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Monthly Archives: December 2013

 

Congratulations go out to Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre for their election to the baseball Hall of Fame, courtesy the ballot on Expansion Era figures.  The three former skippers were worthy of their induction, for few managers in the game’s history have reached 2,000 career wins, and all three men did just that.

On the ballot were former Reds shortstop Dave Concepcion, Cox, hit-machine Steve Garvey, durable southpaw Tommy John, LaRussa, former Athletics and Yankees manager Billy Martin, union head Marvin Miller, slugging outfielder Dave Parker, submarine closer Dan Quisenberry, switch-hitting Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons, longtime Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and Torre.

The panel of voters was allowed to cast five votes apiece, with only the three aforementioned managers receiving 75% of the vote.  Had a ballot been offered me, I would have cast votes for the three that were enshrined, and added checks beside the names of Ted Simmons and Dan Quisenberry.  Not only was Simmons one of the finest catchers of his era—he was a more reliable offensive performer than esteemed peers Bench and Fisk—but he is one of the best backstops of all-time.  With Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage in the Hall of Fame, their peer Dan Quisenberry, who was more effective than the two enshrined closers, would have also received a vote from my pen.

Since only five names could have been cast, I would have neglected slick-fielding shortstop Dave Concepcion.  Defense was his game but Davey handled a decent stick.  Steve Garvey and Billy Martin I consider to be fringe candidates, as well as George Steinbrenner, who, need I remind you, was reviled throughout the majority of his tenure.  Tommy John pitched a long time and has never struck me as Hall of Fame material, and had Dave Parker not experienced a mid-career meltdown, he would be a strong candidate for enshrinement, but he rests in the same category as Luis Tiant: players who excelled for years but had seasons in their “prime” when they were abysmal.

As for Marvin Miller, I motion that he be stricken from future consideration.  This motion will assuredly offend a great many, who feel his influence on the game of baseball was instrumental, but the Hall of Fame was erected to honor baseball legends, players and executives alike.  It was not constructed to honor lawyers, whose tie to the game was strictly of a legal manner.  Former scouts, groundskeepers, reconstructive surgeons, public address announcers, all have as much right as Marvin Miller for Hall of Fame consideration, yet who would want to waste one of the dozen spaces on the ballot for someone that neither played the game nor built a contending team?  Marvin Miller took a space on the ballot that should have gone to someone like Dwight Evans, Ron Guidry or Amos Otis.

 

 

The result of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Hall of Fame vote will be announced on January 8th.  In order to gain enshrinement in Cooperstown, the former player listed on the ballot must receive 75% of the votes cast.  To be held over for next year’s vote, players must receive at least five percent of the vote.

Among the first-timers on the ballot, Greg Maddux is clearly the standout and should receive over 90% on his initial Hall of Fame try.  Longtime Maddux teammate Tom Glavine will certainly see some support, but the southpaw isn’t an obvious selection like his Atlanta chum.  Frank Thomas and Jeff Kent stand the best chance among first-time position players.  Holdovers from last year, Craig Biggio and Jack Morris netted over 60% of the vote while stars Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza were named on over 55% of the votes.

What follows are my predictions for the vote, with last year’s percentage listed in parentheses.

Greg Maddux 89.2% (first time), Craig Biggio 79.3 (68.2%), Jack Morris 74.0% (67.7%), Mike Piazza 68.8% (57.8%), Jeff Bagwell 64.4% (59.6%), Tim Raines 54.5% (52.2%), Frank Thomas 53.4% (first time), Lee Smith 48.8% (47.8%), Curt Schilling 44.6% (38.8%), Tom Glavine 41.8% (first time), Roger Clemens 40.6% (37.6), Edgar Martinez 39.8% (35.9%), Barry Bonds 36.6% (36.2%), Alan Trammell 35.5% (33.6%), Jeff Kent 30.4% (first time), Larry Walker 23.2% (21.6%), Mike Mussina 20.4% (first time), Fred McGriff 18.8% (20.7%), Mark McGwire 17.1% (16.9%), Don Mattingly 14.2% (13.2%), Sammy Sosa 12.5% (12.5%), Luis Gonzalez 8.6% (first time), Rafael Palmeiro 7.7% (8.8%), Moises Alou 4.0% (first time), Eric Gagne 2.2% (first time), Kenny Rogers 1.4% (first time), Ray Durham 1.2% (first time), Hideo Nomo 0.8% (first time), Armando Benitez 0.2% (first time), Sean Casey 0.2% (first time), Jacque Jones 0.0% (first time), Todd Jones 0.0% (first time), Paul LoDuca 0.0% (first time), J.T. Snow 0.0% (first time), Richie Sexson 0.0% (first time), Mike Timlin 0.0% (first time)

Greg Maddux should receive over 90% but voters are more fickle now than they have ever been.  Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza should have made the Hall of Fame last year but were snubbed.  The consensus seems that many writers have impugned every player from the Steroid Era, regardless their character, which forces me to speculate that Maddux—who should be a lock for enshrinement—might not receive 90% of the vote.  My ballot would have Greg Maddux, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas and Curt Schilling.

