Jack Morris: the winningest pitcher of the 1980s

The only two certainties in life are death and taxes.
—Mark Twain.

At times attributed to Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, and Christopher Bullock, the above quote isn’t exactly correct. One other certainty in life is that a sportswriter supporting Jack Morris for the Hall of Fame will ALWAYS mention two things about Morris: His 10-inning, complete-game, 1-0 shutout of the Braves in game seven of the 1991 World Series and that he won more games than any other pitcher during the 1980s.

This article supporting Jack Morris for the Hall of Fame mentions both, of course, even adding a little something extra: “Morris won more games than any pitcher during the 1980s. Every pitcher that won the most games in a given decade deep into history before that has been inducted into the Hall.” It’s the second part of that statement that sent me to Baseball-Reference’s Play Index.

Yes, it’s true, every “Winningest Pitcher of the ____s” before Morris is in the Hall of Fame. But is this important? Does anyone know who the winningest pitcher of the 1970s was? Or the 1960s? Or any decade before Morris? It seems that the only pitcher ever mentioned as the “Winningest Pitcher of the ____s” is Jack Morris. This is often a big part of the writer’s argument that Morris should be in the Hall of Fame.

With the “Winningest Pitcher of the ____s” in mind, I decided to look back at the men who hold this title for the previous nine decades to see how Morris compares.

Range Pitcher Decade Wins Decade WAR Decade WAR Rank Decade ERA+ Decade ERA+ Rank Career WAR Career WAR Rank Career ERA+ Career ERA+ Rank
The 1900s Christy Mathewson 236 61.1 2nd 142 4th 87.7 14th 137 11th
The 1910s Walter Johnson 265 90.8 1st 183 1st 127.7 3rd 147 3rd
The 1920s Burleigh Grimes 190 32.4 9th 112 18th 37.2 158th 108 170th
The 1930s Lefty Grove 199 69.4 1st 162 1st 98.3 7th 148 2nd
The 1940s Hal Newhouser 170 50 1st 138 1st 56.3 52nd 130 19th
The 1950s Warren Spahn 202 58.6 2nd 126 4th 93.4 11th 119 61st
The 1960s Juan Marichal 191 56.7 2nd 136 2nd 64 37th 123 37th
The 1970s Jim Palmer 186 52.5 5th 137 2nd 63.5 39th 126 29th
The 1980s Jack Morris 162 27.9 12th 109 13th 39.3 141st 105 219th

Yikes! Two of these guys clearly do not belong with the others—Burleigh Grimes and Jack Morris. Most of the other “Winningest Pitchers of the ____s” are among the best pitchers in the history of baseball (Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove) and are more than worthy Hall of Fame pitchers. Every pitcher except Grimes and Morris not only led the decade in wins, but were also among the top five in WAR and ERA+ for that decade. Grimes and Morris, despite leading their respective decades in wins, do not come close to the others in WAR and ERA+. Let’s take a closer look:

Christy Mathewson—Winningest Pitcher of the 00s—From 1900 to 1909, Mathewson won the most games, had the second-highest WAR, and the fourth-best ERA+ of pitchers with more than 1000 innings pitched. In addition, Mathewson won 373 games over 17 seasons with a career ERA+ of 137, good for 11th all-time among pitchers with a minimum of 2000 innings pitched. He is 14th in career WAR. Mathewson was among the inaugural inductees to the Hall of Fame in 1936, getting 90.7% of the vote and joining Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Walter Johnson in that first class. He’s a slam-dunk Hall of Fame pitcher, regardless of his status as the winningest pitcher of the 00s. That he won more games than any other pitcher from 1900 to 1909 is incidental to his Hall of Fame credentials.

Walter Johnson—Winningest Pitcher of the 10s—From 1910 to 1919, Johnson won 265 games and accumulated 90.8 WAR with an ERA+ of 183, leading all pitchers in each category. Johnson is in the running for greatest pitcher of all time. He won 416 games with an ERA+ of 147. He is 3rd in career WAR and career ERA+. Of all the “Winningest Pitchers of the ____s” on this list, he’s the best. Johnson, like Mathewson, was part of the first class of honorees at the Hall of Fame in 1936.

