Here’s an idea I’m instantly regretting: instead of empty open thread posts for playoff games, as we’ve done around here in years past, each day I’m going to attempt to have a hopefully-quick look around at some splits and stats and whatever else stands out on a Jays player’s 2013 season, because… what the hell else is there to do for the next month? Or the next week. Or just today– or however long I actually continue to follow through on this exercise.

8:07 PM ET – Cincinnati at Pittsburgh – Francisco Liriano (3.0 rWAR) vs. Johnny Cueto (1.4 rWAR)
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Brandon Morrow didn’t leave us with a lot of valuable data to dissect this year, as he only made 10 starts, two of which didn’t get through the fourth inning (including one where he recorded only six outs), and really only looked himself for a couple starts in total.

Of course, some fans will tell you that looked utterly like himself– MEUH!– by spending most of the year on the DL. The frustration can be forgiven, I suppose, but the total disregard for reality can’t. In a comment on yesterday’s Playoff Post (Mortem), in response to someone who said he was “so sick of the delusions fans have regarding Morrow,” I rather emphatically corrected the record.

To wit:

I am so sick of people pretending Morrow is the same as fucking Dustin McGowan, when he’s made exactly the same number of starts over the last four years as Clay Buchholz, had two full, healthy seasons in 2010 and 2011 (missed a little time at the start of 2011, shut down because of his innings limit in 2010), and still made 21 starts last year as well.

Yes, he was hurt this year and it’s a concerning arm thing. But last year it was just an oblique injury– it’s not like there’s some kind of recurring thing that he’s not able to recover from. And of pitchers who threw 120 innings in 2012, where do you think his ERA ranked? Twelfth! In all of baseball. Ahead of Chris Sale, ahead of Cole Hamels, ahead of Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner, C.C. Sabathia, and tonnes more.

Yet Jays fans are ready to run him out the door because they can’t wrap their heads around his health history.

He made 26 of the 26 starts he was asked to in 2010 before he was shut down. If you expect he would make about 32 starts in a full year if healthy, that means 96 expected in the three years since, of which he made 61.

Add it all up, and he’s been healthy for 71% of what should have been his starts since he joined the Jays rotation at the start of 2010. It’s not nearly as bad as this kind of nonsense thinking would have you believe.

Now, that’s me putting a particularly rosy glow on it. Obviously his two most recent years have also been his two least healthy ones, and there is still quite a bit of mystery surrounding just what is wrong with the nerve in his throwing arm.

We spoke about it on a recent podcast, and Drew explained that part of the mystery is that radial nerve entrapment simply isn’t that common an injury. But Morrow is being looked after by the best– it was Dr. James Andrews who finally diagnosed the problem, and told Morrow to stop throwing. “By mid-October, he expects to be throwing at 100% capacity or heading for a tricky bit of surgery to release the nerve,” explained John Lott in a piece for the National Post back in August.

And the fact that the diagnosis took so long isn’t necessarily as big a failure on the Jays’ part as it maybe seems.

Quoting a Driveline Mechanics post about radial nerve intrapments in pitchers (which currently isn’t online), True Blue L.A. tells us that it is often misdiagnosed. That post, which is from the spring of 2010, was about Vicente Padilla’s injury. The then-Dodger tried to pitch through it, making 16 starts that season, but ended up undergoing surgery the following February. He was back on the mound again before the end of that April, throwing harder than in previous years, albeit in short stints out of the bullpen, until a bulging disc in his neck ended his season.

Padilla appeared in 56 games the following year with Boston, and this year has moved over to Japan, still pitching reasonably well. The True Blue L.A. piece also points us to an piece from April of 2008, when Matt Garza was struggling with radial nerve irritation. He ended up making 30 starts that year, then hit the 200 inning mark in each of the next two seasons.

In other words, the injury isn’t necessarily catastrophic. Which doesn’t mean that Morrow’s can’t be worse– an piece from Ken Gurnick on Padilla’s successful surgery explains that “Eric Gagne had ulnar nerve entrapment surgery in June 2005 and missed the rest of the season. However, that was a different nerve, and recovery times vary depending in part on the extent of nerve damage.”