 

If you watch MLB Network for five minutes, you’re bound to hear something quite stupid escape the lips of one of their analysts.  The other day, Mitch Williams was debating Jack Morris’s Hall of Fame qualifications, and regurgitated a concept I heard Harold Reynolds posit last year: that you shouldn’t focus too much on Jack’s peripheral numbers because he “pitched to the situation.”  They claimed that when Morris would get five or six runs, he might surrender four or five in return.  I’m sorry, but run support is a security blanket for pitchers, not an invitation to pitch poorly.

Before I get too much into this post, I should state how I dislike doing this: writing about how a former player doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.  It’s difficult enough to get enshrined without scribes writing pieces about how you don’t belong there.  I always liked Jack Morris.  He seemed to me a fierce competitor with nothing but the utmost respect for the game of baseball, but if what Mitch and Harold say is true, then his “pitching to the situation” completely negates the “fierce competitor” analysis I had of Jack.

When people make a case for Morris they typically point to his wins.  He is the winningest pitcher of the 1980s, with more victories than any hurler from the years 1980 to 1989.  On wins alone, Morris would seem a lock for the Hall of Fame, but we’re no longer in the era of judging a pitcher based solely on his record.  Jack’s peripheral stats are anyhting but spectacular, and when I compare him to a number of his 1980s peers—all of whom are not on the Hall of Fame ballot—you’ll see just how modest of a career Mr. Morris had.  Let’s begin, shall we?

I have assembled of group of pitchers who pitched in the same decade as Morris, and will compare their peripheral stats (some of the most important stats) to see just how Jack measures up against his peers.  The attributes of a good pitcher are keeping runners off base and forbidding those you allow to reach from crossing the plate.  The pitchers I have chosen at random are a collection of solid pitchers, but hurlers the writers felt weren’t good enough to remain on the ballot.  They are: Doyle Alexander, John Candelaria, Danny Darwin, Ron Guidry, Orel Hershiser, Jimmy Key, Dennis Martinez, Rick Reuschel, Bret Saberhagen, Scott Sanderson, Mike Scott, Dave Stieb, Frank Tanana, Frank Viola and Bob Welch.

ERA (earned run average): Guidry (3.29), Candelaria (3.33), Saberhagen (3.34), Reuschel (3.37), Stieb (3.44), Welch (3.47), Hershiser (3.48), Key (3.51), Scott (3.54), Tanana (3.66), Martinez (3.70), Viola (3.73), Alexander (3.76), Darwin (3.84), Sanderson (3.84), Jack Morris, 3.90

WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning): Saberhagen (1.141), Candelaria (1.184), Guidry (1.184), Scott (1.201), Key (1.229), Stieb (1.245), Sanderson (1.255), Hershiser (1.261), Martinez (1.266), Darwin (1.268), Tanana (1.270), Welch (1.270), Reuschel (1.275), Alexander (1.293), Jack Morris (1.296), Viola (1.301)

BB/9 (walks allowed per nine innings): Saberhagen (1.7), Candelaria (2.1), Sanderson (2.2), Key (2.3), Guidry (2.4), Reuschel (2.4), Alexander (2.6), Darwin (2.6), Martinez (2.6), Scott (2.7), Tanana (2.7), Viola (2.7), Hershiser (2.9), Welch (3.0), Stieb (3.2), Jack Morris (3.3)

SO/BB (strikeout to walk ratio): Saberhagen (3.64), Candelaria (2.83), Guidry (2.81), Sanderson (2.58), Scott (2.34), Key (2.30), Darwin (2.22), Tanana (2.21), Reuschel (2.16), Viola (2.13), Hershiser (2.00), Welch (1.90), Martinez (1.84), Jack Morris (1.78), Stieb (1.61), Alexander (1.56)

These statistics are crucial to good pitching, and when you judge Morris against his peers—those the writers view as inferior—you see that Morris was the worst of the crop.  Jack won a lot of games, like the pitchers of the Yankees juggernauts of the Ruth/Gehrig era, by pitching deep into games for high-powered teams.  Detroit of Morris’s tenure were typically among the American League’s highest run scoring teams.  In 1980, when Jack won 16 games, the Tigers led the Majors with 830 runs scored.  He went 17-16 in 1982 on a 4.06 ERA (handily the worst ERA among their starting pitchers: Dan Petry had a 3.22 mark, Milt Wilcox 3.62 and Jerry Ujdur 3.69).  His Tigers teams usually had strong bats capable of swatting the long ball.  Detroit paced the AL in homeruns as a team in 1984 while also leading the junior circuit with 829 runs.  In ’85, Detroit had one position player that failed to reach double-digits in dingers: Tom Brookens.  Morris had stars like Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson and Chet Lemon hitting for him, and long ball threats like Lance Parrish and Darrell Evans slugging to beat the band.  With all that support, it’s little wonder that Jack won more games than any pitcher during the 1980s, even on his paltry peripheral stats.