Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bert Blyleven vs. Jack Morris

It seems like people who favor Morris over Blyleven say Morris was better in the clutch or better in big games. So I try to look at those issues here.

The table below shows their stats in 3 situations: runners on base (ROB), runners in scoring position (RISP), and close and late (CL). Data from Retrosheet.

I did not try to adjust these numbers for the league average. Blyleven might get a slight edge since the early 70s were not a big hitting era. But much of their careers did overlap. The only place where either pitcher has a big edge is Morris's edge in AVG in CL situations. But that .021 does not add up to alot. Blyleven had 2,129 ABs faced in those cases. That amounts to about 44 hits or 2 per season. That seems pretty small.

The next table shows their post season stats. League Championship Series and World Series are combined.

Morris has just about twice the IP. So if you doubled Blyleven's stats, you can see that there is not much difference between the two. Blyleven would have 86 hits, just about what Morris has. Same for HRs. But he would have more strikeouts and fewer walks.

I also looked at how they did in September pennant races. If a team finished 10 or more games ahead or behind, it was not considered to be a pennant race. If a team finished less than 10 games ahead or behind and if they were 5 or fewer games ahead or behind at the end of play of Aug. 31, it was considered a pennant race. 1991 for the Twins was not considered a pennant race (Morris was on that team). They began Sept. 7 games ahead (GA). On Sept. 15 they were 7.5 GA and they finished the season 8 GA. 1981 was not included since it was a strike year with a split season. Many teams were within a few games in Sept. This is highly unusual and winning the 2nd half only gave you a chance to play for the divisional title.

So the years I have for Morris as Sept. pennant races are 83, 87, 88, 92, 93. For Blyleven they were 77-80, 87, 89. Each pitcher had a total of 231.66 IP (Oct. data was included). Some of this data might inlcude games pitched after the divisional title was decided. But I did not feel like spending the time to figure that out. The table below shows how each pitcher did in these cases.

Again, it does not look like there is much difference between the two. So given Blyleven's far superior career stats (and peak value as measured by stats like WAR), he still deserves to make the Hall of Fame ahead of Morris. Whatever edge in the clutch or big games Morris might have, it is definitely not enough to put him ahead of Blyleven.


Graham Womack said...

The more I know about Morris's stats, the more misguided the current Hall of Fame push for him seems. I'd take Blyleven before Morris for a playoff game. I'd also take Ron Guidry, Mickey Lolich, and Orel Hershiser over Morris-- or Blyleven.

Cyril Morong said...

Yes, I thought Morris's stats would have showed a little more of a clutch advantage. Thanks for reading.

Roysaidit said...

Many call Ryan a dominating pitcher, and they usually refer to his 7 no-hitters or his world record strikeouts. However, the objective evidence shows that, year in and year out, Ryan did NOT dominate his peers. Given that a pitcher’s goal is to give up as few runs as possible, one way to judge consistent dominance is how often a pitcher ranks among the league leaders in fewest runs given up. If Ryan were truly dominant, then he would consistently finish in the top 10 in his league in ERA. We're not talking leading the league, just Top 10. Let's see what the objective evidence says.

Ryan finished top 10 in his league in ERA+ a mere 6 times, or only about every 3 years or so. In other words, in 2 out of every 3 years, AT LEAST TEN pitchers had a better ERA than Ryan. Compare that with Bert Blyleven’s 12 times finishing in the top 10 in ERA+.
Ryan and Blyleven pitched in the same league in 8 seasons. In those 8 years, BLYLEVEN HAD THE BETTER ERA 6 OUT OF 8 TIMES. So, when comparing apples to apples, Blyleven was a better pitcher than Ryan 75% of the time, even with Blyleven pitching in more hitters’ parks.
1973 is a great example that debunks the Ryan “dominance” myth. Most Ryan fans remember from that year Ryan’s all-time record 383 strikeouts. However, Blyleven was better than Ryan in Ryan’s most “dominant” season. Despite setting the record in Ks, Ryan had a far worse ERA than Blyeven (2.87 to 2.52). Why? Ryan fans don’t mention his 162 walks (4 per start!) compared to 67 for Blyleven. Walks kill. So although it looked like Ryan dominated, Blyleven actually dominated more in what matters: giving up fewer runs. The same thing happened the next year. Ryan led in Ks but also he also led in BBs with 202! (that’s 5 walks a start!), and thus again gave up more runs than Blyleven. In fact, year after year, Ryan struck out more than Blyleven, and gave up fewer hits than Blyleven, but gave up more runs than Blyleven. Why? WAY MORE WALKS. So, while Ryan “should have been” one of the best pitchers ever, he was NOT even one of the top 10 in his own league in ERA in most years. Walks kill.
Because Ryan walked tons of batters, while Blyleven was a control artist, Blyleven outpitched Ryan year after year.

Cyril Morong said...


Great points and thanks for dropping by. You might find the following post I did earlier this year interesting. Go to

Of just search Blyleven on my blog to see other posts.