January 10, 2012
Watching Jack Play
CBS's Jon Heyman Tweeted this comment earlier today:
Now, to be clear, I wholeheartedly endorse being certain someone isn't a Hall of Famer because Jay Jaffe says so, so if he's your stat gury of choice, carry on. (Other stat gurus will be evaluated on a case by case basis.) Morris's numbers have been analyzed endlessly here (for those of you who missed it, Jay's latest examination of Morris is here), so I won't belabor the point. But I do want to look at something - namely, what did the people who saw Jack Morris pitch think of him during his career? And not just any people, but card-carrying BBWAA members, the sort of people now currently engaged in Hall of Fame voting?
Morris was the pitcher "of the 80s," so I took a look at Cy Young balloting from 1980 through 1989. I took each player's point total from that season and divided by the maximum number of points for a pitcher that season (such that a 1 means a player won the Cy Young, and a .5 means a pitcher accumulated half as many points as the winner). In that spirit, I give you the top 25 pitchers in Cy Young share of the 80s:
Morris, during the years that his defenders point to most enthusiastically, was not especially well regarded by Cy Young voters. This isn't a perfect or even a very good measure of pitching - I wouldn't suggest that Rick Sutcliffe is a better pitcher than Morris nor would I imagine anyone else would as well. But it does suggest that whatever qualities Morris has that are only noticeable to those who watched him pitch went unnoticed by those who actually watched him pitch while he was still actually pitching. The lionization of Morris seems to have started when it wasn't possible for anyone to have watched him pitch any more - in other words, upon reflection. If Morris is the Hall of Famer that people like Heyman think he is, it should be possible then to elucidate a case for Morris that relies upon reflection, and thus is as accessible to "stat gurus" as it is to those who were there for his career.