Burleigh Grimes—Winningest Pitcher of the 20s—Ack! Grimes is the most-comparable pitcher on this list to Jack Morris and he clearly does not rank with the other Hall of Fame pitchers listed here. While he did win the most games of any pitcher during the 1920s, Grimes was 9th in WAR for the decade and 18th in ERA+. His rank in career WAR is 158th. His career ERA+ is 170th. In his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame (1937), Grimes got 0.5 percent of the vote. He received votes in 10 Hall of Fame elections over the next 18 years and never received more than 6 percent of the vote. In 1956, more than 20 years after he’d been retired, Grimes started to gain some traction in Hall of Fame voting when his total increased from 1.2 to 13 percent. Two years later, he was up to 26.7 percent. In 1960, he peaked at 34.2 percent, then dropped back down to 26.9 percent in 1962. He was not elected by the BBWAA but did get into the Hall of Fame in 1964 thanks to the Veteran’s Committee. By most measures, Grimes is among the worst starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame, and possibly THE worst.

Lefty Grove—Winningest Pitcher of the 30s—Grove, like Walter Johnson, has a case as the greatest pitcher of all time. He won exactly 300 games in his career but that total would have been much higher if his debut in the major leagues hadn’t been delayed. Grove won over 100 games for the independently-operated minor league Baltimore Orioles before owner Jack Dunn finally sold his rights to the Philadelphia Athletics, so Grove didn’t pitch in the major leagues until he was 25 years old. In the 1930s, Grove won the most games, accumulated the most WAR, and had the best ERA+ of any pitcher. For his career, Grove is 7th all time in WAR and 2nd in ERA+. He doesn’t need the title of “Winningest Pitcher of the 30s” to seal his Hall of Fame case.

Hal Newhouser—Winningest Pitcher of the 40s—like Grove, Newhouser led his decade in wins, WAR, and ERA+. Unlike Grove, Newhouser is not among the “inner circle” of Hall of Fame pitchers. Newhouser had fewer wins (207) than many Hall of Fame starting pitchers and he got the bulk of those wins in just seven seasons. From 1944 to 1950, Newhouser won 151 games with an ERA+ of 145. He won 80 games over a three-year stretch from 1944 to 1946, when he won back-to-back MVP awards and finished 2nd the third year. In the five years before and after that stretch, Newhouser never won more than 9 games. For his career, Newhouser ranks 52nd in WAR and 19th in ERA+. In 12 years on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, Newhouser was generally in the 20 percent range, peaking at 42.8 percent in 1975, the last year he was eligible. His induction to the Hall of Fame came by way of the Veteran’s Committee in 1992. His place in the Hall of Fame is almost entirely due to his excellent stretch of pitching from ’44 to ’50.

Warren Spahn—Winningest Pitcher of the 50s—Spahn doesn’t have the peak of Grove or Newhouser, but he had a longer career than either and finished with 363 wins. During the 1950s, Spahn had 202 wins, was second in WAR and fourth in ERA+. In his career, Spahn was 11th all time in WAR, but just 61st in ERA+, which ranks him just below Bob Lemon and above Bert Blyleven. Spahn was selected to the HOF in his first year of eligibility in 1973 by the BBWAA, with 83.2% of the vote.

Juan Marichal—Winningest Pitcher of the 60s—Marichal finished second to Bob Gibson in WAR for the decade and second to Sandy Koufax in ERA+. By Hall of Fame standards, Marichal had a relatively short career (16 seasons) and low number of wins (243). The bulk of his career came in 13 years between 1961 and 1973 and he was effectively done as a major league pitcher at the age of 36. Marichal finished his career with 64 WAR, good for 37th all time, and an ERA+ of 123, also 37th all time. It took him three years to be elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA, going from 58.1 percent of the vote to 73.5 percent to 83.7 percent, gaining entry in 1983.

Jim Palmer—Winningest Pitcher of the 70s—Palmer is similar to Marichal. While he did win more games than any other pitcher during the 1970s, he did not lead in WAR or ERA+, finished fifth in WAR and second in ERA+ for the decade. In his career, Palmer had 63.5 WAR, good for 39th place, two spots behind Marichal. He did outdo Marichal in ERA+, finishing at 126 and 29th place all time. Palmer was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1990, his first year on the ballot, getting 92.6% of the vote.

