel, let's take a one-time Morris teammate. Kirk Gibson hobbled out of a dugout for his 1988 World Series Game 1 miracle, and he'll never be in the Hall, either. (That said, especially if you look at WAA rather than WAR, he's got at least as good, if not a better argument in some ways, than Morris!)

Or, by WAR, if you want a very close comparison to Morris in career, AND, someone with as much World Series drama? Luis Gonzales won the 2001 World Series for the Arizona Diamondbacks with his broken-bat walk-off single, but nobody's ever mentioned him as a HOFer. Morris? 43.8 WAR. Gonzales? 51.5. Morris? 9.6 WAA. Gonzales? 19.8.

Now, why do I say we should keep Black Jack out?

For pitchers, my two baseline go-to stats are ERA+ and WHIP. You should have at least 110 in the former and no more than 1.25 in the latter. The latter number comes by eyeballing Hall of Fame pitchers. The former is simple: on ERA (which, over a pitcher's career, does substantially equal FIP), you should be 10 percent better for your career than the league as a whole. That's a reasonable minimum.

Morris is not only a near miss,  he roundly flunks with a 105 and 1.296.

Next, his value? His value at winning games, per what is a complaint about him at times and a would-be justification at others? His Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, of 39.8 would be OK if it were Wins Above Average, or WAA. But it's not, it's WAR. Speaking of WAA, as I'm learning to gauge that more, I think 30 is a minimum cutoff.

There, it's even worse. Hell, Morris can't even break single digits, at 9.7.'s WAR. Speaking of WAA, as I'm learning to gauge that more, I think 30 is a minimum cutoff. And, I'm like it better than WAR as a judge of Hall of Fame-level talent.

Bottom line? If it weren't for Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. Period. End.Of.Story.

Let's take yet two others from my list of World Series counterexamples, both of them precisely because they were in moments like Morris' in 1991: Joe Carter and Bill Mazeroski.

Carter, despite his walk-off homer in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, has even less Hall of Fame cred than Morris, but, if I went by that, and then looked at nearly 400 HRs and nearly 1,500 RBIs, without some sabermetric eyeballing, I could argue he should be in the Hall, too. Instead, he couldn't even pass the first-year sniff test with the BBWAA.

Maz? The Veterans Committee wrongly let him in, in my opinion. The writers never pushed him past 50 percent. Total WAR of 36.1 and WAA of 4.6 doesn't cut it. And, lest anybody says that he was "discriminated against" because he was a defense-first person, Ozzie Smith had 71.6 career WAR and his career WAA of 41.5 topped Maz's career WAR, even.

So, again, Jack Morris shouldn't even be at the point where those of us who are sabermetrically minded are worried that today's baseball writers will be dumb enough — sorry, folks no other phrase works but dumb enough in bold — to vote him in the Hall.

But, 66.7 percent of writers were dumb enough last year, so here we are again.

On Morris, and why he should get in the Baseball Hall of Fame, one "tout" for him has been that he was "The Pitcher of the ’80s." But, a number of other people have noted, the ’80s really kind of sucked in terms of starters, other than Nolan Ryan, who you'd really call more of a ’70s pitcher.

Beyond that, if Black Jack really was "The Pitcher of the ’80s," why did he never win a Cy Young in the 80s? (Or in the ’70s or the ’90s, for that matter?)

That's as in he never won one! Zip, zilch, nada. He never even finished second in the voting. (Before you ask, Blyleven's two third-place finishes are the same as Morris'.)

Good question, eh? I'm trying to think of other starting pitchers, since the MLB went to separate Cys for both leagues, to get in the Hall without winning once. Or even finishing second once. Blyleven's the only one I can think of, and that was when voters looked a lot at W-L percentage, and very little at anything else. (Bleleven definitely should have won in 1973, even though he only finished seventh!)

Now, I'm going to raise the smackdown bar even more.

Among his contemporaries or semi-contemporaries, Brett Saberhagen, David Cone and David Wells are all more fitting candidates than Morris. So's Bob Welch.

All three have much better WAR and much, much better WAA than Morris. All three beat Morris on my two baseline stats. Wells just misses the HOF hurdles on both, but is still ahead of Morris. Cone easily qualifies on ERA+ and is borderline on WHIP. Saberhagen easily qualifies on both. Even Welch narrowly beats Morris on both.

Saberhagen unfortunately had a big case of the injury bug. Cone had some of that. And Wells was a fat, (sometimes) stupid, drunk somewhat better than Jack Morris guy.

But none of them is in the Hall of Fame, or likely to get there.

So, don't taint the Hall even further, in today's statistically enlightened age by voting Morris in.

Now, a little background to my Hall of Fame blogging —

I am a "small Hall" guy. In fact, I think there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot. Please don't make me add Morris to that first list.

Or, there's another way to look at this. Maybe we could have a "provisional" wing, where you get in for 5 years, but just a 50 percent vote can take you out after that. Or, per the two links above, to clear out all the deadwood, BBWAA voters should get one slot every year to vote someone OUT of the Hall. Again, if 75 percent name the same person, out he goes.


Anonymous said...

Good question, eh? I'm trying to think of other starting pitchers, since the MLB went to separate Cys for both leagues, to get in the Hall without winning once.

Actually, there's a few who never won:

Nolan Ryan (finished 2nd once)
Don Sutton (finished 3rd once)
Phil Niekro (finished 2nd once)
Juan Marichal (played half his career before the award was split, but his best finish was 8th)

Gadfly said...

You missed that I used a stylism and followed up that he never was second, either, and also said that this was only after the split into two awards.

So, I'll cut Marichal and Ryan and Niekro out. Sutton's the only "comp" left, and he didn't get in on the first ballot, though he's still more deserving for sure than Morris.