Have The Boston Red Sox Found A Secret Weapon In Franklin Morales?

By Mark Hock

Given the struggles the Boston Red Sox have gone through this season, the emergence of Franklin Morales has been a welcome sight. Morales had been an effective reliever during 2011, but the last time he had succeeded in a starting role was back in 2007 with the Colorado Rockies. He’s always had the stuff to be a quality starter, he just hadn’t been able to harness his control. That hasn’t been a problem this season though, and he’s been extremely effective coming out of both the bullpen and the rotation.

This season Franklin Morales is averaging over a strike out an inning, which would be the best rate of his career. It’s not a fluke, as he’s fooling hitters into swinging and missing for a career high 11.7% swinging strike rate. Morales is doing a better job of keeping the ball on the ground, posting a 42.5% ground ball rate, a significant improvement over last year’s 30.4%. He’s also inducing a lot of weak contact, as he’s forced hitters to make weak infield pop ups 17.4% of the time. That’s an incredibly high number, and suggests that batters simply aren’t putting good swings on his pitches.

The key factor in Franklin Morales success is his control. For his career he’s walked 4.39 batters per 9 innings, but he’s nearly cut that in half with a 2.38 BB/9 this season. He’s shown consistent improvement in his ability to get ahead in the count, as he’s getting the first pitch strike 62% of the time. League average is around 59%, so Morales is doing a very good job of getting ahead of his opponents.

Franklin Morales has only started 3 games, but he’s been extremely successful so far. While he won’t maintain a 12K/9 and a 1.5 BB/9, it’s clear that at least early on the transition to the rotation has been a good move for the Red Sox. Over his career he’s been a solid option for the back end of a rotation, but if he’s able to maintain a high strikeout rate and keep his improved walk rate the sky is the limit for Morales. While the conversion from reliever to starter wasn’t successful for Daniel Bard, it will be interesting to watch the Franklin Morales conversion unfold. Two of his three starts have been against weak offensive clubs in the Chicago Cubs and the Seattle Mariners, so it will be interesting to see how he does against the ever dangerous lineups of the AL East.

Franklin Morales should make his next start against the Oakland Athletics. On the season he is 1-1 with a 2.59 ERA, with 44 strikeouts and 11 walks in 41 2/3 innings pitched.

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