Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gordon on Baseball: Jack Morris falls short of the Hall of Fame

By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
December 31, 2013, 11:00 p.m.
@Philabaseball

The battle between the old and new schools of baseball thinking on the candidacy of Jack Morris will come to an end on Wednesday when the Hall of Fame announces its inductees for 2014.  

On one hand, you have fans and writers clamoring in support of Morris because of his win total, durability, and unforgettable Game 7 performance in the 1991 World Series. On the other hand, you have fans and writers looking at things like Wins Above Replacement level and ERA+ to refute Morris's worthiness of enshrinement.

There is no right or wrong mindset and that's what makes the Hall of Fame interesting.

I'll admit though, I lean more to the new school wave of thought and I've written extensively about why Morris falls short of belonging in the Hall of Fame.

I believe the Hall of Fame is meant to be an exclusive group of baseball's best and I feel the lone way to determine greatness is through comparative analysis. The eye test simply isn't enough and given the advances in statistical analysis and sabermetrics, it's foolish to dismiss data that enhances our ability to compare and analyze a player.

Yet, writers like Murray Chass continually bash the use of advanced metrics in comparing players.

Think rationally for a second. If you were trying to solve a problem, wouldn't more data provide you with better information - and doesn't better information lead to better supportive and educated opinions?

I did this last year, but I went ahead again and studied Morris and how his statistics measure to those already in Cooperstown.

My overall finding was the same.

If there ever were a "Hall of Very Good", Morris would have my vote and no problem getting in. Cooperstown, however, is an entirely different story.

The metrics

I looked at four unique metrics while studying Morris: WAR7, JAWS, CPR, and WARpYR.

WAR7: Wins Above Replacement for the player's best seven years, looking at peak performance.

JAWS:  Created by Jay Jaffe as a metric to compare players to their enshrined peers in Cooperstown. The goal is to identify players with above-average JAWS for possible induction.

CPR: The number of wins and ERA are flawed. The number of wins of a pitcher can just reflect the fact that he pitches for a good offensive team. The ERA does measure the rate of a pitcher's efficiency, but it does not tell you about the actual benefit of this pitcher over an entire season. Career Pitching Runs measures the durability and dominance of a pitcher.

WARpYR: WAR per Year is simply the total career WAR of a player divided by the number of seasons played.  

Taking a closer look

There currently are 59 starting pitchers enshrined in Cooperstown, so let's assume Morris is elected and becomes the 60th, here's how his numbers would compare to starters already there:

  • Morris and his 32.8 WAR7 would rank 59th, ahead of Rube Marquard's 29.
  • Morris and his 38.4 JAWS would rank 56th, just ahead of Catfish Hunter (38.3), Lefty Gomez (37), Candy Cummings (36.4), and Rube Marquard (30.5).
  • Morris and his 82.9 CPR would rank 57th, ahead of Cummings, Hunter, and Marquard.
  • Morris and his 2.5 WARpYR would rank 57th, ahead of Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, and Marquard. 
To summarize, of the 60 starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame (if we were to include Morris) Morris would rank 59th, 56th, 57th, and 57th in the four categories studied - all of which are solid indicators of overall career success.

Together, these metrics demonstrate he falls short of belonging in the Hall of Fame. Great numbers, just not worthy of the exclusivity of Cooperstown.

For perspective, here's how Morris compares to the average starting pitcher in the Hall of Fame and some other starting pitchers that put together strong careers but fell short of election:


Whatever the outcome Wednesday, this is Morris's 15th and final year on the ballot, but it surely will not be the last time the two schools of baseball thought clash over the worthiness of a potential Hall of Famer.

- Patrick Gordon has covered Major League Baseball for more than a decade. His work has appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines across the country, including the Philadelphia Daily News and Baseball America.  

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