The ninth inning held two outs as Evan Longoria stepped back into the box for the 1-1 pitch. He would swing, connect, and run towards first as the ball rolled just beyond Aaron Hill’s grasp. As his foot planted on first base he ended Brandon Morrow’s bid at a no hitter. The ball only exceeded Hill’s range because he had to play over with a runner on first who reached on a walk.
In reality, calling this a “bid” at a no hitter does Morrow no respect and the performance on justice. For all intent and purposes, Morrow threw as well as any pitcher who did record a no hitter or perfect game this season. He completed the game, struck out 17 Rays, and walked only two. Nine of the 12 balls in play were of the fly ball variety, including a few warning track flyouts, but the Rays never seriously threatened until the ninth inning.
Not only did Longoria’s single end the no hitter, but it too ended the celebration of a no hitter and helped to spark a debate that will ignore Morrow’s performance.
A lot of talk will go towards his pitch count, which ended at 137. Cito Gaston is retiring at season’s end and, yeah, maybe this plays out differently if that were not the case. Or perhaps it doesn’t. There is no way of knowing and attempting to read into motives in scenarios like this is fruitless. Morrow did throw a lot of pitches, but he also breezed through most of the day. 71% of his pitches went for strikes and his slider was a weapon with a fatality rate high enough that it could be classified as a threat to civilization.
Keep in mind that Morrow pitched nine innings with only four baserunners and eight came with two total. The ninth inning will be a point of contention as he allowed a walk and a single. There’s a difference between what Edwin Jackson did earlier this summer – allowing eight walks – and what Morrow did today. The high count is not a manifestation of long counts but rather the ridiculous strikeout total. To rack up 17 means making a minimum – a minimum – of 51 pitches; to throw a complete game shutout while striking out 17 means throwing at least 61 pitches. Factor in two walks and that number bloats to 69. Add in the baserunner who reached via error and that’s 70; about half the total when assuming each of the outs will take only one pitch to secure and that each strikeout and walk will take the minimum.
Nobody knows how this will affect Morrow heading forward. Not even Morrow himself. The Jays and Gaston have been careful with him, all things considered, over the season. He’s topped 100 pitches in only eight of his 21 starts entering today and only topped 110 on two separate occasions, including an eight inning gem against the St. Louis Cardinals and days later a six inning grinder versus the New York Yankees. Yes, he has a history of durability issues that included his diabetes. And yes, in the long run, maybe this will be looked upon as a snowball to a proverbial injury avalanche. But far too often it seems we find ourselves outraged with these outings instead of simply enjoying the dominance while keeping the potential byproducts in mind.
It is possible to tip your cap to Morrow on the outing while still hoping he’ll be able to tip his tomorrow. It’s also possible to react to pitch counts that extend beyond 100, beyond 110, beyond 125 without being appalled. We don’t know the exact degree of damage those extra pitches did. Honestly, are we even sure where the baseline should be placed to account for what is and what isn’t an extra pitch?
The aforementioned Jackson threw 149 pitches in his no hitter. His FIP up to (and including that game) was right around 4.10. Since then his FIP is roughly 4.30. Pointing to him and saying, “See! See! Nothing to it.” would constitute as confirmation bias and selection bias. So too would be pointing to Morrow if he struggles in his next start or two. Our level of knowledge about the subject and our level of outrage are on different levels right now and unfortunately, the outcries have not lead to a seesaw effect where we are more enthused and interested than ever to learn more and more about pitch workloads.
All told. I probably would have removed Morrow following the hit. That Gaston let him make a few more pitches may or may not be as horrific as the instant reaction would lead you to believe. We just don’t know, and that’s half the problem.
Brandon Morrow was born on July 26th, 1984 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandon_morrow
7 + 26 +2+0+1+0 = 36 = his personal year (from July 26th, 2010 to July 25th, 2011) = Workload. Handling more than you are expected to handle. Crushing.
36 year + 7 (July) = 43 = his personal month (from July 26th, 2010 to August 25th, 2010) = Congratulations. Celebrating.
43 month + 8 (8th of the month on Sunday August 8th, 2010) = 51 = his personal day = Statistics.