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.

Comments (16)

  1. Yes, but is he throwing curves? Everybody but Brooks Baseball says he is. My eyes tell me that he rediscovered his curveball in his last start and that was as key as anything else. (note: my eyes are usually wrong)

  2. Lol. Good job on the tweet, Drew.

  3. Per Gregor Chisholm in the game wrap on Bluejays.com:

    One of his biggest adjustments on Sunday was a new cut fastball that came from making a slight adjustment on his slider. Morrow unveiled the pitch during his last start against Boston and — despite a home run by Jacoby Ellsbury — he liked the results.

    “What he has done is he has taken his slider and tightened it up some,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. “So a lot of the pitches, where he was in fastball counts, he would go to the cutter.

    “Then he used his curveball a little bit more as a finishing pitch.”

    So there ya have it. Good work, Drew!

  4. Actually he is 9.0 innings away from tying Charlie Leibrandt for THIRD PLACE all-time for consecutive innings pitched without GIDP. He’s still 20 innings away from Don Sutton’s all-time mark.

    But nice seeing you did all the legwork to get the graphs, I was tempted to but fell into laziness. I hope Jays beat reporters would follow up on that tweet.

  5. Re: confusion between the cutter and slider, A-Rod evidently had the same problem. From the MLB.com game story:

    New York’s hitters were off balance at the plate all game, and the new cut fastball was a big reason why. After the game, Alex Rodriguez still thought he was being thrown sliders.

    “He had us baffled all day with the slider,” said Rodriguez, who went 0-for-4. “He probably threw 70, 75 percent sliders, which is very substantial. He’s usually the opposite — 70, 75 percent fastballs. He threw the ball well.”

  6. In terms of movement and speed, I’d say it’s more like a slider than a cutter. They were all below 90 — for Morrow, that’s a typical slider speed, not a shave off his normal fastball like a cutter. Reminds me of Litsch a few years ago; if he keeps throwing so many of them, I would bet the debate over whether it’s a slow cutter or a fast slider lasts right up until his next arm surgery…

  7. Cut fastball or slider? No one’s sure. Not even A(hole)Rod. Maybe Morrow’s on to something new. Slastball? Cut flider? Fast slurve? Maybe just a Brandonball.

  8. @Provan Well done sir.

  9. The whole thing was awesome Drew, I saw the tweets on my feed and it was great to see you go hunting!

  10. Morrow follows (or did at one time) the Tao of Stieb….so once again, the Tao trumps us all.

    The Tao probably also knew that Morrow has been throwing a cutter for a while.

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