Around this time last year, I went through and reviewed the case for a number of players for the Hall of Fame, and whether or not I thought that they deserved to be enshrined in the Hall. I’ll be doing this again this year, and for players I reviewed previously, I will revisit my vote and see if it has changed in a year’s time. Theoretically, this should remain the same, but there’s always a chance I am now a whole year wiser than I was last year. Today’s candidate is one that I looked at last year, Jack Morris
Morris was eligible for the Hall for the eleventh time in the 2010 class (2009), and you can find what I wrote last year below. He finished the voting last year with 282 votes out of a possible 539 ballots (52.3%). He’s been steadily gaining on 75%, and I’m wondering if he might get there before he hits his 15th year on the ballot.
Notable Career Accomplishments
3.90 career ERA
ERA+ of 105
175 complete games
20 win seasons – 3
World Series Championships – 3
The Case for Morris
The first thing I think of when I hear Jack Morris’ name is that he was the big game pitcher. You wanted him to start Game 1, and you wanted him for Game 7 as well. He pitched for 18 seasons, 14 of them with the Detroit Tigers. 254 wins, 175 complete games, 2478 strikeouts, and those 3 championships (1984, 1991, 1992) all portray him very well, especially the Game 7 10 inning shutout he threw to clinch the series victory in 1991.
The Case Against Morris
A career ERA+ (ERA adjusted against league average) of 105 tells us he was really only about 5% better than league average over the span of his career. A strikeout rate of 5.8 per 9 innings would hardly be considered dominant, as would having 186 losses as well. His 3.90 era over his career, while very good, seems high for a period in baseball where runs were not being scored at a rapid rate.
While his big game reputation and success in those games are definitely a strong point in his favor, I don’t think he was in enough of those types of games for that alone to warrant his selection. So I am forced to look at the rest of the body of his work. A 3.90 ERA and an ERA+ of 105 both cause me some concern. Both of these numbers tell me that he was an above-average pitcher, but not necessarily an elite one. Throw in his lower strikeout-per-9 inning rate, and it really shows me a pitcher who was not necessarily a dominant one.
This leaves me to look at his year-to-year statistics to see if he had prolonged periods of excellence. From 1983-1988, he had:
- an ERA under 3.40: 4 times
- 15 wins or more: 7 times
- 200 strikeouts: 3 times
- ERA+ of 120 or higher: 3 times
- 10+ complete games: 6 times
This appears to be the best sustained stretch of excellence that Morris had in his career, and while it is clear that he had a very good career, I’m not sold that he warrants selection into the Hall of Fame.
My Thoughts This Year
The biggest thing I have been looking at this year in addition to last year’s reviews are how a player fared in terms of WAR, and also in stats that compare them to their counterparts across eras, so ERA+ in the case of pitchers. Honestly, neither of these numbers really help to make a better case for Jack Morris. He finished with a 39.3 career WAR, and only 5 seasons with as much as a 4.0 WAR or higher. He also finished with a career ERA+ of 105, or slightly above league average. Morris seems like a pitcher whose real life achievements were better than his statistical ones, and really don’t help him enough in my opinion to warrant selection.
MY VOTE: NO
MY VOTE THIS YEAR: NO