Morrow and Hope

Dave · October 1, 2009 at 9:17 am · Filed Under Mariners 

8 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts. Just a dominating performance that shows the kind of talent this kid has. This is the kind of game that makes you say “man, he’s on the verge of really being something.”

Oh, sorry, you think I’m talking about Brandon Morrow last night? Actually, I was describing Chad Gaudin’s performance against the Texas Rangers on June 28th. Gaudin put up the exact same line as Morrow did last night, only he did it in Texas instead of in Safeco, and against a team that can hit instead of a collection of no power slap hitters.

I know its tempting to look at Morrow’s performance and say “yep, he can be that kind of pitcher”. But in reality, he’s not that different from guys like Gaudin, who have knockout stuff but significant limitations as well.

Gaudin has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen because he can’t get left-handed hitters out. Morrow’s got a massive platoon split as well. Gaudin has problems working deep into ballgames because he throws so many pitches, in large part due to his command problems. Ditto for Morrow. Gaudin has always been a guy who pitched below his talent level. That describes Morrow’s major league career as well.

Obviously, they’re not exactly the same pitcher. Morrow’s fastball is 5+ MPH faster, which earns him quite a bit more benefit of the doubt. We always look at guys with the kind of stuff that Morrow possesses and dream about what they can become if they figure it out. Problem is, they rarely do. Much more frequently, they carve out a career like Gaudin. Or Jonathan Sanchez, Oliver Perez, or Jorge de la Rosa.

They succeed, to an extent, in spite of their command problems. But they’re rarely as good as you think they should be. Every once in a while, they give you a glimmer of hope, a night where everything works and they look like the ace you always wanted them to become. But, with few exceptions, they turn out to be significantly less than the sum of their parts.

It’s tempting to look at Brandon Morrow’s performance last night and say “he’s ready to be the #2 starter behind Felix”. But more likely, it’s just a tease. It’s the glimpse of potential that is so often followed by a soul crushing return to normalcy.

We can dream about what Brandon Morrow might become, but if we want to see a more likely outcome, take a look at Chad Gaudin. Without some significant sustainable improvements in his command, you’re always going to wish for more.


58 Responses to “Morrow and Hope”

  1. Slurve on October 1st, 2009 6:21 pm

    I sort of feel like if Morrow were pitching for the Pirates and out of favor, he’d be someone we’d be targeting in trade.

    We tried that with Ian Snell and he’s basically doing what Morrow is doing.

  2. DMZ on October 1st, 2009 6:22 pm

    That’s not begging the question.

  3. diderot on October 1st, 2009 6:44 pm

    4 out of 60. Do you like those odds?

    Dave, your basic premise might be true, but you don’t do it any justice by cherry-picking. Score, Belinsky, Turley and Mitch Williams were all premium level pitchers before getting derailed by line drives or strippers or whatever…

  4. Slurve on October 1st, 2009 9:09 pm

    That’s not begging the question.
    I meant to say ask but beg sounded cooler.

    Uh so how bout this.

    Me:Brandon Morrow is a very good pitcher
    DMZ:Why is that?
    Me:Because he has high potential
    DMZ:How will he reach said potential?
    Me:Because he’s a very good pitcher.

    That is my basic knowledge of begging the question… Circular reasoning…

  5. hans on October 1st, 2009 11:24 pm

    Mekias had a very good point:

    Well, if you add in Brandon’s H/9 (under 7.5) and K/9 (over 9), you get 5 players.

    Dave’s initial search that retreived 61 players was unfair. Scanning the list it appeared that half of those guys had more walks than strikeouts. That is certainly not Brandon Morrow. I’d be interested to see how the list looked with just walks and strikeouts considered (but can’t because I’m not a subscriber). I bet it would still look pretty good.

  6. big hawna on October 2nd, 2009 2:16 am

    Gaudin 75 Starts
    Morrow 15 Starts

    Someone’s just not paying attention. Useless comparison.

