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


  1. I truly feel that the value of wins can be refuted by one pitcher's season: Nolan Ryan's 1987 season when he led the NL with his 2.76 ERA while racking up a 8-16 record for the worst winning percentage of his 27 seasons. I was 12 years old then and I remember thinking, "Something is seriously fucked up here" but I wasn't quite sure what it was. And yet there are grown men who are professional baseball writers and get to vote on who get into the Hall of Fame who haven't figured out what I figured out as a 12-year-old. *shrug*


  2. That "other guy" in the deal, Johermyn Chavez, is more than just a throw-in. He's hit 32 jacks while posting a .964 OPS in high-A. If we are talking about context, he needs to be included in the discussion.

  3. no no...that just clouds the picture being painted....morrow - 10 wins, league - 9 wins.....let's just call it a tie.

  4. For sure. Using wins and jacks as the sole barometer, you could make the case that the Mariners won this trade. It would be asinine, but you could do it.

  5. By the by, I'd like to publicly express my delight with that photo. It is fan-freaking-tastic

  6. Morrow has the worst BABIP in the AL, or so I read recently. But yeah, he's got 10 wins so, uhh....

  7. Worst BABIP with runners in scoring position, I believe is what you read.

    He's awesome. Wins are the dumbest.

  8. Worst BABIP overall too, I beleive. I think Mattt is referring to a piece over at Battersbox looking at Joel Carreno of Dunedin and his BABIP being some 30 points worse than the highest mark in the majors (Morrow).

  9. "willful ignorance on a Coxian scale ..."


    Fuck wins.

  10. @Gil Fisher-that's where I read it. Thanks for the reminder. But truth be told, I'm a big fan of Morrow and think he's got the tools to be very good. We shall see how the learning curve progresses next year...

  11. Although I agree with you 100%, this is a bit of a strawman. Most of those old timey guys don't try to use wins to evaluate relievers.

  12. Another stat
    Brandon Morrow's WAR - 3.6
    Brandon League - 0.3


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