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.
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:
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:
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:
- Stieb (45.2)
- Welch (35.1)
- Valenzuela (34.8)
- Blyleven (34.0)
- Ryan (30.8)
- Tudor (29.7)
- Hough (28.7)
- 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).