Blue Jays spring training

A look at the Toronto Blue Jays as they prepare for the 2013 baseball season.

Picks: USC-Vanderbilt, Baylor-Wisconsin and the Weekend's Intriguing Tournaments

The season’s second weekend brings our first batch of tournaments, the highlight of the schedule over the next few days. For the second straight week, we’re extending our weekend preview to an extra day because there are two games that are simply too great to ignore taking place on a national stage on Monday night.

Virginia at VCU

Friday, 4 p.m., CBS Sports Network

This could be a season of retooling for both programs, so it will be interesting to see where they stand, relative to one another, this weekend. VCU has shown a desire to speed up games early in the season, but it’ll be a lot harder to do that against Virginia than it was against Grambling State and North Florida. Keep an eye on Kyle Guy, who didn’t commit a turnover in the first two games. If the Cavaliers are going to stand a chance among the heavy-hitters in the ACC this season, Guy will need to take a major step forward.

Virginia 67, VCU 58

Fresno State at Arkansas

Friday, 8 p.m., SEC Network

This is Arkansas’s final tuneup before the loaded Phil Knight Classic, which features, among others, Michigan State, North Carolina, Florida and Gonzaga. Jaylen Barford is off to a strong start this season, scoring 43 points in the Razorbacks’ first two games, and his scoring will have to remain in peak form for them to make some noise over Thanksgiving week. The Bulldogs will be a player in the Mountain West, and this is a good opportunity to see exactly where they stand early in the season. Unfortunately, it’s also one of two quality non-conference games, with the other coming against Oregon next month.

Arkansas 78, Fresno State 66

Princeton at St. Joseph’s

Saturday, 7 p.m.

Princeton is doing a good job of challenging itself early, playing Butler, BYU and now Saint Joseph’s to start the season. This will serve the Tigers well once they get into conference play, where they’ll be battling Yale as the co-favorites in the Ivy League. This is also an important game for a St. Joseph’s program that missed the tournament last year and has been to the dance just three times in the last decade. Phil Martelli’s squad started the season with an ugly road loss at Toledo and likely won’t be able to afford too many sub-100-RPI losses.

Saint Joseph’s 71, Princeton 65

Bucknell at Maryland

Saturday, 8:30 p.m.

How about a tip of the cap to Nathan Davis and the Bison? They scheduled up to start the season, with Saturday’s game in College Park already their third road game against a power conference foe, having already visited Arkansas and North Carolina. The Bison, which nearly knocked off West Virginia in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament, are once again the favorite in the Patriot League, led by senior Nana Foulland. Maryland is coming off an impressive home win over Butler, a game in which sophomore Anthony Cowan scored 25 points. This should be a better game than expected, but in the end it’ll be too much offense from the Terrapins.

Maryland 87, Bucknell 73

?

UT-Arlington at BYU

Saturday, 9:30 p.m.

BYU is used to being the stepchild in the West Coast Conference, and that’s its role again this season—all that has changed is the favored sibling, with Saint Mary’s vaulting Gonzaga. If the Cougars have any chance of powering their way into the discussion, they will have to field one of the most explosive, efficient offenses in the league and score on any and all quality foes, including UT-Arlington.

BYU 84, UT-Arlington 72

No. 10 USC at Vanderbilt

Sunday, 8 p.m., SEC Network

This is my favorite game of the weekend. The Trojans have a chance to be truly special this season, and it’s encouraging to see them take a legitimate non-conference road test so early. The Commodores will have their hands full with Bennie Boatwright, Jordan McLaughlin and Chimezie Metu, who could form one of the country’s best scoring triumvirates this season. If Vanderbilt is going to spring the minor upset, it will have to find a way to keep the pace under control. The Trojans will win the game going away if they turn it into a track meet.

USC 78, Vanderbilt 70

No. 23 UCLA vs. Creighton

Monday, 7 p.m., ESPN (Hall of Fame Classic, Kansas City)

The Blue Jays showed what makes them so dangerous in a 92–88 win at Northwestern earlier this week. They shot 51.9% from the floor in that game, making eight of 16 attempts from long distance and 14 of 16 free throws on their way to 1.21 points per possession. What’s more, they did it on a night where Marcus Foster was just 3-for-11. With all due respect to Georgia Tech, this will be a much different challenge for UCLA than the game it won in China. Its offense will have to show up in this one.

Creighton 83, UCLA 79

No. 25 Baylor vs. Wisconsin

Monday, 9:30 p.m., ESPN (Hall of Fame Classic, Kansas City)?

The nightcap of what should be a great night of basketball in Kansas City features the veteran-led Bears and youthful Badgers. This is Baylor’s first test of the season after opening the year with three cupcakes, but there’s not much mystery to a team led by seniors Manu Lecomte, Jo Lual-Acuil and Terry Maston. The Badgers are the more interesting team from an early-season litmus test standpoint—on Thursday they played No. 15 Xavier even through 38 minutes before fading to an 80–70 loss. Is it too late to make the Hall of Fame Classic games into a tournament?

Wisconsin 70, Baylor 69

There are five prominent tournaments taking place this weekend before Feast Week tips off in earnest next week: the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Paradise Jam, Gildan Charleston Classic, Hall of Fame Tip-Off and 2K Classic. I’ll offer up a prediction of the winner of the first four (the 2K Classic ends Friday).

Puerto Rico Tip-Off: Illinois State

The Redbirds aren’t quite as good as they were last year when they were just barely on the wrong side of the bubble, but they pulled off an impressive win over South Carolina in the first round of the Tip-Off behind 18 points, 14 of which came on free throws, from Milik Yarbrough. The biggest hurdle is out of the way, and the Redbirds should be considered a favorite to at least reach the tournament’s championship game.

Paradise Jam: Houston

The Cougars should easily dispatch first-round opponent Drexel on Friday. From there, they’ll have to get through the Mercer-Liberty winner to get the championship. Anything short of a berth in the finals would be a major letdown for a Cougars squad that should make some noise this season in an improved American Athletic Conference. The bet here is that, come Sunday, sophomore Armoni Brooks has led the Cougars to the Paradise Jam title.

Gildan Charleston Classic: Auburn

This tournament features an intriguing final four, with Temple, Clemson and Dayton joining Auburn. So why the Tigers? Put simply, Bryce Brown will be the best player on the floor in every game Auburn plays. Until one of the other teams proves it can stop him, Auburn is the team to beat.

Hall of Fame Tip-Off: Northwestern

With all due respect to Boston College and La Salle, we should—we better—get a Northwestern–Texas Tech championship game. Barring disaster, both the Wildcats and Red Raiders will go dancing this season, giving us a little taste of March in November. Northwestern dropped a home game to Creighton earlier this week, but its offense looked the part of a juggernaut in that game, scoring 88 points on 51.3% shooting and 1.16 points per possession. The Red Raiders feature a great experience-youth mix, with seniors Keenan Evans, Tommy Hamilton and Zach Smith joined by freshmen Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver this year, but Northwestern’s offense will be too much in this potential matchup. Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law will form one of this season’s deadliest scoring trios.

A photo of former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay and a floral arrangement of his Toronto jersey number are on display during a memorial tribute for Halladay at the Philadelphia Phillies spring training baseball stadium, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Clearwater, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

How Blue Jays can find relief help via trade

How the Blue Jays can find relief help via trade

How the Blue Jays can find relief help via trade

How the Blue Jays can find relief help via trade

How the Blue Jays can find relief help via trade

Stroman1

Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman was one of several pitchers impacted by blister issues during the 2017 season. (AP)

Revisiting Jack Morris's Controversial, Never-Ending Hall of Fame Debate

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the 2018 Modern Baseball Era Committee Hall of Fame ballot, which will be voted upon by a 16-member committee of writers, executives and Hall of Fame players at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla,, with the results to be announced on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. ET. Originally written for the 2013 BBWAA election cycle and revised in subsequent years, it was later incorporated into The Cooperstown Casebook. For a detailed introduction to the Modern Baseball ballot, please see here, and for a fuller introduction to JAWS, see here.

On Oct. 27, 1991, Jack Morris put together what many consider the greatest pitching performance in postseason history, throwing 10 shutout innings in in Game 7 of the World Series, a 1–0 victory over the Braves. Remember, a championship wasn't directly at stake when Don Larsen threw his perfect game for the Yankees in 1956—that was a Game 5. Nine pitchers had thrown shutouts in Game 7s before Morris, most recently Bret Saberhagen for the Royals in 1985, but that was an 11–0 blowout. Ralph Terry did so in a 1–0 game for the Yankees in 1962, but he threw "only" nine innings. No pitcher had ever taken a shutout beyond nine innings in the deciding game of the World Series.

In conjunction with his 254 regular season wins, that stellar performance garnered Morris nearly enough votes to reach the Hall of Fame, thanks to a slow climb mirroring that of Bert Blyleven. In 2011, Blyleven was elected by the BBWAA in his 14th turn on the ballot, breaking a 19-year string in which the voters hadn't elected a single starter with fewer than 300 wins. He benefited from a long grassroots campaign that owed a debt to the growth of advanced statistics that weren’t appreciated during his career.

Morris’s candidacy started slowly. He debuted at 22.2% of the vote in 2000, didn't reach 30% until 2005, and took another five years to break 50%. But thanks to a backlash against “the vigilante sabermetric brigade” (to use Bill Madden’s term) that propelled Blyleven, Morris’s candidacy turned into one front of the culture war that unfolded in the wake of Moneyball. As I chronicled in The Cooperstown Casebook (excerpt here), the reactionary campaign’s emphasis on wins, gritty intangibles and insider-ism brought out the worst in many, including multiple Spink Award-winning writers who were reduced to hurling schoolyard-level insults at those questioned their authority.

After receiving 66.7% in 2012, his 13th year of eligibility, Morris’s election appeared inevitable. But amid a flood of controversial candidates on the 2013 ballot—Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa—he gained just three additional votes, finishing at 67.7%, then slipped to 61.5% in his final year in front of the writers.

His story isn’t over. Morris aged off the ballot with more voter support than any candidate since Orlando Cepeda (73.5% in 1994). Cepeda, like Nellie Fox (74.7% in 1985), Enos Slaughter (68.8% in 1979) and Jim Bunning (63.7% in 1991) before him, was eventually elected by the Veterans Committee. In fact, the only player to age off the ballot after receiving at least 60% and not eventually get elected was Gil Hodges (63.4% in 1983). Particularly in front of a panel that’s more likely to be sympathetic to Morris’s old school charms than the BBWAA minority that kept him out, it should be no surprise if he’s the first living ex-player elected by a small committee since Bill Mazeroski in 2001. Brace yourselves.

A native of St. Paul, Minn., Morris attended Brigham Young University and was drafted by the Tigers in the fifth round in 1976, a banner draft by general manager Jim Campbell and scouting director Bill Lajoie that also yielded Morris's future Cooperstown ballot-mate Alan Trammell in the second round and rotation-mate Dan Petry in the fourth—one of the greatest draft hauls of all time. Morris started his professional career at Double-A Montgomery and made just 29 minor league starts before debuting with the Tigers on July 26, 1977. In his second start, he struck out 11 Rangers over nine innings while allowing just four hits (the game went into extra innings). In September, Trammell, Lou Whitaker and Lance Parrish joined Morris in making their big league debuts. That quartet became a fixture by the following season, and would hold together through 1986, when Parrish left via a collusion-throttled free agency.

Early struggles in the rotation led to Morris spending the bulk of the 1978 season in the bullpen and beginning the next year in the minors, but when he was promoted in mid-May of '79, he was up for good. He went 17–7 with a 3.28 ERA (133 ERA+) and accumulated 5.8 WAR. The latter mark ranked fifth in the league and would stand as his career-high.

That was the first of 12 full seasons Morris spent in Detroit's rotation, a span during which he averaged 33 starts, 13 complete games, 241 innings, 5.9 strikeouts per nine, a 3.71 ERA (109 ERA+) … and just 3.1 WAR. He reached 20 wins in 1983 and topped that with 21 in 1986. He dipped below 30 starts only three times in those 12 seasons: in 1979, ’81 (a strike-shortened season) and ’89, when he spent two months on the disabled list. Amid all this, he made four All-Star teams.

Morris learned a split-fingered fastball from pitching coach Roger Craig in 1983 and led the league in strikeouts (232) and innings pitched (293 2/3), the only time he would do so in either category. His 4.0 WAR didn't crack the AL's top 10. He finished third in the Cy Young voting for the second time in three years; though he received votes in seven different seasons. He received first-place votes only in 1983 and ’91 (when he placed fourth).

Morris no-hit the White Sox on April 7, 1984, the signature moment in Detroit's 35–5 start en route to a world championship. Through the end of May he was 10–1 with a 1.88 ERA, but a rough stretch following that—a 6.30 ERA over 14 starts from June through mid-August—led to criticism in the media about his level of intensity. At one point, Morris stopped talking to the press. Craig told him to “quick acting like a baby” and finally manager Sparky Anderson ordered him to end his boycott. Morris finished 19–11 with a 3.60 ERA (109 ERA+), then went 3–0 with a 1.80 ERA in three postseason starts as Detroit steamrolled the Royals in the ALCS and the Padres in the World Series.

Morris tried to test free agency after the 1986 season, in which he'd gone 21–8 with a 3.27 ERA (127 ERA+) and a league-best six shutouts, but because of collusion, he drew very limited interest; even Yankees owner George Steinbrenner toed the line when presented with Morris's demands. He wound up returning to the Tigers on a one-year, $1.85 million deal via arbitration instead of getting the three-year deal he sought and deserved. While it worked out well in the short term, that sorry saga would eventually lead to his departure from the Motor City. With another strong season in 1987 (18–11, 3.38 ERA, 126 ERA+, 5.1 WAR), he helped Detroit to 98 wins and the AL East flag. Facing Blyleven and an 85-win Twins team in the ALCS, he was rocked for six runs in eight innings in Game 2, and didn’t get a chance to redeem himself during the five-game trouncing. After the season, he signed a two-year, $4 million deal that gave him the highest average annual salary for a pitcher.

Morris's final three years in Detroit (1988–90) weren't pretty. Though he was still durable enough to average 218 innings even with his DL stint in 1989 due to an elbow injury, his ERA for that stretch was 4.40 and was worse than league average in all three seasons. When the collusion scandal was settled, the 35-year-old was allowed to declare free agency. He spurned the Tigers' three-year, $9.3 million offer and signed a one-year, $3.7 million deal with the Twins with incentives and two player options that could escalate it to $11 million.

Morris rebounded from a 15–18, 4.51 ERA showing in 1990 to go 18–12 with a 3.43 ERA (125 ERA+) and 4.3 WAR for the Twins in '91, earning his fifth and final All-Star appearance. Knocked out after just 5 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays in the ALCS opener, he threw eight strong innings in Game 4, and Minnesota prevailed in five. They won the World Series opener against the Braves behind his seven innings of two-run ball, but lost Game 4, in which Morris was pulled after six innings. He gave up one run and threw 94 pitches that night, a relatively light outing by his standards, but then again, he was on three days' rest. He would make his Game 7 start on three days' rest as well, throwing 126 pitches to complete the job. The Twins won on Gene Larkin's pinch-hit single in the bottom of the 10th.

Despite the championship and the hometown-boy-makes-good narrative, Morris opted out of his contract that winter, signing a two-year $10.85 million deal (plus an option) with the Blue Jays. He went 21–6, albeit with a 4.04 ERA (101 ERA+). The Blue Jays won the AL East, the ALCS and the World Series, but Morris couldn't duplicate his postseason magic; chased before completing five innings in two of his four starts, he was roughed up for a 7.43 ERA with 15 walks in October 23 innings.

That was the beginning of the end for Morris. Terrible with Toronto in 1993 (6.19 ERA), he missed the postseason due to a strained elbow ligament, then was knocked around for a 5.60 ERA with the Indians in the strike-shortened 1994 season. He made 10 starts for the hometown St. Paul Saints in the independent Northern League in 1995, but couldn't find a major league deal, then declined one with the Yankees in 1996 because the club wanted him to make two starts at Triple A instead of one. At 41, his career was over.

Morris's Hall of Fame candidacy rests largely on his win total, now tied for 43rd all-time. He reached 20 wins three times, and won at least 18 six times. While supporters like to point out that he racked up more wins in the 1980s (162) than any other pitcher, those arbitrary endpoints aren't any more special than others except for shorthanded stereotypes about the period—skinny ties, trickle-down economics, etc. While Morris leads the pack in wins for most rolling 10-year periods during his career, he falls to third in the 1984–93 period behind Clemens and Frank Viola, both of whom had 163. Note that even with a Cy Young to his credit—something Morris never won—as well as some big postseason moments including a Game 7 World Series win in 1987, Viola never got any kind of Hall of Fame support, falling off the ballot with 0.4% in 2002.

The exaltation of high wins totals comes because in a more modern era, they’ve become an endangered species thanks to five-man rotations and the systematic use of specialized bullpens designed to take advantage of late-inning matchups. Morris's considerable durability (175 complete games, the 16th-highest total of the post-1961 expansion era and the highest of any pitcher whose career began after the introduction of the DH in 1973) is a counter to the more modern, sabermetrically-driven view of pitcher wins as products of adequate offensive, defensive and bullpen support.

Morris received above-average run support from his teams over the course of his career. We can express that figure in normalized form just as we can ERA+, with 100 representing the park-adjusted league average. Morris's 106 mark in that run-support category (call the stat SUP+) is no small advantage. Via the Pythagorean Theorem, each extra percentage point difference in run support translates roughly to a .005 gain in winning percentage, or an extra win for every 200 decisions.

All else being equal, Morris' 6.4% advantage would translate to a record of 234–206 over the course of his total of 440 decisions, assuming average run prevention ability. Blyleven, by comparison, received run support four percent worse than league average (96 SUP+), Dave Stieb and Clemens three percent worse (97). Among the cohort of durable hurlers who won 300 games in careers that ran from the mid-1960s into the '80s (Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton), only Carlton (105) and Sutton (104) had better-than-average SUP+, which is to say that that run prevention had plenty to do with the big win totals as well. Of the 62 Hall of Fame starters, only 21 had support better than Morris, with Catfish Hunter (112, 10th) and Jim Palmer (108, 16th) the only ones whose careers overlapped that of our subject.

Particularly in the DH league, run support is entirely out of a pitcher's control. Run prevention, on the other hand, is not, though it certainly requires defensive support. Morris’s .272 batting average on balls in play was 14 points better than the league average during his career (thank you, Trammell and Whitaker) and ranked 32nd among the 200 pitchers with at least 1000 innings from 1977 through 1994. Just to cherry-pick a few comparisons, Stieb yielded a .262 BABIP (eighth), Clemens .281 (78th), Blyleven .285 (117th) and Viola .287 (128th). That support was important, because Morris didn't strike out hitters with exceptional frequency. His career 5.8 K/9 ranks 62nd out of those same 200 pitchers, while his 1980–89 rate of 6.0 per nine ranks 28th out of 99 with 1,000 innings in that span; his 1.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio was 46th during that latter period.

Even with that above-average defensive support, Morris's run prevention ability wasn’t exceptional. His 3.90 ERA would be the highest in Cooperstown, supplanting Red Ruffing's 3.80, compiled from 1924–47. Morris's 105 ERA+ would be the third-lowest among Hall of Famers, ahead of only Hunter's 104 and Rube Marquard's 103. Just nine Hall of Fame pitchers have an ERA+ lower than 110; Ruffing, who played in a higher-scoring era, is at 109.

