The newer, scarier Logan Morrison?

Last season, Logan Morrison batted .283/.390/.447 in 287 PA and impressed the Marlins enough to win himself a starting job in the majors by age 22. Prior to his foot injury from a few nights ago, Morrison was doing even better in his sophomore season in 2011, batting .327/.424/.636 through 66 PA.

Of course, what Morrison is doing is catching the eye of more than a few people, but what seems more interesting than anything else to me is the striking similarity between the short 2010 season he had and the small sample of 2011 so far. Let’s take a look at it via the four factors of walk rate, strikeout rate, extra bases per hit, and BABIP.

Season BB% K% XB / H BABIP
2010 14.3 17.7 .478 .351
2011 15.2 16.7 .944 .341

Obviously there is one area which shows drastic difference, and it’s clear that the power Morrison has shown so far this year isn’t likely to stick. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should expect disappointment in the future. If anything, the start of the season and the surprisingly similar numbers show that perhaps Morrison can indeed hold up to the standards he set in 2010.

Power regression

One thing to get straight is that Morrison isn’t likely to be this strong in terms of getting extra bases. Last season, he had an adjusted ISO (giving him doubles credit for his seven triples) of only .128. He is a better power hitter than that, as evidenced by the doubles stroke and the fact that he likely missed a few homers, but it seems this season’s numbers are trying to make up for those missed shots in a hurry. Morrison has hit more fly balls this season, between 42 and 47 percent of his balls in play depending on which system you ask. But those four home runs have occurred in between 19 and 21 fly balls, and it isn’t likely that he will continue to hit homers at this sort of rate. Then again, if you take a look at Hit Tracker Online, you’ll note that Morrison’s average home run distance isn’t all that far off from the current National League average and includes two opposite field shots of decent length.

As always, you would expect the truth to be somewhere in between. You figured those doubles and triples from last season would turn into homers eventually, and if you are a Marlins fan, you have to be happy to see them turning into homers right now. But Morrison is no Mike Stanton by any means and will not continue to drive balls at that kind of rate. ZiPS says that Morrison should be in line to hit 13 more home runs in 556 PA, giving him 17 for the season and more than I would have expected.

Encouraging signs

The more encouraging sign than the temporary increase in power is the possibility that the remaining three factors of the four factors might possibly represent Morrison’s true talent more than we thought. Yes, we still have only seen just about 350 PA of Logan Morrison in his career, so it isn’t like we can know anything for sure, but there are indeed a few things that we can be more certain of at this point. FanGraphs recently republished Pizza Cutter’s classic article on what we can determine from one season of play, which discussed which of the various stats we use and when they reach a correlation of 0.7 using a split-half method. Here are some of the relevant numbers Pizza Cutter pointed out in that article:

50 PA – swing percentage

100 PA – contact rate, response bias (both just missed at 50… the real number is probably around 70)

150 PA – K rate, line drive rate, pitches/PA

200 PA – BB rate, grounder rate, GB/FB ratio

250 PA – flyball rate

300 PA – HR rate, HR/FB

350 PA – sensitivity

400 PA – none

450 PA -none

500 PA – OBP, SLG, OPS, 1B rate, popup rate

550 PA – ISO

I bolded certain things for emphasis. Morrison’s strikeout and walk rates as of right now likely explain a bit more than half of his true talent in those departments according to these results (r = 0.7 yielding an r-squared = 0.5). Morrison’s 7.2 percent home run per fly ball (HR/FB) rate would also be expected to be reliable as well. While the BABIP and doubles / triples rates are not yet at a “reliable” amount according to this definition, we can expect some of Morrison’s game to be well-explained at this point in his career, and that is a very reassuring thing for Marlins fans going forward. We can expect Morrison’s stellar plate discipline to continue at similar, if slightly reduced, rates going forward, and that makes what appeared to be an unsustainable 2010 a more realistic scenario.

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