  7. hark on October 2nd, 2009 9:47 pm

    In the interest of relevant peripheral stats for Morrow:

    Season LD% GB% FB%
    2007 17.6% 35.2% 47.3%
    2008 16.2% 33.1% 50.6%
    2009 20.1% 37.3% 42.6%

    Morrow has decreased his FB%, raised his GB%–and, in a very small fashion, increased his IFFB%.

    Sorry, Dave. Forget “stupid fanboy” stuff. We don’t expect that from you, and we don’t want it. But we do demand a bit better than gross cherrypicking pessimism, which is what you’ve given us the entire second half of the season.

    Before spring training, here’s what you said: “The guys that you want on the roster, without question, are Felix, Bedard, Morrow, Heilman, and Rowland-Smith. Those five should come to camp with significant job security.”

    Wow, so little faith after a really small sample size this season…

    In the early going, you referred to Morrow as follows: “The one guy in the bullpen we shouldn’t have had to worry about, Morrow’s command fell apart and his reliance on one pitch turned him into a home run machine. However, relievers are finicky, and it doesn’t take much for them to fix their problems and see the performances shift quickly. Morrow’s still the best arm the team has in the bullpen, and he should be able to add +0.5 wins in the second half of the year, a nice little improvement from the -0.3 wins he contributed so far.”

    So, the +0.5 wins in the second half of the year would bring him to a +.02 WAR, right? According to Fangraphs…that’s exactly what he posted–after spending time in Tacoma and on the DL. Wow, so in less time than you actually gave him, he posted exactly what you estimated.

    Later, when the team decided (quite randomly) to start Morrow instead of sending him to Tacoma, you wrote this:

    Welcome to confusion land.

    Can someone in the front office just make the right call, write it in stone, and end the conversation? Send Brandon to Tacoma and tell him he’ll be back when he figures out how to throw strikes 65% of the time and throw less than 65% fastballs for 7+ innings. If that takes a month, great. If that takes until September, fine. But no one wants to see Morrow start in San Diego, continuing his high wire act where he tries to develop and win at the same time.

    The front office has done a lot of things right. They’ve just done this one thing very wrong. Please fix it.

    Okay, so he was always supposed to be a starter, the team screwed up his development, and this year the front office didn’t help…but let’s still jump on the “Morrow sucks” bandwagon, even though, as a starter, Morrow has posted 3.7 RAR in 51.1 innings. Not good, sure, but also really fracked up by your own analysis at the time of the conversion.

    On his second start back, in San Diego, you wrote “The Brandon Morrow Experience continues today with a start against the hapless Padres in a park perfectly suited for his skills. Seriously, if he can’t throw strikes today – in Petco, against a bad offense, with no designated hitter – then he’s just physically incapable of throwing strikes.”

    Morrow threw 62.2% strikes on 74 pitches in 4 innings. I hate to break it to you Dave, but you’ve been ridiculously shortsighted and pessimistic ever since Morrow returned. Go back, address the sample size, put in other relevant stats and relevant history, including the season as a whole, and reevaluate.

    Is Morrow Felix 2.0? No. You lobbied–lobbyed very hard–for the M’s to get Snell, calling him “Morrow with less velocity.” If we want Snell, we want Morrow, assuming they’re identical pitchers…which is something of a fallacy given the age and development gap.You had Morrow behind Snell and RRS on a 10-man SP depth chart. Heck, at age 23, Morrow’s been better than Snell: Fangraphs’ player comp graphs.

  8. joser on October 3rd, 2009 4:34 pm

    The sun’ll come out
    to Morrow,
    bet your bottom dollar that
    to Morrow
    There’ll be sun!

    Just thinkin’ about
    to Morrow,
    Clears away the cobwebs,
    And the sorrow
    ‘Til there’s none!

    To Morrow! To Morrow!
    We love you,
    To Morrow!
    You’re always
    a start away!

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