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.