08 January 2004

Hall of Confusion


A very good column on your HoF ballot. You did a good job of presenting your arguments, though, as you might have guessed, I have a couple of bones to pick with your choices. I will try to be respectful as I point out what I believe are some of the holes in your arguments, and stick to what the numbers tell me.

#1 - Jim Rice. I understand that he was very good, but being young enough (29) not to have my opinion tainted by seeing him play, I can go to Baseball-Reference.com, look objectively at his numbers and admit that they are very good, but only borderline for a Hall of Famer. But then I can also visit Retrosheet and see his home/road splits and realize that he was helped a LOT by Fenway Park throughout his career. He hit .320/.374/.546 at home but only .277/.330/.459 on the road. I think you can’t vote for him for the same reason you likely won’t vote for Andres Galarraga (a better fielder with similar career numbers) or Larry Walker (a better fielder with better numbers). Their parks helped them too much.

#2 – Jack Morris. Sure he won more games than anyone else in the ‘80s, but that’s a confluence of circumstances more than anything, since he happened to come into his own just as the ‘70s were ending. Seaver, Palmer, Carlton, Sutton, Ryan, Niekro, Fernando, Guidry, Dave Stieb, and a bunch of other pitchers were as good as or better than Morris for most of the first half of his career and Clemens, Hersheiser, Cone, Gooden, Viola, Saberhagen, Dave Stewart, Mike Scott and others were comparable or better than Morris for most of the latter half of his career. No other pitchers of his quality or better happened to come up around the same time and last as long, but being the best of a weak era doesn’t make him one of the best of all time.

Morris really wasn’t the “ace” of any of the World Series teams for which he pitched. He led the ’84 Tigers, ’91 Twins and ’92 Blue Jays in innings, and led those Tigers and Jays in wins, but his ERA was over 4.00 in ’92, and there were two other pitchers on the Tigers with nearly as many wins as his 19. Tapani and Erickson both pitched better than Morris in 1991, Dan Petry was slightly better in ’84 and Jimmy Key and Juan Guzman were both better in 1992, though in fewer innings and with less run-support. It doesn’t necessarily mean he wasn’t the ace, but you really can’t just throw “clear #1 starter” out there uncontested, at least not in terms of performance.

His set of “peak seasons” is not really the 14 years you present. Though he won 41 more games than anyone else during said span, he had seasons in which he went 16-15, 17-16, 15-13, 15-18, and 6-14! That’s five seasons (out of 14) you could hardly call dominant. In six of those 14 seasons, his ERA was between 2% better and 22% worse than the park-adjusted league average, and another season (when he was the supposed “ace” of the World Series-winning ’84 Tigers, it was only 9% better. Those are seven hardly "peak" seasons.

Morris was helped by his teams’ success tremendously. From 1979-1990, when he was the preeminent starter for the Tigers, the only team that won more games in those 12 seasons was the Yankees. And he followed that up by pitching his swan song years for three World Series winners and a would-be Wild Card team, the 1994 Indians. Put him on the Cubs for most of that career and you can summarize his candidacy for Cooperstown in two words: What candidacy?

Sure, he pitched a 10-inning shutout in the 1991 Series, but his career postseason record was only 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA overall, including an 0-3 with a 7.43 ERA in the 1992 postseason. If you give him credit for coming through in the clutch, you’ve got to give him demerits for blowing it at other times. You can’t have it both ways.

#3 – Bert “Be Home” Blyleven. Besides having one of the best Bermanisms ever, this guy was a heck of a good pitcher. Blyleven’s ERA was better than the league and park-adjusted average in 16 of the 18 seasons in which h pitched enough to qualify for the ERA title. The man started pitching in the majors at 19, and was 37 years old before his adjusted ERA for a full season dropped more than 5% below the league average, and it had done that only once before. His adjusted career ERA (118) is better than Hall of Famers Robin Roberts, Gaylord Perry, Fergie Jenkins, Steve Carlton, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro, Early Wynn, and others, I’m sure.

Only twelve guys faced more batters in their careers, and they’re all in the Hall. Only four have ever struck out more of them, and they will all be in the Hall. In the 20th century, only Tommy John, who had the benefit of good teams and pitchers’ parks, has more wins and is not or will not likely be in the Hall, and he’s only got one more.

I just don’t see, based on what they did, not what their teams did around them, how Morris gets in while Blyleven doesn’t.

But that’s my opinion. If you haven’t already hit “Delete” thanks for reading.



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