Jack Morris—Winningest Pitcher of the 80s—Now we get to the main man, Jack Morris. All of the pitchers above, except for Burleigh Grimes, not only led their decade in wins, but also finished among the top five in WAR and ERA+ for their decade. These “Winningest Pitchers of the ____s” include three pitchers among the top 15 in career WAR, two others in the top forty, one ranked 52nd in career WAR . . . and Burleigh Grimes, ranked 158th. Back to Morris. During the 1980s, Jack Morris won more games than any other pitcher. He was also 12th in WAR for the decade and 13th in ERA+. The pitchers who had similar value to Morris in the 80s include John Tudor, Bret Saberhagen, Charlie Hough, and Mario Soto. None of those pitchers have sportswriters banging a drum for their Hall of Fame candidacy. In his career, Morris had 39.3 WAR, good for 141st all time, just behind Javier Vazquez and a bit ahead of Al Leiter. His ERA+ is even worse—105, which ranks him 219th, in the company of Tim Wakefield and Ken Holtzman.

When it comes to “Winningest Pitchers of the ____s,” Jack Morris is much closer to Burleigh Grimes than any other pitcher on this list. Grimes, as mentioned above, may be the worst starting pitcher in the Hall of Fame. Every pitcher on this list, except Grimes, has a legitimate Hall of Fame case that does not rest on their status of having won more games than any other pitcher during a specified number of years.

If you can’t build a Hall of Fame case for Jack Morris based on traditional metrics, such as wins or ERA (42nd and 326th all time), and you can’t build one on advanced metrics likes career WAR or ERA+ (141st and 219th all time), then you have to build it on one great World Series victory and a mantra, “Winningest Pitcher of the 1980s.” That mantra falls apart upon closer inspection. Jack Morris does not belong in a group that includes Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, or Lefty Grove. He does not belong in a group that includes Warren Spahn, Juan Marichal, and Jim Palmer. He can keep company with Burleigh Grimes, but that does not make him a Hall of Fame pitcher.

Looking Ahead

Range Pitcher Decade Wins Decade WAR Decade WAR Rank Decade ERA+ Decade ERA+ Rank Career WAR Career WAR Rank Career ERA+ Career ERA+ Rank
The 1990s Greg Maddux 176 61.1 2nd 162 1st 96.8 8th 132 17th
The 2000s Andy Pettitte 148 26.8 17th 115 15th 49.9 78th 117 71st

That being said, Morris is on the cusp of entry. He became eligible in 2000 and sat in the 20 percent range for the first five years on the ballot. In year six, he gained 7 percent, up to 33.3 percent. After eight years on the ballot, he was up to 37.1 percent. After 10 years, he was at 44 percent. He made another jump in 2010, held steady in 2011, then made his biggest leap yet in 2012, up to 66.7 percent. He’s close. If he does make it, then the narrative can continue, even if it is misleading.

As quoted above, “Every pitcher that won the most games in a given decade deep into history before that has been inducted into the Hall.” Morris has a good chance of continuing this trend. If he does, the next “Winningest Pitcher of the ____s” is a no-brainer Hall of Famer—Greg Maddux. We likely won’t repeatedly hear that Maddux won more games in the 90s than any other pitcher because his accomplishments don’t need that piece of trivia to uphold his candidacy. Maddux won 355 games. He’s eighth all time in WAR and 17th in ERA+. His credentials are beyond reproach.

After Maddux, though, comes another questionable Hall of Fame candidate—Andy Pettitte. Andy Pettitte won more games than any other pitcher from 2000 to 2009, just like Jack Morris and Burleigh Grimes in their respective decades. Also like Morris and Grimes, Pettitte was nowhere near the best pitcher of the decade. In fact, he was 17th in WAR and 15th in ERA+ from 2000 to 2009, marks even worse than Jack Morris in the 80s. For his career, Pettitte is 78th in WAR and 71st in ERA+.

