Jack Morris.

     Jack Morris is not a "Hall of Fame" pitcher, and should not be inducted now, or probably ever.  That is not to say that he wasn’t pretty good, total package, but just not good enough to be considered great.  Many seem to remember what they saw on tv, as it was televised all over when the playoffs arrived.  And they will tend to remember the good more so than the bad, human nature, when it comes to baseball at least, and Hall of Fame discussions in particular.

     During the regular season, statistically, Jack Morris wasn’t all that much better than average.  He had a very good win percentage, and may have withheld that "winning mentality," or the tag of being a "Big Game pitcher."  But his "Adjusted ERA" was 105, where 100 is average.  Meaning that he was barely above average over the course of his career.  And I would rather compare Morris to his average peers than to compare him using simply "ERA" or even worse compare him by using simply "Wins."  Morris’ ERA+ falls in tied for 460th all time.  Great pitchers would not be THIS low in THIS category.  Who else falls at a 105 ERA+?  Jaime Moyer, Paul Byrd, Mike Witt, and Ramon Martinez, to name a few.  And I understand that none of these pitchers have the postseason reputation or performance that Jack Morris has had, but I do believe that what Morris did in the postseason was just not enough to get him into baseball’s sacred "Hall of Fame." 

     Let me start by saying that Morris’ postseason ERA was 3.80.  His ERA during the regular season was 3.90.  So he was statistically just a little bit better in the playoffs, but when one adds in the fact that he was facing better competition, the postseason looks even better then it first appears, and it rightfully so.  But people want to remember the dominant Game 7 performance against the Braves in 91′ but choose to ignore the game 5 debacle in 92.’  Or they go back and look at the the eight starts he made in the postseason allowing three or fewer runs, but they might have overlooked the five times that he allowed four or more earned.  Selective memory is why Jack Morris is a "Hall of Famer" in a lot of people’s minds.  The Game 7 was ten innings of bliss for Twins fans, and the whole series in particular was more of the same.  Morris did not disappoint and was simply great in that seven game affair, one of the greatest World Series’ of all time.  But that is not enough. 

      Curt Schilling is the type of pitcher who deserves to get in to Cooperstown, but he isn’t as clear-cut as say Pedro Martinez, or Randy Johnson.  Schilling has an ERA+ of 127, far superior to Morris.’  And his postseason resume is even more impressive as well.  Schilling is 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA.  Morris was 6-1 with that 3.80 ERA that I mentioned.  And I know that Schilling is pitching in the era where he has had the chance to face "lowly" ALDS teams, but his ERA is still better in both LCS play and in World Series play.  By "lowly" I really meant that there is a chance that he was facing a few more inferior teams than that of Morris.  Seems logical, but would need to be researced more thoroughly to come to an accurate conclusion. 

     Browsing through the Hall of Fame pitchers I found that the lowest ERA+ among inductees was at 103, and that was the only one that fell below Morris’ 105.  It was Rube Marquard who finished his career in 1925.  No pitcher that has played in the last 82 years has fallen below or even tied what Morris displays in this category.  Morris tallied 2,478 strikeouts in his eighteen career, which is impressive and he falls in at 31st all time in that category.  But he comes in 251st in SO/9IP.  If one plays long enough, they can put up some pretty impressive numbers (See Nolan Ryan, great, but not the greatest as some seem to think). 

     Morris was somewhere between pretty good and good when one accounts for postseason performance.  But he was not great.  Great pitchers are what the Hall in Cooperstown is designed for.  The Bob Gibson’s, the Pedro’s, the Randy Johnson’s, the Greg Maddux’s, etc.  These are the players that should be represented in Cooperstown.  And a plaque for Morris’ ten inning’s of excellence in that memorable game 7 could be there too, so it will never be forgotten.  But Jack Morris himself should not be inducted into the Hall, he just was not good enough.      




  1. tswechtenberg@gmail.com

    i’ve never even heard of him so i’ll take your word for it.

    isn’t schilling as worthy as pedro?

  2. tswechtenberg@gmail.com

    hey if you didn’t check out the article on hardball about umpire’s strike zone you should check it out…it’s interesting

  3. Jason

    Joe, I have to disagree on a number of fronts with your post about Morris. Though I think it’s a fair question to wonder whether or not he’s worthy of the Hall of Fame, I think that a statistical analysis of Morris relying so heavily on “Adjusted ERA” ignores some things about him and his career. I’ll go ahead and say that I think he’s borderline Hall-of-Fame, and think that his getting in is (and rightfully has been) somewhat contingent upon who else is eligible. That to a degree speaks to his worthiness for the Hall, but his career deserves a bit more attention and treatment within a historical context.

