More Fun With PITCHf/x, Now With ∞% More Brandon Morrow

Matthew the Data Fairy was once again kind enough to send me all the information necessary to generate this post. Just as was the case with Bedard a few days ago, I didn't play around with the numbers trying to reach any conclusion or reveal something previously unknown; I did it so I could make some pretty pictures that I think you'll find interesting. Because who doesn't like pretty pictures?

The first thing I want to show is a scatterplot of (nearly) every pitch Brandon Morrow has thrown this season, split up by pitch type. You'll notice I didn't distinguish between Morrow's curveball and slider - he's thrown both, but they're incredibly difficult to isolate from one another in the data, so I didn't bother. They both do sort of the same thing anyway. So:

Morrowlocation_medium

This is from the hitter's perspective, so righties stand around -2.5 on the x axis and lefties around +2.5. I don't know what you'll notice first, but for me, it's just how good Morrow has been so far at locating the ball. After running a few calculations, only 16% of Morrow's pitches have missed the rulebook strike zone by more than six inches, and less than 6% have missed by more than a foot. If you think about how small the zone really seems from the pitcher's mound, that's pretty impressive. At least, I think that's pretty impressive. I don't know the league averages here, or where Morrow stood a year ago, but my first thought right now is that keeping 84% of pitches within six inches of the strike zone is a heck of an accomplishment, especially for someone who struggled so badly just last summer.

Fun fact: 86 of Morrow's pitches have missed the zone horizontally (too far inside/outside), 62 have missed the zone vertically (too high/low), and 21 have missed both. Those vertical misses, by the way, are split equally - 31 high, 31 low.

Some other stuff you can see in the scatterplot...Morrow likes to keep his changeup low, frequently below the knees. The breaking ball, meanwhile, has caught more of  the plate, and my guess is that he does this on purpose because it's such a mindfuck when a hitter who's looking fastball (as they all have to be) gets something that breaks. Seems like a dynamite recipe for called strikes. The fastball has been all over the place, presumably because Morrow can get away with it.

After the Bedard post, you should recognize these other plots. Hell, even if you didn't read the Bedard post, you should recognize these plots anyway provided you're a smart user and you spend a lot of time over at THT reading the good PITCHf/x work put forth by Josh Kalk and Mike Fast.

Morrowside_medium

These are what the average Brandon Morrow fastball, changeup, and breaking ball look like from the side. If you insist on distinguishing between his slider and curveball, just replace the yellow line with two new ones - one with a little less drop, and one with a little more. You can see that Morrow throws a pretty straight fastball, but that's simply because it isn't in the air long enough to move very much. He gets that thing to home plate in less than four-tenths of a second. He's released his changeup from slightly lower - probably closer to the plate - and hidden it in his fastball incredibly well. You can see it traces the same path before dropping off the table and coming in at the knees. The breaking ball's been everything Morrow's wanted it to be - surprising and accurate enough to be a weapon. It doesn't have the sharpest break in the world, but when the hitter's sitting on something hard and straight, it gets the job done like you wouldn't believe.

Morrowabove_medium

Now from above. Morrow's thrown his breaking ball from just a little bit closer to his body, possibly in a (subconscious?) effort to get a little more downward tilt. Look at the changeup - it's got Nintendo run to it, allowing him to try to drop it in backdoor against righties and either on the inner black or just outside against lefties. While different pitchers throw different changeups, it's worth noting that, to date, Morrow's change has had more movement than those of Felix, Tim Lincecum, and Cole Hamels. That just sounds disgusting. His fastball is what it is - hard and straight. As we've sort of established, it doesn't really matter how a fastball moves as long as it's located fairly well and coming in at upwards of 140 feet per second.

So that's the season data. But just for fun, I thought I'd take a look at one particular at bat. And what better than arguably the most dominant at bat of the season?

Morrow1_medium

Morrow2_medium

Morrow3_medium

Morrowpedroiaside_medium

Morrowpedroiaabove_medium

With Pedroia sitting fastball on the first pitch, Morrow gives him a slider that nearly dives to the dirt, and Pedroia helplessly swings over top of it for strike one. Ahead in the count, Morrow follows that up with some massive heat at the belt, and with the slider now in the back of his mind, all Pedroia can do is swing late and foul the pitch off.

In front 0-2, Morrow found himself in total control of the at bat, and he gave Pedroia what I think was his best pitch of the season: a 99.6mph belt-high fastball (highest all year) four inches off the outside of the plate. There's absolutely nothing Pedroia could've done. He couldn't let the pitch go by, because it was too close to take and he had to protect, but at the same time he didn't stand any chance of making contact, because the pitch was well off the plate outside and he was still thinking about that slider. So Pedroia swung, and Pedroia missed, and Morrow pumped his first and walked to the dugout having held on to a narrow lead.

Complete and utter domination. There aren't many pitchers capable of making one of the toughest strikeouts in baseball look so bad, but Morrow's got the stuff, and so far this year it looks like he plans on using it.

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