Without His Best Stuff, Morrow Gets Creative
Despite not having his best stuff, Brandon Morrow held the Royals in check Sunday, recording his second quality start of the season in a 3-2 Blue Jays loss. The right-hander wasn’t overpowering or missing Kansas City bats the way he's accustomed to, but was still effective over his six innings of two-run ball.
Morrow had three strikeouts, induced four swinging strikes, and had his slowest average fastball in three starts this year. The 28-year-old told the Toronto Star's Brendan Kennedy after the game that his fastball wasn’t in top form but that he didn’t try to compensate by throwing harder, which he said is something he would have done in the past.
With his fastball a few ticks slower, Morrow focused more on hitting spots. A few years ago he said he would've just tried to throw harder.— Brendan Kennedy (@BKennedyStar) April 14, 2013
Morrow’s velocity gradually increased as the game went deeper, though, and he hit as high as 96 in the sixth, his final inning. He saw a slight uptick in velocity throughout that last frame.
With his fastball not where he wanted it to be, it might explain why Morrow worked in a pair of offspeed pitches more than he had in his previous two starts.
Morrow attacked Kansas City differently than he did against Cleveland or Detroit by using his curveball and splitter more and relying less on his slider.
The seven curveballs Morrow threw Sunday were more than the amount he tossed his first two starts combined and he turned to his splitter – a pitch he primarily works in against lefties – more than he had in either outing, as well.
His slider had been his most used offspeed pitch entering the game, but Sunday it was the split. Further, his curveball was a pitch he barely used at all his previous outings.
Morrow dropped a couple curves for called strikes and surprisingly started off Jarrod Dyson with consecutive ones in the fifth before punching him out with a nice slider.
The data suggests Morrow was trying to attack the lower part of the zone to his arm side. As you will see in the graph below, when Morrow missed, it was often low and inside to righties and low and outside to lefties. He got a bunch of called strikes in that region and some generous ones, too, throughout the game.
For the most part, Morrow did a good job of mixing but perhaps he would like back his sixth-inning showdown with Lorenzo Cain.
Up 0-2 in the count with runners on first and second with two outs in the sixth and Toronto ahead, 2-1, Morrow threw Cain an 0-2 slider that didn’t really break and got too much of the plate. It resulted in an RBI single up the middle to tie the game at 2.
Catcher J.P. Arencibia called for the slider low and away, the second consecutive one Morrow threw to Cain, but the pitch stayed up in the zone and came back to bite the Blue Jays.
Way up in the count like that, you don’t want an 0-2 offering getting that much of the plate. And after just throwing him a slider, it seemed like a good time to throw some high heat out of the zone.
If Morrow gets a strikeout or gets Cain to hit into an out on the ground in that situation, he would have completed six innings with a lead. And although it may be easy to second-guess now, no pitcher likes getting burned or throwing a very hittable pitch when they are that far ahead in the count.
All in all, it was a nice rebound for Morrow after he turned in a dud against the Tigers and he once again proved that he can turn in solid performances without harnessing his best stuff.
Next up for Morrow are the Yankees at Rogers Centre on Friday. One thing I’ll be looking for is the amount he turns to his curveball. It’s not his best weapon but when he’s incorporating it, hitters have to be mindful of one more offering coming their way.
h/t Brooks Baseball for stats