FanPost

Scott Carson is Probably a JaysTalk Caller

I could have written a lot more about this article by Carson, but Dustin Parkes has promised to write about this and probably do a better job than I could, but I do have the duty to bring that piece of writing to your attention.

Carson, columnist and statistician for Sportsnet, believes that your Toronto Blue Jays would be "within striking distance of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox" if only the team had a "credible closer". He also seemed to think letting go Kevin Gregg and his 37 saves (fourth highest in franchise history!) for a compensation pick was questionable. He doesn't go out all the way to call the move a mistake (this is a journalistic move called "covering your butt") but he did say that Gregg would have been an "easier-to-swallow" option than Rauch and Francisco, who have "combined to blow 11 saves and both spent time on the disabled list this season".

First, Rauch and Francisco combined to blow 9 saves, not 11. And only 6 of those blown saves actually lead to a Blue Jays loss. How about Gregg? He has blown 6 saves this year, leading to 4 losses for the O's. So assuming everything would be the same, would winning 2 more games have placed the Jays in "striking distance" of a playoff spot? There were 12 games this year where Jays relievers have blown the game prior to the 9th, a situation where the Kevin Gregg (and presumably any other traditional closer) would have little control over. Oh yea, he also blames them for being on the DL--way to go inflaming your appendix, Jon.

And that's only the first half of the article.

The second half of this pièce de résistance (as in a piece that will make me resist reading any more of his pieces) starts off fine. He talks about how many Jays fans have asked for a free agent closer for Christmas, and that it is probably a good idea to look within the organization. He even names names like Jesse Litsch, Casey Janssen, and even Nestor Molina (please no). But then he finally settles on Brandon Morrow as his choice to close next season. I'll let you have a second to punch something*.

*Note: the author only advocates punching an inanimate object that belongs to you and certainly does not endorse or advocate physically assaulting Scott Carson.

His reasons? 1) Morrow has had closing experience with the Mariners, 2) because All-Star Brandon League has 34 saves, 3) he has diabetes (way to go, Brandon), 4) he is a "one-trick pony" strikeout machine, and 5) his starter/reliever splits:

STARTER > 4.73 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .243 Opp Avg, 0.97 HR/9 IP

RELIEVER > 3.65 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, .217 Opp Avg, 0.84 HR/ 9 IP

Ahhhh, he used ERA, Opp Avg, and HR/9 IP to compare Morrow as a starter and reliever. How quaint. If you expand on those splits, you could also see that his K/BB ratio is 1.68 as a reliever and 2.46 as a starter while his K/9 is identical (10.1), and for what it's worth, his BABIP is .314 as a starter and .283 as a reliever. Oh, also, the sample size for him being a starter is three times that of him being a reliever.

The split stats are worthless because they cover completely different phases of Morrow's career. I don't think he walks fewer batters because he's a starter, it's just that he has improved that aspect of his game since the last time he came out of the bullpen on June 9, 2009.

Then Carson writes how Morrow's constant high pitch counts are preventing him from going deep. Does Carson realize that strikeout pitchers and high pitch counts come hand-in-hand? Yes, I agree that Morrow's pitches per inning can go down, but how far off is he?

Looking at season stats from 2000 to the present, among starters who have had a K/9 > 10 who have pitched at least 145 innings in a season (I would normally use 162 IP but Morrow only had 145 last season), Morrow in 2011 actually has the highest number of pitches per inning at 17.6 (you'll need to export it to Excel and calculate it yourself), up slightly from 17.3 last year. For comparison, Kerry Wood (2001) averaged 17.3, Mark Prior (2005) 17.0, Justin Verlander (2009) 16.4, Randy Johnson (2000) 16.2 and (2004) 14.8, and Curt Schilling (2001 & 2002) with 14.4. So on average, Morrow throws 3 more pitches per inning than the most pitch-effective strikeout artist since 2000. I agree Morrow needs to whittle that down, maybe to about 15.3 pitches per inning, the rate that Tim Lincecum was on in 2009. 

In 2011, he averaged 103.5 pitches and just over 5.2 IP per start, last season he averaged 97.0 pitches and 5.2 IP per start. So it is not only his constant high pitch counts that are preventing him from going deep, it is that the Jays are being very careful with his endurance. Many of the strikeout guys on that list averages over 106 pitches per game, so that may be a good number to aim for.

I guess what I want to say is, there is that Scott Carson gave no good reason to turn Brandon Morrow into a closer. Because there isn't. The Mariners screwed him up a lot by shuttling him between the rotation and the 'pen (or so we are led to believe) so please please please please let Morrow try to be a starter for at least 3 or 4 more years before starting to experiment on him, ok?

Oh, the line "while digging into the numbers, it also dawned on me that Morrow, in 183 career appearances spanning just under 500 innings pitched, has induced just 20 double-plays, including zero this season" really was surprising. He is the main stats guy with Sportsnet and he only realized that now? At least I know that he doesn't read Bluebird Banter nor does he listen to the rest of the callers on JaysTalk.

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