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Brandon Morrow: One of a Kind

Posted By Jeff Zimmerman On March 28, 2012 @ 3:20 pm In Meta Analysis,Starting Pitchers,Stock Watch | 24 Comments

Brandon Morrow has always been an enigma to me. He has great stuff, but just can seem to put it all together for one good season. I am going to try to look at similar pitchers from the recent past to see if there is any hope of him breaking out.

Since the right-handed pitcher broke into the league with Seattle in 2007, here is where he ranks among the 156 starting pitchers with 400 or more innings.

K/9: 1st (10.0 K/9)
BB/9: 149th (4.5 BB/9)
% of PA that end in a BB or K: 1st (37.3%)

Brandon is a true outcome pitcher with most at bats ending up as either a walk or a strikeout. Besides being a true outcome pitcher, his career ERA has been significantly worse than his ERA predictors:

ERA: 4.37
FIP: 3.85
xFIP: 3.94
SIERA: 3.71

Of the same 156 pitchers looked at earlier, his 0.51 ERA–FIP is the 14th highest. With such extreme numbers, it is tough to find comparable pitchers, but I will give it a shot.

I have a program that takes a players Marcel Projection for a given year and then finds how players performed with similar projections. While Marcels is not perfect, especially with young players, it is available for players going back to 1901.

To begin with, here are Morrow’s 2012 Marcel projections for reference:
Age: 27
K/9: 9.6
BB/9: 3.6
HR/9: 1.0
ERA: 4.25
IP 161

I looked for pitchers since 1990 were generally similar to Morrow. I didn’t care too much about the IP, so I used an IP range of 101 to 221. Also, I looked for pitchers that were only 2 years older or younger than him. I started with the following ranges on the rest of the stats:

K/9: +/- 0.5 (9.6)
BB/9: +/- 0.5 (3.6)
HR/9: +/- 1.0 (1.0)
ERA: +/- 0.5 (4.25)

With those settings, I ended up with on player projected to be similar, Brandon Morrow‘s 2011 projection. He is one of kind. I expanded the settings a bit:

K/9: 9+/- 0.75 (9.6)
BB/9: +/- 0.75 (3.6)
HR/9: +/- 1.0 (1.0)
ERA: +/- 0.75 (4.25)

Besides Morrow, I ended up with 7 other pitcher seasons:

Kerry Wood (2003, 2004, 2005)
Jonathan Sanchez (2011)
Erik Bedard (2008)
Hideo Nomo (1998)
Mark Prior (2006)

Not a ton of players, but they should keep a trainer busy. Alright, one more try. I will give ERA a huge range and tighten up the walks and strikeouts:

K/9: 9+/- 0.5 (9.6)
BB/9: +/- 0.5 (3.6)
HR/9: +/- 1.0 (1.0)
ERA: +/- 2.00 (4.25)

Kerry Wood (2004, 2005)
Hideo Nomo (1996, 1997, 1998)
Rich Harden (2009)
Brandon Morrow (2011)

Two pitchers keep showing as being similar, Hideo Nomo and Kerry Wood. Both of these two pitchers have K/9 rates in near 10.0 and BB/9 near 4.0. Neither of these 2 had the large difference between their career ERA and FIP as seen here:

Name, ERA, FIP
Nomo, 4.24, 4.23
Wood, 3.64, 3.81

Nomo’s ERA and FIP are closer to Morrow’s ERA and Wood’s ERA and FIP are closer to Morrow’ FIP.

Any kind of similarities can’t be drawn from just 2 pitchers. The High K-BB-ERA club is exclusive.

I looked at expanding the stat ranges some more (1.0 for K, W and ERA) and ended up with too many non-similar players. One projection that showed up was Justin Verlander‘s 2011 season. Verlander was projected to have the following stats: 3.47 ERA, 8.7 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. Verlander and Morrow are just not similar enough in my opinion.

With all that said, Morrow is a very unique pitcher. The combination of a high ERA, walk rate and strikeout rate make finding similar pitchers almost impossible. Draft him with the knowledge that he will have a high number of strikeouts and that is it. Maybe be can get the walks under control and the rest of his stats will follow. Just maybe.


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