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2013 Predictions: Brandon Morrow
Brandon Morrow has long been touted as having the best pure “stuff” amongst Toronto starters. He throws a mid-90s fastball, a hard-breaking slider and since moving to the rotation full time, has developed a changeup to complement his swing-and-miss repertoire. Prior to 2012, despite his great potential, Morrow hadn’t achieved the results one would have expected. However, while he’d posted ERAs in the mid-4s, advanced statistics, such as FIP and xFIP (which normalize ERA to assume league average BABIP), suggest he’s actually been pitching closer to a 3.50 clip. Sure enough, in 2012, despite a drop in his strikeout rate, Morrow gave up fewer hits on balls in play and posted the best numbers of his career. Unfortunately, Morrow missed two months due to an oblique injury, putting a damper on what would have been a breakout season.
Pitching Stats (Past Three Seasons):
Morrow is just as dominating as any starter on the Jays staff and last year he was able to demonstrate much more consistency in his approach. Prior to 2012, the only other factors holding Morrow back were luck and health. In 2012, his luck finally turned as his BABIP came down and his Left On Base Percentage rose. As a matter of fact, his 2012 BABIP is probably unsustainable and there’s a decent chance his numbers will rise somewhat in 2013 as a result. I don’t expect health to be a persistent problem with the 28-year-old Morrow, as the injuries he has sustained have not been elbow or shoulder related. Look for Morrow to be one of the anchors of the rotation in 2013.
There’s a old baseball axiom involving learning to “pitch” rather than just “throw”. I suppose Morrow is a classic example of this transition. Has he learned how to pace himself, improve his control, and succeed without trying to strike out each and every batter? I’m not sure it’s quite so black-and-white. Just as Morrow was traditionally unlucky with balls in play turning into hits and failing to strand runners on base, in 2012 he may have been benefited from actually being lucky. The logical prediction would then assume these somewhat random occurrences would normalize, however, I’m bullish on Morrow. Like many power pitchers, I think it’s taken some maturing for him to refine his approach. I think the best is yet to come. I wouldn’t be surprised if Morrow turns out to be the ace of the 2013 Blue Jays.
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