Brandon Morrow, June 24 2009

=== Dr's Prognosis ===

First five pitches against the Padres, Morrow finished "out in front" on four of them and pulled off one of them.  My 17-year-old son, a pitcher, was sitting on the couch.  Reality check, babe.  I slo-mo'ed it. 

[Good pitch] "Does that look like he's finishing out in front to you?"  (With the front side of his head traveling towards the plate on followthrough, and his right elbow closer to the catcher and away from his body, rather than closer to 1B and tight against his body.)

[Bad pitch] "But does that one look like his head drifted over to 1B?"  ..."Obviously, dad.  And it's because he threw too hard."  Sure enough, that was his first 96 mph pitch of the game.   Morrow muscled the pitch, and the explosive followthrough caused him to pull his followthrough across his body.


Morrow threw about 9 of his first 11 pitches, finishing out in front.  OOO-kkaaaaayyy.  We predicted a good game from Morrow.


=== Dr's Diagnosis ===

Morrow threw 61% of his fastballs for strikes, at an average velo of 95.0 mph.  That's 95.0, 95.7 and 95.0 in his three starts, and as we've mentioned, only one starter in the AL averages 95, that being Justin Verlander.  Brandon Morrow throws a good notch harder than Felix Hernandez.

That's not your daddy's 95.  Everybody from Dave Valle to Don Wakamatsu will tell you that Morrow throws 95 "with life," with a late explosion.  Hitters have no choice but to go to their pepper swings, and they're pretty much defenseless against his offspeed.

Morrow threw 5 "changeups" of 88-89 mph, and 4 were strikes.  

He threw 20 "sliders" of 86 mph, and get this, 16 of those babies were strikes.  Following Adair's visit to the mound in that one jam, Morrow threw 3 consecutive to the #9 hitter and fanned him on garbage swings.  I wonder what would happen if Morrow threw 80% offspeed like Geer does.  Perfect games?

I'm kidding.  For Morrow to throw 26 offspeed in 87 pitches is a whale of a lot more than most Mariner pitchers, other than Bedard, do.


=== Slider vs Changeup ===

Note carefully that on June 18, vs. Arizona, Morrow also threw a 55-16-3 ratio, with the 16 being the sliders and the 3 being his changeups.

We were very excited about this.  The slider gives him a 9 mph differential, and it's much easier for a Josh Beckett to master two pitches than for a Gil Meche to master four.

The fact that Morrow can "show" an 89 change a few times a game just adds to his deception.   I absolutely love Morrow's pitch mix the last two games.  The only thing that would make me happier is to bump up the sliders about 10 per game, to a Randy Johnson-type ratio, but hey.   The main thing is to focus on two pitches and get them both right.

Better a self-defense student learns two moves that work, than mess around with 20 and then try to pick one after the bad guy is clubbing him with a large piece of wood.


=== Command vs Control ===

Morrow had little "command," in terms of command within the strike zone.  Johnson continued to ask for most fastballs right down the middle of the plate, and Morrow's fastball wound up in random spots.  That's "effectively wild."  If you aim for the middle, and hit the black, what's the difference to the hitter?

But he did show much better "control," the ability to throw a strike "at will."  In just one start, Morrow went from "lousy control" to "average-solid control."

Morrow is a born starter, with a starter's rhythm.  The Mariners are evidently optimistic that he will show a starter's tendency to groove in his 3-point touch, as he takes more and more shots.


=== Dr's RX ===

It was from pitches 40-65 that Morrow's velo spiked (and remember, he's just getting stretched out.)  That's when he threw several 97's on the slower gun, 99 on the faster gun.

There's a principle in golf that applies.   You start the day, if you're a hack like me, driving with your 3-iron.  You keep it in the fairway.  If, by hole five, you're grooving, THAT's the time to start going with your 1-wood.  AFTER you've hit a groove for the day.

I think that Brandon Morrow, for the first two innings, needs to focus on 94 mph and location.  Finish out in front.  Get a rhythm.  Later, the 3rd-4th innings, the 97-98 will start to flow naturally.

