More on Morrow

After Brandon Morrow’s 17 strikeout game, the next step, after acceptance, is to wonder what the performance means for his career. Reservations for complete games with exorbitant strikeout totals and miniscule walk rates are for the finest of fine pitching. I wanted to find out just how fine the pitchers’ careers turned out who managed to spin one of these gems. In doing so, I used Baseball-Reference’s Play Index with the following query:

– Individual games spanning the 1920-2010 seasons as a starting pitcher
– Requiring at least 17 strikeouts, fewer than three walks, and at least one inning pitched

The reason for including fewer than three walks is multilayered. It trims the list of candidates down while increasing the difficulty level of the performance, thus giving us the cream of the crop. The above mandates returned 35 individual games. Quite a few being repeats of the true greats. One thing I did not adjust that I’ll disclaim here is how I did not control for age. Randy Johnson’s 20 strikeout game as a 37 year old is included just as Kerry Wood’s game as a 20 year old. Presumably age plays some role in the expectations for Morrow heading forward, as does his background, but there was just no sensible way to really adjust for either with such a limited sample size.

Here is the list of pitchers with their career innings pitched, earned runs allowed, and ERA+. I’m not saying these are the best instruments for judging pitcher worth or anything of the sort; instead I’m just giving an idea of how this group matches up with those metrics:

From there, I get a collective ERA of 3.30 and using the methodology outline by Tango here, a collective ERA+ of 118. In other words: Morrow has some big shoes to fill if he wants to fit in with the rest of these guys.




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23 Responses to “More on Morrow”

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  1. Nick Steiner says:

    Does the fact that Morrow was able to throw a game of such dominance raise his projection more than just in how it effects is overall stats? Only a few pitchers have the ability to throw a game like that, and as you showed us, nearly all are all star or hall of fame caliber.

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    • DanaT says:

      A tiny tweak … if you round off the odd out, on career innings pitched, it leaves it a little easier to scan down the list, and compare careers.

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  2. 198d says:

    “and at least one inning pitched”

    What is the purpose of this constraint? Doesn’t “requiring at least 17 strikeouts” ensure a 5.2 IP minimum?

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    • Chris says:

      TECHNICALLY it doesn’t haha. It’s possible to get more than 3 Ks in an inning ;). I’d love to see 17Ks in under an inning though. That’d be a GREAT clip.

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    • Deelron says:

      No it doesn’t, you can record a strikeout without actually getting the out, see 4 strikeout innings. Granted it’d be rather rare, and exceedingly so when talking about the rare 17 strikeout games, but the contention isn’t quite accurate.

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  3. Xeifrank says:

    Morrow is one of the more unluckier pitchers FIP and xFIP wise this season.

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    • Jared says:

      He’s unlucky, but not really that unlucky. No unluckier than Jorge de la Rosa, Bud Norris, Josh Beckett, James Shields, etc, etc, etc. He walks a lot of guys and doesn’t keep balls on the ground. His LD rate is a little lower than it should be. Obviously a guy who strikes out 151 out of 532 batters is an awesome pitcher but when you combine high BB with low GB/FB it’s a recipe for some pretty bad outings, even when you get more than a K per inning.

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      • Harkening says:

        Morrow has a BB/9 under 3.2 since from May 21st thru today. His walk numbers are inflated by the first month and a half, and not even all games there–select ones were ugly.

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      • Jared says:

        Harkening, we must be looking at different Brandon Morrows because as of 30 days before 8/6 through 8/5, he still walked 1 out of every 10 guys he faced.

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  4. Detroit Michael says:

    I would have never guessed that Bill Gullickson had a 17+ strikeout day. I don’t remember him whiffing that many.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      I only remember Harry Caray commenting on how handsome Gullickson was, while pitching for the ‘Spos. Harry was really on fire that day.

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  5. Detroit Michael says:

    Also, the filter was for 3 or fewer walks, not fewer than 3 walks. I recreated the search on baseball-reference.com.

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  6. tdotsports1 says:

    Morrow’s “slide piece” was definitely working vs. the Rays. Pitch F/X said it was dropping an average of 3+ inches, and of the 38 thrown only 2.6% were put into play.

    I wrote more a piece on him today including some PITCH FX data on his slider, click the name if interested….

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    • Detroit Michael says:

      I clicked on your name but there’s not a Brandon Morrow blog post there (yet?).

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  7. Darrel says:

    The innings limit is inane.

    17 K is astounding whether it’s in 6, 7, 8, 9 innings, etc.

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  8. Detroit Michael says:

    Brandow Morrow is age 26 with a career ERA+ of 102 in 325 MLB innings. Are there others on the list that seem similar in terms of age, quality, and experience at the time of their signature games? If so, how did they fare for the rest of their careers?

    Hideo Nomo’s signature game was at age 27, but the only reason he didn’t have many MLB innings under his belt was because he pitched in Japan through age 25. Let’s throw him out.

    Ben Sheets had a 101 ERA+ through his signature game in his age 25 season with 647.2 IP. That’s a fairly good match.

    Nolan Ryan, at the time of his first signature game, was age 25 with 794 IP and a 106 ERA+.

    So, of course there’s not much data to go on here. Ryan is a Hall of Famer and Sheets became injury prone. Either destination could conceivably be in Morrow’s future.

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  9. Jono411 says:

    Shouldn’t it be expected that these pitchers are better than Morrow (and thus not representative of what we could reasonably expect of the rest of Morrow’s career)? I mean, you set the cutoff as at least 17 k’s and at most 2 bb, which means that morrow’s 17k and 2bb performance is the “worst” performance that could be included. If we were trying to get a comparable group of starts to Morrow’s shouldn’t we be looking to set the cutoff so that the starts in the sample averaged to 17k’s and 2bb?

    That said, I don’t know if it would really have an impact on the results, but I would assume that lowering the cutoff would add a lot more good-but-not-great pitchers to the sample.

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    • 198d says:

      There were:

      i. 35 games with >= 17 K and = 17 K and no restriction on BB
      iii. 190 games with >= 15 K and = 15 K and no restriction on BB

      since 1920 according to BBRef.

      Seems like lowering the K constraint would support your hypothesis; the BB’s appear to be rather insignificant. I have made no attempt to quantify the quality of the pitchers of those 223 games, merely interested in the possible sample size.

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      • 198d says:

        Ugh. FanGraphs ate my greater and less thans. Second try!

        LTE = less than or equal to
        GTE = greater than or equal to

        There were:

        i. 35 games with GTE 17 K and LTE 2 BB
        ii. 48 games with GTE 17 K and no restriction on BB
        iii. 190 games with >= 15 K and LTE 4 BB
        iv. 223 games with GTE 15 K and no restriction on BB

        since 1920 according to BBRef.

        Seems like lowering the K constraint would support your hypothesis; the BB’s appear to be rather insignificant. I have made no attempt to quantify the quality of the pitchers of those 223 games, merely interested in the possible sample size.

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      • Jono411 says:

        ok…so it looks like to get a sample with an average of 17k and 2bb, we’d probably want to set the filter to something like gte 16k and lte 4bb

        i bet the collective ERA+ of that group is lower than 118, perhaps significantly so

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  10. Cialis says:

    This blog was unbelievably helpful. Your the man. lol :)

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