Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Does Brandon Morrow hit the wall or does the wall hit Brandon Morrow?

Brandon Morrow exceeds at throwing baseballs. He is really good at it. I know this despite results that, on the long view, are merely mixed. He strikes out lots of people while walking only a few, compared to his copious strikeouts.

On days like Saturday, when Brandon Morrow is cruising along and everything seems to be going swimmingly, it seems the he cannot be touched. Then one bad inning comes along and submarines the entire process.

Is Brandon Morrow the victim of consistently bad luck? Is he proof defense independent stats are missing a key element to successful performance? Does his diabeetus limit his potential as a starter? I don't think I can answer any of these definitively, but we can surely look.

Brandon Morrow tires easily

Do I believe this to be the case? I don't believe that I do. It is a possibility, especially when we consider Morrow's fluctuating blood sugar. Some people, like Dustin Parkes, believe Morrow gets hurt during Spring Training because he isn't conditioned properly. This may well be the case but I don't know that I'm ready to condemn Morrow's off-season workout routine. But it is worth investigating.

Firstly, let's look at Morrow's numbers by inning. Using Baseball Reference's numbers it is more about results than process but that is what we're after - the source of middling results.

1st inning 78 5 10 1 10 23 2.30 .152 .269 .212 .481 .209
2nd inning 82 6 15 1 8 35 4.38 .205 .280 .301 .582 .368
3rd inning 84 11 19 1 3 17 5.67 .257 .280 .351 .632 .300
4th inning 86 12 18 3 8 21 2.63 .237 .326 .434 .760 .288
5th inning 79 16 23 1 6 15 2.50 .319 .367 .472 .839 .386
6th inning 60 9 13 2 6 19 3.17 .245 .317 .415 .732 .333
7th inning 39 1 9 0 2 9 4.50 .250 .308 .306 .613 .333
8th inning 8 2 1 0 1 0 0.00 .167 .375 .167 .542 .167
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/9/2011.

Hmmm, highest BABIP over the inning with the most runs/worst numbers? Not too surprising but hardly conclusive.

Instead of innings, let's look at pitch counts. Baseball Reference uses 25 pitch buckets so guess what? So do I.

Pitch 1-25 111 9 21 2 13 34 2.62 .219 .315 .333 .649 .311
Pitch 26-50 124 7 22 1 6 39 6.50 .196 .230 .259 .488 .276
Pitch 51-75 130 20 27 3 12 25 2.08 .237 .323 .368 .691 .276
Pitch 76-100 125 22 29 2 11 37 3.36 .264 .336 .418 .754 .370
Pitch 101+ 26 4 9 1 2 4 2.00 .375 .423 .583 1.006 .421
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2011.

This...this is something. Something more, anyway. Morrow's numbers in the 75-100 pitch group are actually better as far as strikeouts and walks go but it seems that more balls turn in hits. His BABIP is WAY out of whack with the rest of his numbers.

Beyond the numbers here, I looked at Morrow's pitch f/x info and created the same 25 pitch buckets to look at some more in-depth numbers.

Pitch BucketWhiff RateAverage Fastball velocity

Does that look, to you, like a man who tires early? It doesn't look that way to me. Less than a full mile-per-hour is not significant in my eyes. He keeps missing bats and the home runs aren't even that much more significant.

One thing that does increase as Brandon Morrow starts progress: errors. Hardly the perfect metric of the fielding support he receives but it stands our none the less. In fact, of the 90 balls put in play in the 50-75 pitch bucket, 4.44% of them were turned into errors. That's only 4 errors of 6 committed behind him this season in total.

It isn't that Morrow is completely free of guilt and his defense has completely let him down, it is that shit happens. Shit seems to happen over and over to Brandon Morrow - only when it matters most. He comes so close to putting together completely dominant starts.

The skill is there. I don't think there is much development left for Brandon Morrow, more discovery.

Data from Joe Lefkowitz, AP Photo by Patrick Semansky courtesy of Daylife.


  1. This is great, Drew. Very well done!

  2. Great post, as always. And that's a great picture you chose, too. Morrow's NERD score is a perfect 10. I sometimes forget this is his second season as a starter, and first without an innings limit.

    Shit happens. Almost the perfect tag line for the Blue Jays for the past few years, in regards to playing in the AL East, and Aaron Hill, and such.

  3. Awesome post, really well done. I was waiting for someone to do a solid breakdown of Morrow's performance to date and this certainly did not disappoint.

  4. This post is all kinds of gangbusters.

    Morrow's stuff is elite. He has to be the frontrunner for the future ace of this team, though RRCoolJay may have something to say about it.

    I've seen it on some other boards. It's just plain lazy to even start comparing Morrow to Burnett especially at such a young age.

  5. Interesting coaches growing up always used to talk about pitchers who keep their defense in the game get better defense, where as strikeout/walk pitchers are more susceptible to errors since fielders aren't as engaged.

    Being the sabre-minded person I am, I assumed that this is bullshit. Professional athletes make good defensive plays. Morrow's anomaly seems to support the little league coach line of thinking though.

    Likely just a coincidence, but would be interesting to see a study perhaps using a better defensive statistic, to see if brandon morrow type pitchers are susceptible to weaker defense as the game goes on then groundball types. Could explain the consistent FIP all stars like Nolasco and Morrow constantly outperforming their ERAs.

  6. Morrow struggles more with runners on and RISP - check out those numbers. Almost a full 100 points of OPS against

  7. It seems like you might be on the cusp of a major new insight into pitcher's BABIP. There's not enough here to draw any real conclusions but there's certainly enough to fuel some exciting fact based speculation.

    Just as the trope that BABIP is luck driven has caught on in the mainstream media, it is being seriously re-though by serious analysts. Jonathan Hale for instance has a very credible theory the pitchers are active participants in the normalization of BABIP and not just passive bystanders.


  8. Thanks for all the kind words, friends.

    @anon - does that have to do with skill or with shit happening? I think the latter.

    @KC - does Brandon Morrow seem like the type of pitcher unable to control sustain a league-average BABIP? As a fly ball pitcher with crazy stuff, it should almost always be lower, in my mind.

  9. What makes a Brandon Morrow? What makes a Matt Cain? Inquiring minds want to know.

  10. dude clearly regresses in fifth.

    5th inning: .319 .367 .472 .839 .386


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