Still, while we may be a little bit in the dark about what’s going on, Lott’s piece noted that Morrow hopes surgery can be avoided, and if not, the recovery time for him is expected to be about three months– leaving him time to be ready for Spring Training. And while there may not be a large enough sample of recoveries to look at and say that we entirely comfortable thinking he’ll be fine, this idea that the Jays or their fans are being reckless or delusional if they believe anything of the sort is based on nothing more than fear of the unknown– there are no easily memorized recovery timetables for this like there are with Tommy John surgery.

Sorry though, it’s not so crazy to think that, now that he’s finally been properly diagnosed, he could very easily be back to his old self next season. Meanwhile, it is completely crazy to think that the oblique issue he suffered in 2012 is necessarily going to be some kind of recurring thing. He was basically healthy the previous two seasons before that, and next spring will mark his being four years removed from of the shoulder issues that coloured his early career with Seattle.

In other words, while I’m certainly not saying he’ll surely be healthy, I do think the issue is very possibly considerably overblown by the most negative of fans, or those who aren’t capable or willing to look a little deeper at his issues than the simple fact that he has missed a bunch of starts over the last couple of years.

Consider that, over the three seasons prior to this one, Morrow ranked 75th in MLB in total innings pitched, despite being shut down at the end of 2010. Consider also that, in all of the big leagues, pitchers to have averaged over 200 innings per season in the last three years number just 21. Morrow, from 2010 to 2012, pitched more innings than relied-upon guys on title-aspirant clubs such as Homer Bailey, Clay Buchholz, Phil Hughes, Jake Peavy, Derek Holland, and Adam Wainwright, and was within 50 innings over that span of Kyle Lohse, Josh Beckett, Mike Leake, Francisco Liriano, Matt Harrison, and Jason Hammel.

Not all of those guys were losing innings to poor health, mind you, but included among them are a bunch of names I suspect you’d be pretty damn alright with pencilling in for a rotation spot on your team, and not hemming and hawing with all the Jeff Blair-fuelled “Morrow, you can’t even count on!” case-closed nonsense.

The Jays will have someone like Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison or Marcus Stroman as their sixth starter next year, and even if you end up needing ten starts out of one of those guys, would that really be such a bad exchange for getting twenty-odd out of Morrow? So can we maybe stop pretending this is a bigger deal than it really is? It would be shocking if he doesn’t pitch more in 2014 than he did this year, not the other way around.

Comments (76)

  1. he was so good last year even though he only pitched 3/12 months
    was a dark horse cy young in 2012 right until he got hurt

  2. Cue people saying his entrapped nerve won’t heal right because of the diabetes in 3,2,1…

  3. Thanks a lot for the Padilla comparison. Now we’re going to have a bunch of keyboard doctors diagnosing him with a bulging disc every time he rubs his neck.

  4. So you’re saying he’ll be pitching in japan by 2016? Just kidding. Morrow the best.

  5. Go Pirates!

  6. Deciding a team’s season based on one game is very stupid, thank’s Bud!

    • It just doesn’t make any sense for baseball.

    • On the other hand, treating wild card teams the same as divisional winners is dumb. And so would adding a whole other round of play.

      So it makes sense sort of.

      The unbalanced schedule is the bigger sin IMO.

      • Agreed.

      • @sons.

        Why not reduce the season to 154 games & add best of 5 to the wild card playoff series.

        • Something like that would be way better, but it’s all about money. I think it’s been brought up before, but most owners prefer the extra guaranteed regular season games over potentially participating in a few extra games. The owners would lose about 120 games to add 8 playoff games.

        • My thought as well. I’m against the expanded playoffs; should be 6 division winners, plus 2 wildcards. However, IF you’re going to go the other way and expand the playoffs, then do it properly, and go back to 154 games.

          Hell, if you’re going to emulate other sports, cut it back to 80 or 90 and allow 16 teams to make the playoffs.

          1903-1968 – Two teams make playoffs
          1969-1993 – Four teams make playoffs
          1994-2011 – Eight teams make playoffs
          2012- ? – Ten teams make playoffs

          Baseballs version of death by a thousand cuts.

        • So the teams that work hard to have home field advantage get to stay home for a week. Might work in football, but you take every hitter on your team and sit them for a week, it’s going to mess with their timing. They got it the way it should be, fair to all parties involved, IMO.

