Friday, January 7, 2011

Blogfight, A Gentleman's Game

By The Common Man

First of all, Bill, The Common Man cannot believe we're fighting over Jack Morris, about whom TCM doesn't really care if he gets into the Hall or not.  But, like the ACLU, you have to defend a few Klansmen before you can defend a gay teenager who just wants to go to Prom.  It's the principle of the thing.

Bill wrote:
“I'm all for giving borderline cases extra credit for postseason success, particularly memorable moments, what have you. I'm not for giving guys with a significantly worse stats-based Hall of Fame case than Kenny Rogers the truly gargantuan extra-credit boost it would take to get them there.”
Your case seems to boil down to two contentions. First, that Morris is not a “marginal” candidate, he's far worse than that. And second, that no matter where his career stats would rank, the boost he gets from his reputation and Game 7 performance is nowhere near enough to elevate him.

Let’s tackle the first one first. As TCM pointed out in his original article, Morris has a poor statistical case for the Hall. But he would definitely seem to meet the minimum criteria. With Blyleven, there will be 56 starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame as of this summer. Of those, Morris ranks 50th in career Wins Above Replacement, ahead of Chief Bender, Burleigh Grimes, Herb Pennock, Jesse Haines, Jack Chesbro, Catfish Hunter, and Rube Marquard. He’s also in roughly the same plateau as Dizzy Dean and Addie Joss. Regardless of whether you want to say that the entirety of the bottom 15% of Hall of Fame pitchers (of whom, again, there are only 56) are mistakes or are players elevated by circumstance (Pennock playing for the Yankees, for instance, Bender for Mack’s A’s, or Catfish Hunter for his role with the A’s and Yankees), it’s clear that Morris’ contributions do fit within the confines of other pitchers who have been elected, one of whom was honored by the stingier BBWAA itself.

So given that Morris’ career does barely make it onto the Hall of Fame radar, the question becomes whether his postseason contributions and his reputation as both an ace and a big game pitcher are enough to elevate him into the Hall. Whether he made, to borrow from Jon Heymann, a big enough impact on the game. How can such a thing be measured? Isn’t that entirely a subjective assessment?

And if enough people believe in a subjective assessment, doesn’t that give it the power of fact? Isn’t the Mona Lisa considered beautiful? And of those who don’t agree that it’s beautiful, don’t they consider it appropriately famous to hang in the Louvre? After all, nobody seems bent out of shape that it hasn’t been torn down and replaced with a Jackson Pollack or a Thomas Kinkade. And if 75% of writers believe that Morris’ impact was big enough, bigger than Gibson’s or Hershiser’s, doesn’t that have the same effect? If there’s that much agreement about Jack’s impact, he should get to hang with Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo.


Bill said...

There are no minimum criteria. That's silly. There is only a (fairly opaque) standard. Those guys you named represent maybe 15-20% of the players that have their HOF qualifications, with the other 80-85% permanently on the outside looking in.

Here's what you're doing that you absolutely cannot logically do:

(1) if a player has a marginal statistical case, he should get extra credit for big moments, feeling like a Hall of Famer, etc.

(2) that player doesn't lower the standards of the Hall because he is outside the "continuum," part of the special group of unqualified candidates like Jack Chesbro and Jesse Haines.

(3) the player has a marginal statistical case if his statistics compare well to that very same group of players whose statistics I just said don't matter.

Y'see? That doesn't work. Those players can't both be "outside the continuum" and make up part of "the Hall of Fame radar."

Robert Rittner said...

I hope I understand your point. If so, I think the fallacy is in using the least qualified HOFers as a benchmark. Doing that leads to an endless process of diminishing the quality of those enshrined since there is always someone reasonably comparable to the lowest rated player.

If you are using career WAR as the standard, I randomly listed a group of pitchers who I thought were at least within whispering distance of Morris. Because Fangraphs does not measure WAR before 1980 as far as I can tell, I used the BBRef totals. I selected pitchers from his own and other eras. With two exceptions (Kevin Millwood & Bucky Walters), every single one had a better career WAR than Morris"s 39.3, and to the extent it was applicable, a few did using Fangraphs as well.

Here is the list: Stieb, Gooden, Key, Cone, Saberhagen, Hershiser, Warneke, Harder, Tiant, Pierce, Simmons, Lolich, Viola, Dennis Martinez. They range from 40.4 (Warneke) to 60.1 (Tiant). Do they all belong in the HOF?

crystal plaques said...

I completely agree with what Mr. Bill said, no minimum criteria only unfair standards.