Editor’s note: This is the fifth installment of a daily series looking at players on the Modern Era Hall of Fame ballot, which will be voted on Dec. 10. We’ll look at the cases of all 10 people on the ballot and offer our takes on their candidacy.
Is it finally time for Jack Morris to get into the Hall of Fame? Or is it just time to repeat this debate again?
Morris, the longtime MLB workhorse and well-known postseason hero, is perhaps the most contentious players on the Modern Era Hall of Fame ballot, which gives some familiar names another chance at Cooperstown.
Through 15 seasons on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot, Morris tip-toed the line between Hall of Fame and Hall of Very Good. He inspired strong opinions on each side — even stronger than some of the other names that join him on the Modern Era ballot. The likes of Dale Murphy, Alan Trammell, Don Mattingly and Steve Garvey.
Now Morris gets a different look from a different electorate, since the Hall of Fame’s Era ballots are cast by a group of 16 Hall of Famers and veteran voters. They’re allowed to vote for up to four candidates of the 10 on the ballot. Twelve of the possible 16 ballots are needed for induction.
Will this group be more lenient to Morris, since he’s most likely from the their era? Will it be enough to look past a few places where his statistics are lacking? Or will Morris be disappointed again?
The issues around Morris’ candidacy haven’t really changed. His postseason success boosts his legacy. His longevity makes his career feel bigger. But he doesn’t really hit any magic numbers outside of 10 innings in Game 7. And the value-based stats don’t do him any favors.
So let’s examine his case a little further and see whether the Big League Stew writers give Morris their unofficial yay or nay.
LAST TIME ON THE BALLOT
As we said above, the Morris/Hall of Fame debate wasn’t too long ago. The last of his 15 years on the ballot was 2014, when he got 61.5 of the necessary 75 percent of the vote. That was actually the third-highest mark of his time on the writers’ ballot. Morris’ candidacy started low in 2000, hovering around 20 percent the first four years, but as time went on, more writers started to vote for him. By 2012, he’d reached 66.7 percent and the next year he peaked at 67.7 percent. That year, he fell 42 votes short of induction.
• Morris gets a boost for his postseason performance, which is headlined by one of the most famous Game 7s of all time. His 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series remains an indelible moment that helps Morris’ quest. Overall, he was 7-4 in the postseason with a 3.80 ERA.
• Longevity and his old-school approach might help Morris the most here, as a Hall of Fame veterans committee is more likely to put a stamp on those things than the increasingly analytics-based electorate. Morris pitched 3,824 innings over 18 seasons with 2,478 strikeouts (which rank 34th all-time), but the rest of his numbers don’t really stand out in any particular way.
• Veterans committee history is on Morris’ side here, as only one player to get more 60 percent on the writers’ ballot didn’t eventually get in via a Hall of Fame committee.
• Morris doesn’t have 300 wins, which would have been the easiest way to fast-lane his candidacy. His total of 254 wins put him 44th all time. It’s not bad, but 300 wins is a sure-fire way to cover a candidacy that might otherwise have holes in it.
• His 3.90 career ERA isn’t great and, if he were to get in, it would be the highest of any pitcher in the Hall.
• Value-based Hall of Fame stats don’t help Morris much either. According to JAWS — Jay Jaffe’s Hall of Fame assessment stat — Morris’ 38.4 is rather mundane. Among the people who rank higher: Brad Radke, Carlos Zambrano, Cliff Lee, David Wells, Jimmy Key and current players such as Max Scherzer, Cole Hamels, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. By Wins Above Replacement, Morris’ 44.1 ranks directly behind Bob Welch’s 44.2
Similarity Scores on Baseball-Reference.com give Morris a mixed bag. The most similar players are Dennis Martinez and Bartolo Colon, each of whom played a long time but don’t have sure-thing numbers to match their longevity. The next two similar players, however, are better: Andy Pettitte is third and Hall of Famer Bob Gibson is fourth.
OUR TAKES: SHOULD MORRIS BE IN THE HALL OF FAME?
NO: Morris’ performance early on was pretty strong, but once he hit 33, he put up some really bad seasons that hurt his argument. Yes, he had a resurgent 1991, but the fact that he finished fifth in Cy Young voting in 1992 despite a 4.04 ERA shows just how much the writers cared about traditional stats back in the day. His 105 ERA+ is lower than Tommy John’s, and John is a borderline candidate with better off the field factors. (Chris Cwik)
NO: I think what troubles me the most is that ERA. It’s near four and it would be the highest in the Hall of Fame, and a famous and fantastic postseason appearance isn’t enough to cancel that out in my view. Add to this that Morris falls short in various other places and I have a hard time seeing him as worthwhile. (Mike Oz)
NO: The win total doesn’t move me. He was a fine pitcher, but I can’t overlook some glaring issues with his stats. I’m just not willing to bend the standards because he was an “old school” pitcher. (Liz Roscher)
NO: Morris had some of the greatest highs we’ve seen for any individual pitcher, and he sustained his excellence for an extended period. Still, it feels like the standards would have to be slightly lowered to let him in. I wouldn’t be willing to do it, but I wouldn’t complain either if others were willing to do it. (Mark Townsend)
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