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June 20, 2015 12:01 am

Rubbing Mud: Jack Morris, DRA, and Progress


Matthew Trueblood

Shining a new light on the Hall of Fame case that sabermetrics loved to hate.

Our generation of baseball fans and analysts might have been wrong about Jack Morris. Let that sink in for a moment. We yelled and bickered and picked Morris’s career apart, and we won: Morris is not in the Hall of Fame, and if he ever gets there, it will be on the strength of a Veterans Committee vote, not a BBWAA ballot. We told the world, in no uncertain terms, that Morris was an unimpressive compiler, a workhorse without distinctive merit. We scoffed at efforts to lionize him for his October achievements, pointing out (fairly, I think) that his heroics in 1984 and 1991 should be weighed against his abject failures in 1987, 1992, and 1993. Most of all, we contended that his high ERA and FIP, albeit in a huge number of innings, marked him mostly as a durable pitcher, and not as a truly great one. We might have been right, of course. But it looks a lot like we were wrong.

I talk about Deserved Run Average a lot, and I link to the article that first introduced it to the world a lot. You should absolutely read that piece, and get the full story about the development of DRA directly from the people who built it. I’m not one of them, and can’t really do it justice. Since you might not have that kind of time right now, though, and since DRA is the crux of the argument I’m about to make, let me (briefly) describe DRA. It is, in essence, the best statistical measurement of pitching value we have. Instead of measuring earned runs, which is a fairly arbitrary subset of all runs, DRA concerns itself with all outcomes and all runs allowed. It doesn’t zoom in on strikeouts, walks, and home runs, to the exclusion of all else. What it does do is credit pitchers with their role in the outcome of every plate appearance. The effects of opponent quality (in essence: how good is the opposing hitter?), defense, the catcher, the umpire, the ballpark, all of these things are corrected for. Not perfectly, of course, that would be impossible, but as well as we can. DRA also measures a pitcher’s role in slowing the opposing running game, and credits or debits him accordingly.

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Ben and Sam talk to Jay Jaffe about the 2014 Hall of Fame voting results, election-season mud-slinging, the 2015 ballot, and more.

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January 2, 2014 6:00 am

Skewed Left: Better Versions of Bad Hall of Fame Arguments


Zachary Levine

How to go against the saberballot and without making the internet mad.

You probably don’t have to do much guesswork to figure out what my Hall of Fame ballot will look like when the staff puts out its hypotheticals. You’d probably think that as a Baseball Prospectus writer and general citizen of the baseball internet, my ballot would be predictable down to that last spot or two, and for the most part, you’d be right. I’m not far off from the consensus saberballot.

As such, I get a little annoyed when I see an outlandish outlier ballot. But I really don’t want to. I want to banter in a space where contrary opinions are well thought out and lead to good, respectful debate, not dismissal and name-calling. To be frank and overgeneralizing, I hold the opinions for the undeserving candidates and against the deserving candidates to be bad opinions. And that could be as much on me as it is on the opinions themselves.

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October 21, 2013 6:00 am

Baseball Therapy: The Effects of the Shutdown (Inning)


Russell A. Carleton

Does pitching a shutdown inning deserve the recognition it gets on baseball broadcasts?

In the month of October, we’ve been hearing a lot of talk about shutdowns. No, not the debt ceiling thingy. The one that really matters: the shutdown inning. It’s playoff time, during which we often confuse something that players routinely do for an amazing feat of bravery and virtue. This postseason, everyone’s all a-twitter with thoughts of “shutdown innings.” For a pitcher, it’s the half-inning after your team scores (according to some people, it has to be scoring that leads to your team tying the game or taking the lead). Your job, in this most sacred of innings, is to keep the other team from scoring. It’s totally okay to give up runs if your team didn’t score last inning, apparently. Suddenly, that other shutdown seems downright logical.

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Why Jack Morris' accusation doesn't stand up to the evidence.

As you’ve probably heard, pitcher-turned-commentator Jack Morris has accused Red Sox hurler Clay Buchholz of throwing pitches with illegal substances on his hand during his start on Wednesday against Toronto. Buchholz, his manager, and his catchers have taken turns explaining that that’s a ridiculous proposition.

