March 31, 2009

Curt Schilling, Jack Morris, and the Hall of Fame

Jeff Blair, sports columnist for the Globe & Mail, March 30:
Recently retired pitcher Curt Schilling won't make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. No Cy Young Awards is one reason, and as for that reputation as a "big-game" pitcher? Ask Jack Morris how much that's worth.
Blair is correct in using the phrase "recently retired", but after that, his words make no sense and do not stand up to even minimal scrutiny.

1. Cy Young Awards. Why should the subjective votes of certain members of the media mean anything -- even one grain of sand in the Sahara's worth -- in determining how good a pitcher Curt Schilling was? Giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to Schilling based on something he has no control over is as ignorant as saying "Ernie Banks was not a very good player, because he never played in a World Series".

2. How good was Jack Morris in the post-season? Fine, but nothing spectacular.

In post-season play, his 10-inning, 1-0 shutout (10-7-0-2-8, 126) in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series for the Twins against Atlanta rightly deserves its place as one of the top World Series pitching performances of all time.

Can Schilling's performance in ALCS 6 in 2004 (7-4-1-0-4, 99) match that? I'm biased, but considering the circumstances -- the 86-year championship drought, battling the Yankees (in Yankee Stadium) in the long shadow of the 2003 ALCS, the unprecedented comeback from 0-3, the pre-game medical procedure and the bloody sock -- I think it stands on par (or close to it, if you want to insist that the WS always trumps the ALCS).

Plus, Schilling was Co-MVP of the 2001 World Series with a 21.1-12-4-2-26, 1.69 line in three starts: Games 1, 4 and 7 -- a series often cited as the most thrilling World Series since 1991.

How did Morris do in the following post-season for the Blue Jays, in 1992 against the Athletics?
ALCS 1: 9.0-6-4-4-4, 119,  L, Tor lost 4-3
ALCS 4: 3.1-5-5-5-2, 71, ND, Tor lost 7-6
In Game 4, the Blue Jays had a chance to go up 3-1, but Morris could not get out of the fourth inning, and Oakland tied the series at 2-2. Toronto did win the pennant, but Morris's 6.57 ERA did not help.

In the World Series, he faced Atlanta again:
WS 1: 6.0-4-3-5-7, 98, L, Tor lost 3-1
WS 5: 4.2-9-7-1-5, 82, L, Tor lost 7-2
Morris could have led the Jays to the franchise's first championship in Game 5, but he failed. He and his 8.44 ERA celebrated when Toronto won the title two nights later in Game 6.

Career Post-Season Stats
    GS     IP    H   ER   BB    K    W   L  ERA
JM 13 92.1 83 39 32 64 7 4 3.80
CS 19 133.1 104 33 25 120 11 2 2.23
In 41 more innings, Schilling allowed only 14 more baserunners (H + BB) than Morris. It would be hard to convince anyone that Morris was a better post-season (or "big game") pitcher than Schilling.

3. Over his regular season career, Curt Schilling was a far better pitcher than Jack Morris.

Morris retired with a career ERA+ of 105; Schilling's ERA+ was 127. This means that while Morris was 5% better than the average starting pitcher during his time period, Schilling was 27% better than the average starter during his era.

Morris had only one season with a ERA+ higher than Schilling's career average: 133 in 1979. Schilling had ten seasons with an ERA+ above Morris's personal best and four seasons as a starter with an ERA+ over 150.

Schilling's career 127 ERA+ is currently tied for 43rd place all-time. Some of the people tied with Schilling: Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, John Smoltz and this guy. The guys at 105 include Javier Vasquez, Zane Smith, Ken Holtzman, and Al Downing.

From B-Ref:

Black Ink: Pitching (Average HOFer: ≈ 40)
    Morris    20   -   Schilling    42
Gray Ink: Pitching (Average HOFer ≈ 185)
    Morris   193   -   Schilling   205
HOF Standards: Pitching (Average HOFer ≈ 50)
    Morris  39.0   -   Schilling  46.0
HOF Monitor: Pitching (Likely HOFer > 100)
    Morris 122.5   -   Schilling 171.0
Morris's supporters like to note that he won more games -- 162 -- than any other pitcher in the 1980s (that's 1980-1989, by the way, though Morris also won more games during in the correct '80s decade of 1981-1990).