To choose one pitcher whose career overlapped with Morris's, David Wells was an exceptionally durable pitcher who finished his career with 239 wins and an ERA nearly a quarter of a run higher at 4.13. His ERA+ was 108. For all of his big-game ability (10–5, 3.17 ERA in the postseason), Wells went one-and-done on the 2013 ballot, with 0.9%.

Morris's supporters dismiss his high ERAs by noting that they're distorted by the end of his career. He put up a 5.91 mark over his final two seasons; through 1992, he stood at 3.73, with a 109 ERA+ but "only" 237 wins. Cut him off after 1988—before his legendary Game 7 performance—and he's at 3.59, with a 113 ERA+ but just 177 wins. This is hardly unique, even among Hall of Famers; take Hunter (4.52 ERA and an 86 ERA+ while battling injuries over his final three seasons), Carlton (5.72 ERA over his final three seasons) and Niekro (6.30 ERA in his final year), for example. Blyleven posted a 4.35 ERA and a 90 ERA+ over his final four seasons, a span that included a full year missed with injury; he had one stellar year (17–5, 2.73 ERA) and two with ERAs above 5.00 in that span. All of those pitchers elevated their win totals by hanging on, but with the possible exception of Blyleven, none enhanced their Hall of Fame cases. Even if one merely focuses on his good seasons, Morris cracked the top 10 six times in raw ERA, but never ranked higher than fifth, and only four times ranked in the top 10 in ERA+, never higher than fourth.

Supporters have tended to dismiss Morris's high ERAs with claims that he "pitched to the score." The research efforts of Greg Spira and Joe Sheehan have long since put the lie to this claim. In studying his won-loss record through 1993 (his second-to-last season), Spira found that Morris was just four wins ahead of his projected record based upon run support. Sheehan, who pored over Morris’s career inning-by-inning via Retrosheet, concluded: "I can find no pattern in when Jack Morris allowed runs. If he pitched to the score—and I don't doubt that he changed his approach—the practice didn't show up in his performance record." Morris’s record, therefore, is more a product of strong run support than it is special strategy.

As for Morris’s postseason performances, while his Game 7 shutout is certainly impressive, his overall line (7–4, 3.80 ERA in 13 starts) is a reasonable distillation of his regular-season performance, with good starts and bad ones. Teams won it all with his help (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins), but teams also fell with his struggles (1987 Tigers), won in spite of them (1992 Blue Jays) or entirely without him (1993 Blue Jays). He was not exceptionally clutch in the grand scheme of his postseason résumé.

Morris's mediocre run prevention and hitter dominance costs him dearly with regards to WAR and JAWS. He ranked among the AL top 10 in WAR four times during his career, but never higher than fifth. His 30.5 WAR for 1980–89 is tied for 11th with Nolan Ryan, just below Charlie Hough (30.6) and significantly below Saberhagen, who didn't even reach the majors until 1984, with Stieb (48.5) first and Blyleven (38.1) second. Morris's 44.1 career WAR is 149th among starting pitchers, surpassing just five out of 62 Hall of Famers. His peak score ranks 186nd, tied with Ray Caldwell and 0.4 below Jamie Moyer, who stuck around forever and won 269 games with a 103 ERA+. Among enshrined starters, only Marquard (29.0) had a lower peak. Via JAWS, Morris is tied for 163rd, surpassing just four Hall starters.

According to this view, that's not a Hall of Fame pitcher. Morris was gritty, gruff and exceptionally durable, and he saved his bullpens a whole lot of work, but he simply didn't prevent runs in the manner of an elite pitcher. Any modern reckoning of his value illustrates that point definitively. For all of his extra wins and postseason success, his case rests on outmoded barometers and a distortion of the value of one shining moment.

Will he get in? His election appears to be an inevitability given his level of BBWAA support alone; as noted, only Hodges has topped the 60% threshold and never gotten in via small committee. Add to that Morris’s potential frequency for consideration, given that the Hall’s schedule calls for three more Modern Baseball ballots within this decade (2020, ’23 and ’25), and the likely tilt against any kind of sabermetric viewpoint on that panel of eight Hall of Famers, four executives and four senior BBWAA members — whose median age is somewhere in the 60s — and we can at least concede that Morris deserves a Most Likely To Succeed award in this context.

If Morris does get elected, will it mean the battles of the late 2000s over his exclusion and Blyleven’s inclusion were for naught? I don’t think so. “The War on WAR” has largely been won, analytics has permeated every front office in baseball, and subsequent elections have solidified the incorporation of advanced statistics into Hall of Fame debates (last year’s election of Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell proved this). The BBWAA electorate continues to evolve, as older, long-inactive voters are being replaced by younger ones who’ve had greater exposure to Bill James, Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, JAWS and much more. The impact of the small committee processes, notoriously retrograde even when they were funneling multiple candidates a year into the Hall, has been reduced, but sooner or later, a candidate not endorsed by “the vigilante sabermetric brigade” will break through, whether it’s Morris or somebody else.

Beyond that, there’s no real joy in turning away Morris. Many of us who devoted time and energy to arguing against his case grew up watching his no-hitter, Game 7 shutout and other highlights from his 18-year career. We know he was a very good pitcher for a long time, an intense competitor and a sturdy workhorse. It takes a hard heart to avoid acknowledging the man’s pain in being close enough to taste his inevitable election, yet falling short due to forces unforeseen at the outset of his candidacy. He didn’t ask to become a battlefront in a cultural war.

But if Morris gets in, the bar for Hall of Fame pitchers will be demonstrably lower, and his election will serve as a slight to numerous contemporaries such as Saberhagen, Stieb, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser and David Cone. Win totals aside, all have far fuller résumés than Morris from a Hall standpoint, better run prevention combined with Cy Young awards and their own shares of records and postseason heroics. They’ll deserve an equally thorough airing in this context. In light of the scarcity of viable starting pitcher candidates in the coming years, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.

Revisiting Jack Morris's Controversial, Never-Ending Hall of Fame Debate

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the 2018 Modern Baseball Era Committee Hall of Fame ballot, which will be voted upon by a 16-member committee of writers, executives and Hall of Fame players at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla,, with the results to be announced on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. ET. Originally written for the 2013 BBWAA election cycle and revised in subsequent years, it was later incorporated into The Cooperstown Casebook. For a detailed introduction to the Modern Baseball ballot, please see here, and for a fuller introduction to JAWS, see here.

On Oct. 27, 1991, Jack Morris put together what many consider the greatest pitching performance in postseason history, throwing 10 shutout innings in in Game 7 of the World Series, a 1–0 victory over the Braves. Remember, a championship wasn't directly at stake when Don Larsen threw his perfect game for the Yankees in 1956—that was a Game 5. Nine pitchers had thrown shutouts in Game 7s before Morris, most recently Bret Saberhagen for the Royals in 1985, but that was an 11–0 blowout. Ralph Terry did so in a 1–0 game for the Yankees in 1962, but he threw "only" nine innings. No pitcher had ever taken a shutout beyond nine innings in the deciding game of the World Series.

In conjunction with his 254 regular season wins, that stellar performance garnered Morris nearly enough votes to reach the Hall of Fame, thanks to a slow climb mirroring that of Bert Blyleven. In 2011, Blyleven was elected by the BBWAA in his 14th turn on the ballot, breaking a 19-year string in which the voters hadn't elected a single starter with fewer than 300 wins. He benefited from a long grassroots campaign that owed a debt to the growth of advanced statistics that weren’t appreciated during his career.

Morris’s candidacy started slowly. He debuted at 22.2% of the vote in 2000, didn't reach 30% until 2005, and took another five years to break 50%. But thanks to a backlash against “the vigilante sabermetric brigade” (to use Bill Madden’s term) that propelled Blyleven, Morris’s candidacy turned into one front of the culture war that unfolded in the wake of Moneyball. As I chronicled in The Cooperstown Casebook (excerpt here), the reactionary campaign’s emphasis on wins, gritty intangibles and insider-ism brought out the worst in many, including multiple Spink Award-winning writers who were reduced to hurling schoolyard-level insults at those questioned their authority.

After receiving 66.7% in 2012, his 13th year of eligibility, Morris’s election appeared inevitable. But amid a flood of controversial candidates on the 2013 ballot—Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa—he gained just three additional votes, finishing at 67.7%, then slipped to 61.5% in his final year in front of the writers.

His story isn’t over. Morris aged off the ballot with more voter support than any candidate since Orlando Cepeda (73.5% in 1994). Cepeda, like Nellie Fox (74.7% in 1985), Enos Slaughter (68.8% in 1979) and Jim Bunning (63.7% in 1991) before him, was eventually elected by the Veterans Committee. In fact, the only player to age off the ballot after receiving at least 60% and not eventually get elected was Gil Hodges (63.4% in 1983). Particularly in front of a panel that’s more likely to be sympathetic to Morris’s old school charms than the BBWAA minority that kept him out, it should be no surprise if he’s the first living ex-player elected by a small committee since Bill Mazeroski in 2001. Brace yourselves.

A native of St. Paul, Minn., Morris attended Brigham Young University and was drafted by the Tigers in the fifth round in 1976, a banner draft by general manager Jim Campbell and scouting director Bill Lajoie that also yielded Morris's future Cooperstown ballot-mate Alan Trammell in the second round and rotation-mate Dan Petry in the fourth—one of the greatest draft hauls of all time. Morris started his professional career at Double-A Montgomery and made just 29 minor league starts before debuting with the Tigers on July 26, 1977. In his second start, he struck out 11 Rangers over nine innings while allowing just four hits (the game went into extra innings). In September, Trammell, Lou Whitaker and Lance Parrish joined Morris in making their big league debuts. That quartet became a fixture by the following season, and would hold together through 1986, when Parrish left via a collusion-throttled free agency.

Early struggles in the rotation led to Morris spending the bulk of the 1978 season in the bullpen and beginning the next year in the minors, but when he was promoted in mid-May of '79, he was up for good. He went 17–7 with a 3.28 ERA (133 ERA+) and accumulated 5.8 WAR. The latter mark ranked fifth in the league and would stand as his career-high.

That was the first of 12 full seasons Morris spent in Detroit's rotation, a span during which he averaged 33 starts, 13 complete games, 241 innings, 5.9 strikeouts per nine, a 3.71 ERA (109 ERA+) … and just 3.1 WAR. He reached 20 wins in 1983 and topped that with 21 in 1986. He dipped below 30 starts only three times in those 12 seasons: in 1979, ’81 (a strike-shortened season) and ’89, when he spent two months on the disabled list. Amid all this, he made four All-Star teams.

Morris learned a split-fingered fastball from pitching coach Roger Craig in 1983 and led the league in strikeouts (232) and innings pitched (293 2/3), the only time he would do so in either category. His 4.0 WAR didn't crack the AL's top 10. He finished third in the Cy Young voting for the second time in three years; though he received votes in seven different seasons. He received first-place votes only in 1983 and ’91 (when he placed fourth).

Morris no-hit the White Sox on April 7, 1984, the signature moment in Detroit's 35–5 start en route to a world championship. Through the end of May he was 10–1 with a 1.88 ERA, but a rough stretch following that—a 6.30 ERA over 14 starts from June through mid-August—led to criticism in the media about his level of intensity. At one point, Morris stopped talking to the press. Craig told him to “quick acting like a baby” and finally manager Sparky Anderson ordered him to end his boycott. Morris finished 19–11 with a 3.60 ERA (109 ERA+), then went 3–0 with a 1.80 ERA in three postseason starts as Detroit steamrolled the Royals in the ALCS and the Padres in the World Series.

Morris tried to test free agency after the 1986 season, in which he'd gone 21–8 with a 3.27 ERA (127 ERA+) and a league-best six shutouts, but because of collusion, he drew very limited interest; even Yankees owner George Steinbrenner toed the line when presented with Morris's demands. He wound up returning to the Tigers on a one-year, $1.85 million deal via arbitration instead of getting the three-year deal he sought and deserved. While it worked out well in the short term, that sorry saga would eventually lead to his departure from the Motor City. With another strong season in 1987 (18–11, 3.38 ERA, 126 ERA+, 5.1 WAR), he helped Detroit to 98 wins and the AL East flag. Facing Blyleven and an 85-win Twins team in the ALCS, he was rocked for six runs in eight innings in Game 2, and didn’t get a chance to redeem himself during the five-game trouncing. After the season, he signed a two-year, $4 million deal that gave him the highest average annual salary for a pitcher.

Morris's final three years in Detroit (1988–90) weren't pretty. Though he was still durable enough to average 218 innings even with his DL stint in 1989 due to an elbow injury, his ERA for that stretch was 4.40 and was worse than league average in all three seasons. When the collusion scandal was settled, the 35-year-old was allowed to declare free agency. He spurned the Tigers' three-year, $9.3 million offer and signed a one-year, $3.7 million deal with the Twins with incentives and two player options that could escalate it to $11 million.

Morris rebounded from a 15–18, 4.51 ERA showing in 1990 to go 18–12 with a 3.43 ERA (125 ERA+) and 4.3 WAR for the Twins in '91, earning his fifth and final All-Star appearance. Knocked out after just 5 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays in the ALCS opener, he threw eight strong innings in Game 4, and Minnesota prevailed in five. They won the World Series opener against the Braves behind his seven innings of two-run ball, but lost Game 4, in which Morris was pulled after six innings. He gave up one run and threw 94 pitches that night, a relatively light outing by his standards, but then again, he was on three days' rest. He would make his Game 7 start on three days' rest as well, throwing 126 pitches to complete the job. The Twins won on Gene Larkin's pinch-hit single in the bottom of the 10th.

Despite the championship and the hometown-boy-makes-good narrative, Morris opted out of his contract that winter, signing a two-year $10.85 million deal (plus an option) with the Blue Jays. He went 21–6, albeit with a 4.04 ERA (101 ERA+). The Blue Jays won the AL East, the ALCS and the World Series, but Morris couldn't duplicate his postseason magic; chased before completing five innings in two of his four starts, he was roughed up for a 7.43 ERA with 15 walks in October 23 innings.

That was the beginning of the end for Morris. Terrible with Toronto in 1993 (6.19 ERA), he missed the postseason due to a strained elbow ligament, then was knocked around for a 5.60 ERA with the Indians in the strike-shortened 1994 season. He made 10 starts for the hometown St. Paul Saints in the independent Northern League in 1995, but couldn't find a major league deal, then declined one with the Yankees in 1996 because the club wanted him to make two starts at Triple A instead of one. At 41, his career was over.

Morris's Hall of Fame candidacy rests largely on his win total, now tied for 43rd all-time. He reached 20 wins three times, and won at least 18 six times. While supporters like to point out that he racked up more wins in the 1980s (162) than any other pitcher, those arbitrary endpoints aren't any more special than others except for shorthanded stereotypes about the period—skinny ties, trickle-down economics, etc. While Morris leads the pack in wins for most rolling 10-year periods during his career, he falls to third in the 1984–93 period behind Clemens and Frank Viola, both of whom had 163. Note that even with a Cy Young to his credit—something Morris never won—as well as some big postseason moments including a Game 7 World Series win in 1987, Viola never got any kind of Hall of Fame support, falling off the ballot with 0.4% in 2002.

The exaltation of high wins totals comes because in a more modern era, they’ve become an endangered species thanks to five-man rotations and the systematic use of specialized bullpens designed to take advantage of late-inning matchups. Morris's considerable durability (175 complete games, the 16th-highest total of the post-1961 expansion era and the highest of any pitcher whose career began after the introduction of the DH in 1973) is a counter to the more modern, sabermetrically-driven view of pitcher wins as products of adequate offensive, defensive and bullpen support.

Morris received above-average run support from his teams over the course of his career. We can express that figure in normalized form just as we can ERA+, with 100 representing the park-adjusted league average. Morris's 106 mark in that run-support category (call the stat SUP+) is no small advantage. Via the Pythagorean Theorem, each extra percentage point difference in run support translates roughly to a .005 gain in winning percentage, or an extra win for every 200 decisions.

All else being equal, Morris' 6.4% advantage would translate to a record of 234–206 over the course of his total of 440 decisions, assuming average run prevention ability. Blyleven, by comparison, received run support four percent worse than league average (96 SUP+), Dave Stieb and Clemens three percent worse (97). Among the cohort of durable hurlers who won 300 games in careers that ran from the mid-1960s into the '80s (Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton), only Carlton (105) and Sutton (104) had better-than-average SUP+, which is to say that that run prevention had plenty to do with the big win totals as well. Of the 62 Hall of Fame starters, only 21 had support better than Morris, with Catfish Hunter (112, 10th) and Jim Palmer (108, 16th) the only ones whose careers overlapped that of our subject.

Particularly in the DH league, run support is entirely out of a pitcher's control. Run prevention, on the other hand, is not, though it certainly requires defensive support. Morris’s .272 batting average on balls in play was 14 points better than the league average during his career (thank you, Trammell and Whitaker) and ranked 32nd among the 200 pitchers with at least 1000 innings from 1977 through 1994. Just to cherry-pick a few comparisons, Stieb yielded a .262 BABIP (eighth), Clemens .281 (78th), Blyleven .285 (117th) and Viola .287 (128th). That support was important, because Morris didn't strike out hitters with exceptional frequency. His career 5.8 K/9 ranks 62nd out of those same 200 pitchers, while his 1980–89 rate of 6.0 per nine ranks 28th out of 99 with 1,000 innings in that span; his 1.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio was 46th during that latter period.

Even with that above-average defensive support, Morris's run prevention ability wasn’t exceptional. His 3.90 ERA would be the highest in Cooperstown, supplanting Red Ruffing's 3.80, compiled from 1924–47. Morris's 105 ERA+ would be the third-lowest among Hall of Famers, ahead of only Hunter's 104 and Rube Marquard's 103. Just nine Hall of Fame pitchers have an ERA+ lower than 110; Ruffing, who played in a higher-scoring era, is at 109.

To choose one pitcher whose career overlapped with Morris's, David Wells was an exceptionally durable pitcher who finished his career with 239 wins and an ERA nearly a quarter of a run higher at 4.13. His ERA+ was 108. For all of his big-game ability (10–5, 3.17 ERA in the postseason), Wells went one-and-done on the 2013 ballot, with 0.9%.

Morris's supporters dismiss his high ERAs by noting that they're distorted by the end of his career. He put up a 5.91 mark over his final two seasons; through 1992, he stood at 3.73, with a 109 ERA+ but "only" 237 wins. Cut him off after 1988—before his legendary Game 7 performance—and he's at 3.59, with a 113 ERA+ but just 177 wins. This is hardly unique, even among Hall of Famers; take Hunter (4.52 ERA and an 86 ERA+ while battling injuries over his final three seasons), Carlton (5.72 ERA over his final three seasons) and Niekro (6.30 ERA in his final year), for example. Blyleven posted a 4.35 ERA and a 90 ERA+ over his final four seasons, a span that included a full year missed with injury; he had one stellar year (17–5, 2.73 ERA) and two with ERAs above 5.00 in that span. All of those pitchers elevated their win totals by hanging on, but with the possible exception of Blyleven, none enhanced their Hall of Fame cases. Even if one merely focuses on his good seasons, Morris cracked the top 10 six times in raw ERA, but never ranked higher than fifth, and only four times ranked in the top 10 in ERA+, never higher than fourth.

Supporters have tended to dismiss Morris's high ERAs with claims that he "pitched to the score." The research efforts of Greg Spira and Joe Sheehan have long since put the lie to this claim. In studying his won-loss record through 1993 (his second-to-last season), Spira found that Morris was just four wins ahead of his projected record based upon run support. Sheehan, who pored over Morris’s career inning-by-inning via Retrosheet, concluded: "I can find no pattern in when Jack Morris allowed runs. If he pitched to the score—and I don't doubt that he changed his approach—the practice didn't show up in his performance record." Morris’s record, therefore, is more a product of strong run support than it is special strategy.

