Jack Morris, Dave Stieb and Most Wins/WAR of the 1980s

We've all had "the talk" with one of our friends.

You know, the one where we tell them Jack Morris wasn't as good as they thought he was.

Look, Jack Morris was a good pitcher. You know what? I wouldn't even care if he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. But there are a lot of pitchers I'd rather see inducted before him.

One of the popular "gotchas" in the case for Jack Morris in the Hall is "but dude, he had the most wins in the 1980s"—to which, we reply with something like "but wins are a team statistic and don't adquately reflect the effectiveness of the blah blah blah blah" and then that friend makes a crack about the last time we had a physical relationship with a member of the opposite sex.

Now that we're armed with not just wins, but wins above replacement, where does ol' Jack stand now? The answer is—not first. It's twelfth.

Most Wins Above Replacement of the 1980s (Pitchers)
Rk Player WAR From To Age W L IP WAR/200
1 Dave Stieb 45.2 1980 1989 22-31 140 109 2328.2 3.88
2 Bob Welch 35.1 1980 1989 23-32 137 93 2082.1 3.37
3 Fernando Valenzuela 34.8 1980 1989 19-28 128 103 2144.2 3.25
4 Bert Blyleven 34.0 1980 1989 29-38 123 103 2078.1 3.27
5 Orel Hershiser 32.8 1983 1989 24-30 98 64 1457.0 4.50
6 Roger Clemens 32.3 1984 1989 21-26 95 45 1284.2 5.03
7 Nolan Ryan 30.8 1980 1989 33-42 122 104 2094.0 2.94
8 Dwight Gooden 30.2 1984 1989 19-24 100 39 1291.0 4.68
9 John Tudor 29.7 1980 1989 26-35 104 66 1622.2 3.66
10 Bret Saberhagen 29.0 1984 1989 20-25 92 61 1329.0 4.36
11 Charlie Hough 28.7 1980 1989 32-41 128 114 2121.2 2.71
12 Jack Morris 27.9 1980 1989 25-34 162 119 2443.2 2.28
13 Mario Soto 27.3 1980 1988 23-31 94 84 1614.1 3.38
14 Teddy Higuera 27.3 1985 1989 26-30 78 44 1085.0 5.03
15 Rick Sutcliffe 26.7 1980 1989 24-33 116 93 1860.0 2.87
16 Rick Reuschel 25.7 1980 1989 31-40 97 82 1616.1 3.18
17 Steve Carlton 25.6 1980 1988 35-43 104 84 1732.1 2.96
18 Ron Guidry 25.5 1980 1988 29-37 111 72 1639.2 3.11
19 Frank Viola 25.1 1982 1989 22-29 117 98 1858.0 2.70
20 Dan Quisenberry 24.6 1980 1989 27-36 53 43 996.2 4.94
21 Mark Gubicza 24.6 1984 1989 21-26 84 67 1313.1 3.75
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/20/2010.

The data comes from Baseball-Reference, but I added the WAR/200 innings column so that we can normalize some of the guys who only played part of the decade. The best WAR/200s on the list:

Rk Player WAR WAR/200
1 Teddy Higuera 27.3 5.03
2 Roger Clemens 32.3 5.03
3 Dan Quisenberry 24.6 4.94
4 Dwight Gooden 30.2 4.68
5 Orel Hershiser 32.8 4.50
6 Bret Saberhagen 29.0 4.36
7 Dave Stieb 45.2 3.88

Why the random cutoff at #7? Because I wanted to get Dave Stieb on the list, of course!

Yes, Teddy Higuera is percentage points ahead of Rocket. I always like the big guy, but only now do I realize how awesome he was. Higuera debuted at age 26, meaning he was already in his prime and had no ramp-up. He then obliterated the competition until he got hurt, and then he was quickly done. Therefore, no dropoff at the end of his career. Hence the awesome WAR rate. Quiz is the only reliever on the first list and shoots up to #3. Gooden, Hershiser, and Saberhagen all looked like like Hall of Famers at some point in their careers. Dave Stieb is like the Tim Raines of pitchers. He was really freakin' good but nobody realized it. Blame Canada, again.

And the worst WAR/200 on the list:

Rk Player WAR WAR/200
1 Jack Morris 27.9 2.28
2 Frank Viola 25.1 2.70
3 Charlie Hough 28.7 2.71
4 Rick Sutcliffe 26.7 2.87
5 Nolan Ryan 30.8 2.94
6 Steve Carlton 25.6 2.96
7 Ron Guidry 25.5 3.11

Again, these are the worst of the best of the 1980s, so everyone one of these pitchers is pretty darn good. The gap between Morris and #2 is quite large, though.

Well, maybe Morris is the best among pitchers who played the entire decade then? Not so much.

Best by total WAR:

  1. Stieb (45.2)
  2. Welch (35.1)
  3. Valenzuela (34.8)
  4. Blyleven (34.0)
  5. Ryan (30.8)
  6. Tudor (29.7)
  7. Hough (28.7)
  8. Morris (27.9)

Nope. Among all the pitchers who pitched in the entire decade, Stieb is also tops among starters in WAR/200 (though Quisenberry's is higher than his). It's pretty clear to me that the pitcher who should get the credit for being the best of the 1980s is not Jack Morris, but instead Dave Stieb.

If you're curious, Dave Stieb was second in wins (140) to Morris (162).

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