Key Stats: Brandon Morrow was supposed to breakout in 2011. Oops. The FIP was supposed to adjust to the ERA more after he finished last year with a 4.49 ERA, 3.16 FIP, and 3.58 xFIP. This past season though Morrow had a 4.72 ERA, 3.64 FIP, and 3.53 xFIP. Evidently either the Blue Jays defense needs significant improvement or these metrics are not how we should be evaluating Morrow. One final thing to consider: Morrow got just 1 double play all season behind him with a groundball rate of 36%.
Skeptics Say: Football coaches are always talking about stopping the big play. Fantasy managers are always trying to stop the bad game from pitchers. Morrow had 8 starts in 2012 in which he gave up 5 or more earned runs. One of the big problems for Morrow in these games was home runs as he gave up at least 1 in 6 out of 8 of these games. The other problem not just in his bad games, but in every game is walks. Morrow did not have one start in thirty chances where he did not walk a batter.
Peer Comparison: If Morrow’s ERA had been somewhere in the 3.53 to 3.64 range as the xFIP and FIP metrics would have you believe, Morrow’s final ranking in Yahoo would have been somewhere near number 140 overall. This is based on Mat Latos‘ season which included a 3.47 ERA and 185 strikeouts. Morrow had just over 200 strikeouts and a slightly worse ERA. Thus, he would be ranked just ahead of Latos, or number 136 overall.
The fact is that these numbers didn’t translate, and have not translated for two straight years. Still there are reasons to believe Morrow can improve. First of all, he didn’t get off to a good start by sitting on the disabled list in April last season. After that he was able to stay healthy all season, so look for a better beginning and a pitcher who feels more prepared after spring training in 2012. Secondly, he is still only 27 and will be entering just his second year with John Farrell. There’s time for adjustments and certainly no doubting his stuff. I’d take the upside of a Morrow over a more consistent starter such as Gavin Floyd.
Team Outlook: The Blue Jays figure to be a little more stingy defensively if Jose Bautista moves to the outfield full-time. They should also benefit from a full season of Brett Lawrie who at 21 last year was well playing well beyond his years. The biggest questions in terms of Morrow’s ability to get wins will be with the Toronto bullpen. The Blue Jays will likely lose Frank Francisco and Kevin Gregg to free agency which doesn’t sound like much, but what they get to replace those guys could actually be worse (the Blue Jays were 21st in bullpen ERA last year).
A Blogger’s Take: I expect Morrow’s IP to remain limited, as they have in past seasons (146 in 2010, 179 in 2011). While Morrow’s BB rate declined, he still struggles with pitch counts during games, which limited him to just under 6 IP per start. This in turn cuts into his wins.
In terms of stuff, Brandon relied on his nasty near 90 MPH slider in 2011 and it’s his go to strikeout pitch. The Jays also had Morrow play around with a cutter over the final three weeks on the 2011 season. If Morrow can find success with this pitch, one would assume it would cut down on his HR/9 ratio.
Projection: The bottom line is that Morrow can and will get better.
14 wins 3.95 ERA 1.27 WHIP 215 K in 192 innings