As for Morris’s postseason performances, while his Game 7 shutout is certainly impressive, his overall line (7–4, 3.80 ERA in 13 starts) is a reasonable distillation of his regular-season performance, with good starts and bad ones. Teams won it all with his help (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins), but teams also fell with his struggles (1987 Tigers), won in spite of them (1992 Blue Jays) or entirely without him (1993 Blue Jays). He was not exceptionally clutch in the grand scheme of his postseason résumé.

Morris's mediocre run prevention and hitter dominance costs him dearly with regards to WAR and JAWS. He ranked among the AL top 10 in WAR four times during his career, but never higher than fifth. His 30.5 WAR for 1980–89 is tied for 11th with Nolan Ryan, just below Charlie Hough (30.6) and significantly below Saberhagen, who didn't even reach the majors until 1984, with Stieb (48.5) first and Blyleven (38.1) second. Morris's 44.1 career WAR is 149th among starting pitchers, surpassing just five out of 62 Hall of Famers. His peak score ranks 186nd, tied with Ray Caldwell and 0.4 below Jamie Moyer, who stuck around forever and won 269 games with a 103 ERA+. Among enshrined starters, only Marquard (29.0) had a lower peak. Via JAWS, Morris is tied for 163rd, surpassing just four Hall starters.

According to this view, that's not a Hall of Fame pitcher. Morris was gritty, gruff and exceptionally durable, and he saved his bullpens a whole lot of work, but he simply didn't prevent runs in the manner of an elite pitcher. Any modern reckoning of his value illustrates that point definitively. For all of his extra wins and postseason success, his case rests on outmoded barometers and a distortion of the value of one shining moment.

Will he get in? His election appears to be an inevitability given his level of BBWAA support alone; as noted, only Hodges has topped the 60% threshold and never gotten in via small committee. Add to that Morris’s potential frequency for consideration, given that the Hall’s schedule calls for three more Modern Baseball ballots within this decade (2020, ’23 and ’25), and the likely tilt against any kind of sabermetric viewpoint on that panel of eight Hall of Famers, four executives and four senior BBWAA members — whose median age is somewhere in the 60s — and we can at least concede that Morris deserves a Most Likely To Succeed award in this context.

If Morris does get elected, will it mean the battles of the late 2000s over his exclusion and Blyleven’s inclusion were for naught? I don’t think so. “The War on WAR” has largely been won, analytics has permeated every front office in baseball, and subsequent elections have solidified the incorporation of advanced statistics into Hall of Fame debates (last year’s election of Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell proved this). The BBWAA electorate continues to evolve, as older, long-inactive voters are being replaced by younger ones who’ve had greater exposure to Bill James, Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, JAWS and much more. The impact of the small committee processes, notoriously retrograde even when they were funneling multiple candidates a year into the Hall, has been reduced, but sooner or later, a candidate not endorsed by “the vigilante sabermetric brigade” will break through, whether it’s Morris or somebody else.

Beyond that, there’s no real joy in turning away Morris. Many of us who devoted time and energy to arguing against his case grew up watching his no-hitter, Game 7 shutout and other highlights from his 18-year career. We know he was a very good pitcher for a long time, an intense competitor and a sturdy workhorse. It takes a hard heart to avoid acknowledging the man’s pain in being close enough to taste his inevitable election, yet falling short due to forces unforeseen at the outset of his candidacy. He didn’t ask to become a battlefront in a cultural war.

But if Morris gets in, the bar for Hall of Fame pitchers will be demonstrably lower, and his election will serve as a slight to numerous contemporaries such as Saberhagen, Stieb, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser and David Cone. Win totals aside, all have far fuller résumés than Morris from a Hall standpoint, better run prevention combined with Cy Young awards and their own shares of records and postseason heroics. They’ll deserve an equally thorough airing in this context. In light of the scarcity of viable starting pitcher candidates in the coming years, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.

Revisiting Jack Morris's Controversial, Never-Ending Hall of Fame Debate

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the 2018 Modern Baseball Era Committee Hall of Fame ballot, which will be voted upon by a 16-member committee of writers, executives and Hall of Fame players at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla,, with the results to be announced on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. ET. Originally written for the 2013 BBWAA election cycle and revised in subsequent years, it was later incorporated into The Cooperstown Casebook. For a detailed introduction to the Modern Baseball ballot, please see here, and for a fuller introduction to JAWS, see here.

On Oct. 27, 1991, Jack Morris put together what many consider the greatest pitching performance in postseason history, throwing 10 shutout innings in in Game 7 of the World Series, a 1–0 victory over the Braves. Remember, a championship wasn't directly at stake when Don Larsen threw his perfect game for the Yankees in 1956—that was a Game 5. Nine pitchers had thrown shutouts in Game 7s before Morris, most recently Bret Saberhagen for the Royals in 1985, but that was an 11–0 blowout. Ralph Terry did so in a 1–0 game for the Yankees in 1962, but he threw "only" nine innings. No pitcher had ever taken a shutout beyond nine innings in the deciding game of the World Series.

In conjunction with his 254 regular season wins, that stellar performance garnered Morris nearly enough votes to reach the Hall of Fame, thanks to a slow climb mirroring that of Bert Blyleven. In 2011, Blyleven was elected by the BBWAA in his 14th turn on the ballot, breaking a 19-year string in which the voters hadn't elected a single starter with fewer than 300 wins. He benefited from a long grassroots campaign that owed a debt to the growth of advanced statistics that weren’t appreciated during his career.

Morris’s candidacy started slowly. He debuted at 22.2% of the vote in 2000, didn't reach 30% until 2005, and took another five years to break 50%. But thanks to a backlash against “the vigilante sabermetric brigade” (to use Bill Madden’s term) that propelled Blyleven, Morris’s candidacy turned into one front of the culture war that unfolded in the wake of Moneyball. As I chronicled in The Cooperstown Casebook (excerpt here), the reactionary campaign’s emphasis on wins, gritty intangibles and insider-ism brought out the worst in many, including multiple Spink Award-winning writers who were reduced to hurling schoolyard-level insults at those questioned their authority.

After receiving 66.7% in 2012, his 13th year of eligibility, Morris’s election appeared inevitable. But amid a flood of controversial candidates on the 2013 ballot—Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa—he gained just three additional votes, finishing at 67.7%, then slipped to 61.5% in his final year in front of the writers.

His story isn’t over. Morris aged off the ballot with more voter support than any candidate since Orlando Cepeda (73.5% in 1994). Cepeda, like Nellie Fox (74.7% in 1985), Enos Slaughter (68.8% in 1979) and Jim Bunning (63.7% in 1991) before him, was eventually elected by the Veterans Committee. In fact, the only player to age off the ballot after receiving at least 60% and not eventually get elected was Gil Hodges (63.4% in 1983). Particularly in front of a panel that’s more likely to be sympathetic to Morris’s old school charms than the BBWAA minority that kept him out, it should be no surprise if he’s the first living ex-player elected by a small committee since Bill Mazeroski in 2001. Brace yourselves.

A native of St. Paul, Minn., Morris attended Brigham Young University and was drafted by the Tigers in the fifth round in 1976, a banner draft by general manager Jim Campbell and scouting director Bill Lajoie that also yielded Morris's future Cooperstown ballot-mate Alan Trammell in the second round and rotation-mate Dan Petry in the fourth—one of the greatest draft hauls of all time. Morris started his professional career at Double-A Montgomery and made just 29 minor league starts before debuting with the Tigers on July 26, 1977. In his second start, he struck out 11 Rangers over nine innings while allowing just four hits (the game went into extra innings). In September, Trammell, Lou Whitaker and Lance Parrish joined Morris in making their big league debuts. That quartet became a fixture by the following season, and would hold together through 1986, when Parrish left via a collusion-throttled free agency.

Early struggles in the rotation led to Morris spending the bulk of the 1978 season in the bullpen and beginning the next year in the minors, but when he was promoted in mid-May of '79, he was up for good. He went 17–7 with a 3.28 ERA (133 ERA+) and accumulated 5.8 WAR. The latter mark ranked fifth in the league and would stand as his career-high.

That was the first of 12 full seasons Morris spent in Detroit's rotation, a span during which he averaged 33 starts, 13 complete games, 241 innings, 5.9 strikeouts per nine, a 3.71 ERA (109 ERA+) … and just 3.1 WAR. He reached 20 wins in 1983 and topped that with 21 in 1986. He dipped below 30 starts only three times in those 12 seasons: in 1979, ’81 (a strike-shortened season) and ’89, when he spent two months on the disabled list. Amid all this, he made four All-Star teams.

Morris learned a split-fingered fastball from pitching coach Roger Craig in 1983 and led the league in strikeouts (232) and innings pitched (293 2/3), the only time he would do so in either category. His 4.0 WAR didn't crack the AL's top 10. He finished third in the Cy Young voting for the second time in three years; though he received votes in seven different seasons. He received first-place votes only in 1983 and ’91 (when he placed fourth).

Morris no-hit the White Sox on April 7, 1984, the signature moment in Detroit's 35–5 start en route to a world championship. Through the end of May he was 10–1 with a 1.88 ERA, but a rough stretch following that—a 6.30 ERA over 14 starts from June through mid-August—led to criticism in the media about his level of intensity. At one point, Morris stopped talking to the press. Craig told him to “quick acting like a baby” and finally manager Sparky Anderson ordered him to end his boycott. Morris finished 19–11 with a 3.60 ERA (109 ERA+), then went 3–0 with a 1.80 ERA in three postseason starts as Detroit steamrolled the Royals in the ALCS and the Padres in the World Series.

Morris tried to test free agency after the 1986 season, in which he'd gone 21–8 with a 3.27 ERA (127 ERA+) and a league-best six shutouts, but because of collusion, he drew very limited interest; even Yankees owner George Steinbrenner toed the line when presented with Morris's demands. He wound up returning to the Tigers on a one-year, $1.85 million deal via arbitration instead of getting the three-year deal he sought and deserved. While it worked out well in the short term, that sorry saga would eventually lead to his departure from the Motor City. With another strong season in 1987 (18–11, 3.38 ERA, 126 ERA+, 5.1 WAR), he helped Detroit to 98 wins and the AL East flag. Facing Blyleven and an 85-win Twins team in the ALCS, he was rocked for six runs in eight innings in Game 2, and didn’t get a chance to redeem himself during the five-game trouncing. After the season, he signed a two-year, $4 million deal that gave him the highest average annual salary for a pitcher.

Morris's final three years in Detroit (1988–90) weren't pretty. Though he was still durable enough to average 218 innings even with his DL stint in 1989 due to an elbow injury, his ERA for that stretch was 4.40 and was worse than league average in all three seasons. When the collusion scandal was settled, the 35-year-old was allowed to declare free agency. He spurned the Tigers' three-year, $9.3 million offer and signed a one-year, $3.7 million deal with the Twins with incentives and two player options that could escalate it to $11 million.

Morris rebounded from a 15–18, 4.51 ERA showing in 1990 to go 18–12 with a 3.43 ERA (125 ERA+) and 4.3 WAR for the Twins in '91, earning his fifth and final All-Star appearance. Knocked out after just 5 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays in the ALCS opener, he threw eight strong innings in Game 4, and Minnesota prevailed in five. They won the World Series opener against the Braves behind his seven innings of two-run ball, but lost Game 4, in which Morris was pulled after six innings. He gave up one run and threw 94 pitches that night, a relatively light outing by his standards, but then again, he was on three days' rest. He would make his Game 7 start on three days' rest as well, throwing 126 pitches to complete the job. The Twins won on Gene Larkin's pinch-hit single in the bottom of the 10th.

Despite the championship and the hometown-boy-makes-good narrative, Morris opted out of his contract that winter, signing a two-year $10.85 million deal (plus an option) with the Blue Jays. He went 21–6, albeit with a 4.04 ERA (101 ERA+). The Blue Jays won the AL East, the ALCS and the World Series, but Morris couldn't duplicate his postseason magic; chased before completing five innings in two of his four starts, he was roughed up for a 7.43 ERA with 15 walks in October 23 innings.

That was the beginning of the end for Morris. Terrible with Toronto in 1993 (6.19 ERA), he missed the postseason due to a strained elbow ligament, then was knocked around for a 5.60 ERA with the Indians in the strike-shortened 1994 season. He made 10 starts for the hometown St. Paul Saints in the independent Northern League in 1995, but couldn't find a major league deal, then declined one with the Yankees in 1996 because the club wanted him to make two starts at Triple A instead of one. At 41, his career was over.

Morris's Hall of Fame candidacy rests largely on his win total, now tied for 43rd all-time. He reached 20 wins three times, and won at least 18 six times. While supporters like to point out that he racked up more wins in the 1980s (162) than any other pitcher, those arbitrary endpoints aren't any more special than others except for shorthanded stereotypes about the period—skinny ties, trickle-down economics, etc. While Morris leads the pack in wins for most rolling 10-year periods during his career, he falls to third in the 1984–93 period behind Clemens and Frank Viola, both of whom had 163. Note that even with a Cy Young to his credit—something Morris never won—as well as some big postseason moments including a Game 7 World Series win in 1987, Viola never got any kind of Hall of Fame support, falling off the ballot with 0.4% in 2002.

The exaltation of high wins totals comes because in a more modern era, they’ve become an endangered species thanks to five-man rotations and the systematic use of specialized bullpens designed to take advantage of late-inning matchups. Morris's considerable durability (175 complete games, the 16th-highest total of the post-1961 expansion era and the highest of any pitcher whose career began after the introduction of the DH in 1973) is a counter to the more modern, sabermetrically-driven view of pitcher wins as products of adequate offensive, defensive and bullpen support.

Morris received above-average run support from his teams over the course of his career. We can express that figure in normalized form just as we can ERA+, with 100 representing the park-adjusted league average. Morris's 106 mark in that run-support category (call the stat SUP+) is no small advantage. Via the Pythagorean Theorem, each extra percentage point difference in run support translates roughly to a .005 gain in winning percentage, or an extra win for every 200 decisions.

All else being equal, Morris' 6.4% advantage would translate to a record of 234–206 over the course of his total of 440 decisions, assuming average run prevention ability. Blyleven, by comparison, received run support four percent worse than league average (96 SUP+), Dave Stieb and Clemens three percent worse (97). Among the cohort of durable hurlers who won 300 games in careers that ran from the mid-1960s into the '80s (Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton), only Carlton (105) and Sutton (104) had better-than-average SUP+, which is to say that that run prevention had plenty to do with the big win totals as well. Of the 62 Hall of Fame starters, only 21 had support better than Morris, with Catfish Hunter (112, 10th) and Jim Palmer (108, 16th) the only ones whose careers overlapped that of our subject.

Particularly in the DH league, run support is entirely out of a pitcher's control. Run prevention, on the other hand, is not, though it certainly requires defensive support. Morris’s .272 batting average on balls in play was 14 points better than the league average during his career (thank you, Trammell and Whitaker) and ranked 32nd among the 200 pitchers with at least 1000 innings from 1977 through 1994. Just to cherry-pick a few comparisons, Stieb yielded a .262 BABIP (eighth), Clemens .281 (78th), Blyleven .285 (117th) and Viola .287 (128th). That support was important, because Morris didn't strike out hitters with exceptional frequency. His career 5.8 K/9 ranks 62nd out of those same 200 pitchers, while his 1980–89 rate of 6.0 per nine ranks 28th out of 99 with 1,000 innings in that span; his 1.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio was 46th during that latter period.

Even with that above-average defensive support, Morris's run prevention ability wasn’t exceptional. His 3.90 ERA would be the highest in Cooperstown, supplanting Red Ruffing's 3.80, compiled from 1924–47. Morris's 105 ERA+ would be the third-lowest among Hall of Famers, ahead of only Hunter's 104 and Rube Marquard's 103. Just nine Hall of Fame pitchers have an ERA+ lower than 110; Ruffing, who played in a higher-scoring era, is at 109.

To choose one pitcher whose career overlapped with Morris's, David Wells was an exceptionally durable pitcher who finished his career with 239 wins and an ERA nearly a quarter of a run higher at 4.13. His ERA+ was 108. For all of his big-game ability (10–5, 3.17 ERA in the postseason), Wells went one-and-done on the 2013 ballot, with 0.9%.

Morris's supporters dismiss his high ERAs by noting that they're distorted by the end of his career. He put up a 5.91 mark over his final two seasons; through 1992, he stood at 3.73, with a 109 ERA+ but "only" 237 wins. Cut him off after 1988—before his legendary Game 7 performance—and he's at 3.59, with a 113 ERA+ but just 177 wins. This is hardly unique, even among Hall of Famers; take Hunter (4.52 ERA and an 86 ERA+ while battling injuries over his final three seasons), Carlton (5.72 ERA over his final three seasons) and Niekro (6.30 ERA in his final year), for example. Blyleven posted a 4.35 ERA and a 90 ERA+ over his final four seasons, a span that included a full year missed with injury; he had one stellar year (17–5, 2.73 ERA) and two with ERAs above 5.00 in that span. All of those pitchers elevated their win totals by hanging on, but with the possible exception of Blyleven, none enhanced their Hall of Fame cases. Even if one merely focuses on his good seasons, Morris cracked the top 10 six times in raw ERA, but never ranked higher than fifth, and only four times ranked in the top 10 in ERA+, never higher than fourth.

Supporters have tended to dismiss Morris's high ERAs with claims that he "pitched to the score." The research efforts of Greg Spira and Joe Sheehan have long since put the lie to this claim. In studying his won-loss record through 1993 (his second-to-last season), Spira found that Morris was just four wins ahead of his projected record based upon run support. Sheehan, who pored over Morris’s career inning-by-inning via Retrosheet, concluded: "I can find no pattern in when Jack Morris allowed runs. If he pitched to the score—and I don't doubt that he changed his approach—the practice didn't show up in his performance record." Morris’s record, therefore, is more a product of strong run support than it is special strategy.

As for Morris’s postseason performances, while his Game 7 shutout is certainly impressive, his overall line (7–4, 3.80 ERA in 13 starts) is a reasonable distillation of his regular-season performance, with good starts and bad ones. Teams won it all with his help (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins), but teams also fell with his struggles (1987 Tigers), won in spite of them (1992 Blue Jays) or entirely without him (1993 Blue Jays). He was not exceptionally clutch in the grand scheme of his postseason résumé.

Morris's mediocre run prevention and hitter dominance costs him dearly with regards to WAR and JAWS. He ranked among the AL top 10 in WAR four times during his career, but never higher than fifth. His 30.5 WAR for 1980–89 is tied for 11th with Nolan Ryan, just below Charlie Hough (30.6) and significantly below Saberhagen, who didn't even reach the majors until 1984, with Stieb (48.5) first and Blyleven (38.1) second. Morris's 44.1 career WAR is 149th among starting pitchers, surpassing just five out of 62 Hall of Famers. His peak score ranks 186nd, tied with Ray Caldwell and 0.4 below Jamie Moyer, who stuck around forever and won 269 games with a 103 ERA+. Among enshrined starters, only Marquard (29.0) had a lower peak. Via JAWS, Morris is tied for 163rd, surpassing just four Hall starters.

According to this view, that's not a Hall of Fame pitcher. Morris was gritty, gruff and exceptionally durable, and he saved his bullpens a whole lot of work, but he simply didn't prevent runs in the manner of an elite pitcher. Any modern reckoning of his value illustrates that point definitively. For all of his extra wins and postseason success, his case rests on outmoded barometers and a distortion of the value of one shining moment.