That's a lot of wins, certainly, but as more enlightened fans know, pitchers (and especially AL pitchers) have no control over their run support and thus little control over if how they have done on any given day will be worthy of a "win". (Also, Morris also tops the list because of the quirk of having his best years fall within a group of years that all began with the same three numbers ("198x")and thus can be grouped as a decade.) By the way, Morris has the worst ERA+ of any of the top nine pitchers on that list.

Also: Since the mound was moved back to its present distance, Schilling has the best K/BB ratio of all time among pitchers with a minimum of 1,000 innings pitches and 100 decisions. His career WHIP of 1.173 is 45th all-time, just behind someone named Lady Baldwin. Morris is 437th all-time.

No one can seriously argue that Jack Morris was a better pitcher than -- or even the equal of -- Curt Schilling. And since the name of the place is the Hall of Fame, that's another reason Schilling will absolutely be elected. Possibly first ballot, certainly within three years.

21 comments:

tim said...

Beauty work, redsock.

I sure do miss this type of reporting from FJM!

Jere said...

I heard a radio caller say the same thing a few days ago. Essentially it's "Morris was better than Schilling in the postseason (but I failed to actually check to see if that was true before calling)." This leads me to believe we could follow this trail to some article, probably on a popular sports site, that said this, leading people to blindly follow it.

When I look at Schilling, I see a first ballot HoFer--I don't see how it's a debate.

Michael said...

the only point you're overlooking is that the same biased members of the media who never gave him a Cy Young award are the same people who will be deciding if he's in the Hall of Fame. But of course the Hall is not a winner-takes-all thing like individual awards. Anyhow I'm pretty sure he'll make it (the K/BB alone would justify it and then some), but I admit I'd be pretty surprised if it was in the first ballot. Should be interesting.

FenFan said...

Again, great job breaking down the numbers. I agree that Schilling is not borderline as some would argue but I agree that he may spend a few years on the ballot before his name gets called.

I would assume that since he did not play in 2008 that his first opportunity would be the 2013 vote, so I would guess by 2015 that his plaque will be hanging in Cooperstown.

Oh, and on an entirely different subject, Slumdog Millionaire is worthy of the hype.

redsock said...

I sent the link to Blair last night.

His reply: "Tks. I havent voted for morris. Wont for schilling. Im a small hall guy."

I wrote back: "Fair enough. I'd probably count myself as a small hall guy too."

***

On some days, the "well-x-is-in-so-y-should-be-too" argument holds water; other days, it doesn't.

***

Also: Part of the point of the post was to note that the widespread idea of Morris as a "big-game" pitcher relies almost solely on one game (or one year). Given the same chances to be a hero the very next year, he repeatedly fell on his face.

redsock said...

I know many of the voting members are the same, but (a) a pitcher can still have a great year and not be the one guy chosen for the Cy (and the writers know this) and (b) *some* progressive thought regarding stats has to have trickled down (or up?) to the media over the last two decades.

I'm pretty sure he'll make it ... but I admit I'd be pretty surprised if it was in the first ballot.

I agree.

redsock said...

In other news:

While looking through BR for this post, I learned that because Mariano Rivera has now pitched over 1,000 innings (1023.1), he qualifies for BR's Career ERA+ list. And at 199, he dwarfs the previous leader, Pedro Martinez (154).

Bot is at 254, though he has 771 innings to go.

Fragile Freddy said...

Anyone who includes Jack Morris in a discussion with Schilling doesn't know the facts. Forget about newfangled stats and "analysis", Morris' ERA is nearly half a run higher than Schilling's and that's without making any adjustment for era or ballparks or anything like that.

Morris was an average to above average pitcher who simply pitched a lot. The sum total of his qualification for the Hall if "he pitched a lot of games."

L-girl said...

doesn't know the facts... newfangled stats and "analysis"

Stats and analysis are facts.

Newfangled = things I am not familiar with.

Benjamin said...

And at 199, he dwarfs the previous leader, Pedro Martinez (154).

One might even say he drowns him.

Pepe Lepew said...

Morris was an average to above average pitcher who simply pitched a lot. The sum total of his qualification for the Hall if "he pitched a lot of games."