Relieving was the worst thing in the world for this particular pitcher, where he got in the habit of coming out and heaving the first pitch 98.   If I looked at Brandon Morrow and didn't see starting pitcher, I'd wonder if I could ever tell the difference between any starter and reliever.


=== Exec Sum ===

The point is that the lad is well capable of throwing strikes.  The above are my specific reasons for concluding that this is the case.

Morrow just hasn't pitched much.  Felix just now, 5 starts ago, started pitching with real ML "plus" command.  That's after 110 starts in the bigs and another 50 in the minors.

It's going to take Morrow a lot of starts to refine his command.  He is now, where Felix was several years ago.  *Usual* for ML orgs is to let such a pitcher learn in the big leagues, because while he's learning he's still better than Carlos Silva.   And, there is the scenario in which he's hot going into September.


=== 5-year Survival Rate, Dept. ===

In this article, D-O-V analyzed the costs and benefits to sending Brandon Morrow down vs keeping him with the Mariners. 

Short version:  Morrow needs only to develop better command of his fastball, and his mechanics are excellent.  The support that he gets in the major leagues -- coaching, video, catching, umping -- will make it easier for him to refine his FB command, not harder.  There's little reason to send him down.  He's not going to develop faster in the minor leagues.  And Ryan Rowland-Smith isn't going to outpitch Morrow in Safeco.

On June 24, three (3) times Morrow lost his control for a few pitches.  Twice, Rob Johnson came out and spoke to him on the mound; once, the pitching coach hopped out of the dugout and spoke to Morrow on the mound.  In each of the three cases, Morrow resumed throwing strikes immediately.

That's going to happen in Cheney?


Morrow threw 66% strikes on the night; he has 10 strikeouts and 2 walks his last two starts; the Mariners won the game; and Morrow has no pitch count next start.  Why send him down, unless to express our frustration at him on a personal level?

Could somebody explain, in one-syllable words so I can understand it, why Brandon Morrow would develop his command better without major-league coaches analyzing his every move on video?  :- )   And why it would serve the Mariners better to get a two-paragraph scouting report from AAA, as opposed to observing Morrow directly?


We've seen a little bit of fretting that Brandon Morrow might completely fail, due to his erratic roles.  Nuh-huh.  If Brandon Morrow executes his pitches ... easy 95-97 with several offspeeds he throws for strikes -- he'll succeed, end of story.

His only failure scenarios right now are (1) shoulder surgery and (2) Daniel Cabrera.   Cabrera was not helped by a smooth minors track and a start-every-5th-day plan in the majors.

Morrow is an awesome pitching talent who hasn't pitched much.  As of June 25th, he's showing the progress we want to see.


Dr D


Taro's picture

Good stuff Doc.
I've got to admit its been fun watching Morrow lately.
Ever since the Ms picked Morrow over Lincecum, Morrow has been a source of frustration for me. If he develops into a TOR starter though, it'll take the mental load off.
Morrow probably isn't going to have a long career, but if he can shine for the next four years that'll be plently.

OBF's picture



I too am extremely excited about Morrow, and am glad he is in the majors instead of the minors.  Not neccissarily so that Wak and adair can watch him, but so that I can watch him!  As a fan that is the thing I am most concerned about is watching a good game, a winnable game and guys that I can see are supremely talented and might help my favorite team win a pennant.  In our zeal to be MLB GM's I think sometimes we foget to be fans :)
I very much like the FB/CU (looks more like a curve to me, not a slider, potato, potahto) arsnel he is putting out there right now, but that Splitter (again looks like a split to me not a change) will be a true out pitch once Morrow gets used to throwing all his pitches and settles into a grove.  That thing is JJ Putz like and has vicious downward break at the end.  IIRC it was actually the split that got the final ugly swing from Everth Cabreara in the pitch sequence you talk about, Doc.  Two high and away fastballs to get behind, two beautiful curves that were strikes to get back into the ab and then a killer split in the dirt that made the batter look silly :) :) :)
I would like to see a 60 (FB) - 25 (CU) - 15 (SP) type of pitch selection once he grooves in.


As mentioned at MC, it seems to me also that the count you see on TV is a little different than the one at

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