Still, in a few years, when Andy Pettitte hits the ballot and his career accomplishments do not make him a slam-dunk Hall of Fame pitcher, get ready to hear that Andy Pettitte won more games than any other pitcher in the 00s. There will be sportswriters who will use it to support his candidacy, but that piece of trivia shouldn’t make him a Hall of Fame pitcher. It shouldn’t work for Jack Morris either.

References & Resources
WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and ERA+ are from Baseball-Reference. ERA+ or ERA plus adjusts a pitcher’s earned run average (ERA) according to the pitcher’s ballpark and the ERA of the pitcher’s league. Average ERA+ is set to be 100; a score above 100 indicates that the pitcher performed better than average, below 100 indicates worse than average.

For the Decade ERA+ Rankings, I used a minimum of 1000 innings pitched.

For the Career ERA+ Rankings, I used a minimum of 2000 innings pitched.

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  1. Ctwink said...

    Great, great article – up to the point of all the hyperbole on Burleigh Grimes being “possibly THE worst” pitcher in the HOF.

    Although pedestrian as compared to other HOFers, he isn’t any worse than Red Ruffing, Early Wynn, Red Faber, Ted Lyons, Waite Hoyt, Vic Willis, Eppa Rixey or other similar pitchers that are also in the HOF.  I think you could have easily made your point by saying that he has more in common with Jack Morris than simply being another “winningest pitcher of decade”, by doing a simple comparison in stats, or by stating that Grimes’ modern comps are Tommy John and Dennis Martinez – good, rock-solid pitchers, but clearly not HOF worthy.

    Leave the over-the-top writing to the political writers…

  2. Connor said...

    I’d be interested in a rundown of the winningest pitchers of every 10 year stretch during Morris’ career (i.e. 77-86, 78-87, 79-88, etc.) and see how often his name comes up.

  3. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    I understand all the statistical reasons against Morris.

    I’ve always been a Morris supporter for emotional reasons and I am always the first to admit that my support is somewhat hypocritical. (I was a Blyleven supporter citing the overemphasis on wins keeping him out and Sutton in, yet do the same thing with Morris… I’m more Two Faced than Harvey Dent!)

    Yet you made a point that gave me an “Alec Guiness in Bridge on the River Kwai” moment where I am thinking “What have I done?” with my Morris support.

    Pointing out that Pettitte, who should only be in the Hall of Fame if he buys a ticket, has the same argument as Morris: Most wins of the decade and big post season performances.

    Terrific article.

    That being said, I still always will love Jack Morris.

  4. Marc Schneider said...

    One of the things that makes wins more misleading these days is pitcher usage.  When Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Spahn, and Marichal pitched, they were likely to go the entire game or even into extra innings so the chances of picking up more wins was better.  Today, few pitchers, even the best, go more than 7 on a regular basis and often are not in at the end of close games.  Morris pitched on teams that could hit and he did put up a lot of innings so his win totals are better.  Believe me, Maddux got many no decisions in games that he might have won if pitchers were used as there were in days of yore.  So, it seems to me that win totals were a better indicator of pitcher quality, say pre-1970, than they are now. 

    Having said that, I think the anti-Morris bashing in response to his supporters has gotten out of hand.  He was a very good pitcher even if not deserving of the Hall of Fame.  Sometimes people act as if he was the worst pitcher ever.  Also, while win totals are certainly misleading, they aren’t completely worthless, at least over a long period of time.  Granted, Morris being the winningest pitcher of the decade doesn’t mean he is HOF-worthy, but it couldn’t have been all luck.

  5. laketrout said...

    “BobDD said…
    only those 2 accomplishments? 
    You left out the ‘stache and the glassy-eyed stare”

    Don’t forget the point that “he pitched to the score” to explain his poor metrics.

  6. elwin said...

    Decades are arbitrary start and end points. I think if you looked at all 10-year periods (ie. 80-89, 81-90, etc.) you would find guys like Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, and Greg Maddux lead several 10 year periods while Burleigh Grimes and Jack Morris probably only led a couple.

  7. bucdaddy said...

    If Morris’ supporters get to use wins to bolster their argument, shouldn’t they also be forced to use losses and winning percentage?