        • Mo’ Games Mo’ Money.

        • @oakville

          My problem is the more playoff games you have, the less the regular season matters. And I like the regular season to matter. I like first in your division to matter.

          Plus now you make the other teams wait a week. That’s a bit disruptive.

  7. anyone read about cuban catcher yenier bello getting cleared by mlb? read that he might be a target for the jays

    • Don’t know a lot about him but he does have one big thing going for him: he ain’t JPA. Sorry two things, Bello means beautiful in Spanish, Yenier The Beautiful

    • From the small amount I’ve been able to find out about him he doesn’t seem like he’s all that good. He had some trouble getting on base in the Cuban league and hasn’t played since 2011.

  8. Still he may be good still when he gets healthy, I think I would trade him for a pitcher if they could get one out of him.

    • How exactly would that work?
      You trade him for a pitcher because you think he’s injury prone? Which pretty much assumes you’re going to try to acquire a LESS “injury prone” pitcher. Who, in order to make this deal actually happen will also need to be less, uhm, GOOD!

      How does that help the team really?

  9. You’d think, statistically speaking, that more guys HAVE to be healthy on this damn team in 2014.

  10. Running Morrow out of Town…yip, I would drive the fine young man to the airport and see him off IF it meant I could use Morrow’s Money to get a pitcher that could pitch…not potentially pitch, but actually make say 25 or 30 starts in a season. Health is an issue. You don’t but any credence in chemistry or old fashioned guy instinct in baseball yet you keep bringing up Morrow and how fucking great the guy is and anyone questioning you get cursed upside the head because…we state the fucking obvious…the guy is great but can’t pitch because of health issues every, fucking year. So, he’s leavin’ on a jetplane, don’t know if he’ll be back again….

    • I don’t necessarily agree but perhaps it is time the organization took a more “What have you done fore me lately” approach.

    • It’s like you’re impervious to rational thought…

    • Have you seen the guy pitch before??? You don’t run that talent out of town. He WILL have a strong year next year, and WILL most likely to be Toronto’s most dominant starter. Unless JJ finds a way to return to form, which would only be fitting after the disaster cluster fuck of a season we had to endure this year. Something tells me that if you march this team out to the field next year, how it is, that it would be a totally different outcome. Especially after the way this season went down, their will be some hungry players looking for redemption, and it can only mean good things for Jays fan. But if they do suck after all that, blow it up! Don’t think we’ll get there, thou.

      • Digital Jays Fan: Yes, I’ve watched Mr. Morrow pitch. I see great stuff until the 5th or 6th inning during most of his starts and then he starts to faulter. That’s when he’s healthy. He has great stuff but not the finesse of a starter in my opinion. He’s still a thrower. IF he’s healthy, I see a dominant BP guy regardless of value we place on starter versus reliever. I don’t believe in Santa either although it’s a nice concept, just like Morrow and JJ staying healthy for a year…that’s a fairytale in my opinion based on their injury history.

    • ” I would drive the fine young man to the airport and see him off IF it meant I could use Morrow’s Money to get a pitcher that could pitch”

      Morrow is making $8M next year. We just got through a thread talking about bringing back a guy who had a 6+ ERA for $7 or $8M, to put that in perspective.

    • So you didn’t even read the post, I guess. Again: 71% of starts made over four years.

      Hey, but pat yourself on the back for being dumb about it, I guess.

  11. Wow, they’re to rockin’ in Pitts!

  12. For those who want to watch the playoffs in HD and don’t have cable

    You can get reliable HD streams on a PC in Canada for $30 by

    A: sign up for Unblock-Us which changes your IP to a non-Canadian/US IP (costs $5 a month)
    B: sign up for Postseason.TV (costs $25), the MLB stream blocks the standard TBS feed for US/Canadian customers, but as long as you are running the unblock-us stuff on your browser (I use Chrome) then the International Feed wont be blocked out, I have it working now for the Reds/Pirates game.

    The free alternative is a website called CoolSportz, one of the better/reliable free streams, but its far far from HD quality and it’s a bit of a pain to use unless you are running AdBlock on Chrome.

