This post isn't about Jack Morris' Hall of Fame qualifications, even if the comments take a turn in that direction. There will be plenty of words spilled about Morris, the steroid era, and other unpleasant topics all across the baseball blogosphere this week. Here, we're focusing on Morris' accomplishments as a Tiger, which were plentiful. He was the ace of the Tigers' staff in the 1980s, and now is the #16 player in franchise history according to our readers.
John Scott Morris was born on May 16th, 1955 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was drafted by the Tigers in the fifth round of the 1976 draft and made his debut in July of 1977. The team shifted him between the rotation and bullpen in his first two seasons before he became a full-time starter in 1979. He put together a 17-7 record and 3.28 ERA in 27 starts that year, one of the few in a Tigers uniform where he did not reach the 200-inning plateau.
Morris made his first of five All-Star teams in 1981. He led the American League with 14 wins that year, finishing third in the Cy Young vote. This -- along with another third place finish in 1983 -- would be the highest Morris ever finished in Cy Young voting in his career.
However, Morris didn't make a name for himself with gaudy regular season numbers. He was known as a big game pitcher, especially in the playoffs. In three postseason starts for the Tigers in 1984, he went 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 17 strikeouts to four walks in three starts, all Tigers victories. His most famous start -- and possible "Hall of Fame moment" -- came as a member of the Minnesota Twins when he threw a 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series against the Atlanta Braves. He was no slouch throughout the rest of that postseason either, winning four games with a 2.23 ERA in five starts.
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While Morris' career numbers aren't particularly impressive at first glance, they were partially inflated by a lackluster showing in his mid-30s. Through the 1987 season, he was 162-105 with a 3.55 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. His 3.92 FIP was nothing to write home about, but an 87 ERA- shows that he was a fair amount better than his peers throughout the league. Only Dave Rozema had a better ERA- with the Tigers during that time period. Morris also outpaced Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver in that regard -- both had an ERA- of 88 during that stretch.
The latter half of Morris' career, on the other hand, was far from spectacular. He was 92-81 with a 4.48 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and 109 ERA-. Despite this, he was able to make the All-Star team and perform the aforementioned playoff heroics for the Twins in 1991. However, years in Toronto and Cleveland afterward suggest that Jack might have held on a bit too long at the tail end of his career.
Ultimately, Morris' time in Detroit was very successful for both him and the club. He ranks among the franchise leaders in several categories, including innings pitched (fourth), wins (fifth), strikeouts (second), complete games (eighth), and WAR (sixth). He may not make it into the Hall of Fame, but his place in Tigers history will not be forgotten anytime soon.