    Morris was routinely overused by Sparky Anderson, starting 35 or more games eight times in his career, including 37 in back-to-back seasons (1982 and 1983) and 36 twice, including at the age of 35. He was also left in games very often, too often in fact, with Anderson not having a good bullpen to rely on often and overworking pitchers like Morris, Walt Terrell and Milt Wilcox. This resulted in Morris completing a remarkable 175 games in his career, in double digits in complete games 11 seasons, with a high of 20 in 1983. Note that in 1984, when the Tigers had an excellent bullpen, his complete games went down–DOWN–to 9. One could, and perhaps should, argue that Morris’s numbers were to a degree the result of questionable managing and overwork, particularly when he tired and experienced arm troubles later in his career.

    You also fail to take into account that his ERA bloated in the last few years of his career, when he posted ERAs of 6.19 with Toronto in 1993, 5.60 in 1994 with Cleveland–when he was 38 and 39 and with a tired arm–and a 4.86 ERA in 1989, when he was 6-14 and missed several weeks with injuries. While his ERA was never microscopic, his last few years ramped up his career ERA a good degree. From 1981 to 1988, Jack Morris was simply one of the best most reliable pitchers in the game, winning a World Series (which matters a lot to me), regularly posting over 235 IP per year with an ERA, except for 1982, that was usually well below 4.00, and routinely completing games. Though he didn’t win the Cy Young, he was in the top five three times during that stretch, and in the top three twice. He was also great in the playoffs in 1984 and 1991 all around, winning all three of his starts in 1984 and going 4-0 in five starts in 1991, winning three in the World Series alone. Guys who pitch a lot on the playoffs struggle in the playoffs at times. Clemens, Cone, Pettite and Wells all have, but they’ve also won and been very good more often. He had very few bad games in his playoff career, the other being in the 1987 ALCS. The guy was easily one of the best in his time, easily. Two bad starts out of 13 post-season starts is nitpicking.

    One knock on him was that he gave up too many homers, no doubt true especially as he lost a little off his fastball. But he developed a very good split-finger fastball late in his career that kept the homers down, the ball down, his ERA decent to good (in his good late years), and his wins up.

    I don’t have a problem with you question his credentials for the Hall. Yet it’s important to remember him in his time, in his own historical context, and the guy was much better than being between pretty good and good. He was usually excellent during his prime, which was most of the 1980s, and had a very good career. Any team then would have considered itself fortunate to have him.


  4. joseph

    Well stated as usual. But it is debatable as to whether or not the end of a players career, the downside to be more specific, should be credited against a player. We credit the player for doing well in the beginning and in his prime, but if he hangs around and hurts his team in the end then it can’t be ignored. And I am torn as to where I stand on that, but it definitely cannot be ignored.

    But I wasn’t nitpicking about the bad playoff performances, I was simply including them. His postseason numbers are not incredible (like Beckett, or Schilling incredible), and are much closer to his regular season numbers then one would think after hearing about his legacy.

    Also, players such as Clemens and the guys you mentioned will have more poor starts with the larger sample because it gives a more accurate sampling of a pitcher. Beckett wouldn’t have any place to go but down if he makes 15 more postseason starts in his career, unless there is an unlikely occurance, or if he is superhuman.

    And I used Adjusted ERA because it takes into account his time, league, ballpark.

  5. Jason

    Sorry I didn’t get a chance to respond earlier, Joe. I’ve been tied up with things. It’s a fair point about the end of career figures, and I agree. My point was just to say that his prime was actually very good, and the difficulties he had at the end of his career shouldn’t diminish that.

    I also agree with your earlier point about Morris’s great game in 1991, that it has probably disproportionately skewed people’s views of him, and there is both bad and good that they’ve missed. I don’t think Adjusted ERA is an invalid statistic. My point was that using that as a tool for cross-generational comparisons misses what he meant within his own time to a good degree.

    I’m not sure I follow the sentence at the beginning of your last paragraph in the response. It seems to be saying that the larger sampling is a justification for itself. I think what you said about Beckett, with which I agree, applies to Morris as well. He had a lot of playoff success that ended up going down because of literally a couple starts.

    I’m glad you’ve been writing a good amount in the off-season. I wish I had more time to do so, but I’ll try to keep it up. This Santana stuff is intriguing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s