Will he get in? His election appears to be an inevitability given his level of BBWAA support alone; as noted, only Hodges has topped the 60% threshold and never gotten in via small committee. Add to that Morris’s potential frequency for consideration, given that the Hall’s schedule calls for three more Modern Baseball ballots within this decade (2020, ’23 and ’25), and the likely tilt against any kind of sabermetric viewpoint on that panel of eight Hall of Famers, four executives and four senior BBWAA members — whose median age is somewhere in the 60s — and we can at least concede that Morris deserves a Most Likely To Succeed award in this context.

If Morris does get elected, will it mean the battles of the late 2000s over his exclusion and Blyleven’s inclusion were for naught? I don’t think so. “The War on WAR” has largely been won, analytics has permeated every front office in baseball, and subsequent elections have solidified the incorporation of advanced statistics into Hall of Fame debates (last year’s election of Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell proved this). The BBWAA electorate continues to evolve, as older, long-inactive voters are being replaced by younger ones who’ve had greater exposure to Bill James, Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, JAWS and much more. The impact of the small committee processes, notoriously retrograde even when they were funneling multiple candidates a year into the Hall, has been reduced, but sooner or later, a candidate not endorsed by “the vigilante sabermetric brigade” will break through, whether it’s Morris or somebody else.

Beyond that, there’s no real joy in turning away Morris. Many of us who devoted time and energy to arguing against his case grew up watching his no-hitter, Game 7 shutout and other highlights from his 18-year career. We know he was a very good pitcher for a long time, an intense competitor and a sturdy workhorse. It takes a hard heart to avoid acknowledging the man’s pain in being close enough to taste his inevitable election, yet falling short due to forces unforeseen at the outset of his candidacy. He didn’t ask to become a battlefront in a cultural war.

But if Morris gets in, the bar for Hall of Fame pitchers will be demonstrably lower, and his election will serve as a slight to numerous contemporaries such as Saberhagen, Stieb, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser and David Cone. Win totals aside, all have far fuller résumés than Morris from a Hall standpoint, better run prevention combined with Cy Young awards and their own shares of records and postseason heroics. They’ll deserve an equally thorough airing in this context. In light of the scarcity of viable starting pitcher candidates in the coming years, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.

Former Toronto Blue Jays general manager JP Ricciardi talks about his former Blue Jays pitcher, Roy Halladay who died last week in a plane crash, during a memorial tribute for Halladay at the Phillies spring training baseball stadium, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Clearwater, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

A baseball sits on the mound between baseball great Roy Halladay''s Philadelphia Phillies jersey number 34 and Toronto Blue Jays jersey number 32 during a memorial tribute for Halladay at the Phillies spring training baseball stadium, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Clearwater, Fla. Halladay died last week in a small plane crash. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

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It's Time to (Finally) Elect Alan Trammell Into the Hall of Fame

?The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the 2018 Modern Baseball Era Committee Hall of Fame ballot, which will be voted upon by a 16-member committee of writers, executives and Hall of Fame players at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla,, with the results to be announced on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. ET. Originally written for the 2013 BBWAA election cycle and revised in subsequent years, it was expanded for inclusion in The Cooperstown Casebook. For a detailed introduction to the Modern Baseball ballot, please see here, and for a fuller introduction to JAWS, see here.

Once upon a time, shortstops didn't hit. In the 1970s, when Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra were still wearing short pants, the idea that a slick-fielding defensive wizard could be a total zero with the bat and still help his team reached its zenith. It was the same time that shortstops' collective offensive production reached its nadir. In 1977, when major league teams averaged 4.47 runs per game on .264/.329/.401 hitting, shortstops collectively hit an appalling .248/.299/.330. The player most closely embodying that line that year was the Padres’ Bill Almon, a former No. 1 draft pick who hit .261/.303./336 with two homers, 20 steals and 20 sacrifice hits—a line as ugly as his brown-and-yellow uniform.

In the early 1980s, things started to change, as the American League produced a trio of talented two-way shortstops who could field their position and pose a substantial threat to pitchers. The Brewers’ Robin Yount, who debuted in the majors in 1974 at the tender age of 18, evolved into a top-notch hitter and earned MVP honors in '82 as Milwaukee won the pennant. The Orioles’ Cal Ripken kicked off a stretch of 10 straight seasons with at least 20 homers in his official rookie season of 1982, as well as a record-setting consecutive games streak; the next year, he claimed an MVP award as Baltimore won the World Series.

Debuting between those two, in late 1977, was the Tigers’ Alan Trammell. He didn't win the MVP award in 1984—that honor went to teammate Willie Hernandez, a reliever—but he hit .314/.382/.468 and helped Detroit to a world championship. Trammell would spend 20 years with the Tigers, and while he didn't reach 3,000 hits like Yount (who eventually moved to centerfield and won another MVP award) or Ripken (who also won a second MVP before moving to third base for his final few years), he did make six All-Star teams and win four Gold Gloves, even while competing for attention with the other two.

Despite his Hall of Fame-caliber numbers, the BBWAA voters inexplicably neglected Trammell during his 15-year run on the ballot. He didn't reach 20% of the vote until 2010, his ninth time around, didn't reach 30% until '12, and peaked at 40.9% in 2016, his final year of eligibility. Thus he became the best player to age off the ballot since Ron Santo in 1998, the only one above the JAWS standard since I introduced the first version of the metric in 2004.

Trammell is now on the Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot and part of a process that hasn’t elected a living ex-player since 2001. If his odds are long, he’s at least in better shape than double play partner Lou Whitaker, who hasn’t appeared on a small-committee ballot since going one-and-done with the BBWAA in 2001 (I’ve appended a few words about Whitaker below). In a format where voters can choose only four of the 10 candidates to support, Trammell is by far the best player on the ballot according to JAWS, better than MVP winners Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy and Dave Parker. For Hall wonks such as myself, if there’s one thing that could help to restore some confidence in what has too often appeared to be a broken process, it would be his election.

The Tigers drafted Trammell out of high school with the second pick of the second round in 1976. Though Detroit's first-round pick, pitcher Pat Underwood, wouldn't amount to much in the majors, the team's draft haul stands as one of the greatest of all time, as fourth-rounder Dan Petry and fifth-rounder Jack Morris anchored their rotation for several years. Who knows what might have happened had they been able to sign seventh-round pick Ozzie Smith, a shortstop who elected to return to school and was chosen the next year by the Padres; he replaced Almon, but wasn't much of a hitter himself, though his fielding wizardry was another story entirely.

Despite Trammell's youth, the Tigers advanced him quickly; after 41 games in the rookie level Appalachian League in 1976, he jumped straight to Double A Montgomery of the Southern League and earned MVP honors as a 19-year-old before being recalled by the Tigers in September. On Sept. 9, 1977, he and Whitaker—a fifth-round pick in '75 who was his double-play partner in Montgomery—made their major league debuts; they would remain partners in the middle infield through '95, playing 1,918 games together, the most of any double play combo or AL teammates. They joined catcher Lance Parrish, a 1974 first-round pick who had debuted on Sept. 5, and Morris, who had debuted in July, a homegrown quartet that would serve as the franchise’s foundation for nearly a decade.

Trammell and Whitaker were in the Tigers’ Opening Day lineup in 1978, though it took until late May before manager Ralph Houk made them everyday players. Trammell hit .268/.335/.339 for an 89 OPS+ with defense that was six runs above average en route to a solid 2.8 WAR. He tied for fourth in the Rookie of the Year balloting; Whitaker won. Trammell’s 1979 season wasn't so impressive (just 0.7 WAR), but in '80—Detroit's first full season under manager Sparky Anderson—he broke out as a first-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner, hitting .300/.376/.404 for a 113 OPS+ with nine homers, good for 4.8 WAR. Not bad for a 22-year-old.

While that year provided a preview of what was to come, Trammell at this stage was “so weak you could knock the bat out of his hands,”? as Anderson recalled years later. Though he repeated as a deserving (+15 runs) Gold Glove winner in the strike-shortened 1981 season, it wasn’t until his age-25 season in 1983 that he advanced further with the bat. That season, he hit .319/.385/.471 with 14 homers, 30 steals, and 138 OPS+, all career highs to that point; his 6.0 WAR ranked eighth among AL position players. In 1984, his virtual carbon copy season with the bat (136 OPS+), plus a 16-run improvement on defense yielded 6.7 WAR, fourth in the league. More importantly, the Tigers jumped out to a 35–5 start, finished 104–58 and won the World Series for the first time since 1968. Trammell won Series MVP honors, going 9-for-20 in the five-game triumph over his hometown Padres and swatting a pair of homers in a Game 4 win in which he drove in all four runs.

After the season, Trammell went under the knife of Dr. James Andrews to repair torn cartilage in his left knee and clean up his right shoulder, both of which had caused him considerable discomfort. The knee injury dated to the previous Halloween, when he fell while modeling a Frankenstein costume for his children; surgery to repair the cartilage hadn’t taken, requiring a touch-up. The shoulder injury had forced him to the disabled list for three weeks in July and limited him to DH duty for a spell. "I never had a full day I didn't feel it," he told The Sporting News' Tom Gage, "But people don't want to hear you making excuses … I was going to play as long as I had to."

Slowed by recovery as well as by a midseason forearm strain, Trammell endured a down season in 1985 but rebounded the following year to hit .277/.349/.469 with 21 homers and ranking fifth in WAR at 6.3. In 1987, he had a monster year for a Detroit team that was the class of the league, winning 98 games and the AL East flag. Even in a lineup with heavy hitters Darrell Evans, Kirk Gibson, Chet Lemon and Matt Nokes, Trammell stood out via a .343/.402/.551 showing with a career-best 28 homers, not to mention 21 steals in 23 attempts. His 155 OPS+ and 8.2 WAR were career highs, ranking fifth and second in the AL, respectively; the latter trailed only Wade Boggs's 8.3. Alas, the Tigers lost the ALCS to an 85-win Twins team that had actually been outscored by their opponents by 20 runs, and Trammell lost a very close AL MVP vote to the Blue Jays’ George Bell, who hit 47 homers and drove in 134 runs but compiled just 5.0 WAR. Trammell was robbed!

Trammell was very good in 1988 (6.0 WAR and 138 OPS+ on .311/.373/.464 hitting), but he was limited to just 128 games due to injuries, including a bruised left elbow that cost him a role as the starting shortstop for the AL All-Star team. That was the start of a familiar trend as he passed into his 30s. Injuries prevented him from topping 130 games more than once, via a 146-game, 6.7 WAR season in 1990. As he interspersed his good seasons with the bat (1988, '90, '93) with weaker ones, strong defense still bolstered his value. Excluding the 1992 season, when a broken right ankle limited him to 29 games, he averaged 4.8 WAR and 122 games a year over the '88–93 span.

The Tigers couldn't get back to the playoffs for the rest of Trammell's time in Detroit, plunging from 88 wins in 1988 to 59 in '89 and posting just one more winning season through the remainder of his career. In 1993, he hit .329/.388/.496, albeit in just 112 games; that year, he made 27 starts at third base and eight more in the outfield, largely to make room for Travis Fryman, a slugging third baseman who had been able to hold down the shortstop position in Trammell's increasingly frequent absences. After three more seasons of part-time duty, Trammell retired at age 38.

On the traditional merits, Trammell looks like a solid Hall of Fame candidate. His 2,365 hits (2,232 as a shortstop, ninth since 1913) and 185 homers (177 as a shortstop, 12th in that span) may not be in the class of Ripken and Yount, but it’s a substantial résumé when accompanied by his All-Star appearances and Gold Gloves; it’s worth noting that Trammell spent far more time at the position (2,139 games, 11th all-time) than Yount (1,479). He scores 118 on Bill James' Hall of Fame Monitor metric with 100 representing "a good possibility" and 130 a virtual cinch.

In terms of advanced metrics, Trammell’s 132 batting runs—the offensive component of WAR—is 20th at the position, better than 10 of the 21 Hall of Fame shortstops. He added another 25 runs on the bases and 14 for double play avoidance, the combination of which ranks 17th at the position and is better than all but five enshrined shortstops—which is to say that he makes up ground via those secondary offensive contributions. On the defensive side, his total of 77 runs above average (81 above average strictly at shortstop) is good but not great, 44th among shortstops, and ahead of nine Hall of Famers.

Separately, those rankings aren’t grounds for election, but the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Trammell was the rare two-way shortstop, very good on both sides of the ball and consistent over a long career. Only nine shortstops (five enshrined) were at least 100 runs above average with the bat and 50 above average with the glove. Hence Trammell’s four times in the league’s top five in WAR, with two more in the top 10, and the 11-year stretch from 1980-90 during which his 59.3 WAR ranked third in the majors, behind only Rickey Henderson (80.7) and Boggs (63.1), with Yount (57.6), Ripken (57.5, albeit with just 23 games before 1982), Mike Schmidt (56.4) and Smith (55.5) behind.

Relative to the other Hall of Fame shortstops, Trammell surpasses the career and peak WAR standards at the position with room to spare and is 2.7 points above the JAWS standard, good for 11th on the all-time list. Of the 10 players above him, all are in the Hall except the recently retired Alex Rodriguez and the dead-ball era's Bill Dahlen. That Ripken, Yount and Smith outrank him does suggest that Trammell was the fourth-best shortstop of that bunch, though not by a huge amount. His peak score is actually higher than those of Smith and 2012 inductee Barry Larkin, whose career ran from 1986 through 2004:

Trammell lags slightly behind all but Smith as a hitter in terms of counting and rate stats, but he was the third-best fielder of the bunch according to Total Zone (I've included time at other positions in this as well, since they all wind up as part of each player's overall value). In short, there isn’t anything to suggest that he doesn't belong in the Hall if those contemporaries are in. As for the idea that so many Hall of Famers from the same period constitutes a saturation point, every position except catcher and third base has multiple seasons in which at least six future Hall of Famers were active; for shortstops, that was the case in most seasons between 1930 and ’42.

To say that the BBWAA voters overlooked Trammell’s strong credentials is an understatement. Debuting on the 2002 ballot alongside Smith and Andre Dawson, he instantly became a forgotten man. Smith breezed into Cooperstown with 91.7% of the vote, while fifth-year candidate Gary Carter drew 72.7%, setting himself up for election the following year. Trammell polled just 15.7%, lower than any post-1966 candidate ever elected by the BBWAA (Duke Snider’s 17.0% in 1970 is the low-water mark). Whether it was the patchiness of his late career, or his disastrous stint managing the Tigers from 2003–05—three sub-.500 seasons including a 43–119 crater in his first year—he remained below 20% until 2010. Perhaps tellingly, his low-water mark came in 2007 (13.4%) as Ripken and Tony Gwynn sailed in. Even after his minor surge to 36.4% percent in 2012, when Larkin was elected on his third try, his support receded once the ballot grew more crowded, save for that final year.

With his BBWAA eligibility having lapsed, Trammell will have to hope to break through on the Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot. The good news is that he has plenty of historical precedents in terms of those who struggled for BBWAA support, even late in their ballot tenures. For example, Trammell’s peak share of the vote is within 10 points of several players who aged off the ballot and were subsequently elected by the Veterans Committee: Santo (43.1%), Red Schoendienst (42.6%), Bill Mazeroski (42.3%), Richie Ashburn (41.7%), Phil Rizzuto (38.4%) and George Kell (36.8%). Among that group, Trammell is stronger in JAWS than all but Santo.

Unlike some of those players—and most of the ones on the Modern Baseball ballot—there’s no question that Trammell will be worthy of the honor if he’s elected to the Hall by a small committee. The question is whether the call will come, but it damn well should.

****

A few quick words about Lou Whitaker, whose exclusion from the ballot threatens to overshadow Trammell’s inclusion. It’s just the latest in a long series of injustices that began when the second baseman received 2.9% of the BBWAA vote in 2001, which not only ruled him out of consideration in that realm but in any realm through 2015. There were teases suggesting that the reconstituted VC would take up his case as early as 2003, but he remains ineligible for consideration. That the Historical Overview Committees—currently made up of 11 BBWAA elders with enough tenure to have been among those who bypassed him in 2001—has kept him off this ballot seems like a cruel joke.

Via the Detroit NewsTony Paul, Whitaker’s case was discussed by the HOC, but as committee member Jack O’Connell said, “[H]e did not get sufficient support to make the ballot. There were quite a few other players from that era who might have been worthy of inclusion, but we were limited to 10. This does not mean Whitaker or anyone else who did not make the ballot will be excluded forever."

Like Trammell, Whitaker’s case is profiled in depth in The Cooperstown Casebook. In brief, he was an excellent, durable two-way second baseman whose totals of five All-Star appearances and three Gold Gloves undersell him. His 2,308 games at the keystone ranks fourth all-time, while his 239 homers while playing second (out of 244 total) rank seventh. For his career, he collected 2,369 hits while batting .276/.363/.426 for a 117 OPS+, with 143 stolen bases thrown in. Via Total Zone, he was 77 runs above average afield, with six seasons of at least 10 runs above average and his bookend seasons the only ones significantly in the red.

Whitaker ranked among the league’s top 10 in WAR just three times, so his 37.8 peak WAR, which ranks 20th, is 6.7 below the Hall standard for second basemen, and below 12 of the 20 enshrined. On the other hand, his 74.9 career WAR is seventh at the position, ahead of 14 of 20 Hall of Famers, and 5.5 above the Hall standard. He’s 13th in JAWS at 56.4, 0.5 below the standard, but still above 11 of the 20 enshrined. While his case tilts towards that of a compiler, his 117 OPS+ surpasses those of the second basemen recently honored, namely Roberto Alomar (116), Ryne Sandberg (114) and Craig Biggio (112), and he tops the last two of those in JAWS as well. He was legit.

Given that the Modern Baseball Era Committee will have ballots again in 2020, 2023 and 2025, we can hope that Whitaker eventually comes up for a vote. Perhaps the election of Trammell will, as Bill James suggests, provide the leverage to help Whitaker, but that big first step is still necessary.

It's Time to (Finally) Elect Alan Trammell Into the Hall of Fame

?The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the 2018 Modern Baseball Era Committee Hall of Fame ballot, which will be voted upon by a 16-member committee of writers, executives and Hall of Fame players at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla,, with the results to be announced on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. ET. Originally written for the 2013 BBWAA election cycle and revised in subsequent years, it was expanded for inclusion in The Cooperstown Casebook. For a detailed introduction to the Modern Baseball ballot, please see here, and for a fuller introduction to JAWS, see here.

Once upon a time, shortstops didn't hit. In the 1970s, when Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra were still wearing short pants, the idea that a slick-fielding defensive wizard could be a total zero with the bat and still help his team reached its zenith. It was the same time that shortstops' collective offensive production reached its nadir. In 1977, when major league teams averaged 4.47 runs per game on .264/.329/.401 hitting, shortstops collectively hit an appalling .248/.299/.330. The player most closely embodying that line that year was the Padres’ Bill Almon, a former No. 1 draft pick who hit .261/.303./336 with two homers, 20 steals and 20 sacrifice hits—a line as ugly as his brown-and-yellow uniform.

In the early 1980s, things started to change, as the American League produced a trio of talented two-way shortstops who could field their position and pose a substantial threat to pitchers. The Brewers’ Robin Yount, who debuted in the majors in 1974 at the tender age of 18, evolved into a top-notch hitter and earned MVP honors in '82 as Milwaukee won the pennant. The Orioles’ Cal Ripken kicked off a stretch of 10 straight seasons with at least 20 homers in his official rookie season of 1982, as well as a record-setting consecutive games streak; the next year, he claimed an MVP award as Baltimore won the World Series.