    Jack Morris 254-186 .577
    Andy Pettitte 240-138 .635

  8. Michael said...

    C’mon now, Pettitte is a borderline candidate, but is miles ahead of Morris.
    Also, agree with Ctwink, Grimes is not the worst pitcher in the Hall.
    And like Connor and Elwin, I would like to see a look at all ten year periods.

  9. David P. Stokes said...

    Bucdaddy, I think we can say that, however undeserving he may be, Morris will is likely to be voted into the Hall someday.  And after he is, the fact that Andy Pettitte has a higher winning percentage and is more games above .500 (and not by a small margin on either) will be used to bolster Pettitte as a candidate.

  10. Chris G said...

    Pettite will get in the hall of fame because after Morris gets in, people will say, “Look at Morris.  Pettite was better than him.  Can’t keep him out.”

  11. elwin said...

    I used the B-R play index to find the leader for every 10 year period starting with 1900-1909.

    I was wrong, Morris lead 6 periods and Grimes lead 5. However, if you look at winning percentage they were both below the average of the group as a whole by 50 points.

  12. Paul Yamada said...

    Look at the winning percentage, WAR and others stats for Nolan Ryan. Pretty mediocre. On another point, who does the writer think are the best pitchers from 1980 to 1995? That might make this more fair and more interesting. I lived in DC then and saw Morris in Baltimore several times. He was the kind of pitcher who really hung in there. I saw him give up 5 runs to the O’s without getting an out, and he went 8 innings and won the game 6-5. I think that might be why some people would vote for him.

  13. bucdaddy said...

    Just for comparison’s sake, Sandy Koufax’s winning percentage is .655 (which, by coincidence, is Pettitte’s winning percentage IN THE PLAYOFFS/WORLD SERIES; he was BETTER in the postseason). By W/L, Pettitte is closer to being Koufax than to being Morris. And just to be clear, I think Pettitte is a VERY borderline HoF case, more likely to get in because of his association with the Yankees than any true HoF merit. So no, I don’t think much of Morris.

  14. John Proulx said...

    Thanks for that, Elwin. Although I’m by no means a Morris supporter, it’s very interesting that among the pitchers on your list, the only ones other than Morris who are both eligible and not yet in the Hall are Paul Derringer (once) and Bucky Walters (four-year stretch). Walters was definitely a better pitcher than Morris. Derringer may have been, and he’s the closest comp to Morris on the list as far as ERA+ (108 vs. 105) and WAR (35.5 vs. 39.3). I’d probably say it’s between those two for worst pitcher to ever have the most wins in a 10-year span.

  15. elwin said...

    Paul, I would say 1980-1995 is not a good range. Because you’re getting into peak years of pitchers of the next generation (Maddux, Clemens, etc.)

    To look at Morris’ peers perhaps we could look at guys he could have gone to high school with. He was born in 1955. So we’d be looking at players born from 1952 to 1958. The only Hall of Famer (and the only one with a real case) is Dennis Eckersley.

    If you expand it to guys he could have been in elementary school with (1950 to 1960) you add Bert Blyleven.

    Morris was simply a good-but-not-great pitcher from a generation that didn’t produce many great pitchers.

  16. Steve I said...

    Paul -
    Ryan got in despite the winning percentage, WAR, and other stats because he had other things to sell: 300 wins, 5000 strikeouts, the seven no-hitters.  I’m not arguing Ryan should be in, I’m saying Morris’s “most wins of the decade” & “WS shutout” don’t have the luster of those additional accomplishments, even though he was a good pitcher.

    Also, Morris isn’t competing with the best pitchers from 1980-1995: he’s competing with the best pitchers on the HoF ballet (and the other players as well).  As long as Blyleven was on the ballot, Morris was never better than second among pitchers (and usually around 5th), and he was usually about 15th-ranked overall.

