Will the Real Brandon Morrow Please Stand Up? Use the Walker if Necessary…

Is that it? Have we seen his career year? Is 2012 as good as it gets? Will we always be left wondering, “what if”? What if he hadn’t been injured so often? What if he’d found the consistency that seemed to elude him? What if…? He isn’t Tom Seaver, but he isn’t Bobby Witt either. He’s somewhere in between; tantalizingly, maddeningly, frustratingly in between.

Brandon Morrow is injured again. They haven’t shelved him officially but he has lingering back issues, making him unavailable for the last several games. Toronto used Chad Jenkins and Ramon Ortiz in his place. They are going to use Jenkins, Ortiz, or maybe both of them again in Morrow’s place in the near future. However, that’s only part of Morrows’ problem.

Parting with Brandon League and Johermyn Chavez wasn’t difficult, as a fan. League was inconsistent but he was only a reliever; Morrow was going to be used as a starter. The trade-off was more than acceptable. Johermyn Chavez was a promising OF prospect who struck out too much, then got hurt. Thanks, but no thanks.

Brandon Morrow throws hard, has a better-than average repertoire, and the Jays needed starters who could miss bats. Young guys like Jesse Litsch, Shawn Marcum, and Ricky Romero were great for what they offered, but TOR needed a strikeout artist. Then we were given a taste of Brandon Morrow’s promise in a start against Tampa Bay on August 8, 2010:

IP

H

R

ER

BB

K

PC

Strk

GSc

9.0

1

0

0

2

17

137

97

100

It was both impressive and astonishing. It was the type of game against which a career is compared.

That’s only one game, though. Even Phil Humber tossed a perfect game, and the pitching-starved Astros released him a few weeks ago. What’s Morrow been like since he became a Blue Jay? Here are two tables of selected stats that should give us an idea of what Brandon Morrow has accomplished with Toronto. Percentages and ratios have been given priority owing to the fact that, as mentioned above, he’s hurt pretty often (the information for both tables was adapted from http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=9346&position=P):

GB/FB

LD%

GB%

FB%

HR/FB%

RE24

WPA

BABIP

ERA-

FIP

fWAR

2010

0.97

17.8

40.4

41.8

7.1

-1.91

0.02

.342

107

3.16

3.6

2011

0.87

22.4

36.0

41.6

10.4

-9.39

-0.44

.299

115

3.64

3.3

2012

1.03

19.0

41.1

39.9

8.6

17.59

2.18

.252

72

3.65

2.4

2013

0.76

17.5

35.7

46.8

10.2

-1.69

-0.15

.300

113

4.61

0.4

  • Morrow’s struggles in early 2013 are reflected by career-worst or near-career-worst numbers across the board during his time with the Jays;
  • Interestingly, if his shortened 2012 season was removed entirely we would see a fairly consistent decline in performance.

Here’s a peek at his pitch distribution and velocity as a  Blue Jay:

FB% (velocity)

SL%

CT%

CB%

CH%

2010

58.4 (93.4)

15.3 (86.9)

—-

12.2 (81.0)

14.1 (87.6)

2011

61.6 (93.9)

26.6 (87.9)

—-

5.6 (81.5)

6.2 (86.8)

2012

60.5 (93.0)

21.3 (87.4)

0.5 (91.3)

5.5 (79.7)

12.1 (84.7)

2013

58.3 (93.5)

19.7 (87.1)

4.4 (89.8)

2.8 (79.8)

14.8 (83.6)

  • Brandon Morrow is a fastball/slider pitcher (combining for as much as 88.2% of his overall pitch percentage);
  • the addition of a cutter and increased use of the change-up over the last three seasons has resulted in the curve ball falling out of favour;
  • velocity is fairly consistent except for his change-up, which has dropped 4 mph over his 4 seasons with the Jays.

2012 was a breakout season for Brandon Morrow, but he hasn’t followed it with consistency or high-level performances. As a matter of fact, 2013 fits into his career trajectory very nicely; it’s 2012 that’s the aberration. The problem is that now we’ve seen what he’s capable of doing (single game vs. the TBR in 2010; pre-injury 2012), we’re waiting for him to repeat it. Is it possible?

He didn’t put out max effort when he threw his fastball in 2012, leaving him something extra for tougher situations and tougher outs. Also, the introduction of a cutter and the re-emergence of an old friend—his change-up—helped to keep hitters off balance. This allowed Brandon Morrow to induce more ground balls and leave runners on base at a career-high 77.3% rate, even though his K-rate was the lowest of his Jays’ career to that point (21.4%).

This season, his K-rate is down and his walk rate has climbed but he’s throwing fewer fastballs, sliders, and curves, but more cutters and change-ups. His fastball velocity is back where it was previously, but his cutter and change-up are noticeably slower. He’s changed his approach and, though it may not be the primary problem, the change hasn’t improved his performance.

What will we see for the balance of 2013? If he can get—and stay—healthy, it remains to be seen. One thing we do know is that he’s better than he’s shown thus far.

Wes Kepstro

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19 Responses to “Will the Real Brandon Morrow Please Stand Up? Use the Walker if Necessary…”


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    • 7 Wes Kepstro August 4, 2013 at 3:12 pm

      Familiarize yourself with the subject matter. Get to know the ins and outs of coffee, movies, books, or whatever interests you. Let it percolate for a while.

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      When you’ve allowed stuff to percolate for a while and checked out what other people are saying, you won’t be able to stop yourself from writing. Then go ahead and write. If you’ve done some schooling, then this is the easy part. 🙂

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  14. 15 @ALEastbound May 16, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Morrow really needs to get healthy and start pitching to his capabilities, period. Morrow + JJ = two great fastball/slider guys who can dominate when on. We need them to be able to go on sustained winning streaks, which is needed to get back in this thing.

  15. 17 Idiot Fan May 16, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    I always get nervous when I hear Buck Martinez mention that Morrow was pitching smarter and to contact in 2012. I take that as he isn’t missing bats anymore. I think he needs to pitch more efficiently but if Ks aren’t a part of the strategy it is stupid. He is a strikeout guy.

    Great piece by the way Wes

    • 18 Wes Kepstro May 16, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      Thanks, IF.

      I’ve always preferred hard-throwers because, if you can teach them to pitch, they always have their velocity to fall back on in a pinch. Apparently that lesson has been lost on Mr. Morrow. I trust that he can re-discover it, though…


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