Debuting between those two, in late 1977, was the Tigers’ Alan Trammell. He didn't win the MVP award in 1984—that honor went to teammate Willie Hernandez, a reliever—but he hit .314/.382/.468 and helped Detroit to a world championship. Trammell would spend 20 years with the Tigers, and while he didn't reach 3,000 hits like Yount (who eventually moved to centerfield and won another MVP award) or Ripken (who also won a second MVP before moving to third base for his final few years), he did make six All-Star teams and win four Gold Gloves, even while competing for attention with the other two.

Despite his Hall of Fame-caliber numbers, the BBWAA voters inexplicably neglected Trammell during his 15-year run on the ballot. He didn't reach 20% of the vote until 2010, his ninth time around, didn't reach 30% until '12, and peaked at 40.9% in 2016, his final year of eligibility. Thus he became the best player to age off the ballot since Ron Santo in 1998, the only one above the JAWS standard since I introduced the first version of the metric in 2004.

Trammell is now on the Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot and part of a process that hasn’t elected a living ex-player since 2001. If his odds are long, he’s at least in better shape than double play partner Lou Whitaker, who hasn’t appeared on a small-committee ballot since going one-and-done with the BBWAA in 2001 (I’ve appended a few words about Whitaker below). In a format where voters can choose only four of the 10 candidates to support, Trammell is by far the best player on the ballot according to JAWS, better than MVP winners Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy and Dave Parker. For Hall wonks such as myself, if there’s one thing that could help to restore some confidence in what has too often appeared to be a broken process, it would be his election.

The Tigers drafted Trammell out of high school with the second pick of the second round in 1976. Though Detroit's first-round pick, pitcher Pat Underwood, wouldn't amount to much in the majors, the team's draft haul stands as one of the greatest of all time, as fourth-rounder Dan Petry and fifth-rounder Jack Morris anchored their rotation for several years. Who knows what might have happened had they been able to sign seventh-round pick Ozzie Smith, a shortstop who elected to return to school and was chosen the next year by the Padres; he replaced Almon, but wasn't much of a hitter himself, though his fielding wizardry was another story entirely.

Despite Trammell's youth, the Tigers advanced him quickly; after 41 games in the rookie level Appalachian League in 1976, he jumped straight to Double A Montgomery of the Southern League and earned MVP honors as a 19-year-old before being recalled by the Tigers in September. On Sept. 9, 1977, he and Whitaker—a fifth-round pick in '75 who was his double-play partner in Montgomery—made their major league debuts; they would remain partners in the middle infield through '95, playing 1,918 games together, the most of any double play combo or AL teammates. They joined catcher Lance Parrish, a 1974 first-round pick who had debuted on Sept. 5, and Morris, who had debuted in July, a homegrown quartet that would serve as the franchise’s foundation for nearly a decade.

Trammell and Whitaker were in the Tigers’ Opening Day lineup in 1978, though it took until late May before manager Ralph Houk made them everyday players. Trammell hit .268/.335/.339 for an 89 OPS+ with defense that was six runs above average en route to a solid 2.8 WAR. He tied for fourth in the Rookie of the Year balloting; Whitaker won. Trammell’s 1979 season wasn't so impressive (just 0.7 WAR), but in '80—Detroit's first full season under manager Sparky Anderson—he broke out as a first-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner, hitting .300/.376/.404 for a 113 OPS+ with nine homers, good for 4.8 WAR. Not bad for a 22-year-old.

While that year provided a preview of what was to come, Trammell at this stage was “so weak you could knock the bat out of his hands,”? as Anderson recalled years later. Though he repeated as a deserving (+15 runs) Gold Glove winner in the strike-shortened 1981 season, it wasn’t until his age-25 season in 1983 that he advanced further with the bat. That season, he hit .319/.385/.471 with 14 homers, 30 steals, and 138 OPS+, all career highs to that point; his 6.0 WAR ranked eighth among AL position players. In 1984, his virtual carbon copy season with the bat (136 OPS+), plus a 16-run improvement on defense yielded 6.7 WAR, fourth in the league. More importantly, the Tigers jumped out to a 35–5 start, finished 104–58 and won the World Series for the first time since 1968. Trammell won Series MVP honors, going 9-for-20 in the five-game triumph over his hometown Padres and swatting a pair of homers in a Game 4 win in which he drove in all four runs.

After the season, Trammell went under the knife of Dr. James Andrews to repair torn cartilage in his left knee and clean up his right shoulder, both of which had caused him considerable discomfort. The knee injury dated to the previous Halloween, when he fell while modeling a Frankenstein costume for his children; surgery to repair the cartilage hadn’t taken, requiring a touch-up. The shoulder injury had forced him to the disabled list for three weeks in July and limited him to DH duty for a spell. "I never had a full day I didn't feel it," he told The Sporting News' Tom Gage, "But people don't want to hear you making excuses … I was going to play as long as I had to."

Slowed by recovery as well as by a midseason forearm strain, Trammell endured a down season in 1985 but rebounded the following year to hit .277/.349/.469 with 21 homers and ranking fifth in WAR at 6.3. In 1987, he had a monster year for a Detroit team that was the class of the league, winning 98 games and the AL East flag. Even in a lineup with heavy hitters Darrell Evans, Kirk Gibson, Chet Lemon and Matt Nokes, Trammell stood out via a .343/.402/.551 showing with a career-best 28 homers, not to mention 21 steals in 23 attempts. His 155 OPS+ and 8.2 WAR were career highs, ranking fifth and second in the AL, respectively; the latter trailed only Wade Boggs's 8.3. Alas, the Tigers lost the ALCS to an 85-win Twins team that had actually been outscored by their opponents by 20 runs, and Trammell lost a very close AL MVP vote to the Blue Jays’ George Bell, who hit 47 homers and drove in 134 runs but compiled just 5.0 WAR. Trammell was robbed!

Trammell was very good in 1988 (6.0 WAR and 138 OPS+ on .311/.373/.464 hitting), but he was limited to just 128 games due to injuries, including a bruised left elbow that cost him a role as the starting shortstop for the AL All-Star team. That was the start of a familiar trend as he passed into his 30s. Injuries prevented him from topping 130 games more than once, via a 146-game, 6.7 WAR season in 1990. As he interspersed his good seasons with the bat (1988, '90, '93) with weaker ones, strong defense still bolstered his value. Excluding the 1992 season, when a broken right ankle limited him to 29 games, he averaged 4.8 WAR and 122 games a year over the '88–93 span.

The Tigers couldn't get back to the playoffs for the rest of Trammell's time in Detroit, plunging from 88 wins in 1988 to 59 in '89 and posting just one more winning season through the remainder of his career. In 1993, he hit .329/.388/.496, albeit in just 112 games; that year, he made 27 starts at third base and eight more in the outfield, largely to make room for Travis Fryman, a slugging third baseman who had been able to hold down the shortstop position in Trammell's increasingly frequent absences. After three more seasons of part-time duty, Trammell retired at age 38.

On the traditional merits, Trammell looks like a solid Hall of Fame candidate. His 2,365 hits (2,232 as a shortstop, ninth since 1913) and 185 homers (177 as a shortstop, 12th in that span) may not be in the class of Ripken and Yount, but it’s a substantial résumé when accompanied by his All-Star appearances and Gold Gloves; it’s worth noting that Trammell spent far more time at the position (2,139 games, 11th all-time) than Yount (1,479). He scores 118 on Bill James' Hall of Fame Monitor metric with 100 representing "a good possibility" and 130 a virtual cinch.

In terms of advanced metrics, Trammell’s 132 batting runs—the offensive component of WAR—is 20th at the position, better than 10 of the 21 Hall of Fame shortstops. He added another 25 runs on the bases and 14 for double play avoidance, the combination of which ranks 17th at the position and is better than all but five enshrined shortstops—which is to say that he makes up ground via those secondary offensive contributions. On the defensive side, his total of 77 runs above average (81 above average strictly at shortstop) is good but not great, 44th among shortstops, and ahead of nine Hall of Famers.

Separately, those rankings aren’t grounds for election, but the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Trammell was the rare two-way shortstop, very good on both sides of the ball and consistent over a long career. Only nine shortstops (five enshrined) were at least 100 runs above average with the bat and 50 above average with the glove. Hence Trammell’s four times in the league’s top five in WAR, with two more in the top 10, and the 11-year stretch from 1980-90 during which his 59.3 WAR ranked third in the majors, behind only Rickey Henderson (80.7) and Boggs (63.1), with Yount (57.6), Ripken (57.5, albeit with just 23 games before 1982), Mike Schmidt (56.4) and Smith (55.5) behind.

Relative to the other Hall of Fame shortstops, Trammell surpasses the career and peak WAR standards at the position with room to spare and is 2.7 points above the JAWS standard, good for 11th on the all-time list. Of the 10 players above him, all are in the Hall except the recently retired Alex Rodriguez and the dead-ball era's Bill Dahlen. That Ripken, Yount and Smith outrank him does suggest that Trammell was the fourth-best shortstop of that bunch, though not by a huge amount. His peak score is actually higher than those of Smith and 2012 inductee Barry Larkin, whose career ran from 1986 through 2004:

Trammell lags slightly behind all but Smith as a hitter in terms of counting and rate stats, but he was the third-best fielder of the bunch according to Total Zone (I've included time at other positions in this as well, since they all wind up as part of each player's overall value). In short, there isn’t anything to suggest that he doesn't belong in the Hall if those contemporaries are in. As for the idea that so many Hall of Famers from the same period constitutes a saturation point, every position except catcher and third base has multiple seasons in which at least six future Hall of Famers were active; for shortstops, that was the case in most seasons between 1930 and ’42.

To say that the BBWAA voters overlooked Trammell’s strong credentials is an understatement. Debuting on the 2002 ballot alongside Smith and Andre Dawson, he instantly became a forgotten man. Smith breezed into Cooperstown with 91.7% of the vote, while fifth-year candidate Gary Carter drew 72.7%, setting himself up for election the following year. Trammell polled just 15.7%, lower than any post-1966 candidate ever elected by the BBWAA (Duke Snider’s 17.0% in 1970 is the low-water mark). Whether it was the patchiness of his late career, or his disastrous stint managing the Tigers from 2003–05—three sub-.500 seasons including a 43–119 crater in his first year—he remained below 20% until 2010. Perhaps tellingly, his low-water mark came in 2007 (13.4%) as Ripken and Tony Gwynn sailed in. Even after his minor surge to 36.4% percent in 2012, when Larkin was elected on his third try, his support receded once the ballot grew more crowded, save for that final year.

With his BBWAA eligibility having lapsed, Trammell will have to hope to break through on the Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot. The good news is that he has plenty of historical precedents in terms of those who struggled for BBWAA support, even late in their ballot tenures. For example, Trammell’s peak share of the vote is within 10 points of several players who aged off the ballot and were subsequently elected by the Veterans Committee: Santo (43.1%), Red Schoendienst (42.6%), Bill Mazeroski (42.3%), Richie Ashburn (41.7%), Phil Rizzuto (38.4%) and George Kell (36.8%). Among that group, Trammell is stronger in JAWS than all but Santo.

Unlike some of those players—and most of the ones on the Modern Baseball ballot—there’s no question that Trammell will be worthy of the honor if he’s elected to the Hall by a small committee. The question is whether the call will come, but it damn well should.

****

A few quick words about Lou Whitaker, whose exclusion from the ballot threatens to overshadow Trammell’s inclusion. It’s just the latest in a long series of injustices that began when the second baseman received 2.9% of the BBWAA vote in 2001, which not only ruled him out of consideration in that realm but in any realm through 2015. There were teases suggesting that the reconstituted VC would take up his case as early as 2003, but he remains ineligible for consideration. That the Historical Overview Committees—currently made up of 11 BBWAA elders with enough tenure to have been among those who bypassed him in 2001—has kept him off this ballot seems like a cruel joke.

Via the Detroit NewsTony Paul, Whitaker’s case was discussed by the HOC, but as committee member Jack O’Connell said, “[H]e did not get sufficient support to make the ballot. There were quite a few other players from that era who might have been worthy of inclusion, but we were limited to 10. This does not mean Whitaker or anyone else who did not make the ballot will be excluded forever."

Like Trammell, Whitaker’s case is profiled in depth in The Cooperstown Casebook. In brief, he was an excellent, durable two-way second baseman whose totals of five All-Star appearances and three Gold Gloves undersell him. His 2,308 games at the keystone ranks fourth all-time, while his 239 homers while playing second (out of 244 total) rank seventh. For his career, he collected 2,369 hits while batting .276/.363/.426 for a 117 OPS+, with 143 stolen bases thrown in. Via Total Zone, he was 77 runs above average afield, with six seasons of at least 10 runs above average and his bookend seasons the only ones significantly in the red.

Whitaker ranked among the league’s top 10 in WAR just three times, so his 37.8 peak WAR, which ranks 20th, is 6.7 below the Hall standard for second basemen, and below 12 of the 20 enshrined. On the other hand, his 74.9 career WAR is seventh at the position, ahead of 14 of 20 Hall of Famers, and 5.5 above the Hall standard. He’s 13th in JAWS at 56.4, 0.5 below the standard, but still above 11 of the 20 enshrined. While his case tilts towards that of a compiler, his 117 OPS+ surpasses those of the second basemen recently honored, namely Roberto Alomar (116), Ryne Sandberg (114) and Craig Biggio (112), and he tops the last two of those in JAWS as well. He was legit.

Given that the Modern Baseball Era Committee will have ballots again in 2020, 2023 and 2025, we can hope that Whitaker eventually comes up for a vote. Perhaps the election of Trammell will, as Bill James suggests, provide the leverage to help Whitaker, but that big first step is still necessary.

It's Time to (Finally) Elect Alan Trammell Into the Hall of Fame

?The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the 2018 Modern Baseball Era Committee Hall of Fame ballot, which will be voted upon by a 16-member committee of writers, executives and Hall of Fame players at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla,, with the results to be announced on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. ET. Originally written for the 2013 BBWAA election cycle and revised in subsequent years, it was expanded for inclusion in The Cooperstown Casebook. For a detailed introduction to the Modern Baseball ballot, please see here, and for a fuller introduction to JAWS, see here.

Once upon a time, shortstops didn't hit. In the 1970s, when Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra were still wearing short pants, the idea that a slick-fielding defensive wizard could be a total zero with the bat and still help his team reached its zenith. It was the same time that shortstops' collective offensive production reached its nadir. In 1977, when major league teams averaged 4.47 runs per game on .264/.329/.401 hitting, shortstops collectively hit an appalling .248/.299/.330. The player most closely embodying that line that year was the Padres’ Bill Almon, a former No. 1 draft pick who hit .261/.303./336 with two homers, 20 steals and 20 sacrifice hits—a line as ugly as his brown-and-yellow uniform.

In the early 1980s, things started to change, as the American League produced a trio of talented two-way shortstops who could field their position and pose a substantial threat to pitchers. The Brewers’ Robin Yount, who debuted in the majors in 1974 at the tender age of 18, evolved into a top-notch hitter and earned MVP honors in '82 as Milwaukee won the pennant. The Orioles’ Cal Ripken kicked off a stretch of 10 straight seasons with at least 20 homers in his official rookie season of 1982, as well as a record-setting consecutive games streak; the next year, he claimed an MVP award as Baltimore won the World Series.

Debuting between those two, in late 1977, was the Tigers’ Alan Trammell. He didn't win the MVP award in 1984—that honor went to teammate Willie Hernandez, a reliever—but he hit .314/.382/.468 and helped Detroit to a world championship. Trammell would spend 20 years with the Tigers, and while he didn't reach 3,000 hits like Yount (who eventually moved to centerfield and won another MVP award) or Ripken (who also won a second MVP before moving to third base for his final few years), he did make six All-Star teams and win four Gold Gloves, even while competing for attention with the other two.

Despite his Hall of Fame-caliber numbers, the BBWAA voters inexplicably neglected Trammell during his 15-year run on the ballot. He didn't reach 20% of the vote until 2010, his ninth time around, didn't reach 30% until '12, and peaked at 40.9% in 2016, his final year of eligibility. Thus he became the best player to age off the ballot since Ron Santo in 1998, the only one above the JAWS standard since I introduced the first version of the metric in 2004.

Trammell is now on the Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot and part of a process that hasn’t elected a living ex-player since 2001. If his odds are long, he’s at least in better shape than double play partner Lou Whitaker, who hasn’t appeared on a small-committee ballot since going one-and-done with the BBWAA in 2001 (I’ve appended a few words about Whitaker below). In a format where voters can choose only four of the 10 candidates to support, Trammell is by far the best player on the ballot according to JAWS, better than MVP winners Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy and Dave Parker. For Hall wonks such as myself, if there’s one thing that could help to restore some confidence in what has too often appeared to be a broken process, it would be his election.

The Tigers drafted Trammell out of high school with the second pick of the second round in 1976. Though Detroit's first-round pick, pitcher Pat Underwood, wouldn't amount to much in the majors, the team's draft haul stands as one of the greatest of all time, as fourth-rounder Dan Petry and fifth-rounder Jack Morris anchored their rotation for several years. Who knows what might have happened had they been able to sign seventh-round pick Ozzie Smith, a shortstop who elected to return to school and was chosen the next year by the Padres; he replaced Almon, but wasn't much of a hitter himself, though his fielding wizardry was another story entirely.

Despite Trammell's youth, the Tigers advanced him quickly; after 41 games in the rookie level Appalachian League in 1976, he jumped straight to Double A Montgomery of the Southern League and earned MVP honors as a 19-year-old before being recalled by the Tigers in September. On Sept. 9, 1977, he and Whitaker—a fifth-round pick in '75 who was his double-play partner in Montgomery—made their major league debuts; they would remain partners in the middle infield through '95, playing 1,918 games together, the most of any double play combo or AL teammates. They joined catcher Lance Parrish, a 1974 first-round pick who had debuted on Sept. 5, and Morris, who had debuted in July, a homegrown quartet that would serve as the franchise’s foundation for nearly a decade.

Trammell and Whitaker were in the Tigers’ Opening Day lineup in 1978, though it took until late May before manager Ralph Houk made them everyday players. Trammell hit .268/.335/.339 for an 89 OPS+ with defense that was six runs above average en route to a solid 2.8 WAR. He tied for fourth in the Rookie of the Year balloting; Whitaker won. Trammell’s 1979 season wasn't so impressive (just 0.7 WAR), but in '80—Detroit's first full season under manager Sparky Anderson—he broke out as a first-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner, hitting .300/.376/.404 for a 113 OPS+ with nine homers, good for 4.8 WAR. Not bad for a 22-year-old.

While that year provided a preview of what was to come, Trammell at this stage was “so weak you could knock the bat out of his hands,”? as Anderson recalled years later. Though he repeated as a deserving (+15 runs) Gold Glove winner in the strike-shortened 1981 season, it wasn’t until his age-25 season in 1983 that he advanced further with the bat. That season, he hit .319/.385/.471 with 14 homers, 30 steals, and 138 OPS+, all career highs to that point; his 6.0 WAR ranked eighth among AL position players. In 1984, his virtual carbon copy season with the bat (136 OPS+), plus a 16-run improvement on defense yielded 6.7 WAR, fourth in the league. More importantly, the Tigers jumped out to a 35–5 start, finished 104–58 and won the World Series for the first time since 1968. Trammell won Series MVP honors, going 9-for-20 in the five-game triumph over his hometown Padres and swatting a pair of homers in a Game 4 win in which he drove in all four runs.

After the season, Trammell went under the knife of Dr. James Andrews to repair torn cartilage in his left knee and clean up his right shoulder, both of which had caused him considerable discomfort. The knee injury dated to the previous Halloween, when he fell while modeling a Frankenstein costume for his children; surgery to repair the cartilage hadn’t taken, requiring a touch-up. The shoulder injury had forced him to the disabled list for three weeks in July and limited him to DH duty for a spell. "I never had a full day I didn't feel it," he told The Sporting News' Tom Gage, "But people don't want to hear you making excuses … I was going to play as long as I had to."

