More Morales?

Has the lefty earned a few more trips around the rotation?
Morales unleashes a fastball

Image from Sitting Still

What happens when a three or four inning spot start turns into 11 solid innings over two games—do you keep the guy in the rotation, even when it starts getting crowded again?

That’s the question in Boston at the moment, with Franklin Morales taking two impressive turns for Josh Beckett during interleague play.

17 strikeouts and one walk over those 11 innings is impressive against any Major League team.

Even if one of those teams is the worst in baseball.

Even if that same bad team is particularly bad against left-handed pitching.

Even with seven days rest, coming off a three-inning relief appearance.

But Morales only had to face the Cubs once, as he also got the Braves in Fenway. According to Baseball Reference, Atlanta has a below average split against left-handed starters, but is close to average and worlds better than Chicago’s.

With a small sample size and a piece of dubious context, we are left to look ahead to what could be the next slot for Morales—as early as game 1 in Safeco Field, against King Felix. This may be an advantagous start for Morales, on the road in a pitchers’ park against a weak offense.

If Morales does make a third start, it would be the first time he’s gone three trips in a big league rotation since 2008. He made it through the second inning of his second start back in April of 2009.

Now he’s more likely to have been the attention of some advanced scouting, and certainly video and quite possibly some PITCHf/x. This won’t be the first time, but he’s not quite the same pitcher as he was with the Rockies.

Morales added a slider early in 2011 with Colorado, and then added a cutter after joining the Red Sox. He may have thrown that cutter once back in 2010, so it may be something he had in his back pocket that wasn’t ready.

He’s gone back and forth with his use of his sinker, but Boston has seemingly pushed him into using that two-seam fastball more often.

Perhaps of most interest is his velocity—Franklin’s four-seam fastball is averaging 95 mph in his Boston starts. That’s four mph up from his starting days with Colorado and comparable to what he put up as a relief pitcher.

If you aren’t familiar with the Player Cards section at Brooksbaseball, I suggest taking a look. The pitch IDs on the Cards are from my database, so they are generally better than the MLBAM based IDs (which are fantastic for being generated in real time, unlike my post-hoc process). Check-out Morales in full, gory detail.

You can see the two trends I mentioned above. First, pitch speed and selection. Each dot is a pitch, notice the red and dark red slider and cutter dots showing up, along with the grey two-seam fastball marks.

This next one is similar, but you can see the total number of pitches by date here, as opposed to the velocity, on the y-axis.

Throw away the old Morales data. See if he can maintain is velocity and if hitters start to adjust to the new Morales. He hasn’t thrown many cutters since moving into the rotation, so he may have a ready-made adjustment in that same old pocket.

Categories: Atlanta Braves Chicago Cubs Colorado Rockies Franklin Morales Interleague Jon Lester Josh Beckett Pitch F/x Seattle Mariners

3 Responses to “More Morales?” Subscribe

  1. @JDrimmer5000 June 26, 2012 at 3:31 PM #

    It is excessively weird to have three lefties in your rotation? If not, I want way more Morales; if so, he's still been a pleasant surprise, and is the rare pitcher who deserves to be in long relief because he's good there, not because he sucks everywhere else.

  2. Danny June 27, 2012 at 11:12 PM #

    I think he absolutely does. Regardless of who it came against, those were two outstanding starts, and I think we would be remiss not to give him a longer look. The rotation's been far from solid this season, so what does it hurt to let him pitch some more?

  3. DezoPenguin June 28, 2012 at 9:37 AM #

    I think a better question is, who do you put in his place if you drop him? Sure, he could come crashing back down to earth in a hurry, but he broke into the league as a starter in Colorado, and he's been competent in starting and relief roles throughout his career. And thus far this year he's pitched well in both roles. Yes, he may come crashing back to earth, but if the Sox are going to make a run this year they need good starting pitching to do it and I see no reason to get rid of a guy who's pitching well just because the Sox are paying other guys more (the sunk costs fallacy rules professional sports roster management, but the Red Sox have been pretty good at facing up to it–heck, they're paying Youk $5M to play ball for the White Sox because it makes both teams better). Heck, maybe a six-man rotation isn't that bad an idea; more rest might help with Lester and Beckett and Buckholz's shaky performances (and Beckett's injury recovery), and a larger sample size on everyone could help make sure the right guys are taking the mound during the stretch run. Since the 'pen has recovered nicely from its hellish April, Miller can step up to take Morales's role as the top lefty and the need for Morales there isn't that urgent.

    The only down side I can see to at least giving him the chance to pitch his way out of the rotation is if the team insists on keeping the same number of relievers with an extra starter, which would just make the logjam of position players that much worse; an AL team cannot afford to carry only 12 position players and have Shoppach (or Salty, depending), Punto, and Lillibridge be the entire bench. But that's a roster management question, not a performance-on-the-field question.