Wednesday, January 5, 2011

FJM is stirring in its grave.

Another post because I'm bored, I miss Fire Joe Morgan, and Jayson Stark writes a very nice column about his Hall of Fame ballot during which he has a minor brain aneurysm:

Jack Morris

Oh noooooooooooo.

I know the sabermetrics crowd hates this vote. Sorry.

It's okay. It's really not a big deal, but I'm bored at work, so this post happens. It's nothing personal -- again, the rest of this column was great.

I'm as grateful for the invention of WAR, WPA and VORP as anyone else in my profession. But I still believe we're allowed to consider more than just raw numbers when we evaluate what a Hall of Famer is, or isn't.

This sounds like a fine argument, until you realize that by "consider more than just raw numbers," he's about to propose a bunch of ... you guessed it... numbers. Spoiler alert: They're crazy.

And if we look back on Morris' career, it sure looks as though the teams he pitched for, and the people he played with and against, were trying to tell us something.

I don't even know what to make of that. Baseball was trying to tell us that Jack Morris should be in the Hall of Fame? Jayson Stark: The Baseball Whisperer.

This man started on Opening Day 14 years in a row (1980 to 1993) -- for three different teams. The only pitcher to start more openers than that since World War II was Tom Seaver (16). Just real aces are allowed to do that. Don't you think?

So instead of using "raw" numbers to show his HOF argument, he uses the non-raw stat of "consecutive Opening Day starts," a statistic used by nobody to prove nothing, ever.

I love the assertion that "just real aces are allowed to do that."

These guys have started on Opening Day in the past 10-15 years or so:

Mark Hendrickson
Andy Benes
Brian Moehler
Joey Hamilton

You know, real aces.

This site actually did a great entry on the worst Opening Day starters of the last 50 years, and surprise surprise, look who pops up -- Jack Morris!!

And yeah, I get that there's some merit to the fact that he was the no. 1 starter on some pretty good Tigers teams and everything, but how does that make him a Hall of Famer?

Morris also started three All-Star Games. The only pitchers in the division-play era to start more were Jim Palmer and Randy Johnson. One thing I've noticed throughout the years: They don't run just any old stumblebum out there to start an All-Star Game -- let alone three of them.

You know, for an argument that doesn't use statistics, you're sure using a lot of statistics. Also, Charles Nagy started an ASG. And Hideo Nomo. And for Christ's sake, Jimmy Key. These guys are the absolute definition of "stumblebum."

Then there's October. Of the seven postseason series that Morris' teams played in, he started Game 1 in six of them -- again, for three different teams.

This is a more misleading sentence than "Mission Accomplished!" (And I even supported President Bush, I just needed something snappy there).

The point is, first of all, October is a SMALL SAMPLE SIZE. That's why there's so many unsung heroes, because sometimes shit happens. So a guy's HOF resume shouldn't really rest on what he did in October.

And furthermore, it's just downright disingenuous to throw out the number six, because it makes it seem rare and special. Instead of saying, "He was the no. 1 starter for three playoff teams," Stark double-counts 1984, 1991 and 1992, by virtue of the fact that, obviously, as the team's "Ace" pitcher, he started Game 1 of both the ALCS and the WS.

I'm not even going to bother finding other guys who have started Game 1 of a postseason series, but trust me, they're just as shitty as my other examples.

And his teams brought him back to start on short rest five times -- always in a Game 4 or 7 -- in those postseasons. There must have been some reason they liked the idea of trotting him out there when their seasons were hanging in the balance.

He pitched on short rest five times, so he's in the Hall of Fame?

Jack Morris has a career ERA+ of 105 in 18 seasons. That puts him in a tie for 478th all time. These arguments about him being the best pitcher on a team for 14 years, or starting ASGs and postseason series, they're nice. But they'd help a borderline guy's case -- not a guy who, statistically has had a worse career than Arthur Fucking Rhodes.

So I understand why Morris' 3.90 ERA gives people the shakes. But for all the reasons I've just laid out, it obviously wasn't just a couple of hundred misguided voters who looked at this man and thought: "Ace."

You're right, it was many more misguided people than just a couple hundred.

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