Brandon Morrow: Back for the Final Month

On Saturday, Brandon Morrow made his return to the Blue Jays rotation. He allowed 4 runs (2 earned) to go with 7 Ks and 1 BB over 4 2/3 innings. It was Morrow’s first start since June 11th when he strained his left oblique. All signs are positive and I see only a couple of possible future problems for him.

Morrow was having a good season before landing on the DL, but it is a little tough to gauge his true talent level. He has a near 3 ERA which is a career best for him (4.37 average for his previous seasons). His strikeout rate is down to a career low of 8 K/9. The drop in strikeouts is offset by his BB/9 going down to 2.7, which is also a career low.

With the drop in K offsetting the drop in BB, his 0.240 BABIP is the reason behind the lower ERA. The value is 50 points less than his career average of 0.292.

The major factor leading to all the changes is that he is throwing more pitches in the strike zone. His Zone% is up from 49.2 % (49.8% is league average) last year to 52.4% (league average = 49.3%) this season. More balls in the zone means less walks, less chasing pitches out of the strike zone (less Ks), and more contact (75% to 80%) which seems to be leading to more weakly hit balls.

All that information was all pre-injury and a little useful information can be taken from Saturday’s start. First, the injury is an oblique injury and not a problem with his arm, so future injuries will be less likely. Also, his average fastball speed and range are comparable to his other starts this season

I see no reason for him not to be owned in all leagues (81% in Yahoo!, 78% in ESPN) after the start, but there may be could be a couple of pit falls

First, I don’t see the ERA staying so low with his other ERA estimators higher (FIP = 3.39, xFIP = 3.91, SIERA = 3.74). Regression sucks. Second, the Blue Jays are out of contention and will likely shut down Morrow for any flare up and strain he shows. They have no reason to push him in 2012 and risk further injury. For this reason, he may not be available later in the season which could be crucial in H2H leagues.

Brandon Morrow returned to the majors on Saturday from the DL and pitched decent. He should continue to produce as he did earlier in the year if he keeps his pitches in the strike zone.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

2 Responses to “Brandon Morrow: Back for the Final Month”

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  1. Brian says:

    Would love to get your thoughts on Harvey vs arms like Morrow, Brett Anderson, Detwiler. I own all, wondering who is safer from a ratios perspective over the rest of the season in a shallow mixed. Really tight ERA/WHIP race, and I’m not concerned about strikeouts.

    Harvey’s schedule doesn’t look as good as Anderson, about the same as Morrow’s.

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  2. If I’m looking for a top pitcher coming off the DL, Outliar’s rankings for consistency have it as Shawn Marcum running away.

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