Michael Morse is an attraction. Can I call him Mike? Or does he prefer the full name like Matthew, another Seattle icon? Can I call him an icon after one week? One way or another, first impressions never die - and Morse has stolen away the hearts of the city after 5 bombs in his first week. Bring up the Mariners with anybody, and the conversation immediately turns to Morse, regardless of if it's the guy at the bar or your fellow baseball nerds. "Dude, he is a beast." Yeah, he is. He's also likely to be a polarizing figure in this city as the days of summer go on.
His prodigious power has been on display, but the fireworks will certainly fade, and the past few games have reminded us how infuriating he can be, culminated with this comical swing at ball 4 off the plate in a critical at bat in Chicago. How awesome are the Chicago throwbacks? How not awesome is this swing? How likely is it if he walked that Montero would have grounded into a first pitch double play?
Morse lamented after the game that pitchers are feeding off his aggressiveness. Well, yeah. Morse is the kind of hitter that will destroy a mistake pitch, but be exploited as easily as a slider down and away to Adrian Beltre. Miss you. To the charts! 2012 first.
Above is a look at Morse's whiff chart from 2012. Generally, he has done a good job laying off high pitches - maybe because you have to throw it 5 feet high to be at the top of the zone to a guy of Morse's stature - but he is exceptionally susceptible to pitches down and away off the plate, missing 32 of the 44 swings he took. For reference, Beltre has a 43% whiff rate in the same off the plate zone from 2007-now. Remember all those sliders Beltre bit on? Get ready for way worse! Morse also has trouble with pitches closer to the plate but still low, with a 54% whiff rate. But wait, you say! He was hurt for much 2012, won't his 2011 numbers look much better?
Here's a look at 2011:
Better, but still bad. You can see from both years that Morse struggles hard with pitches down and away, which is why we're likely to see American League pitchers burn him with waste pitches if they get Morse in 2 strike counts. Further investigating his struggles, 48 of of the 67 pitches in 2011 and 39 of the 44 pitches in that down and away corner were classified as breaking pitches by Pitch Info. Not a surprise.
Morse could try to attempt to curb his enthusiasm when it comes to swinging hard and swinging often, a change seems unlikely given his career. If you hope for 2011 to repeat itself, he's still going to be terribly exploited in that zone by breaking pitches. But really, don't wish for anything else when it comes to discipline. He can't do it.
Morse is an aggressive hitter by nature, and has had success by hacking at the first pitch, posting a 1.140 OPS in 2011 on first pitch swings, and an .880 OPS in 2012. The success continues as he remains ahead in counts, and falls off the table once 2 strikes gets on him. Below are Morse's 2012 pitch by pitch situational hitting numbers, courtesy of Baseball Reference.
Morse says that pitchers are feeding off his aggressiveness, but he is aggressive for a reason. His success (and 2011 shows a similar trend, if not more severe) is fueled by swinging early and often, and swinging hard. Mike Morse isn't going to suddenly change the type of hitter he is, and if he starts letting strike one go by, it's probably bad news for him because he's so easily exploitable with 2 strikes. As American League pitchers continue to get more of a book on him, it's only going to get worse. Being a patient hitter really doesn't suit Morse, and he isn't going to suddenly get better pitch recognition. Morse said he still plans to stay aggressive, just more in control. Good. Accept it. Embrace it.
Morse is going to be infuriating and a total blast at the same time. We're all living in Swing City.