Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Jack Morris and win points, Part I

With a crowded ballot on his
final chance with the writers,
Jack Morris isn't likely
to be elected to the Hall of Fame
this year either.
There are seven eight starting pitchers on this year's Hall of Fame ballot, plus a handful of relievers. I said here, soon after the ballot was announced, that Jack Morris was at best the sixth best starter on the ballot,  and that was giving him the benefit of the doubt over Kenny Rogers.

As I see it, Morris has only once in his 15 years on the ballot been the best starter listed. In this, his final chance on the writers ballot, he ranks (in my eyes) behind Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling.

The argument for Morris essentially boils down to two points: Wins and durability. But how does Morris' 254-186 won-loss record really compare to these rivals?

In his 1994 book on the Hall of Fame (which, as I said in a previous post, I am rereading in the wake of my Cooperstown visit last month), Bill James offers a formula he called "win points": Career wins times winning percentage, plus games over .500.

The merit of win points in evaluating won-loss record in the context of a Hall of Fame debate, he said, is that it pushes the likes of Sandy Koufax and Dizzy Dean — with short, brilliant careers — forward while downgrading longevity guys with lots of decisions, such as Tommy John and Gus Weyring.

Win points, for a variety of reasons, never caught on as a factor in HoF debates. But I thought it worth working the math in the context of Morris, whose candidacy I have long been skeptical of.

Take Maddux as an example. He was 355-227. Multiply 355 by his .610 winning percentage, and add 128 for his games over .500, and you get 345 win points.

Morris actually scores better on this scale than I expected: 215, the same as Phil Niekro, who is in the Hall. Chief Bender, the first Minnesota native to be inducted into the Hall, scores 214. There are non-Hall of Famers in the same area (Tommy John, for example, is at 217), but Morris isn't surrounded by non-Hall guys.

But in this specific company, Morris doesn't do so well. Going top to bottom:

  • Clemens: 403
  • Maddux: 345
  • Mussina: 289
  • Glavine: 285
  • Morris: 215
  • Schilling: 199
  • Rogers: 190
  • Hideo Nomo: 79

I still rate Schilling ahead of Morris; while the won-loss record is important, there are other factors, such as ERA and strikeouts, and Schilling has much the advantage in those areas. Of the top seven, Morris has the lowest winning percentage (.577).

The guy who really gets a boost in my estimation here is Mussina. I knew he had 270 wins. But I didn't realize that he had a .638 winning percentage. That's mighty impressive. There is really nothing Morris offers that Mussina doesn't trump, other than Game Seven. There's really no excuse for anybody with a vote opting for Morris over Mussina.

1 comment:

  1. The error is, not voting Morris in last year (or previously) when there was no logjam.

    Rightly or not, it seems the voter focus leans heavily toward looking for reasons not to qualify a candidate rather than finding reasons for a yes vote.