  17. Jim G. said...

    The thing about Morris is that he had a some poor years even in his prime. 1982 and 1989 in particular. Also, pitching in Tiger Stadium all those years certainly led to bloated HRA numbers, which in turn affect the ERA. And he pitched for some pretty poor Tiger teams. Something that Pettite never had to suffer through with the Yankees. I’m not down on Pettite, but I don’t think he’s a fair comparison.
    Morris also took a looong time to mature. His temper often got the best of him. It was until ‘83 before he started to gain control. That was his 7th year in the bigs. (Which also coincided with learning the split-finger fastball from pitching coach Roger Craig.)
    He was durable, pitched to the score, struck out a lot of batters, and would win the “big” games, but his statistics just don’t grab you when considering the Hall of Fame. I’ll be happy if he makes it, but I don’t think it’s any travesty if he doesn’t.

  18. Clark Addison said...

    to further elwin’s point:
    “Morris was simply a good-but-not-great pitcher from a generation that didn’t produce many great pitchers.”

    The best pitchers from that era either got burned out too early: (Gooden, Saberhagen, Fernando, Hershiser)

    Retired before they got enough counting stats to be a Don Sutton/Tommy John borderline guy: (Cone, Stieb, Tudor)

    or just didn’t have enough peak years for a Koufax case (Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Frank Viola)

    Sometimes these gaps happen.  Guys like Sutton, John, Seaver, Blyleven and Kaat (all of whom were better than the names above, IMO) stayed active until the 80’s, and by the time the Clemens/Maddux/Glavine train had left the station in the late 80’s, we had a 5-6 year gap of guys who weren’t as good as the last group of old-timers, and couldn’t live up to following generation, made worse in the 90’s by the additions of Pedro, Big Unit, Smoltz, Mussina and Schilling who all have more compelling HOF cases than the three best SP cases of the 80’s: Jack Morris, Orel Hershiser (It’s the SAME argument as Jack Morris, except he had a better peak) and Saberhagen.

  19. Dave Studeman said...

    He was durable, pitched to the score…

    A number of people have looked for evidence that he pitched to the score, but haven’t found any.

  20. MikeS said...

    Interestingly, Maddux won 134 in the 2000’s despite not pitching in 2009.  In 2008 he was 8 – 13 in a 2.1 WAR season with an ERA- of 106, so fairly average.  Had he played for a team with a big offense and hung on through 2009 he might have picked up 15 wins and been the most winningest pitcher of 2 decades.

    Or, he won 19 games each in 1989 and 1999.  Start and end his career one year late, shift everything one year forward and he does it that way too.

  21. AndrewJ said...

    Burleigh Grimes also got into Cooperstown on the notoriety of being the last-active legal spitball pitcher.

    As for the worst starting pitcher in the Hall, my choice is Rube Marquard, whose election rested upon his 19-game winning streak in 1912, his playing for John McGraw alongside Christy Mathewson, and his appearance in The Glory of Their Times, which presumably was read by everyone on the Veterans Committee.

  22. Ctwink said...

    Maybe we should start using the term “least deserving” to be in the HOF as “worst pitcher in the HOF” implies that the pitcher sucked.  Rube Marquard was a fabulous pitcher who, from an apparent combination of hard living and injuries, saw an early end to his dominance.  He isn’t “the worst” anything.  He was all-world in 1911 and was great in 1912 & 1913.  He was obviously hurt after 1914 and an argument can be made that he was hurt following 1911, as evidenced by his dramatic drop in K/9.  He then came back and was a servicable major league starter 7 out of 10 seasons between 1916 & 1925.  Heck he had an ERA+ of 169 in 1916!  But is all this HOF worthy?  No.  He was pretty good though…

  23. John DiFool said...

    Actually I think he DOES belong with Palmer more than most of the others.  Palmer probably more than just about any HoF pitcher benefited incredibly from his defense (a .251 BABIP-or .249 at Fangraphs-for someone who didn’t throw much in the dead ball 1960’s, is preposterous.  Koufax was at .259 for comparison.).  They had similar K/W data (Morris 5.8/3.3, Palmer 5.0/3.0); Palmer rates the edge because he controlled the long ball despite being a flyball pitcher in a home run park, tho Morris wasn’t a slouch either.  They both got generous amounts of run support as well.

    If Jim Palmer comes up with the Cubs and not the Orioles, he would be remembered, if he is at all, as a somewhat above mediocre 150 game winning starter, easily outclassed by his teammate Fergie Jenkins.

