Is Joe Morgan a product of batting in the middle of the Big Red Machine?
There has been historically a backlash against Joe Morgan's sabermetric numbers that many fans don't quite seem to take in good faith. We all know the history, he was good in Houston, but went to the Big Red Machine and just put up sabermetric numbers that are off the charts amazing for the era.
Nobody knows for sure if lineup protection exists, but most believe it does in some form.
We do know it is beneficial to be batting with runners all over the bases though.
Many believe that it is much more difficult to hit with garbage around you in the lineup, as opposed to hitting with elite hitters around you in the lineup, and I would agree with that as well.
When Joe Morgan got to the Big Red Machine, was he partly the creation of batting in position that no other player of his era had the luxury of doing.....coming up to the plate with tons of runners AND having tons of bona fide protection behind him?
We have discussed how that was the best team in history, and due primarily to its lineup. There is no sugar coating it. Morgan had the best combination of batters ahead of him and batters behind him, than probably anyone in their era did ever(relative to the hitting environment of their era).
He was good before he got put into that situation, but off the charts amazing once in there.
Joe Morgan the six full years before the Big Red Machine, 1965-1971, aged 21-27: .264 BA, .376 OB%, .399 SLG%, and 122 OPS+.
His OPS+ at age 21 was 131, so he wasn't low due to an early learning curve.
Then he went to the Reds, and from 1972-1977, aged 28-33, .301 BA, .429 OB%, .495 SLG%, and 159 OPS+
The 1972 Reds had this:
Leadoff hitter .307 AVG, .384 OB% 10 SB, 40 doubles, 11 triples
Joe Morgan batting second
Third place hitter .286 BA, 9 HR, 89 RBI, .392 SLG
Fourth place hitter .266 BA, 42 HR, 139 RBI. 545 SLG
Fifth place hitter .280 BA, 21 HR, 94 RBI, .469 SLG
The 1973 Reds had this:
Leadoff hitter.335 BA, .397 OB%, 11 SB, 37 doubles, 8 triples
Morgan batting second
Third place hitter .264 AVG, 13 HR 100RBI, .382 SLG
Fourth place hitter .278 BA, 26 HR, 109 RBI, .448 SLG
Fifth place hitter .296 BA, 27 HR, 93 RBI, .490 SLG
The 1974 Reds had this:
Leadoff hitter .282 BA, .376 OB%, 6 SB, 42 doubles, 8 triples
Joe Morgan batting second
Third place hitter .282 BA, 32 HR, 132 RBI, .501 SLG%
Fourth place hitter .244 BA, 26 HR 106 RBI, .414 SLG%
The 1975 Reds had this:
Leadoff hitter .322 BA, .409 OB%, 2 SB, 50 doubles, 4 triples
2nd Place hitter .319 BA, .400 OB%, 38 SB, 28 doubles, 7 triples
Joe Morgan batted third
4th place hitter .281 BA, 28 HR, 141 RBI, .490 SLG%
5th place hitter .288 BA, 28 HR, 124 RBI, .472 SLG%
The 1976 Reds had this:
Leadoff hitter .321 BA and .421 OB%, 10 SB, 45 doubles, six triples
2nd place hitter .323 BA and .394 OB%, 47 SB, 35 doubles, 12 triples
Joe Morgan batting third
4th place hitter .241 BA, 26HR, 120 RBI, .411 SLG....Perez had slump to drop SLG, but the reputation retained for this premise.
5th place hitter .285 BA 29 HR, 137 RBI, .512 SLG
1977 Reds had this: .
Leadoff hitter 317 BA, .379 OB%, 16 SB, 40 doubles, 7 triples
2nd Place hitter .285 BA, .343 OB%, 21 SB, 36 doubles, 8 triples
Joe Morgan batting third
4th place hitter, 40HR, 134 RBI, .302 AVG, .554 SLG %
5th Place hitter, 34 HR, 134 RBI, .299 AVG, .544 SLG%
Starting in 1978 Morgan showed a sharp decline in both ability and health, and running speed...and he began his old man years.
Joe Morgan was excellent, and when he was at the top of his game from age 21-27, he put up a very nice 122 OPS+, but then when he went to Cincinnati, he went crazy in both the traditional and sabermetric measurements. Could it have been due to an increase in ability? Sure, I'm sure that played a part....
....but when you look what he had in front of him...BA, OB%, and doubles and triples in hordes...plus at lease one guy with elite speed ahead of him.
Then look what he had behind him, elite power, above average batting average, and strong hitting or feared reputations of the clutch variety as well.
That lineup support can't do anything but help a hitter. We don't know how much....
....but, has anyone jumped from the 122 OPS+ range that has been established for six full MLB seasons, and then all of a sudden assault the league to a tune of a 159 OPS+ for that many sustained years and into his mid 30's? Thats a big sustained jump on both ends.
Or, the three years prior to joining the Reds(age 25-27) his OPS+ was 113, then he went to the Big Red Machine and it averaged 159 for six years.
So, a second question, has there ever been a HOF hitter with a career OPS+ in the 130-160 range that had an OPS+ of just 113 at aged 25-27?? Morgan was at 159 after the 113 years!!! True elite hitting HOFers are ALL off and running from age 25-27, and not muddling at just 113 above league average. Maybe not as good as their prime years, but that far off?? I can't find any.