What the Hell, Brent Morel?

For the first four-plus months of the season, Chicago White Sock Brent Morel played pretty similarly to how one might have expected Brent Morel to play, striking out rarely and walking even more rarely while displaying what is referred euphemistically to as “gap” power.

Over the past month, however, he’s basically turned into a third base-playing Ian Kinsler, walking and striking out at about the same rate while hitting home runs at a pretty excellent pace, but with the low-ish BABIP that Kinsler routinely posts.

To wit:

Because you’re a nerd, you’re definitely prepared to inform the author about the sample size with which we’re dealing here and its relative small-ness. Please understand that your warnings are being considered, one-by-one, as carefully and lovingly as possible. And, indeed, it’s true: even James Loney can look good for 100 PAs at a time.

It’s worth noting, though, that it’s not just Morel’s slash line we’re looking at. The other numbers here become reliable with smaller samples — samples such that, even if we were to regress to the reliable sample size with Morel’s career numbers, we’d still be seeing what basically amounts to a different guy. Speaking anecdotally, that’s a less common thing.

There are zero hard conclusions to be drawn from this. But I, personally, will be watching Morel with more interest over the remainder of the season and into next.

Thank to you Baseball Reference for their sweet game logs.

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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

38 Responses to “What the Hell, Brent Morel?”

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  1. SoCalTwinsfan says:

    What about his groundball rates? If he made a change in his swing to get more lift, more balls in the air would probably result in a drop in BABIP and an increase in slugging. Not uncommon for young players to work on increased power in the majors after getting more comfortable there. Also looks like he might be more selective looking for a pitch to drive out of the park, resulting in more walks and a slight increase in Ks.

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  2. Yirmiyahu says:

    So, I clicked on James Loney. And holy crap. He’s hitting .308/.365/.471/.836 over his last 397 plate appearances. I’d thought he still had like a .500 OPS on the season.

    So, yeah, sample sizes. Even James Loney can look good for 400 plate appearances at a time. But he’s still terrible.

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  3. Eminor3rd says:

    Having watched him all season, he’s one of those guys who looks like he’s being hurt by an ‘opposite field’ approach. Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t look like he could be Kinsler if he started trying to pull the ball, but he does strike me as very similar to Brandon Inge, and a changed approach might raise the K’s and HR’s enough to make him the exact same player.

    That’s not awesome news, but considering how little everyone has expected from him, I’d be totally alright with it.

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    • The defense is plus, right? That’s what I’ve heard about him and the numbers mostly support it.

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      • PG says:

        Defense is definitely a plus. He looked so tentative for most of the year – as if he was satisfied just slapping the ball in play and not striking out. He’s been more aggressive for the past month. He’s not afraid to take a close pitch if it’s not what he wants. He’s turning on mistakes. I didn’t realize he had as much power as he does. When he hits them out they’ve usually gone a long, long way. He looks like a much more confident hitter.

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      • Eminor3rd says:

        Yes, defense is plus. A few too many throwing errors this year, but good range (from the naked eye) and great hands.

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      • Sox2727 says:

        I was wondering this exact thing as I’ve been watching him over the past month (why I’m still watching the Sox other than for personal torture I don’t know). He has undoubtedly seemed to be making more effort to drive the ball with authority instead of being the slap hitter he essentially was the first 4 months of the season. I’m curious to see if this is simply a guy cutting it loose once his team fell out of contention or if we will see a somewhat similar player moving forward. I personally don’t expect these type of numbers to continue but I’d love to be wrong. And yes, he has played very solid defense throughout the year, he sometimes gets lazy with his throwing mechanics and gets to the side of the ball too much causing some throws to sail.

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  4. Jeff says:

    Carson, I always thought gap power wasn’t a euphemism for banjo hitters, but someone who hit less than 20-25 homers and hit a ton of doubles/triples. Something like Reyes or Zobrist. Or maybe Lyle Overbay, back when he was decent.

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    • That’s actually a good question. Project: find instances of players being described as possessing “gap power” and find average homers for said players.

      Anecdotally, I’ve considered it to be a Placido Polanco sort — because, really, doubles and triples could be as much a product of speed as they could of hitting ability.

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  5. WSO says:

    Brent Morel did not display power earlier in the season, neither gap nor other known varieties

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  6. GregN says:

    For the record, singular of Sox, Red or White, is Sox.
    You could look it up.

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  7. Andrew says:

    I think what needs to be focused on here is that he walked FOUR times in 309 plate appearances. B-R says that a player has drawn only four walks or fewer in 300+ PAs only seven times since 1901. Obviously he’s gone and ruined that, now.

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  8. Darren says:

    Can’t wait for your follow-up article on John Kruk.

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  9. willyam shaykspeer says:

    or the long-awaited revival of tony suck

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  10. Nathaniel Stoltz says:

    The big thing with Morel is that he’s actually walking. He had seven walks through the end of August, now has twelve in Sept. alone. That can’t possibly be a coincidence. I suppose one could explain the rest away with a combination of “small sample” and “diluted talent on expanded rosters,” but the bottom line is that he’s actually taking some pitches and getting in better counts.

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    • MikeS says:

      He is definitely getting in better counts but I don’t know if that’s the cause of his power spike. IIRC, at least three of those 6 HR have been on first pitches. Maybe pitchers know he is hitting better and are not just saying “here it is, hit it.” Or maybe they are being careful with him because he has actually shown the ability to occasionally hurt them and he is taking those pitches.

      Whatever, I just hope he continues it into next season.

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  11. Rick B. says:

    Sox fans who followed Morel through the minors should not be so surprised by his improvement. He consistently seemed slightly over matched initially as he climbed up through the minors. After a time at every level he made adjustments and proved to be at least a slightly above average offensive player. He should be a 2-3 WAR 3rd baseman for a few years in his prime if the Sox don’t dump him and attempt to upgrade.

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  12. Rhubarb says:

    His defense is on par with Crede although he tends to have an occassional throwing error. His upside at the plate is Joe Randa-esque. Sox is the proper singular and plural.

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  13. Moonraker says:

    Hi Carson (or someone else):

    Which of those numbers become reliable with smaller sample sizes, and how small of sample sizes are we talking about here?

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  14. Barkey Walker says:

    There is also a date picking problem. You picked 8/20 as the break, and that further adds to the possibility of bias. If you were doing months, it would be less suspect.

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    • steex says:

      True, but Carson isn’t claiming a lack of sample bias here. I think he’s purposely cherry-picking to make his point – i.e., if you want to show that Morel has had a hot stretch at the plate, your chosen window should exclude the time before the hot stretch started.

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  15. Levi says:

    Brent Morel is a fun guy.

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