Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Jack Morris, Pitching To The Score, And The Hall Of Fame

Last night Harold Reynolds said on the MLB network that Morris should be in the Hall of Fame and mentioned pitching to the score (or something like that). The idea is that if you have a big lead you ease off a bit and throw strikes so you don't walk anyone.

I know others have analyzed this in detail but I don't have any links handy.

Did Morris pitch better in key situations? Here is his OPS allowed in High, Medium and Low leverage situations:

High .695
Medium .692
Low .694

(data from the Baseball Reference Play Index-the higher the leverage, the closer the score, the more runners on and the later the game) His career OPS allowed is .693. So it looks like he has about the same results, no matter what the situation. But how does this compare to the AL average for the years 1977-94? Those are the years he pitched.

High .736
Medium .731
Low .724

The overall OPS was .729. So notice that the league OPS was .012 higher in High leverage situations than Medium. Morris was only .001 higher. The difference is .011. So in that way, Morris may have been better at elevating his game when it mattered (his OPS went up less than the average pitcher).

But that is a pretty slight difference. The following regression equation shows the relationship between team runs per game and team OPS:

R/G = 13.02*OPS - 5.04

I used all teams from 1996-2009. 13.02*. 011 = .14. That is a very slight difference. Now runs might matter more in high leverage situations. In High cases, his average Leverage Index  (LI) was about 2.1. In Low cases, it was about .41.

But it takes about 10 runs to add a win over the course of a season. So .14/10 = .014 more victories per year due to his High leverage performance. Now maybe we could multiply that by 5 to get .07 (since 2.1/.41 is about 5). .07 extra wins per year seems pretty slight (one thing I left out here is how many PAs he had in each of these situations-here I am simply applying this on a per game analysis-I should probably make a proportional adjustment but then these numbers might be even smaller).

Another thing to notice is that if we compare Medium situations to High situations, Morris goes up .003 and the league average goes up .005. So Morris is only .002 better than average there.

In his career, Morris walked & hit 8.42% of the batters he faced (with IBBs taken out). With a lead of more than 4 runs, it was 8.07%. So he did improve there and probably threw more strikes. But this is also a very slight difference.

He is only 138th in WAR for pitchers with two 5th place finishes, 8th and a 9th. The 5th placers were not back to back although the 8th followed one of them. That is just not much career or peak value for a Hall of Famer.

His best finishes in ERA+ were a 4th, a 6th, an 8th and a 10th (that is ERA adjusted for the league average and park effects). Good, but not great. He had one top 10 finish (6th) in FIP ERA (that is an ERA estimated just using walks, strikeouts and HRs allowed).

He had two top 10 finishes (4th, 7th) in WPA added (that is win probability added-the idea is that you get more credit for what happens in key situations).  His career rank among pitchers here is 136th.

There is also a WPA/LI stat where LI is the average leverage index. He had four top 10 finishes (the best was a 4th). That is good, but certainly not Hall of Fame caliber. His career rank in that is 121st among pitchers. So although he may have pitched a bit better the more important the situation, it was nothing unusual.

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