Hall of Fame Ballot Review – Jack Morris

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.

Player Profile on Baseball Reference.com

Notable Career Accomplishments
254-186 record
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.


One response to “Hall of Fame Ballot Review – Jack Morris

  1. Great stuff, as usual thought provoking. Think though it should be 1982, not ’83, to 1988 on Jack Morris.

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