Toronto Blue Jays 2012 Expectations Revisited: Brandon Morrow

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Before the start of the 2012 MLB season, I put together a series of performance “forecasts” for the projected starters for the Toronto Blue Jays. Now, with the long season well behind the team, here’s a look back at how the players did compared to my projections – which is another way of saying let’s see how much I messed them up. Today, we look at Brandon Morrow‘s accomplishments on the mound last season.

After years of being named the next starting pitcher breakout candidate, it finally happened for Brandon Morrow in 2012.

Had he been healthy to see it through the whole year, maybe the rest of the baseball world would’ve known it too.

For a good half of the season, the gifted righty was finally living up to his status of being drafted ahead of Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw, and was pitching among the league’s very best. Through his first 13 starts, Morrow held his opponents to a .194 BAA (second in AL), while putting up a pristine 3.01/1.00 ERA/WHIP over 77.2 innings, ranking tenth and fifth respectively among his American League peers.

He had worked in the off-season to utilize more of a pitch-to-contact approach in order to last longer in starts, and while it wasn’t always a smooth ride, the results of his labour showed in the three shutouts he’d thrown over the first couple of months.

Brandon Morrow had finally arrived. But just like that, it came to an abrupt halt.

Nine pitches was all it took for Morrow to strain his oblique against the Washington Nationals in his second start in June, and the injury landed him on the 60-day DL, as he did not return to the Blue Jays until late August. By then, the team’s nightmare season was in full swing, with injuries having decimated its rotation and significant chunks of its lineup.

Morrow, who made just eight more starts to mixed results after coming off the DL, could not do enough to take that sting away, although he did leave the Blue Jays with a moment to carry on to 2013: an eight-inning, three-hit, 11-stikeout gem in the team’s final game of the season.

That’s as good of a lasting impression as a player can make, though it still doesn’t take away from the fact that the injury cost him what should have been a breakout season.

In my pre-season forecast, I’d written that “at some point, Morrow’s BAA and the improvement in K/BB will eventually translate to on-field results.” It did, but health got into the way of his season, and my predictions:

My 2012 forecast: 200 IP, 3.50 ERA/1.22 WHIP, 10.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9
Morrow in 2012: 124.2 IP, 2.96 ERA/1.11 WHIP, 7.80 K/9, 2.96 BB/9

Obviously, there’s some interesting stuff in numbers here. The decline in Morrow’s strikeout numbers almost certainly has to do with the change of his approach, which yielded more ground balls (1.03 GB/FB) than any other point of his career. Pitching to contact also gave Morrow his first season with a negative ERA-FIP for the first time in his career, but on the plus side, he also set a career-high in WHIP, and posted his second-best season BAA with .213.

Though my prediction was a fair bit off again, it’s hard to call 2012 anything but a success for the righty, who finally found an approach that made him successful over a sustained period. Only health stands in his way now.

So, can we still call him a breakout candidate in 2013?

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