  24. BobDD said...

    Sorry, that won’t do.  Morris had more than 1 baserunners-per-nine higher than Palmer, and Palmer’s lead in RSAA is 314 – 78.  Morris was a very good pitcher, but not in Palmer’s class.

  25. Paul Yamada said...

    I hoped that my comments would bring the kinds of responses that posted sunsequently. I would quite agree with the Sullivan comments. And now there are other things to consider. The period(s) under consideration for someone like Morris can be argued and should be, but more important, what kind of recognition do very good pitchers deserve, especially during a period when there are not any decisively GREAT pitchers? What does it mean to be one of the best pitchers at that time, like, say Dwight Gooden? Or Orel Hershiser? Do they get ignored? Do they deserve HOF consideration and perhaps election? The HOF is indeed a mess and it will always be, but people who follow the sport ought ot ask difficult questions that frankly the BBWoA seem too stupid and self absorbed to even consider, much less ask. I do not think there are any unequivocal answers, so examples and discussion and disagreement are important. “The game”, as we like to call it is fluid and constantly changing and considerations of importance and performance need to change as well. This is the kind of “stance” I would advocate, as well as intelligent, well researched and thought out explications of careers.

  26. bucdaddy said...


    And even if he did “pitch to the score,” what’s so noble about winning a lot of 6-5, 7-6 games? Means the team behind you had enough offense to put up six or seven runs, is all.

  27. Paul G. said...

    The other pitcher that gets bandied about as the worst pitcher in the HOF is Jesse Haines.  He’s was one of Frankie Frisch’s teammates….

    It is interesting to compare Jack Morris to Jamie Moyer.  The career numbers are comparable, though Moyer spread it out quite a bit more.

  28. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    I am sure most pitchers would prefer to win pitching to the scoreboard than lose like Harvey Haddix did that night.

    Just saying

  29. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    I think Clark Addison makes a great point.
    There were some great pitchers who not only had dominating seasons but were electrifying, had awesome numbers and came up big in the post season during Morris’ prime.

    The problem is Fernando (who was amazing when he emerged) Gooden (who was so great his first few years) Saberhagen (by age 25 had two Cy Youngs and was a World Series hero) and Hershiser (I don’t care what numbers you throw at me, his last few months in 1988 were the best I’ve ever seen as a pitcher) didn’t have the Hall of Fame careers.

    If one or two of them had prolonged their dominance into the mid 1990s, then chances are Jack Morris would have been looked at as a fan favorite with some good post season highlights and his Hall of Fame candidacy wouldn’t have this momentum

  30. John DiFool said...

    “Sorry, that won’t do.  Morris had more than 1 baserunners-per-nine higher than Palmer, and Palmer’s lead in RSAA is 314 – 78.  Morris was a very good pitcher, but not in Palmer’s class.”

    Exactly-that BR/9 is almost completely due to the defense (tho Detroit’s wasn’t exactly horrible, but Baltimore’s of the 70’s was arguably the best ever), as then would be the RSAA (tho as I said the HR rate also makes up part of that).

  31. Clark Addison said...

    @Elwin/PaulY/PFS (Wish we could thread out…)

    Of course they deserve due scrutiny and consideration, but if it’s accepted that there are sudden unexplained talent gluts at a position at various eras in baseball… (e.g.: Mantle,  Mays, Snider playing at the same time in NYC at CF.  That’s two of the Top 5 CFs and an arguable Top 10/First base from Bagwell/Thomas to right now)

    …then it also must stand to reason that there are occasional positional droughts (do you see any active HoF catchers?)

  32. zubin said...

    I think Morris is a near lock to make the Hall eventually fo a couple of reasons:

    1) He has gotten close with the BBWAA.  Historically the Vet’s Committee (or whatever else it has been called) has elected guys who have gotten over 50% of the vote or so.

    2) If Morris doesn’t get in, which pitcher “represents” the 1980s?  Historically, the HoF has elected at least one player from each league for each position for any given time period.  The only exception that I can think of is the 1880s AA.

  33. Clark Addison said...

    @ Zubin

    Well, under normal circumstances, I would say that Clemens was join to be the pitcher “representing” the ‘80s. 

