Jack Morris: The Curt Schilling of His Day
I recently wrote an article titled One Bloody Sock Does Not a Hall of Famer Make...Or Does It? It was humorous piece about Curt Schilling's retirement, his possibilities for Hall of Fame enshrinement, and, of course, that damn bloody sock.
While looking over some of Schilling's numbers and comparing him to other pitchers who have made the Hall, as well as to some who have not made it to Cooperstown but are deserving, I discovered something.
Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer.
I always knew Jack Morris was a good pitcher. As a person who started seriously following baseball as a nine-year-old kid in 1987, Morris was a name I knew. He wasn't as sexy a name as Doc Gooden, Roger Clemens, or Fernando Valenzuela, but I knew he was a good pitcher.
Well, as it turns out, I was wrong. Jack Morris was not a good pitcher. He was a great pitcher.
It also turns out, his career is remarkably similar to that of Curt Schilling's.
Jack Morris pitched from 1977 to 1994 with the Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, and Cleveland Indians.
Morris spent much of his first two seasons in the bullpen, before becoming a full time starter in 1979. Morris would win 17 games that year, the first in a string of ten consecutive seasons of double digit wins while still posting a winning record, including two of his three 20-win seasons during that span.
In fact, Morris would win the most games of any pitcher in the 1980's, and would post 254 victories for his career, good for 41st all-time.
Morris was one of the last pitchers who went out and finished what he started. While baseball was transitioning to the bullpen-heavy game it is today, Morris was a true throwback. He pitched double digit complete games and at least 200 innings in 11 of his 18 big league seasons. In fact from 1982-1988 Morris never threw fewer 235 innings.
While the American League hasn't seen a pitcher pitch 300 innings since Jim Palmer in 1977, Morris has come the closest, pitching 293.2 in 1983. All in all, Morris would throw 175 complete games (only three fewer than Hall of Famer Don Sutton) and pitch 3,824 innings in his career, an average of 212 per season.
During his career, Morris would finish in the top ten in ERA and winning percentage five times, strikeouts and shutouts eight times, innings nine times, complete games ten times, and wins 11 times. He also was an All-Star five times, and while he never won a Cy Young award, Morris finished in the top ten in voting seven times (five of those seven times were top five finishes).
As good as those numbers are, Morris, like Schilling, shined in the big spot. In 13 career post-season starts, Morris was 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA and five complete games. The numbers get better in the World Series, as Morris 4-2 with a 2.96 ERA and three complete games.
Also like Schilling, Morris is responsible for one of the most amazing and memorable post-season pitching performances, when he shutout the Braves for 10 innings in game seven of the 1991 World Series. The Twins would win the game 1-0, win the series 4 games to 3, and Morris would be named MVP.
Jack Morris also won four World Series championships, including three straight (1991-1993). He won in 1984 with the Tigers, 1991 with the Twins, and 1992 and 1993 with the Blue Jays (although Morris did not pitch in the post-season in 1993). Not a big market team in the bunch.
One knock against Morris for Hall of Fame consideration, is the fact the notion that he lost a lot of games and had a rather high ERA.
Morris did indeed lose 186 games in his career, having posted double digit loss totals in 11 of his 18 seasons. However, Morris has a career winning percentage of .577, better than Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro, and not that far off from Schilling's career mark of .597.
As for Morris' ERA, his career mark of 3.90 may sound high, especially for somebody who wants to make a case for the Hall of Fame, but Morris gave up a few more runs because he stayed in games longer, pitched to the scoreboard, and played most of his career in Tigers Stadium, which was known to be a hitter's park. His career ERA is also still below the league average of 4.08 during the time that Morris pitched.
With Curt Schilling seemingly a lock for eventual Hall of Fame enshrinement, it begs the question—will that help Jack Morris get in?
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