The Potential of Brandon Morrow

I am watching tonight’s Rays and Blue Jays game and Brandon Morrow pitched a no-hitter through 5 2/3 innings and has been dominant for 7 full innings. I saw some of his stuff and thought to myself, “this kid has some serious potential.” He was constantly able to keep Rays batters off-balance and it looked like he threw a good amount of first pitch strikes. However, he was constantly working deep into counts and it seemed like he made it much more difficult on himself than it could of been. However, there were some hitters that he absolutely dominated. Not necessarily by striking them out but by changing speeds and keeping them off-balance.

When looking at Morrow’s 2010 season so far, we can tell that he has trouble with control because he walks 5.76 batters per 9 innings and throws first pitch strikes 54.8% of the time and the league average is around 58%. However, there are some numbers that show that the future could be very bright for Morrow and the worst might be behind him. Despite his ERA being 6.66, his FIP is just under 4. So this tells us that he has been a bit unfortunate on batted balls this year. When I looked at his batted ball data, this was true. He is giving up line drives at a very high rate (24.2%), has a LOB% of 63.4% when his career average is 10 points higher than that, and has an astronomically high BABIP of .387. His xBABIP is .324 which basically tells us that the large amount of line drives is probably due to his high BABIP. ZIPS projects him to have a BABIP of .304 the rest of the season so his numbers should become a lot better fairly soon.

One thing that is a huge concern for Morrow, and always has been, is his habit of allowing free passes. For his career, he is averaging 5.81 BB/9 but he is averaging 9.78 K/9. So we know that he must have good stuff, but he probably does not do a good job of controlling it. So lets look at his pitch/fx data.

Morrow has a fastball, splitter, change, curve, and a slider. His slider is outstanding in my opinion because it generates a whiff% of 29.4% and it is only put in play 13.2% of the time. His curveball is another excellent pitch because he gets a swing and a miss 17.2% of the time and it is only put in play 11.5% of the time. The league average whiff rates for the slider and curve are 13% and 11% respectively. Also, Morrow is throwing those pitches for strikes more so than any of his other pitches. He throws his slider 15% of the time and the strike% is 73.5%. He throws his curveball 13% of the time (which is up considerably from last year) and throws it for a strike 63% of the time. He has a nice mid-90’s fastball that runs in to right handers and away from lefties. It looks like his fastball is a little above average but his change and splitter need a lot of work, which is probably why he doesn’t throw them often (9% and 5.5% respectively).

I can see Morrow being successful in the future. His curve and slider look like they are dominant pitches and his fastball can be dominant at times. He needs to develop the splitter and the change in order to keep hitters more off-balance. The splitter might help Morrow to get more ground balls because it has a lot of downward movement. Morrow is only 25 years old and looks like hes got three solid pitches. He needs to cut down on his walk rates and concentrate on throwing more strikes so that he can work on his change and splitter while hes ahead in the count. If he can do that, hes going to be a solid pitcher and its going to make Jays fans happy.

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