    But now, RC may create more backlash, helping Morris (who played clean, dadgummit)

  34. Zubin said...

    Clemens started in 1984.  That leaves a sizable gap between him and the debut of the last HoF starting pitcher, Bert Blyleven in 1970.  I think the hall will fill that gap eventually and I doubt there is a better candidate than Morris.

  35. David said...

    Dave Stieb is a much, much better candidate than Morris who debuted between Blyleven and Clemens.  Dennis Martinez is an equally good candidate.  Frank Tanana debuted between Blyleven and Clemens, and is a better candidate than Morris.  Ron Guidry also debuted in the timeframe, as did Orel Hershiser.  Any of them is a better candidate than Morris.

    Frankly, I don’t care either way about Morris’ induction.  Whatever.  The Hall has inducted worse players (though I don’t know that the BBWAA has).  What’s sad about it is how polarizing the debate has become, and how good baseball fans only say bad things about Jack Morris, who was a wonderful pitcher and had the kind of career most of us grow up dreaming about having.  Kudos to Morris on a wonderful career, I say.  If people want him in the Hall, fine.  It’s just too bad that the many pitchers better than he won’t get the chance, as well.

  36. Marc Schneider said...

    David’s comment hits it right on the head.  The debate between traditionalists and advanced stats people has become another red state/blue state divide.  It’s gotten hard to simply enjoy the game because people have become obsessed with understanding it the “right” way.  Morris was a good pitcher who probably shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame but, if he is, so what?

  37. BobDD said...

    Blyleven to Clemens is only one letter – and M does not come between them so no gap to force an inferior pitcher where he doesn’t belong.  Represent the 80’s, sheesh.

  38. BobDD said...

    red state/blue state?

    I would say that to anyone that can say ‘meh’ about it like you would actually have less import in the debate about whether it is important to have the hall as good as we can make it.  I understand that there are people out there who know the game as well as I do that believe Morris should be in and I want to be free to argue that point in good faith – I mean this is fun! Right?  This debate? 

    Well then, I resent a bit that someone who doesn’t care much one way or the other would try to get me to care less – but that’s a battle I’ll not give in to you on – I do care and love and enjoy that I do.  I hope it’s as fun for you guys who don’t care that much, and I’m sorry if it isn’t.

  39. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    Let me tell you, we will be nostalgic for the Jack Morris debate when Bonds/Clemens/Sosa are on the ballot!

  40. zubin said...


    My comments were not meant to be an argument for why Morris should be elected, but were an explanation of why he will be elected.  Guidry, Hershiser or Tanana may be better candidates, but none has the momentum or backing that Morris has.

    I think the BBWAA has inducted a worse pitcher, Catfish Hunter.

  41. JWB said...

    Most wins in a particular decade is nice as it evaluates dominance over an extended time period compared to peers, but it is flawed because it is biased depending on if the career peaks mid-decade or at the change of decades. This is easy to address by just doing the same calculation over every 10 year period and counting how many ten year periods a particular pitcher wins.

    I started to do this for the recent 10 year periods and I already found something interesting. Pettitte does win the particular 10 year period from 2000-2009 , but slide the calculation one year either way and he doesn’t win. Halladay and Sabathia finish first and second the next four 10 year periods, and Maddux and Johnson finish first and second the three 10 year periods before the 00 decade. Pettitte is lucky that he won his ten year period right when it would be an arbitrary ten years that match one of the “decades”. The continuous first or seconds by Hallladay, Sabathia, Maddux, and Johnson is more impressive but didn’t fall on the particular 10 years defined as a decade so won’t be discussed.

    I have yet to go back far enough to see whether Jack Morris wins a decade like Pettitte did or more like Maddux. I suspect he will win or finish second for more than just 1980-1989 because of strong seasons in the early 90’s like 1992. I would like to see this calculation done and see how many 10 year periods he won and how it stacks up against how many times various hall of fame pitchers have won 10 year periods. You just can’t pick one 10 year period out of ten possible ones to celebrate if you want a fair statistic. Once you remove that flaw the test does become a powerful metric.

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