Slowed by recovery as well as by a midseason forearm strain, Trammell endured a down season in 1985 but rebounded the following year to hit .277/.349/.469 with 21 homers and ranking fifth in WAR at 6.3. In 1987, he had a monster year for a Detroit team that was the class of the league, winning 98 games and the AL East flag. Even in a lineup with heavy hitters Darrell Evans, Kirk Gibson, Chet Lemon and Matt Nokes, Trammell stood out via a .343/.402/.551 showing with a career-best 28 homers, not to mention 21 steals in 23 attempts. His 155 OPS+ and 8.2 WAR were career highs, ranking fifth and second in the AL, respectively; the latter trailed only Wade Boggs's 8.3. Alas, the Tigers lost the ALCS to an 85-win Twins team that had actually been outscored by their opponents by 20 runs, and Trammell lost a very close AL MVP vote to the Blue Jays’ George Bell, who hit 47 homers and drove in 134 runs but compiled just 5.0 WAR. Trammell was robbed!

Trammell was very good in 1988 (6.0 WAR and 138 OPS+ on .311/.373/.464 hitting), but he was limited to just 128 games due to injuries, including a bruised left elbow that cost him a role as the starting shortstop for the AL All-Star team. That was the start of a familiar trend as he passed into his 30s. Injuries prevented him from topping 130 games more than once, via a 146-game, 6.7 WAR season in 1990. As he interspersed his good seasons with the bat (1988, '90, '93) with weaker ones, strong defense still bolstered his value. Excluding the 1992 season, when a broken right ankle limited him to 29 games, he averaged 4.8 WAR and 122 games a year over the '88–93 span.

The Tigers couldn't get back to the playoffs for the rest of Trammell's time in Detroit, plunging from 88 wins in 1988 to 59 in '89 and posting just one more winning season through the remainder of his career. In 1993, he hit .329/.388/.496, albeit in just 112 games; that year, he made 27 starts at third base and eight more in the outfield, largely to make room for Travis Fryman, a slugging third baseman who had been able to hold down the shortstop position in Trammell's increasingly frequent absences. After three more seasons of part-time duty, Trammell retired at age 38.

On the traditional merits, Trammell looks like a solid Hall of Fame candidate. His 2,365 hits (2,232 as a shortstop, ninth since 1913) and 185 homers (177 as a shortstop, 12th in that span) may not be in the class of Ripken and Yount, but it’s a substantial résumé when accompanied by his All-Star appearances and Gold Gloves; it’s worth noting that Trammell spent far more time at the position (2,139 games, 11th all-time) than Yount (1,479). He scores 118 on Bill James' Hall of Fame Monitor metric with 100 representing "a good possibility" and 130 a virtual cinch.

In terms of advanced metrics, Trammell’s 132 batting runs—the offensive component of WAR—is 20th at the position, better than 10 of the 21 Hall of Fame shortstops. He added another 25 runs on the bases and 14 for double play avoidance, the combination of which ranks 17th at the position and is better than all but five enshrined shortstops—which is to say that he makes up ground via those secondary offensive contributions. On the defensive side, his total of 77 runs above average (81 above average strictly at shortstop) is good but not great, 44th among shortstops, and ahead of nine Hall of Famers.

Separately, those rankings aren’t grounds for election, but the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Trammell was the rare two-way shortstop, very good on both sides of the ball and consistent over a long career. Only nine shortstops (five enshrined) were at least 100 runs above average with the bat and 50 above average with the glove. Hence Trammell’s four times in the league’s top five in WAR, with two more in the top 10, and the 11-year stretch from 1980-90 during which his 59.3 WAR ranked third in the majors, behind only Rickey Henderson (80.7) and Boggs (63.1), with Yount (57.6), Ripken (57.5, albeit with just 23 games before 1982), Mike Schmidt (56.4) and Smith (55.5) behind.

Relative to the other Hall of Fame shortstops, Trammell surpasses the career and peak WAR standards at the position with room to spare and is 2.7 points above the JAWS standard, good for 11th on the all-time list. Of the 10 players above him, all are in the Hall except the recently retired Alex Rodriguez and the dead-ball era's Bill Dahlen. That Ripken, Yount and Smith outrank him does suggest that Trammell was the fourth-best shortstop of that bunch, though not by a huge amount. His peak score is actually higher than those of Smith and 2012 inductee Barry Larkin, whose career ran from 1986 through 2004:

Trammell lags slightly behind all but Smith as a hitter in terms of counting and rate stats, but he was the third-best fielder of the bunch according to Total Zone (I've included time at other positions in this as well, since they all wind up as part of each player's overall value). In short, there isn’t anything to suggest that he doesn't belong in the Hall if those contemporaries are in. As for the idea that so many Hall of Famers from the same period constitutes a saturation point, every position except catcher and third base has multiple seasons in which at least six future Hall of Famers were active; for shortstops, that was the case in most seasons between 1930 and ’42.

To say that the BBWAA voters overlooked Trammell’s strong credentials is an understatement. Debuting on the 2002 ballot alongside Smith and Andre Dawson, he instantly became a forgotten man. Smith breezed into Cooperstown with 91.7% of the vote, while fifth-year candidate Gary Carter drew 72.7%, setting himself up for election the following year. Trammell polled just 15.7%, lower than any post-1966 candidate ever elected by the BBWAA (Duke Snider’s 17.0% in 1970 is the low-water mark). Whether it was the patchiness of his late career, or his disastrous stint managing the Tigers from 2003–05—three sub-.500 seasons including a 43–119 crater in his first year—he remained below 20% until 2010. Perhaps tellingly, his low-water mark came in 2007 (13.4%) as Ripken and Tony Gwynn sailed in. Even after his minor surge to 36.4% percent in 2012, when Larkin was elected on his third try, his support receded once the ballot grew more crowded, save for that final year.

With his BBWAA eligibility having lapsed, Trammell will have to hope to break through on the Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot. The good news is that he has plenty of historical precedents in terms of those who struggled for BBWAA support, even late in their ballot tenures. For example, Trammell’s peak share of the vote is within 10 points of several players who aged off the ballot and were subsequently elected by the Veterans Committee: Santo (43.1%), Red Schoendienst (42.6%), Bill Mazeroski (42.3%), Richie Ashburn (41.7%), Phil Rizzuto (38.4%) and George Kell (36.8%). Among that group, Trammell is stronger in JAWS than all but Santo.

Unlike some of those players—and most of the ones on the Modern Baseball ballot—there’s no question that Trammell will be worthy of the honor if he’s elected to the Hall by a small committee. The question is whether the call will come, but it damn well should.

****

A few quick words about Lou Whitaker, whose exclusion from the ballot threatens to overshadow Trammell’s inclusion. It’s just the latest in a long series of injustices that began when the second baseman received 2.9% of the BBWAA vote in 2001, which not only ruled him out of consideration in that realm but in any realm through 2015. There were teases suggesting that the reconstituted VC would take up his case as early as 2003, but he remains ineligible for consideration. That the Historical Overview Committees—currently made up of 11 BBWAA elders with enough tenure to have been among those who bypassed him in 2001—has kept him off this ballot seems like a cruel joke.

Via the Detroit NewsTony Paul, Whitaker’s case was discussed by the HOC, but as committee member Jack O’Connell said, “[H]e did not get sufficient support to make the ballot. There were quite a few other players from that era who might have been worthy of inclusion, but we were limited to 10. This does not mean Whitaker or anyone else who did not make the ballot will be excluded forever."

Like Trammell, Whitaker’s case is profiled in depth in The Cooperstown Casebook. In brief, he was an excellent, durable two-way second baseman whose totals of five All-Star appearances and three Gold Gloves undersell him. His 2,308 games at the keystone ranks fourth all-time, while his 239 homers while playing second (out of 244 total) rank seventh. For his career, he collected 2,369 hits while batting .276/.363/.426 for a 117 OPS+, with 143 stolen bases thrown in. Via Total Zone, he was 77 runs above average afield, with six seasons of at least 10 runs above average and his bookend seasons the only ones significantly in the red.

Whitaker ranked among the league’s top 10 in WAR just three times, so his 37.8 peak WAR, which ranks 20th, is 6.7 below the Hall standard for second basemen, and below 12 of the 20 enshrined. On the other hand, his 74.9 career WAR is seventh at the position, ahead of 14 of 20 Hall of Famers, and 5.5 above the Hall standard. He’s 13th in JAWS at 56.4, 0.5 below the standard, but still above 11 of the 20 enshrined. While his case tilts towards that of a compiler, his 117 OPS+ surpasses those of the second basemen recently honored, namely Roberto Alomar (116), Ryne Sandberg (114) and Craig Biggio (112), and he tops the last two of those in JAWS as well. He was legit.

Given that the Modern Baseball Era Committee will have ballots again in 2020, 2023 and 2025, we can hope that Whitaker eventually comes up for a vote. Perhaps the election of Trammell will, as Bill James suggests, provide the leverage to help Whitaker, but that big first step is still necessary.

Judge, Bellinger unanimous picks as Rookies of the Year

FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees' Aaron Judge rounds the bases with a home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, in New York. Aaron Judge of the Yankees and Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers are favored to win Rookie of the Year honors when the votes are announced Monday night, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees' Aaron Judge rounds the bases with a home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, in New York. Aaron Judge of the Yankees and Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers are favored to win Rookie of the Year honors when the votes are announced Monday night, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

FILE PHOTO: Former Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos and President and CEO of the Blue Jays Paul Beeston talk during workouts at the team's MLB baseball spring training facility in Dunedin

FILE PHOTO: Former Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos (L) and President and CEO of the Blue Jays Paul Beeston talk during workouts at the team's MLB baseball spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida February 17, 2013. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill

Braves hire former Dodgers, Blue Jays exec Anthopoulos as GM

Alex Anthopoulos speaks to reporters following a news conference introducing him as the new general manager of the Atlanta Braves baseball team in Atlanta, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Braves hire former Dodgers, Blue Jays exec Anthopoulos as GM

Alex Anthopoulos speaks at a news conference introducing him as the new general manager of the Atlanta Braves baseball team in Atlanta, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Braves hire former Dodgers, Blue Jays exec Anthopoulos as GM

FILE - In this July 28, 2015, file photo, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos speaks at a press conference in Toronto. The Atlanta Braves have selected a young but experienced leader to guide their team, hiring former Dodgers and Blue Jays executive Alex Anthopoulos as their general manager, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press. Anthopoulos, 40, is expected to be introduced as general manager on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, the person told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity Monday because the hiring has yet to be announced. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Braves hire former Dodgers, Blue Jays exec Anthopoulos as GM

Alex Anthopoulos, right, speaks at a news conference introducing him as the new general manager of the Atlanta Braves baseball team by Terry McGuirk, chairman and CEO, in Atlanta, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Braves hire former Dodgers, Blue Jays exec Anthopoulos as GM

Atlanta Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk introduces new general manager Alex Anthopoulous during a press conference on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Braves hire former Dodgers, Blue Jays exec Anthopoulos as GM

Braves hire former Dodgers, Blue Jays exec Anthopoulos as GM

FILE - In this July 28, 2015, file photo, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos speaks at a press conference in Toronto. The Atlanta Braves have selected a young but experienced leader to guide their team, hiring former Dodgers and Blue Jays executive Alex Anthopoulos as their general manager, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press. Anthopoulos, 40, is expected to be introduced as general manager on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, the person told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity Monday because the hiring has yet to be announced. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

AP source: Braves hire Alex Anthopoulos as general manager

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos keeps an eye on the action at baseball spring training in Dunedin, Fla. on Friday Feb. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

Analyzing the Hall of Fame Cases for Don Mattingly, Steve Garvey and more

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the 2018 Modern Baseball Era Committee Hall of Fame ballot, which will be voted upon by a 16-member committee of writers, executives and Hall of Fame players at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla., with the results to be announced on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. ET. For a detailed introduction to the Modern Baseball ballot, please see here, and for a fuller introduction to JAWS, see here.

Steve Garvey, (37.7/28.6/33.1, 51st among 1B)

Avg HOF 1B: 66.4/42.7/54.6

A remarkably consistent and durable player during the prime of his 19-year career (1969–1987), Garvey was the most heralded member of the Dodgers' Longest Running Infield, earning All-Star honors every year from 1974–1981 and again in 1984 and '85, his second and third seasons with the Padres after departing Los Angeles via free agency. Stuck in a difficult hitters' park at Dodger Stadium, he did things that typically impress Hall of Fame voters, topping a .300 batting average seven times, 200 hits six times and 100 RBIs five times during that initial eight-year run. He won Gold Gloves in the first four of those years, all while maintaining perfectly coiffed hair.

Additionally, Garvey was great in the postseason (.338/.361/.550 with 11 homers in 232 PA) and helped lead his teams to five World Series appearances and one title (1981 with the Dodgers). He also won plenty of hardware (1974 MVP, two-time All-Star Game MVP), played in 10 All-Star games and set the National League record for consecutive games played with 1,207 from Sept. 3, 1975, to July 29, 1983; that streak still ranks as the fourth-longest behind those of Cal Ripken, Lou Gehrig and Everett Scott.

Garvey finished with a .294/.329/.446 regular season line, 2,599 hits and 272 homers, favorable numbers for his Hall of Fame case. His Hall of Fame Monitor score—a Bill James invention that credits factors like those aforementioned round numbers and postseason appearances—of 130 suggests he was a "virtual cinch." Even so, Garvey never got closer than the 42.6% he received in his third year on the ballot. A messy divorce, a pair of paternity suits and further legal problems tarnished his apple-pie image, which didn't help.

From an advanced statistical standpoint, Garvey's problems are twofold. He walked in just 5% of his plate appearances (3.8% unintentionally) en route to an OBP that was just one point above the park-adjusted league average for his career. As a result, his 117 OPS+ ranks just sixth among the nine first basemen with at least 7,000 PA from 1969–1992 (a period bracketed by expansions), well behind the enshrined Eddie Murray (136), Rod Carew (134) and Tony Perez (124), not to mention a much better candidate in Keith Hernandez (128).

His total of 183 batting runs—not RBI but the offensive component of Baseball-Reference's version of WAR—ranks 53rd among first basemen all time, well below non-Hall of Famers such as Will Clark, Norm Cash, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, Bob Watson and Mark Grace. What's more, despite his Gold Gloves, Garvey grades out as exactly average in the field according to Total Zone, the Baseball-Reference defensive component for the era; Baseball Prospectus's Fielding Runs Above Average and the Baseball Gauge's Defensive Regression Analysis both view him even less charitably. He ranked among the NL’s top 10 in WAR just twice, and is far below the career, peak and JAWS standards on all three fronts, 51st at the position in the latter. That's not even close to good enough to justify a vote.

Don Mattingly (42.2/35.6/38.9, 38th among 1B)

Avg HOF 1B: 66.4/42.7/54.6

See here for a more in-depth profile dating to Mattingly’s time on the BBWAA ballot.

The golden child of the Great Yankees Dark Age, Mattingly debuted in September 1982, the year after the team finished a stretch of four World Series appearances in six seasons, and retired in 1995, having finally reached the postseason but still a year too early for their run of six pennants and four titles in eight years. At his peak, "Donnie Baseball" was both an outstanding hitter and a slick fielder, but a back injury sapped his power, not only shortening that peak but also bringing his career to a premature end at age 34.

After securing a roster spot in June 1983, Mattingly assumed regular first base duties the following year and hit .343/.381/.537 with 23 homers and 110 RBIs, leading the league in batting average, hits (207) and doubles (44) while ranking fifth in WAR (6.3) and making the first of six straight All-Star teams. He hit 35 homers and drove in a league-high 145 runs en route to the AL MVP award in 1985, then led the league in hits (238), doubles (53), slugging percentage (.573) and OPS+ (161) in 1986. His .352 batting average that year ran second to Wade Boggs' .357, his 7.2 WAR third behind Boggs and Jesse Barfield.

Mattingly caught flak from owner George Steinbrenner over his relatively high salary and inability to produce a championship. “The Boss” labeled his star first baseman "the most unproductive .300 hitter in baseball," a ridiculous notion in an industry and an era where RBI totals were viewed as productivity (nobody was within 50 RBIs of Mattingly's 1984–87 total at the time Steinbrenner said that). Donnie Baseball continued his run of All-Star level play through 1989, winning five Gold Gloves along the way, but back troubles—perhaps due to a clubhouse wresting match with teammate Bob Shirley—limited him to 41 home runs in the last two of those years. For the 1984–89 period, he hit a combined .327/.372/.530 for a 147 OPS+, averaging 27 homers and 5.5 WAR. In that timespan, only six players—Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Ozzie Smith, Alan Trammell (the lone non-Hall of Famer in the bunch) and Tim Raines—were more valuable.

Unfortunately, Mattingly's career went downhill after he signed a five-year, $19.3 million extension in 1990. He hit just 14 homers and slugged .370 in 1990–91, missing seven weeks of the former season due to further back troubles. He rebounded somewhat, but was never again a true offensive force, slipping to .286/.345/.405 with an average of 10 homers and 1.5 WAR over his final six seasons. In a bittersweet coda, he hit a sizzling.417/.440/.708 during the 1995 Division Series against the Mariners—his lone taste of postseason play—but New York lost an agonizing five-game series. Mattingly retired after that season at age 34.

Mattingly received 28.2% of the BBWAA vote in his debut, but within two years, his support was less than half that; over his final 13 years on the ballot, he cracked 15% just twice, and fell below 10% three times. His totals of 2,183 hits and 222 homers are light for a Hall first baseman, and even with his stellar early run, he's well short of the peak standard for the position, 33rd all time behind contemporaries Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, Jim Thome, Hernandez, Murray, John Olerud, Rafael Palmeiro, Clark and Fred McGriff. He's far below all of them in JAWS, too, and quite frankly, a waste of ballot space in this context. If he's going to get to Cooperstown, it will have to be as Torre did, as a manager.

Dale Murphy (46.2/41.0/43.6, 25th among CF)

Average HOF CF: 71.2/44.6/57.9

See here for a more in-depth profile dating to Murphy’s time on the BBWAA ballot.

The fifth pick of the 1974 draft as a catcher, the 6' 4" Murphy didn't flourish until his fifth major league season, (1980) when the Braves converted him from a first baseman/backup catcher to a full-time centerfielder. From that point through the 1987 season, he made six All-Star teams, won five Gold Gloves, two MVP awards (1982 and '83, while leading the NL in RBIs) and two home run titles (1984–85). Unfortunately, knee injuries turned him into a shadow of that player by the time he was 32, and he played his last game at 37.

Though touted as the next Johnny Bench thanks to his arm strength, Murphy developed a mental block about throwing to second base, either hitting the pitcher or throwing the ball into centerfield. He hit 44 homers as a first baseman/catcher in 1978–79, but even then his throwing remained a problem. Things clicked when manager Bobby Cox move him to the outfield, trying him at both corners and then into center. His throwing was no longer an issue and his bat took off (.281/.349/.510 , 33 HR, 6.5 WAR). Though he slumped in the 1981 strike season, his 36 homers, 109 RBI and 6.1 WAR helped the Braves to the NL West title in 1982, and he beat out the Cardinals' Lonnie Smith for MVP honors.

Murphy returned to the playoffs, but he set a career high with 7.1 WAR (second in the NL) while again hitting 36 homers and a league-best .540 SLG in 1983, when the 88-win Braves lost out to the Dodgers in the NL West. He set career highs with 44 homers, 115 walks (29 intentional), .417 OBP, .580 SLG and 7.7 WAR, the league's third-highest total in 1987—a year that set a record for homers—but Andre Dawson, in a vastly inferior season (49 homers but just 3.7 WAR), won MVP honors while Murphy didn't even break the top 10 in voting.