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Or is all the campaigning to keep Jack Morris out of the Hall actually making it more likely that he'll get in?

Appearing on MLB Network in the wake of yesterday’s non-elections, Jon Heyman looked like a broken man. Visibly deflated (unless that’s just how everyone who sits close to Tom Verducci looks by comparison), Heyman called Morris’ stagnant results—just three votes and one percentage point higher than last year’s, leaving him well short of the magic 75 percent mark with one year of eligibility remaining—“unfair” and “a real shame," even going so far as to suggest that Morris was “mistreated.” After the segment, Heyman took to Twitter to get a head start on the decisive 2014 voting, which will, one way or another, drive a stake into the heart of these delightful end-of-year debates:

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Ben and Sam try to figure out whether the sabermetric movement has helped keep Jack Morris out of the Hall of Fame or given him a better chance to get in.

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January 10, 2013 5:00 am

Skewed Left: Murphy, Morris, and Using the Full 15 Ballots


Zachary Levine

What do Dale Murphy's and Jack Morris' vote totals in their final and penultimate years on the BBWAA ballot, respectively, say about their odds of induction?

It is twilight for Jack Morris and sunset for Dale Murphy as both—along with 35 other players— were shut out of the Hall of Fame on Wednesday. In denying all 37 candidates admittance, with none all that close, the BBWAA has set up a nightmare scenario for future elections, as Colin Wyers lays out.

It is obviously particularly devastating for Murphy, who on the strength of his niceness and letters from his children received a 4.1 percentage point bump that wasn’t nearly enough. He went from just 14.5 percent to 18.6 percent, becoming the 51st player under things resembling the current rules (1969-present after runoffs were eliminated) to last his full allotted time on the ballot. Of the 51, 49 have suffered a similar 15 ballots of rejection, while Jim Rice and Ralph Kiner snuck over the 75 percent barrier. Kiner received the biggest final-year boost under the modern ballot, going from 58.9 in his penultimate try to 75.4 in the ultimate.

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Looking at the controversial Hall of Fame candidate through contemporary accounts from his early career.

With the Hall of Fame announcement scheduled for this week, now is a good time to look back at the early careers of some of this year's most talked-about nominees. (And with the early exit polls looking as they do, it might be nice to remember just how great some of these players were.)

Jack Morris, longtime anchor of the Detroit Tigers pitching staff, winningest pitcher of the 1980s, and author of one of the most memorable World Series games of all-time, is now in his fourteenth year on the Hall of Fame ballot. Only three years ago, Morris was barely receiving 53% of the vote. Five years ago, it was merely 44%. Today, however, he sits on the verge of election, receiving 67% in the 2012 voting and returning to the ballot as the lead vote-getter. To be honest, the arguments over Morris's Hall worthiness have gone on so long now that it feels nearly impossible to even remember what he was like as a player. For both sides of the debate, "Jack Morris" has turned into a stone idol, representing all that is beautiful and romantic of old-school baseball on one side and all that is vile and oppressive of outdated thinking on the other. His year-to-year and day-to-day strengths and weaknesses have been mostly forgotten or ignored, except when useful in proving a point. Morris, more than any other candidate on the Hall of Fame ballot, may benefit most from a look back at contemporary accounts of his early career.

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You already know the answer to this.

It's Hall of Fame balloting time, and you know what that means: it's also time to bicker about Jack Morris. The setup: Danny Knobler's ballot justification, though I could pick plenty of others that say more or less the same thing.

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Jason goes looking for Hall of Famers and finds none.

The first thing I'd like to do is thank the BBWAA for admitting me to its ranks even though I'm merely a part-time blogger and weekly contributor to a website that has, in the past, had as an implicit mission statement the Association's destruction.

The second thing I'd like to do is thank the BBWAA for waiving its usual 10-year rule whereby one does not acquire a Hall of Fame vote until one has been a member of the Association for a decade. Really, you're too kind.

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Leverage Index offers a method of identifying the most dramatic of all post-season series.

Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.

Dave Studeman is the manager and primary owner of the Hardball Times.

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