  13. yeah morrow is the exact same as bucholz!

    except that bucholz made 45 starts last 2 years and morrow 31 and when buch was healthy he was dominant while morrow has been mostly a piece of shit.

    He’s had 1 good year in his entire career!! But let’s just keep hoping that one day he’ll figure out how to pitch.

    • Except that he’s actually been really good when healthy. You’re confusing your imagination with reality again. Need to get that looked at.

  14. M’s will give Morales qualifying offer apparently. Abreu just became even more desirable. Could potentially get Abreu for half that AAV.

  15. Pirates in the Playoffs and my mind wanders to The Travis Snider Trade (or Why I Am Happy With Brad Lincoln):

    Nuff said.

    • Guess the Pirates are screwing him up too?Or maybe the Jays still are?Must be Cito.

      Or maybe Travis should look in the mirror, instead of everywhere else.

  16. Morrow has not had the most successful time here. Since 2010 he has gone 10-7, 11-11, 10-7, 2-3. He’s got fabulous stuff but we’ve only seen it very occasionally. I don’t think he’s capable of consistency.

    • You’re using wins to evaluate a pitcher. That’s generally unwise.

      Even *if* wins were a useful way to evaluate a pitcher, since 2010, the Jays are 313-335, but Brandon Morrow is 33-28, so he can’t be the problem.

      • +1

      • I didn’t make myself clear. The issue is not how many wins it’s how many decisions. Before Romero went south he was 13-9, 14-9, 15-11. He was pitching longer into games and staying healthier. I grant that none of the Jays starters have managed to stay healthy. And Romero is no longer the poster boy for great pitching. But Morrow has been regarded as the future ace for too long. At this point he is Days of Future Past. Which is a little reference for SP wherever he may be.

    • The problem is AA, who is a stand up guy and a super GM, needs to get rid of the projects. That being JJ and Morrow for starters, pardon the pun. He’s saying now that they’ll look at injury history more closely before acquiring new players. Point being he cannot keep guys that cost millions on staff regardless of potential…he needs guys that can play, period. Anyone can get hurt, especially pitchers but the Jays have moved from 75 million to perhaps 140 + million in payroll and they can pay for better, more consistent players. So, the projects, the guy who might do this if the stars align a certain way is no longer necessary to cater to for success in TO. That’s good news for fans and the organization, bad news for MLB projects seeking to live off of potential for a decade, if possible. I can’t blame them for trying, I know I would given the money at stake but it’s time to try Houston, that’s where the projects should be playing based on their payroll. TO is now serious about winning, CONSISTENTLY!

  17. Henderson alvarez already has HALF the IP of morrow and he’s ONLY 23!

    Thank god AA knows which players to keep.

  18. I’ll believe Morrow is great when I see him consistently pitch well, while remaining healthy. It has been a while since I have seen that, unfortunately. Fingers crossed, next year, he DOES return to his previous ability, while staying off the DL for (ideally) the entire season + postseason. I want to see him be that super dope #2-#3 that is reliable, and will not spend half the season fucking injured or “playing with an injury” or any other excuse I hear frequently touted.

    I will believe it should (and hopefully) it happens

    In regard to 2014, I sincerely hope were wont be discussing the ‘Well, if X has a good year, and Y stays healthy and regains consistency, and Z has a career year, etc” conversation we all know before too long.



  20. More under the radar ( pardon the pun) from the Jays minor leagues.
    Dalton Pompey, a CF for Lansing has won a Golden Glove, one of only 9 issued for all of the full season teams,in 10 leagues.

  21. I feel for Morrow. I’ve dealt with nerve issues in my arm on and off over the last two years and its a shitty thing. There are times when it hurts to sleep with my arm on a pillow – let alone open a door handle or throw a baseball.

    That said – Morrow has access tot he best care imaginable, and there are times when I feel great with my arm. I hope they can clear it up for him because when he’s on he is a big time pitcher.

  22. This is an impressive piece of stat cherry picking.

    Dress is up all you want but morrow has has one ‘good’ run of 100 innings or so (where he seemed to get lucky based on his peripherals no less) and generally shouldn’t be counted on to stay healthy.

    I get it….you’re on the Jays payroll….but you don’t need to make it so obvious.

  23. Wait a minute-did Stoeten just use ERA to back up his point? Must be getting old…

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