Today's hockey games were good.
- We could spend all night trying to figure out what's wrong with Brandon Morrow and we'd probably get a thousand different theories. Honestly, though, I think it's really quite simple. At the moment, he's a one-pitch pitcher who doesn't have command of his fastball. What more needs to be said? Contributing to both issues is the fact that he's missed a lot of time already and never got a Spring Training, and contributing to the first issue is the fact that he was never handled in such a way that encouraged secondary pitch development. So we're left with what we have, and until he starts locating his fastball the way he did a year ago and mixing in a few other pitches, he's going to run into trouble. There's no reason for hitters to sit on anything but straight gas, and bad things happen when you can't put that gas where you want.
The most important thing he needs to do in order to get back in the saddle is figure out how to spot his fastball. When that happens, he'll be in decent shape. However, he'll also need to start mixing in some quality offspeed stuff. Not a whole lot, but just enough solid pitches to keep the hitter honest. We've seen Morrow try to break it off from time to time this year, but it hasn't worked and it's clear that nobody trusts his ability to throw a good bender when it matters right now, which makes it a tough thing to do as a closer. I can only wonder what ringing up Hamilton last night with the curve would've done for Morrow's confidence. But anyway, the offspeed thing is a work in progress, and until we see him offer a couple good breakers and changeups a game, he's likely to be uncomfortable to watch.
Chris Davis, by the way, has the lowest contact rate of any regular in baseball. If ever there were a good time for Morrow to take something off of his heater, that was it. Instead he played right into Davis' hands, going to the same spot with the same pitch four consecutive times.
Johnson and Morrow wanted to make Davis chase the high heat. However, he didn't chase either of the first two attempts, meaning that the battery either had to try a new approach or brave bringing the heat a little lower to make the pitches more enticing. They made the wrong choice. Lower high heat = heat at the belt = gosh darnit.
- There was a lot of worry early on that Felix might've been injured, because PITCHf/x was picking up most of his fastballs between 89-92. Being that he's a guy who spends the majority of his time in the mid-90s, that was uncharacteristic and wildly alarming. For those of you who might still be concerned, I have good news: it wasn't so much a Felix problem as it was a PITCHf/x problem. Felix, Harrison, Aardsma, Morrow - they were all being clocked a few ticks below where they usually sit, and when you're faced with a situation in which either the PITCHf/x system is screwing up or four different pitchers are working below their normal velocities, you have to assume the former.
I don't know why this happens, but it does. It's even happened to Felix before, last May in New York. His fastball in that game was 92.3mph, two marks below his season average. Today he came in around 92 as well. As insane as people were going during the early innings, then, it was just a PITCHf/x mistake, and rest assured, there's nothing to worry about. Felix is as fine as he's ever been.
- Not only is Felix healthy - he also pitched well, too, and against a team with a history of beating him up. He allowed just six baserunnings in seven shutout innings, he missed 16 bats, and he gave Hank Blalock fits, striking him out swinging three times, twice with a runner in scoring position. Blalock only saw six fastballs out of 14 pitches. There was also a key at bat against Elvis Andrus in the seventh, where Andrus came up with two down and men on the corners and promptly saw four straight breaking balls before getting jammed by a fastball. This was an excellent start, and it seems that Felix may finally be learning his craft, which can only be considered good news. For us.
"A couple years ago I was a thrower, not a pitcher. Now I am a pitcher. I located all of my pitches today. I don't want to throw 97 in the middle. I just want to go at the corners and throw my two seamers."
- You can be as mad at Morrow as you want to be for effectively giving our season the ol' Tanya Harding. Keep in mind, though, that this heavily right-handed lineup managed all of two runs and five hits off of the mediocre left-handed Matt Harrison. Just because Morrow blew the lead doesn't mean he deserves to shoulder all the blame, because Felix was the only guy keeping this from being another all-around pathetic effort.
Jakubauskas, Olson, and Vargas to face Boston this weekend. None of those three pitchers were expected to see any kind of rotation time in 2009. It's the middle of May.