That's *my* argument for Bert Blyleven not belonging in the Hall of Fame. (Kind of off-topic, I know). I would put both Morris and Schilling (and maybe even Jamie Moyer) in the HOF before Blyleven.

9casey said...

Jamie Moyer?????
He can't finish a sandwich let a lone a baseball game..

Blyleven should be in the hall of fame for most of his career he completed more than a third of the games he started, with the game so specialized now , you have to wonder how many more games he might have won with a lights out closer, or lost who knows....

A little love for Curt from Redscok, I like it.....

redsock said...

And as far as the Hall, the only thing Moyer has going for him -- and I mean, the only thing -- is that he has pitched forever.

I believe Seaver received the most first ballot votes of any HoFer ever. And Curt was his exact equal at not allowing runs -- 127 ERA+ -- which is a pitcher's main job.

redsock said...

He can't finish a sandwich let a lone a baseball game..

This amused me.

... with the game so specialized now

There has been a fairly steady decline in innings pitched by starting pitchers for 130 years or so. It's not something that began a few decades ago. I saw a nifty graph of the declining rates once. I wish I could find it again.

Pepe Lepew said...

Blyleven should be in the hall of fame for most of his career he completed more than a third of the games he started, with the game so specialized now , you have to wonder how many more games he might have won with a lights out closer, or lost who knows....

...Staying off topic, I know (the thread police are gonna come get me)
The basis for my argument is that Blyleven racked up a ton of stats by never getting hurt and simply starting a boatload of games (I believe he's 11th or 12th all-time.) I consider him the Vinnie Testaverde of baseball. (Don't laugh, Vinnie is 6th all time in passing yardage and 8th all time in touchdown passes -- great QB? HOF QB?)
Blyleven was a good pitcher, but he was never great, not for a sustained period of time. I base my HOF arguments on whether a player had a "period of excellence." Blyleven never did. He only had two seasons out of 22 I would call "excellent." (19-7, 17-5). He had five what I would call "good seasons," (20-17, 15-10, 14-10, 12-5, 11-7) and then he had *15* mediocre or poor seasons. 15 mediocre or poor seasons out of 22 shouldn't get you in the HOF in my book.

redsock said...

Pepe: You may be right, but ya gotta use something more than W-L to make the case. Well, you don't gotta, but ....

redsock said...

He had five what I would call "good seasons," (20-17...

And a 158 ERA+ over 325 innings!

That's fucking amazing!

Check out his log and some of the scores of games he lost:

In Apr: 4-2, 2-1, 3-2 (in a row!)
In Aug: 2-1, 2-1, 3-2
In Sept: 4-3, 3-0

That's some shitty luck.

Pepe Lepew said...

Pepe: You may be right, but ya gotta use something more than W-L to make the case. Well, you don't gotta, but ....

I know that was some of the same arguments made against Nolan Ryan and Don Sutton. Nolan Ryan was such a freak of nature.
I also got Blyleven never won a Cy Young. He finished third twice and fourth once (and one of those third-place finishes was a 17-16 year with a 3.16 ERA and 206 SO, must've been a weak year.). He never won an ERA title (came in second twice, I think.) I guess I just come back to "sustained period of excellence."
I see he was in the top four in strikeouts 12 years. That is impressive, actually.
I guess if you put Blyleven in, then you have to put in Tommy John and Jim Kaat.
...and Schilling and Morris and maybe Jamie Moyer.

redsock said...

He never won an ERA title (came in second twice, I think.)

2nd twice, 3rd once, 4th twice, 5th twice. and 7 times in the top 3 in shutouts. 8 of his 10 BRef comps are in the HoF.

i think he belongs, but i am willing to keep him out because of the whole the "circle me, bert" thing.

Pepe Lepew said...

i think he belongs, but i am willing to keep him out because of the whole the "circle me, bert" thing.

Hmm, I don't know what that is. I guess I just feel if you put him in, then you have to put some other people in, too. (Kaat, John, Morris, etc.)
You know if he Moyer has a decent season this year, he'll be over 260 wins? Holy Cow! Jamie Moyer?

Pepe Lepew said...

I just showed our Blyleven debate to a friend of mine who is a Twins fan.
Hoo boy, did I get a tongue-lashing!