Thursday, November 17, 2005

Whither Matt Morris?

I've been an advocate of the Royals making a big push to sign Matt Morris, but in the wake of reading several negative commentaries on Morris, I've decided to take a closer look at his pitching trends over the past 4 years. On the surface he looks fairly consistent, but when you dig a bit deeper there are some worries:

Year H/9 K/9 K/BB HR/9 VORP

2002 9.0 7.3 2.7 0.7 42.6
2003 8.6 6.3 3.1 1.0 33.1
2004 9.1 5.8 2.3 1.6 13.4
2005 9.7 5.5 3.2 1.0 18.9

The first thing you notice, of course, are his plummeting strikeout rates. Morris has gone from something of a power pitcher a few years ago to something quite less than that over the past two years. He was also more hittable in 2005 than he has ever been, giving up slightly more than a hit per inning. On the other hand, his 2005 K/BB rate was his best ever, walking a career-low 37 batters, and he brought his home run back under control after a terrible home runs allowed string in 2004. He has reasonably decent tendencies as groundball pitcher (1.6 G/F in 2005) which do not appear to be in decline.

My general impression is that Morris spent the better part of 2004 and 2005 both rehabbing from shoulder surgery and reinventing himself as a finesse pitcher, hitting his nadir in 2004 but finding himself a bit again in 2005 (though he faded down the stretch).

There are two ways to go with this:

1) If his improved (and superb) control rate is for real and he's remaking himself into a precision control pitcher in the mold of guy who's entering the second year of a 2 year, $18 million contract:

201.2 IP, 214H, 33HR, 23BB, 117K, 1.18 WHIP, 5.3 K/9, 5.1 BB/K, 1.1 G/F

If Matt Morris can achieve a similar type of control rate as Brad Radke, then I'd feel much better about his chances of success in the hitter-heavy American League.

2) If his 2005 walk rates were an aberration, however, and he reverts to his historical norms, then I'm afraid he'd be in for a rude awakening pitching in front of the abominable Royals' defense (which is going to be a problem either way for a pitcher who is going to be overly reliant upon his defense to record outs).

I've been hearing Morris contracts in the range of 3 years, $15 to $18 million, which is far higher than the 3 year, $29 million contract I estimated a couple of months ago. Given the woeful state of the Royals' staff, I'd still be willing to take my chances on any 3 year contract worth $20 million or less. This team needs a veteran anchor who is named something other than Jose Lima in the worst possible way. Someone is going to overpay for A.J. Burnett, someone is going to overpay for Jarrod Washburn, so the Royals may as well overpay for Morris, but at least at a slightly lower rate.

But I'm taking the $29 million off the table.


At 1:55 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

None of the starting pitching options are ideal. The Royals most likely targets: Loaiza, Morris and Byrd, are all over 30 years old. Byrd and Morris have had injury problems over the past few years. Loaiza is going to be 35 years old and has been inconsistent throughout his career. Morris has been very consistent throughout his career, but some of the trends you mentioned are worrisome. Overall, I'd be willing to give these pitchers a 2 or 3-year deal worth $6-7/mil per year. It's a chance the Royals have to take.

At 5:45 PM, Blogger royalsbeliever said...

I agree that we have to take a chance on atleast one of those three guys. Reports say the Rockies, Rangers, and Tigers are the main other bidders for those pitchers. I would like to have Loaiza the most, with Morris next, and Byrd last. I would easily offer Morris a 3-year/$21M deal without thinking.


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