Twitter is a funny place. Fans get a measure of access to their favorite athletes, provided the athletes can negotiate a smartphone and don’t delve too far into the depressing abyss that is The Other Internet. As we all know, some athletes are better follows than others. Keeping the birthday RTs to a minimum is key and engaging fans on some level is another great bonus.
After yesterday’s great start against the Yankees, Brandon Morrow dropped some self-deprecating science on Twitter, retweeting a factoid stating he was 9 innings short of the longest streak without inducing a GIDP. Morrow expressed shock that he didn’t eclipse this mark long ago.
Ever the smart ass, I attempted joking with the Jays hurler about his lack of ground balls, asking how long until the team forced a cutter on him in an attempt to generate more wormburners.
Two shocking things happened immediately after my playful message: he replied and added with a (mildly) stunning admission for good measure.
To which I said: zzuhh? Has Brandon Morrow, he of the 35% ground ball rate, added a cutter to his arsenal? If anyone would benefit from an inning-saving pitch like the cutter, it is Morrow. Concerns about his health might have kept him from trying earlier in his career but, after a couple rough weeks, maybe the team and player are willing to try anything.
Before a blogger takes a Major League baseball player at his word, it is probably prudent to check the data. Morrow traditionally throws two fastballs, a slider and a nasty changeup. Is there anything new in his last two starts?
Looking at his last two starts and comparing them from two earlier starts, we just might see a change in Morrow’s offerings. The first chart below displays the breaks. Use this invaluable chart from former (?) Jays blogger Jonathan Hale to better understand what you see below.
It certainly appears that Morrow added a new pitch in his last two starts. The results are…mixed for now but that’s a fight for another day. Is this pitch really a cutter or just a poorly-shaped slider?
While this view isn’t quite as cut and dry, I think we can safely say there is a new arrow in Brandon Morrow’s quiver. A cutter! For Brandon Morrow! Look out, Roy Halladay, Brandon Morrow is coming for your Best Pitcher in Life title!
Of the pitches I’ve determined to be cutters, 20 balls were put into play. Of these 20, 11 were ground balls as decided by Gameday. Jacoby Ellsbury tagged one for a home run and Dustin Pedroia smacked another for a double. Morrow only got six swinging strikes of this nearly 90 pitch sample, which doesn’t sound like his slider at all, despite these pitches largely being labelled as sliders.
Any time Morrow is getting more than 50% ground balls and less than 10% whiffs on a pitch, you can be pretty certain it isn’t his normal, devastating slider. Could this be the genesis of a new Morrow, one with an eye trained on efficiency and getting the odd inning-saving double play? Blue Jays fans can only hope Morrow can refine his game as he attempts to bring his results in-line with his process.
Pitch F/X info courtesy of Joe Lefkowitz database.