Still, at that juncture, Murphy looked like a Hall of Famer in the making, with a career .279/.362/.500 line, 310 homers, five 30-homer seasons and six top-three finishes in the category from 1980-87, a span during which only Mike Schmidt out-homered him, and only six players exceeded his 40.0 WAR: Henderson, Schmidt, Gary Carter, Boggs, Robin Yount and Trammell. Alas, Murphy's career quickly fell off the table. He hit a combined .238/.311/.403 with 4.9 WAR over the next four seasons, a hair less value than his 5.0 average during that eight-year run. Traded to the Phillies in August 1990, he exceeded 57 games just once over his final four seasons in Philadelphia and then Colorado due to further knee troubles.

Despite his two MVP awards, Murphy’ 2,111 hits and 398 homers don’t appear to be Hall caliber due to his early retirement. The BBWAA voters thought so; he debuted with 19.3% of the vote, climbed to 23.2% the next year, but never again broke 20%, and twice slipped below 10%. Even with his five top-10 finishes in WAR, he's a modest 18th in peak score among centerfielders, ahead of seven of the 19 Hall of Famers but 3.6 wins below the standard. He's much further off in career WAR, 33rd all time and a hefty 25 wins below the standard. I'd be less surprised if he were elected than if Mattingly were, but he's not that much more deserving.

Dave Parker, RF (39.9/37.2/38.6, 37th among RF)

Avg HOF RF: 73.2/43.0/58.1

The man nicknamed Cobra was a slugger with a cannon for an arm. Debuting in 1973 and taking over the full-time rightfield job in 1975, he appeared to be on a Hall of Fame course through 1979, having won batting titles in '77 and '78, an MVP award in the latter year, All-Star Game MVP honors and a world championship in '79 and Gold Gloves in all three of those seasons. His 31.0 WAR from 1975–79 trailed only Schmidt, George Brett and Rod Carew.

Alas, cocaine problems cost him productivity on offense, defense and the basepaths during the latter stages of his run in Pittsburgh; he was worth a total of 2.3 WAR from 1980–83. He was among several players who testified at the 1985 drug trials. Granted immunity for his testimony on the legal front, he received a suspended sentence from Commissioner Peter Ueberroth that allowed him to continue playing without suspension, on the condition that he submit to random drug testing and donate part of his salary and some of his time to drug-related community service efforts.

By that point, Parker had resurrected his career with the Reds. In 1985, the best of his four years in Cincinnati, he hit .312/.365/.551, led the league with 125 RBIs, earned All-Star honors and was runner-up in the NL MVP voting. Later, he was a DH on Oakland's 1988 pennant winners and 1989 world champions, and had his last big season with the Brewers in 1990. He retired after spending 1991 with the Blue Jays, having compiled near-Hall of Fame numbers (.290/.339/.471, 121 OPS+, 2,712 hits, 339 homers) during his 19-year career.

For all of that, Parker's loss of value via defensive decline and DH duty offset the big numbers. From 1980 onward, he was 61 runs below average in the field and worth a total of 7.6 WAR. He ranks just 37th among rightfielders in JAWS, about 33 wins shy on career score and six on peak. Current BBWAA candidates Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Vlad Guerrero and Gary Sheffield far outshine him in the advanced metrics, as do coming candidates Bobby Abreu and Ichiro Suzuki. Dwight Evans, Reggie Smith and Bobby Bonds, all bypassed for this Modern Baseball ballot, also exceed Parker’s production in the advanced metrics. Enough BBWAA voters gave him a base of support that he completed a 15-year run on the ballot, but he peaked at 24.5% in his second year, and topped 20% only one more time. In light of the veritable army of rightfielders who would make better Hall of Famers, he's an easy no.

Analyzing the Hall of Fame Cases for Don Mattingly, Steve Garvey and more

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the 2018 Modern Baseball Era Committee Hall of Fame ballot, which will be voted upon by a 16-member committee of writers, executives and Hall of Fame players at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla., with the results to be announced on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. ET. For a detailed introduction to the Modern Baseball ballot, please see here, and for a fuller introduction to JAWS, see here.

Steve Garvey, (37.7/28.6/33.1, 51st among 1B)

Avg HOF 1B: 66.4/42.7/54.6

A remarkably consistent and durable player during the prime of his 19-year career (1969–1987), Garvey was the most heralded member of the Dodgers' Longest Running Infield, earning All-Star honors every year from 1974–1981 and again in 1984 and '85, his second and third seasons with the Padres after departing Los Angeles via free agency. Stuck in a difficult hitters' park at Dodger Stadium, he did things that typically impress Hall of Fame voters, topping a .300 batting average seven times, 200 hits six times and 100 RBIs five times during that initial eight-year run. He won Gold Gloves in the first four of those years, all while maintaining perfectly coiffed hair.

Additionally, Garvey was great in the postseason (.338/.361/.550 with 11 homers in 232 PA) and helped lead his teams to five World Series appearances and one title (1981 with the Dodgers). He also won plenty of hardware (1974 MVP, two-time All-Star Game MVP), played in 10 All-Star games and set the National League record for consecutive games played with 1,207 from Sept. 3, 1975, to July 29, 1983; that streak still ranks as the fourth-longest behind those of Cal Ripken, Lou Gehrig and Everett Scott.

Garvey finished with a .294/.329/.446 regular season line, 2,599 hits and 272 homers, favorable numbers for his Hall of Fame case. His Hall of Fame Monitor score—a Bill James invention that credits factors like those aforementioned round numbers and postseason appearances—of 130 suggests he was a "virtual cinch." Even so, Garvey never got closer than the 42.6% he received in his third year on the ballot. A messy divorce, a pair of paternity suits and further legal problems tarnished his apple-pie image, which didn't help.

From an advanced statistical standpoint, Garvey's problems are twofold. He walked in just 5% of his plate appearances (3.8% unintentionally) en route to an OBP that was just one point above the park-adjusted league average for his career. As a result, his 117 OPS+ ranks just sixth among the nine first basemen with at least 7,000 PA from 1969–1992 (a period bracketed by expansions), well behind the enshrined Eddie Murray (136), Rod Carew (134) and Tony Perez (124), not to mention a much better candidate in Keith Hernandez (128).

His total of 183 batting runs—not RBI but the offensive component of Baseball-Reference's version of WAR—ranks 53rd among first basemen all time, well below non-Hall of Famers such as Will Clark, Norm Cash, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, Bob Watson and Mark Grace. What's more, despite his Gold Gloves, Garvey grades out as exactly average in the field according to Total Zone, the Baseball-Reference defensive component for the era; Baseball Prospectus's Fielding Runs Above Average and the Baseball Gauge's Defensive Regression Analysis both view him even less charitably. He ranked among the NL’s top 10 in WAR just twice, and is far below the career, peak and JAWS standards on all three fronts, 51st at the position in the latter. That's not even close to good enough to justify a vote.

Don Mattingly (42.2/35.6/38.9, 38th among 1B)

Avg HOF 1B: 66.4/42.7/54.6

See here for a more in-depth profile dating to Mattingly’s time on the BBWAA ballot.

The golden child of the Great Yankees Dark Age, Mattingly debuted in September 1982, the year after the team finished a stretch of four World Series appearances in six seasons, and retired in 1995, having finally reached the postseason but still a year too early for their run of six pennants and four titles in eight years. At his peak, "Donnie Baseball" was both an outstanding hitter and a slick fielder, but a back injury sapped his power, not only shortening that peak but also bringing his career to a premature end at age 34.

After securing a roster spot in June 1983, Mattingly assumed regular first base duties the following year and hit .343/.381/.537 with 23 homers and 110 RBIs, leading the league in batting average, hits (207) and doubles (44) while ranking fifth in WAR (6.3) and making the first of six straight All-Star teams. He hit 35 homers and drove in a league-high 145 runs en route to the AL MVP award in 1985, then led the league in hits (238), doubles (53), slugging percentage (.573) and OPS+ (161) in 1986. His .352 batting average that year ran second to Wade Boggs' .357, his 7.2 WAR third behind Boggs and Jesse Barfield.

Mattingly caught flak from owner George Steinbrenner over his relatively high salary and inability to produce a championship. “The Boss” labeled his star first baseman "the most unproductive .300 hitter in baseball," a ridiculous notion in an industry and an era where RBI totals were viewed as productivity (nobody was within 50 RBIs of Mattingly's 1984–87 total at the time Steinbrenner said that). Donnie Baseball continued his run of All-Star level play through 1989, winning five Gold Gloves along the way, but back troubles—perhaps due to a clubhouse wresting match with teammate Bob Shirley—limited him to 41 home runs in the last two of those years. For the 1984–89 period, he hit a combined .327/.372/.530 for a 147 OPS+, averaging 27 homers and 5.5 WAR. In that timespan, only six players—Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Ozzie Smith, Alan Trammell (the lone non-Hall of Famer in the bunch) and Tim Raines—were more valuable.

Unfortunately, Mattingly's career went downhill after he signed a five-year, $19.3 million extension in 1990. He hit just 14 homers and slugged .370 in 1990–91, missing seven weeks of the former season due to further back troubles. He rebounded somewhat, but was never again a true offensive force, slipping to .286/.345/.405 with an average of 10 homers and 1.5 WAR over his final six seasons. In a bittersweet coda, he hit a sizzling.417/.440/.708 during the 1995 Division Series against the Mariners—his lone taste of postseason play—but New York lost an agonizing five-game series. Mattingly retired after that season at age 34.

Mattingly received 28.2% of the BBWAA vote in his debut, but within two years, his support was less than half that; over his final 13 years on the ballot, he cracked 15% just twice, and fell below 10% three times. His totals of 2,183 hits and 222 homers are light for a Hall first baseman, and even with his stellar early run, he's well short of the peak standard for the position, 33rd all time behind contemporaries Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, Jim Thome, Hernandez, Murray, John Olerud, Rafael Palmeiro, Clark and Fred McGriff. He's far below all of them in JAWS, too, and quite frankly, a waste of ballot space in this context. If he's going to get to Cooperstown, it will have to be as Torre did, as a manager.

Dale Murphy (46.2/41.0/43.6, 25th among CF)

Average HOF CF: 71.2/44.6/57.9

See here for a more in-depth profile dating to Murphy’s time on the BBWAA ballot.

The fifth pick of the 1974 draft as a catcher, the 6' 4" Murphy didn't flourish until his fifth major league season, (1980) when the Braves converted him from a first baseman/backup catcher to a full-time centerfielder. From that point through the 1987 season, he made six All-Star teams, won five Gold Gloves, two MVP awards (1982 and '83, while leading the NL in RBIs) and two home run titles (1984–85). Unfortunately, knee injuries turned him into a shadow of that player by the time he was 32, and he played his last game at 37.

Though touted as the next Johnny Bench thanks to his arm strength, Murphy developed a mental block about throwing to second base, either hitting the pitcher or throwing the ball into centerfield. He hit 44 homers as a first baseman/catcher in 1978–79, but even then his throwing remained a problem. Things clicked when manager Bobby Cox move him to the outfield, trying him at both corners and then into center. His throwing was no longer an issue and his bat took off (.281/.349/.510 , 33 HR, 6.5 WAR). Though he slumped in the 1981 strike season, his 36 homers, 109 RBI and 6.1 WAR helped the Braves to the NL West title in 1982, and he beat out the Cardinals' Lonnie Smith for MVP honors.

Murphy returned to the playoffs, but he set a career high with 7.1 WAR (second in the NL) while again hitting 36 homers and a league-best .540 SLG in 1983, when the 88-win Braves lost out to the Dodgers in the NL West. He set career highs with 44 homers, 115 walks (29 intentional), .417 OBP, .580 SLG and 7.7 WAR, the league's third-highest total in 1987—a year that set a record for homers—but Andre Dawson, in a vastly inferior season (49 homers but just 3.7 WAR), won MVP honors while Murphy didn't even break the top 10 in voting.

Still, at that juncture, Murphy looked like a Hall of Famer in the making, with a career .279/.362/.500 line, 310 homers, five 30-homer seasons and six top-three finishes in the category from 1980-87, a span during which only Mike Schmidt out-homered him, and only six players exceeded his 40.0 WAR: Henderson, Schmidt, Gary Carter, Boggs, Robin Yount and Trammell. Alas, Murphy's career quickly fell off the table. He hit a combined .238/.311/.403 with 4.9 WAR over the next four seasons, a hair less value than his 5.0 average during that eight-year run. Traded to the Phillies in August 1990, he exceeded 57 games just once over his final four seasons in Philadelphia and then Colorado due to further knee troubles.

Despite his two MVP awards, Murphy’ 2,111 hits and 398 homers don’t appear to be Hall caliber due to his early retirement. The BBWAA voters thought so; he debuted with 19.3% of the vote, climbed to 23.2% the next year, but never again broke 20%, and twice slipped below 10%. Even with his five top-10 finishes in WAR, he's a modest 18th in peak score among centerfielders, ahead of seven of the 19 Hall of Famers but 3.6 wins below the standard. He's much further off in career WAR, 33rd all time and a hefty 25 wins below the standard. I'd be less surprised if he were elected than if Mattingly were, but he's not that much more deserving.

Dave Parker, RF (39.9/37.2/38.6, 37th among RF)

Avg HOF RF: 73.2/43.0/58.1

The man nicknamed Cobra was a slugger with a cannon for an arm. Debuting in 1973 and taking over the full-time rightfield job in 1975, he appeared to be on a Hall of Fame course through 1979, having won batting titles in '77 and '78, an MVP award in the latter year, All-Star Game MVP honors and a world championship in '79 and Gold Gloves in all three of those seasons. His 31.0 WAR from 1975–79 trailed only Schmidt, George Brett and Rod Carew.

Alas, cocaine problems cost him productivity on offense, defense and the basepaths during the latter stages of his run in Pittsburgh; he was worth a total of 2.3 WAR from 1980–83. He was among several players who testified at the 1985 drug trials. Granted immunity for his testimony on the legal front, he received a suspended sentence from Commissioner Peter Ueberroth that allowed him to continue playing without suspension, on the condition that he submit to random drug testing and donate part of his salary and some of his time to drug-related community service efforts.

By that point, Parker had resurrected his career with the Reds. In 1985, the best of his four years in Cincinnati, he hit .312/.365/.551, led the league with 125 RBIs, earned All-Star honors and was runner-up in the NL MVP voting. Later, he was a DH on Oakland's 1988 pennant winners and 1989 world champions, and had his last big season with the Brewers in 1990. He retired after spending 1991 with the Blue Jays, having compiled near-Hall of Fame numbers (.290/.339/.471, 121 OPS+, 2,712 hits, 339 homers) during his 19-year career.

For all of that, Parker's loss of value via defensive decline and DH duty offset the big numbers. From 1980 onward, he was 61 runs below average in the field and worth a total of 7.6 WAR. He ranks just 37th among rightfielders in JAWS, about 33 wins shy on career score and six on peak. Current BBWAA candidates Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Vlad Guerrero and Gary Sheffield far outshine him in the advanced metrics, as do coming candidates Bobby Abreu and Ichiro Suzuki. Dwight Evans, Reggie Smith and Bobby Bonds, all bypassed for this Modern Baseball ballot, also exceed Parker’s production in the advanced metrics. Enough BBWAA voters gave him a base of support that he completed a 15-year run on the ballot, but he peaked at 24.5% in his second year, and topped 20% only one more time. In light of the veritable army of rightfielders who would make better Hall of Famers, he's an easy no.

Analyzing the Hall of Fame Cases for Don Mattingly, Steve Garvey and more

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the 2018 Modern Baseball Era Committee Hall of Fame ballot, which will be voted upon by a 16-member committee of writers, executives and Hall of Fame players at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla., with the results to be announced on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. ET. For a detailed introduction to the Modern Baseball ballot, please see here, and for a fuller introduction to JAWS, see here.

Steve Garvey, (37.7/28.6/33.1, 51st among 1B)

Avg HOF 1B: 66.4/42.7/54.6

A remarkably consistent and durable player during the prime of his 19-year career (1969–1987), Garvey was the most heralded member of the Dodgers' Longest Running Infield, earning All-Star honors every year from 1974–1981 and again in 1984 and '85, his second and third seasons with the Padres after departing Los Angeles via free agency. Stuck in a difficult hitters' park at Dodger Stadium, he did things that typically impress Hall of Fame voters, topping a .300 batting average seven times, 200 hits six times and 100 RBIs five times during that initial eight-year run. He won Gold Gloves in the first four of those years, all while maintaining perfectly coiffed hair.

Additionally, Garvey was great in the postseason (.338/.361/.550 with 11 homers in 232 PA) and helped lead his teams to five World Series appearances and one title (1981 with the Dodgers). He also won plenty of hardware (1974 MVP, two-time All-Star Game MVP), played in 10 All-Star games and set the National League record for consecutive games played with 1,207 from Sept. 3, 1975, to July 29, 1983; that streak still ranks as the fourth-longest behind those of Cal Ripken, Lou Gehrig and Everett Scott.

Garvey finished with a .294/.329/.446 regular season line, 2,599 hits and 272 homers, favorable numbers for his Hall of Fame case. His Hall of Fame Monitor score—a Bill James invention that credits factors like those aforementioned round numbers and postseason appearances—of 130 suggests he was a "virtual cinch." Even so, Garvey never got closer than the 42.6% he received in his third year on the ballot. A messy divorce, a pair of paternity suits and further legal problems tarnished his apple-pie image, which didn't help.

From an advanced statistical standpoint, Garvey's problems are twofold. He walked in just 5% of his plate appearances (3.8% unintentionally) en route to an OBP that was just one point above the park-adjusted league average for his career. As a result, his 117 OPS+ ranks just sixth among the nine first basemen with at least 7,000 PA from 1969–1992 (a period bracketed by expansions), well behind the enshrined Eddie Murray (136), Rod Carew (134) and Tony Perez (124), not to mention a much better candidate in Keith Hernandez (128).

His total of 183 batting runs—not RBI but the offensive component of Baseball-Reference's version of WAR—ranks 53rd among first basemen all time, well below non-Hall of Famers such as Will Clark, Norm Cash, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, Bob Watson and Mark Grace. What's more, despite his Gold Gloves, Garvey grades out as exactly average in the field according to Total Zone, the Baseball-Reference defensive component for the era; Baseball Prospectus's Fielding Runs Above Average and the Baseball Gauge's Defensive Regression Analysis both view him even less charitably. He ranked among the NL’s top 10 in WAR just twice, and is far below the career, peak and JAWS standards on all three fronts, 51st at the position in the latter. That's not even close to good enough to justify a vote.

Don Mattingly (42.2/35.6/38.9, 38th among 1B)

Avg HOF 1B: 66.4/42.7/54.6

See here for a more in-depth profile dating to Mattingly’s time on the BBWAA ballot.

The golden child of the Great Yankees Dark Age, Mattingly debuted in September 1982, the year after the team finished a stretch of four World Series appearances in six seasons, and retired in 1995, having finally reached the postseason but still a year too early for their run of six pennants and four titles in eight years. At his peak, "Donnie Baseball" was both an outstanding hitter and a slick fielder, but a back injury sapped his power, not only shortening that peak but also bringing his career to a premature end at age 34.

