So, there’s been a lot written about Jack Morris’ Hall of Fame candidacy. Whether or not you think Jack Morris is deserving of the Hall of Fame, what I aim to do in this post is to point out that Mike Mussina was clearly a better pitcher.
Why? Because hopefully, someday, a writer with a vote who voted for Jack Morris but not Mike Mussina (and there were many of them) reads this post and realizes, frankly, how their position is simply wrong.
I do not care much for the old “traditional” stats of wins and losses, all-star game appearances, and all that stuff, but I recognize that some voters do. So in an effort to appeal to both sides of the coin, this post will contain a “traditionalists” part and a modern-voter portion. Proceed to whichever part appeals to you. Trust us, the conclusions will be the same.
Morris: 254-186, 3.90 ERA, 3,824 IP, 175 CG, 28 SHO, 1390 BB 2478 K
Mussina: 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 3,563 IP, 57 CG, 23 SHO, 785 BB, 2813 K
Analysis: Seriously, what more do you want? Mike Mussina bests Jack Morris in almost every significant career category. He had more wins, fewer losses, a lower ERA, more strikeouts and fewer walks.
He threw fewer innings, complete games, and shutouts, but much of that was a product of the era Mussina pitched in. Closers were common, complete games were not. Consider the shutout totals. What does it tell you that, despite 118 more complete, Morris threw just five more shutouts? In order to toss a complete game in Mike Mussina’s era, pitchers pretty much had to be working on a shutout
The strikeout totals aren’t close, especially considering Morris threw 250 more innings, and the walk totals aren’t even in the same area code. While strikeouts were much higher in Mussina’s era, so were run totals, which makes his 3.68 ERA look a lot better than Morris’ 3.90.
Morris: 7-4, 3.80, 13 GS, 5 CG, 1 SHO, 92 IP, 32 BB, 64 K
Mussina: 7-8, 3.42 ERA, 21 GS, 0 CG, 0 SHO 139 IP, 33 BB, 149 K
Look, we can sit here going on and on about the legendary Jack Morris postseasons, how Mussina was screwed over by his team in 1997 and 2003, but here’s my point. For these pitchers, the postseason represents such a small portion of their career, it’s almost not worth it. Seriously, Jack Morris started THIRTEEN playoff games–that’s a little more than a third of a season for a starting pitcher. If we’re being kind, he pitched well in maybe 10 of them. Exactly what are we gleaning from a player’s career in so few starts?
Neither pitcher ever won a Cy, though we’ve written about Mussina’s 2001 robbery before. Morris finished in the Top 10 seven times, and the Top 5 five times. Mussina was in the Top 10 nine times, and the Top 5 seven. Yet another edge for the Moose.
Morris: Eight (Wins x2, Starts x2, CG, Sho, IP, K)
Mussina: Six (Wins, Winning %, Starts X2, Sho, IP)
Slight edge to Black Jack, but not significant
Number of 10-inning shutouts pitched in Game 7 of the World Series
Since I know this is roughly half of the argument for putting Morris in the Hall, and I don’t want to be considered biased, there you go. Frankly, for some voters and fans, this, along with being the “Ace” of three specific staffs, and the guy who won the most games from 1980-1989 is enough to get him in. If that’s you, well, I don’t think there’s much I can do. All three of those facts are heavily context-dependent, but if you believe they’re what does the trick, vote away.
As I said, I think many of these numbers and stats are meaningless. At the end of the day though, if you’re old school and you care about winning and losing above all else, here’s what will sum it up:
Jack Morris won 68 more games than he lost, allowing more runs in the process
Mike Mussina won 117 more games than he lost, allowing fewer runs in the process
For the statistically-inclined
Alright, enough with win totals and really small sample sizes of the World Series. If you’re a new-school stats person, here’s all you should really need:
Wins Above Replacement for Pitchers (FanGraphs version)
Look, WAR is not a perfect stat. It, like all other stats, has flaws. But seriously, these numbers are not even close. I mean, seriously. that’s a massive difference. If you put any stock at all into WAR, there is absolutely zero question that Mike Mussina is a much, much, much better pitcher than Jack Morris. Let’s dig a little deeper into this with the following facts about the WAR of these two pitchers
Number of 5 WAR seasons
(If you’re a Morris supporter and you want to point out that there’s another version of WAR, trust me, don’t. Baseball-Reference is even less kind.)
Here’s a fun game to play with Mussina and Morris’ WAR totals. Go to fangraphs Take their best season ever by WAR, and compare them. Then take their second-best, and third-best, and all the way down to 18th-best. Guess how many times, out of 18, Mussina’s WAR total is higher?
Ryan’s Note: Let’s do this. It makes for a nice graphic to break up all this text. I used baseball-reference because their WAR is sortable.
Ryan’s Note: Mike Mussina had four seasons better than Morris’ best season. Jack Morris had six seasons which were worse than Mussina’s worst season. Go back and read those two sentences again and tell me if there’s any argument using objective statistics in which Jack Morris > Mike Mussina.
Now, there’s a lot of other fancy stats I could discuss like:
ERA+: (Mussina 123, Morris 108)
WAA: (Mussina 45.8, Morris 9.6)
FIP: (Mussina 3.54, Morris 3.94)
But let’s be honest: If you care about advanced stats, the WAR total should be enough to convince you, because they’re not close, and they’re not close in any way you could twist the stat.
So what was the point of all this? Well, you may be of the opinion that Jack Morris is HOF-worthy. But if you are, then you should be voting for Mike Mussina as well.