Detroit Tigers right-hander Jack Morris became the fourth Tigers pitcher to get elected to the Hall of Fame. Where does he rank among Tiger greats?
The Detroit Tigers may not have the most fun product to watch on the field this season, but the summer inductions of Jack Morris and Alan Trammell into the Baseball Hall of Fame at least gave fans something to reminisce about.
Here on throwback Thursday, we are going to take that one step further by analyzing right-hander Jack Morris, looking at where he ranks among Tiger pitchers. While there is no debate that Trammell is the best shortstop in team history, Morris’ rank is a bit murkier.
Morris had a very long and successful 18-year MLB career, spending 14 of those seasons in the Motor City. From 1977-1990, Morris tossed 3,042.2 innings with a 3.73 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP, 1,980 strikeouts and a staggering 154 complete games (including 24 shutouts).
He was a stalwart in the playoffs as well, long before his dominating performance in 1991 with the Twins. Morris tossed two complete games in the 1984 World Series, giving up just four earned runs and earning both victories.
The Detroit Tigers have had a lot of solid pitching in their 100+ years as a franchise. Where does Morris rank among them?
Using bWAR, which is admittedly flawed when looking across decades, Morris’ 38.1 mark ranks sixth. He is behind Hal Newhouser (59.4) Justin Verlander (55.8) Tommy Bridges (52.4) Mickey Lolich (47) and Dizzy Trout (45.3). He ranks second in games started (408, behind Lolich’s 459) and fourth in innings pitched, behind Lolich and two old-timers in George Mullin and Hooks Dauss.
A few other numbers of note: He is third in strikeouts, fifth in wins, eighth in complete games and shutouts, and seventh in win probability added, or WPA.
Of course, comparing these numbers across eras is a challenge. For example, Morris’ strikeout numbers barely place him in the top 30 in most categories, although he pitched in an era where strikeouts were much less common. Likewise, his complete game numbers are way higher than his contemporaries (like Verlander), who pitched in an era with increased bullpen usage.
Plus, there’s ballpark factors and mound size factors that make comparing him to guys like Lolich (who pitched on a bigger mound) or Verlander (who pitched in Comerica) tricky.
Ultimately, Morris is pretty clearly behind at least three pitchers: Hal Newhouser, Justin Verlander and Mickey Lolich. I’d venture that Bridges and his 126 ERA+ and 52.4 bWAR probably edge Morris as well, although that one is debatable.
After that, I think you could make arguments for McLain or Dauss or even Trout, although I am comfortable labeling Morris as the fifth best Tigers pitcher of all-time.
Newhouser is in the HOF and Verlander certainly will be when his time comes. It’s a shame that both Lolich and Bridges, two deserving candidates, have yet to reach Cooperstown.
Morris will remain an icon in Detroit Tigers history for many years to come, and should remain a top-five arm in franchise history for a long time as well.