After securing a roster spot in June 1983, Mattingly assumed regular first base duties the following year and hit .343/.381/.537 with 23 homers and 110 RBIs, leading the league in batting average, hits (207) and doubles (44) while ranking fifth in WAR (6.3) and making the first of six straight All-Star teams. He hit 35 homers and drove in a league-high 145 runs en route to the AL MVP award in 1985, then led the league in hits (238), doubles (53), slugging percentage (.573) and OPS+ (161) in 1986. His .352 batting average that year ran second to Wade Boggs' .357, his 7.2 WAR third behind Boggs and Jesse Barfield.

Mattingly caught flak from owner George Steinbrenner over his relatively high salary and inability to produce a championship. “The Boss” labeled his star first baseman "the most unproductive .300 hitter in baseball," a ridiculous notion in an industry and an era where RBI totals were viewed as productivity (nobody was within 50 RBIs of Mattingly's 1984–87 total at the time Steinbrenner said that). Donnie Baseball continued his run of All-Star level play through 1989, winning five Gold Gloves along the way, but back troubles—perhaps due to a clubhouse wresting match with teammate Bob Shirley—limited him to 41 home runs in the last two of those years. For the 1984–89 period, he hit a combined .327/.372/.530 for a 147 OPS+, averaging 27 homers and 5.5 WAR. In that timespan, only six players—Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Ozzie Smith, Alan Trammell (the lone non-Hall of Famer in the bunch) and Tim Raines—were more valuable.

Unfortunately, Mattingly's career went downhill after he signed a five-year, $19.3 million extension in 1990. He hit just 14 homers and slugged .370 in 1990–91, missing seven weeks of the former season due to further back troubles. He rebounded somewhat, but was never again a true offensive force, slipping to .286/.345/.405 with an average of 10 homers and 1.5 WAR over his final six seasons. In a bittersweet coda, he hit a sizzling.417/.440/.708 during the 1995 Division Series against the Mariners—his lone taste of postseason play—but New York lost an agonizing five-game series. Mattingly retired after that season at age 34.

Mattingly received 28.2% of the BBWAA vote in his debut, but within two years, his support was less than half that; over his final 13 years on the ballot, he cracked 15% just twice, and fell below 10% three times. His totals of 2,183 hits and 222 homers are light for a Hall first baseman, and even with his stellar early run, he's well short of the peak standard for the position, 33rd all time behind contemporaries Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, Jim Thome, Hernandez, Murray, John Olerud, Rafael Palmeiro, Clark and Fred McGriff. He's far below all of them in JAWS, too, and quite frankly, a waste of ballot space in this context. If he's going to get to Cooperstown, it will have to be as Torre did, as a manager.

Dale Murphy (46.2/41.0/43.6, 25th among CF)

Average HOF CF: 71.2/44.6/57.9

See here for a more in-depth profile dating to Murphy’s time on the BBWAA ballot.

The fifth pick of the 1974 draft as a catcher, the 6' 4" Murphy didn't flourish until his fifth major league season, (1980) when the Braves converted him from a first baseman/backup catcher to a full-time centerfielder. From that point through the 1987 season, he made six All-Star teams, won five Gold Gloves, two MVP awards (1982 and '83, while leading the NL in RBIs) and two home run titles (1984–85). Unfortunately, knee injuries turned him into a shadow of that player by the time he was 32, and he played his last game at 37.

Though touted as the next Johnny Bench thanks to his arm strength, Murphy developed a mental block about throwing to second base, either hitting the pitcher or throwing the ball into centerfield. He hit 44 homers as a first baseman/catcher in 1978–79, but even then his throwing remained a problem. Things clicked when manager Bobby Cox move him to the outfield, trying him at both corners and then into center. His throwing was no longer an issue and his bat took off (.281/.349/.510 , 33 HR, 6.5 WAR). Though he slumped in the 1981 strike season, his 36 homers, 109 RBI and 6.1 WAR helped the Braves to the NL West title in 1982, and he beat out the Cardinals' Lonnie Smith for MVP honors.

Murphy returned to the playoffs, but he set a career high with 7.1 WAR (second in the NL) while again hitting 36 homers and a league-best .540 SLG in 1983, when the 88-win Braves lost out to the Dodgers in the NL West. He set career highs with 44 homers, 115 walks (29 intentional), .417 OBP, .580 SLG and 7.7 WAR, the league's third-highest total in 1987—a year that set a record for homers—but Andre Dawson, in a vastly inferior season (49 homers but just 3.7 WAR), won MVP honors while Murphy didn't even break the top 10 in voting.

Still, at that juncture, Murphy looked like a Hall of Famer in the making, with a career .279/.362/.500 line, 310 homers, five 30-homer seasons and six top-three finishes in the category from 1980-87, a span during which only Mike Schmidt out-homered him, and only six players exceeded his 40.0 WAR: Henderson, Schmidt, Gary Carter, Boggs, Robin Yount and Trammell. Alas, Murphy's career quickly fell off the table. He hit a combined .238/.311/.403 with 4.9 WAR over the next four seasons, a hair less value than his 5.0 average during that eight-year run. Traded to the Phillies in August 1990, he exceeded 57 games just once over his final four seasons in Philadelphia and then Colorado due to further knee troubles.

Despite his two MVP awards, Murphy’ 2,111 hits and 398 homers don’t appear to be Hall caliber due to his early retirement. The BBWAA voters thought so; he debuted with 19.3% of the vote, climbed to 23.2% the next year, but never again broke 20%, and twice slipped below 10%. Even with his five top-10 finishes in WAR, he's a modest 18th in peak score among centerfielders, ahead of seven of the 19 Hall of Famers but 3.6 wins below the standard. He's much further off in career WAR, 33rd all time and a hefty 25 wins below the standard. I'd be less surprised if he were elected than if Mattingly were, but he's not that much more deserving.

Dave Parker, RF (39.9/37.2/38.6, 37th among RF)

Avg HOF RF: 73.2/43.0/58.1

The man nicknamed Cobra was a slugger with a cannon for an arm. Debuting in 1973 and taking over the full-time rightfield job in 1975, he appeared to be on a Hall of Fame course through 1979, having won batting titles in '77 and '78, an MVP award in the latter year, All-Star Game MVP honors and a world championship in '79 and Gold Gloves in all three of those seasons. His 31.0 WAR from 1975–79 trailed only Schmidt, George Brett and Rod Carew.

Alas, cocaine problems cost him productivity on offense, defense and the basepaths during the latter stages of his run in Pittsburgh; he was worth a total of 2.3 WAR from 1980–83. He was among several players who testified at the 1985 drug trials. Granted immunity for his testimony on the legal front, he received a suspended sentence from Commissioner Peter Ueberroth that allowed him to continue playing without suspension, on the condition that he submit to random drug testing and donate part of his salary and some of his time to drug-related community service efforts.

By that point, Parker had resurrected his career with the Reds. In 1985, the best of his four years in Cincinnati, he hit .312/.365/.551, led the league with 125 RBIs, earned All-Star honors and was runner-up in the NL MVP voting. Later, he was a DH on Oakland's 1988 pennant winners and 1989 world champions, and had his last big season with the Brewers in 1990. He retired after spending 1991 with the Blue Jays, having compiled near-Hall of Fame numbers (.290/.339/.471, 121 OPS+, 2,712 hits, 339 homers) during his 19-year career.

For all of that, Parker's loss of value via defensive decline and DH duty offset the big numbers. From 1980 onward, he was 61 runs below average in the field and worth a total of 7.6 WAR. He ranks just 37th among rightfielders in JAWS, about 33 wins shy on career score and six on peak. Current BBWAA candidates Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Vlad Guerrero and Gary Sheffield far outshine him in the advanced metrics, as do coming candidates Bobby Abreu and Ichiro Suzuki. Dwight Evans, Reggie Smith and Bobby Bonds, all bypassed for this Modern Baseball ballot, also exceed Parker’s production in the advanced metrics. Enough BBWAA voters gave him a base of support that he completed a 15-year run on the ballot, but he peaked at 24.5% in his second year, and topped 20% only one more time. In light of the veritable army of rightfielders who would make better Hall of Famers, he's an easy no.

Analyzing the Hall of Fame Cases for Don Mattingly, Steve Garvey and more

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the 2018 Modern Baseball Era Committee Hall of Fame ballot, which will be voted upon by a 16-member committee of writers, executives and Hall of Fame players at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla., with the results to be announced on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. ET. For a detailed introduction to the Modern Baseball ballot, please see here, and for a fuller introduction to JAWS, see here.

Steve Garvey, (37.7/28.6/33.1, 51st among 1B)

Avg HOF 1B: 66.4/42.7/54.6

A remarkably consistent and durable player during the prime of his 19-year career (1969–1987), Garvey was the most heralded member of the Dodgers' Longest Running Infield, earning All-Star honors every year from 1974–1981 and again in 1984 and '85, his second and third seasons with the Padres after departing Los Angeles via free agency. Stuck in a difficult hitters' park at Dodger Stadium, he did things that typically impress Hall of Fame voters, topping a .300 batting average seven times, 200 hits six times and 100 RBIs five times during that initial eight-year run. He won Gold Gloves in the first four of those years, all while maintaining perfectly coiffed hair.

Additionally, Garvey was great in the postseason (.338/.361/.550 with 11 homers in 232 PA) and helped lead his teams to five World Series appearances and one title (1981 with the Dodgers). He also won plenty of hardware (1974 MVP, two-time All-Star Game MVP), played in 10 All-Star games and set the National League record for consecutive games played with 1,207 from Sept. 3, 1975, to July 29, 1983; that streak still ranks as the fourth-longest behind those of Cal Ripken, Lou Gehrig and Everett Scott.

Garvey finished with a .294/.329/.446 regular season line, 2,599 hits and 272 homers, favorable numbers for his Hall of Fame case. His Hall of Fame Monitor score—a Bill James invention that credits factors like those aforementioned round numbers and postseason appearances—of 130 suggests he was a "virtual cinch." Even so, Garvey never got closer than the 42.6% he received in his third year on the ballot. A messy divorce, a pair of paternity suits and further legal problems tarnished his apple-pie image, which didn't help.

From an advanced statistical standpoint, Garvey's problems are twofold. He walked in just 5% of his plate appearances (3.8% unintentionally) en route to an OBP that was just one point above the park-adjusted league average for his career. As a result, his 117 OPS+ ranks just sixth among the nine first basemen with at least 7,000 PA from 1969–1992 (a period bracketed by expansions), well behind the enshrined Eddie Murray (136), Rod Carew (134) and Tony Perez (124), not to mention a much better candidate in Keith Hernandez (128).

His total of 183 batting runs—not RBI but the offensive component of Baseball-Reference's version of WAR—ranks 53rd among first basemen all time, well below non-Hall of Famers such as Will Clark, Norm Cash, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, Bob Watson and Mark Grace. What's more, despite his Gold Gloves, Garvey grades out as exactly average in the field according to Total Zone, the Baseball-Reference defensive component for the era; Baseball Prospectus's Fielding Runs Above Average and the Baseball Gauge's Defensive Regression Analysis both view him even less charitably. He ranked among the NL’s top 10 in WAR just twice, and is far below the career, peak and JAWS standards on all three fronts, 51st at the position in the latter. That's not even close to good enough to justify a vote.

Don Mattingly (42.2/35.6/38.9, 38th among 1B)

Avg HOF 1B: 66.4/42.7/54.6

See here for a more in-depth profile dating to Mattingly’s time on the BBWAA ballot.

The golden child of the Great Yankees Dark Age, Mattingly debuted in September 1982, the year after the team finished a stretch of four World Series appearances in six seasons, and retired in 1995, having finally reached the postseason but still a year too early for their run of six pennants and four titles in eight years. At his peak, "Donnie Baseball" was both an outstanding hitter and a slick fielder, but a back injury sapped his power, not only shortening that peak but also bringing his career to a premature end at age 34.

After securing a roster spot in June 1983, Mattingly assumed regular first base duties the following year and hit .343/.381/.537 with 23 homers and 110 RBIs, leading the league in batting average, hits (207) and doubles (44) while ranking fifth in WAR (6.3) and making the first of six straight All-Star teams. He hit 35 homers and drove in a league-high 145 runs en route to the AL MVP award in 1985, then led the league in hits (238), doubles (53), slugging percentage (.573) and OPS+ (161) in 1986. His .352 batting average that year ran second to Wade Boggs' .357, his 7.2 WAR third behind Boggs and Jesse Barfield.

Mattingly caught flak from owner George Steinbrenner over his relatively high salary and inability to produce a championship. “The Boss” labeled his star first baseman "the most unproductive .300 hitter in baseball," a ridiculous notion in an industry and an era where RBI totals were viewed as productivity (nobody was within 50 RBIs of Mattingly's 1984–87 total at the time Steinbrenner said that). Donnie Baseball continued his run of All-Star level play through 1989, winning five Gold Gloves along the way, but back troubles—perhaps due to a clubhouse wresting match with teammate Bob Shirley—limited him to 41 home runs in the last two of those years. For the 1984–89 period, he hit a combined .327/.372/.530 for a 147 OPS+, averaging 27 homers and 5.5 WAR. In that timespan, only six players—Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Ozzie Smith, Alan Trammell (the lone non-Hall of Famer in the bunch) and Tim Raines—were more valuable.

Unfortunately, Mattingly's career went downhill after he signed a five-year, $19.3 million extension in 1990. He hit just 14 homers and slugged .370 in 1990–91, missing seven weeks of the former season due to further back troubles. He rebounded somewhat, but was never again a true offensive force, slipping to .286/.345/.405 with an average of 10 homers and 1.5 WAR over his final six seasons. In a bittersweet coda, he hit a sizzling.417/.440/.708 during the 1995 Division Series against the Mariners—his lone taste of postseason play—but New York lost an agonizing five-game series. Mattingly retired after that season at age 34.

Mattingly received 28.2% of the BBWAA vote in his debut, but within two years, his support was less than half that; over his final 13 years on the ballot, he cracked 15% just twice, and fell below 10% three times. His totals of 2,183 hits and 222 homers are light for a Hall first baseman, and even with his stellar early run, he's well short of the peak standard for the position, 33rd all time behind contemporaries Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, Jim Thome, Hernandez, Murray, John Olerud, Rafael Palmeiro, Clark and Fred McGriff. He's far below all of them in JAWS, too, and quite frankly, a waste of ballot space in this context. If he's going to get to Cooperstown, it will have to be as Torre did, as a manager.

Dale Murphy (46.2/41.0/43.6, 25th among CF)

Average HOF CF: 71.2/44.6/57.9

See here for a more in-depth profile dating to Murphy’s time on the BBWAA ballot.

The fifth pick of the 1974 draft as a catcher, the 6' 4" Murphy didn't flourish until his fifth major league season, (1980) when the Braves converted him from a first baseman/backup catcher to a full-time centerfielder. From that point through the 1987 season, he made six All-Star teams, won five Gold Gloves, two MVP awards (1982 and '83, while leading the NL in RBIs) and two home run titles (1984–85). Unfortunately, knee injuries turned him into a shadow of that player by the time he was 32, and he played his last game at 37.

Though touted as the next Johnny Bench thanks to his arm strength, Murphy developed a mental block about throwing to second base, either hitting the pitcher or throwing the ball into centerfield. He hit 44 homers as a first baseman/catcher in 1978–79, but even then his throwing remained a problem. Things clicked when manager Bobby Cox move him to the outfield, trying him at both corners and then into center. His throwing was no longer an issue and his bat took off (.281/.349/.510 , 33 HR, 6.5 WAR). Though he slumped in the 1981 strike season, his 36 homers, 109 RBI and 6.1 WAR helped the Braves to the NL West title in 1982, and he beat out the Cardinals' Lonnie Smith for MVP honors.

Murphy returned to the playoffs, but he set a career high with 7.1 WAR (second in the NL) while again hitting 36 homers and a league-best .540 SLG in 1983, when the 88-win Braves lost out to the Dodgers in the NL West. He set career highs with 44 homers, 115 walks (29 intentional), .417 OBP, .580 SLG and 7.7 WAR, the league's third-highest total in 1987—a year that set a record for homers—but Andre Dawson, in a vastly inferior season (49 homers but just 3.7 WAR), won MVP honors while Murphy didn't even break the top 10 in voting.

Still, at that juncture, Murphy looked like a Hall of Famer in the making, with a career .279/.362/.500 line, 310 homers, five 30-homer seasons and six top-three finishes in the category from 1980-87, a span during which only Mike Schmidt out-homered him, and only six players exceeded his 40.0 WAR: Henderson, Schmidt, Gary Carter, Boggs, Robin Yount and Trammell. Alas, Murphy's career quickly fell off the table. He hit a combined .238/.311/.403 with 4.9 WAR over the next four seasons, a hair less value than his 5.0 average during that eight-year run. Traded to the Phillies in August 1990, he exceeded 57 games just once over his final four seasons in Philadelphia and then Colorado due to further knee troubles.

Despite his two MVP awards, Murphy’ 2,111 hits and 398 homers don’t appear to be Hall caliber due to his early retirement. The BBWAA voters thought so; he debuted with 19.3% of the vote, climbed to 23.2% the next year, but never again broke 20%, and twice slipped below 10%. Even with his five top-10 finishes in WAR, he's a modest 18th in peak score among centerfielders, ahead of seven of the 19 Hall of Famers but 3.6 wins below the standard. He's much further off in career WAR, 33rd all time and a hefty 25 wins below the standard. I'd be less surprised if he were elected than if Mattingly were, but he's not that much more deserving.

Dave Parker, RF (39.9/37.2/38.6, 37th among RF)

Avg HOF RF: 73.2/43.0/58.1

The man nicknamed Cobra was a slugger with a cannon for an arm. Debuting in 1973 and taking over the full-time rightfield job in 1975, he appeared to be on a Hall of Fame course through 1979, having won batting titles in '77 and '78, an MVP award in the latter year, All-Star Game MVP honors and a world championship in '79 and Gold Gloves in all three of those seasons. His 31.0 WAR from 1975–79 trailed only Schmidt, George Brett and Rod Carew.

Alas, cocaine problems cost him productivity on offense, defense and the basepaths during the latter stages of his run in Pittsburgh; he was worth a total of 2.3 WAR from 1980–83. He was among several players who testified at the 1985 drug trials. Granted immunity for his testimony on the legal front, he received a suspended sentence from Commissioner Peter Ueberroth that allowed him to continue playing without suspension, on the condition that he submit to random drug testing and donate part of his salary and some of his time to drug-related community service efforts.

By that point, Parker had resurrected his career with the Reds. In 1985, the best of his four years in Cincinnati, he hit .312/.365/.551, led the league with 125 RBIs, earned All-Star honors and was runner-up in the NL MVP voting. Later, he was a DH on Oakland's 1988 pennant winners and 1989 world champions, and had his last big season with the Brewers in 1990. He retired after spending 1991 with the Blue Jays, having compiled near-Hall of Fame numbers (.290/.339/.471, 121 OPS+, 2,712 hits, 339 homers) during his 19-year career.

For all of that, Parker's loss of value via defensive decline and DH duty offset the big numbers. From 1980 onward, he was 61 runs below average in the field and worth a total of 7.6 WAR. He ranks just 37th among rightfielders in JAWS, about 33 wins shy on career score and six on peak. Current BBWAA candidates Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Vlad Guerrero and Gary Sheffield far outshine him in the advanced metrics, as do coming candidates Bobby Abreu and Ichiro Suzuki. Dwight Evans, Reggie Smith and Bobby Bonds, all bypassed for this Modern Baseball ballot, also exceed Parker’s production in the advanced metrics. Enough BBWAA voters gave him a base of support that he completed a 15-year run on the ballot, but he peaked at 24.5% in his second year, and topped 20% only one more time. In light of the veritable army of rightfielders who would make better Hall of Famers, he's an easy no.

How the Blue Jays can find middle infield help via trade

How the Blue Jays can find middle infield help via trade