Sunday, 8 August 2010

Pitching Like A Man

(If you don't know what that refers to, you need to read more John Lott)

By now you know, unless you were on a wilderness hike or something, what Brandon Morrow did this afternoon to the Rays.

For the second day in a row, the Blue Jays gave their fans as much to fall in love with as any Yankee or Red Sox team ever has (at least during a regular season game). If anyone had been uncertain that Brandon Morrow was maturing into an ace this year (and i recall seeing some comments about how he'd "regressed since June" in some quarters) this should ease your mind of doubt. A future with him and Romero 1/2 is bright indeed, before you even look further.

To gush with superlative descriptions of today's performance is entirely unnecessary and futile - if you saw it, no words can add to it, if you didn't, words can't do it justice (I didn't see it by the way - such is the curse of being hundreds of miles away from anyone else who cares). so rather than just sit here and droll (and softly curse the day Evan Longoria was born) let me turn my attention to the most active debateable point of today's game - the pitch count.

Already the whining - from Kieth Law on Twitter right down to the peanut gallery on DJF, is hand-wringing about Morrow reaching 137 pitches this afternoon. Especially about him staying in for the last out. The last at bat took what, eight pitches? what's 8 more going to do that 129 didn't? Morrow doesn't have a history of being fragile, he doesn't have a history of being abused, he's already been strung out at least once this year to go gentle on his IP, and he has an extra days rest already before the next start.

One thing that I notice among passionate fans on-line is that a certain percentage are always trying to be the smartest guy in the room. Now, let me clarify that - anyone who writes a blog at a minimum, and most who post on any sort of forum, like to think they have some insight to share with the world that makes there remarks worth reading, that's not the sort of "trying to be smart" I mean. I mean the sort who always seems to take the negative view in opposition to whatever the majority thinks. Like the guy who looks at an upcoming season which most fans think has a lot of promise and starts describing the worst case scenario for each player while confidently predicting 90 loses. If they DO tank, he can crow - if they don't, he gets to enjoy the wins with the rest of us. And likely very few remember how negative he was.

Likewise, those whining now about Morrow will cite this game if 3 or 4 years from now he needs surgery, but if he continues without major injury in a jays uniform, no one will ever look back and point out "I remember when you said the jays would pay dearly for leaving Morrow in that one game." it's basically a free ticket to try to show yourself more clever than everyone else.

Look, I'm as big a critic of Cito as almost anyone, but in his shoes I would absolutely have let Morrow try to get Johnson. That was HIS game - to win or lose. Yes Cito has a long-standing and well-earned reputation for letting his pitchers go one batter too long in terms of the game situation, so in the sense that Morrow might have yielded the tying or go-ahead run in that at bat, sure - but Morrow deserved the chance to be the man who controlled that destiny.

But as far as the "shredding a young arm" argument - I'm not buying it. If Morrow had been gassed or something, he'd have understood being pulled - but I do not think that the difference in 129 and 137 is a career changer. Morrow is 26, and has remarkably few innings on his arm for a guy that age. either you set a cap (and where would that be? 110? 120?) and NEVER exceed it, even for an ongoing ho-hitter, or you use your best judgment.

Cito did the right thing today.

Edit to add: I'll give the critics ONE point - Morrow is a diabetic. That is a legitimate counterpoint to what i just said, but the only one I see.


Callum said...

The pitcher will let you know when he was ready to come out of the game. Morrow was as strong in the 9th as he was in the first. Cito has been around baseball long enough to know that an outlier start of 137 pitches isn't going to ruin anyone's career. It was the right move, of course.

GCM1979 said...

Agreed. Great blog read sir!

btw, great listening to you describe Keith Law and Gibbers in your post.

SP said...

