Friday, September 10, 2010
Re-thinking the Morrow Trade
Sure, you could point to his crazy strikeout rates (highest in baseball, no matter how you slice it) and think; "Man, the Jays totally fleeced the Mariners in the Morrow-for-League-and-Other-Guy trade. It isn't even close!" You'd be right, of course. A big, tall, stud with plus stuff and an ever-rising ceiling? And what a year for Morrow! He finally figured it out, Alex Anthopoulos is a genius!
No doubt that somebody already wrote that column, and somebody else might just write it again. Probably written by the kind of person who might have a say in the American League Cy Young award.
This is where things get tricky. Just as quickly as any sentient being recognizes Morrow's emergence and strong 2010 performance, they'll do an about-face and cast a vote for whomever has the most wins at the end of the year.
If this describes anyone you know, stop and think for a moment. Then run over and punch them in the face. Then quickly remind them of something: Brandon Morrow has only 10 wins this year. The man he was traded for, Brandon League, has 9.
Nine wins for League and he, unlike Morrow, is still pitching and might just pick up one or two more. As a middle reliever, League's held up his end of the equation for the sadsack M's. Fractionally worse FIP and xFIP numbers compared to last year, thanks in no small part to his returned-to-crazy ground ball rates (more than 60% GBs) and very low in-play average. The strikeouts went away but he's still pitched very well.
That said, it would require willful ignorance on a Coxian scale to believe the quality of Morrow's season and League's season are that close. Yet so many people, fans and Luddites alike, see the relative contributions of CC Sabathia and Felix Hernandez, Clay Buchholz and Francisco Liriano, as nothing more than their won-loss record.
Dumb and tired? Indeed. But seeing the two Brandons post nearly identical win totals lays bare just how pointless and misleading this team stat really is. Context isn't something you can turn on and off at will. Not all wins are created equal, yet they still pile up the same.
Image courtesy of the amazing Artificial Owl