Not sure what your point here is, Will. Are you saying that any time someone is a contrarian, it's for self-serving reasons? There are legit reasons to feel hesitant about a 137 pitch count for Morrow. 1. He's a diabetic. 2. 137 is the 2nd highest pitch count in the majors this year and the highest for a Jays pitcher since 1998. 3. Dustin McGowan, also a diabetic, showed how even marginally higher pitch counts can be disastrous in 2008 when he went 125 against Seattle and then went downhill until his season and career ending injury. 4. Morrow has now been starting consistently for only a year now.

So while he should be fine, the criticism isn't as ridiculous as you're making it out to be.

Callum said...

SP: Because Dustin McGowan tore up his shoulder and he is a diabetic does not set the standard for all diabetic pitchers.

David Wells and Catfish Hunter were both diabetics and they fared okay.

Diabetic athletes are inherently disciplined and regimented. I'd say it gives Morrow an advantage coming back from a high pitch load over someone like a.... Jesse Litsch.

The Southpaw said...

1. i conceded diabetes - but only as it pertains to healing ability

2. Don't think that is especially relevant - especially in that it would seem to indicate that a aberrational high pitch count isn't a predecessor of injury by definition - since a boat-load of pitchers have been injured in the last 12 years.

Other correlating factors, notably the Verducci Rule and repeated patterns of high counts (i.e. Wood and Prior for instance), seem much more obvious than one outlier start

3. re McGowan, RJ Anderson notes the flaws in logic inherent in seeing a pattern where one isn't proven to exist - it's a confirmation bias. McGowan's high point might or might not have contributed to his decline.

As you point out regarding diabetes, to the extent it slows healing, it may very well be that McGowan would have suffered the same problems staying healthy without the high-count game. We can't know.

I'm sure there arte examples of other pitchers going past 120 pitches without such results.

4. I'd argue that Morrow relatively light workload would make it LESS likely he'd suffer long term effects from one high-count game. (provided of course he didn't go to a high count all at once in, say, his third start or something - but that's obviously not the case)

As regards being "contrarian" - honestly I think there's a mild streak of self-serving-ness in all this internet debating - we all have a latent sense of "listen to me because I'm right"

I just think that for some, it gets overbearing. At the very least, I should think a decent respect for the "magic" of the game (of baseball, and this particular event) would dictate that TOMORROW we might raise our hand and say "Guys, are we worried about the pitch count at all?" instead of not even letting the pie get wiped out of his face before we start outright bitching about it.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I've gotten the sense for a long time among jays fans (maybe for all teams? dunno as I don't read other team boards) that there's a 10-15% segment of the fan base that will be bitching about something while the Jays are holding the WS trophy aloft....

Moe said...

1. I disagree with your acertainment that his low workload makes this high pitchcount less risky. That would be true if he had a low workload but frequently 110-120 pitches. But he doesn't. His median pitchcount so far is less than 100. That is simply too big of a jump to be healthy. You may make it through it but the injury risk is a higher.

2. Your argument about being a contrarian is rather weak. You can use this to kill off any opposing opinion. Without criticm nothing would ever change. Yes, he had an amazing game but one must be allowed to ask questions. I would not be surprised if AA wasn't happy himself.

Anonymous said...

Not happy perhaps, but sometimes the right thing to do is not always the most sensible. What if he was at 137 pitches with one out left for the no-no, do you lift him then...? Sometimes the single moment is more important than the whole. An amazing experience and achievement for Morrow in this game compared to being pulled in his finest hour could mean so much more when it comes to negotiating a new salary. You roll the dice and see what happens and second guessing is left to the critics. If AA is angry then it's probably more that Morrow didn't give up a hit in the 7th giving a legit opp to remove without any grief.

eyebleaf said...

It's an interesting debate. Great post, and great discussion in the comments. I'm with Will: Cito did the right thing. Even if the Jays had lost the game, I'd think that. That was Morrow's game. And he credited Cito for coming out and giving him a breather so he could refocus. At that point, the pitch count is out the window.

And about the diabetes, Morrow know's what he's up against there. He monitors his blood sugar constantly, especially when he's pitching. If there were any issues, as Callum said, he would have let Cito and co. know that he had to come out of the ball game.