Let’s talk Logan Morrison baseball


Logan Morrison recently visited the MLB Fan Cave and had this to say in response to his Twitter followership and his recent encounter with a praying mantis:

"“I’m going to be known for everything but baseball, I believe,” he said. “I was doing questions today on Facebook and they were asking me about Twitter and asking me about the praying mantis. They were asking me about [teammate] Mike Stanton, but nothing about me playing baseball. That’s all right. You’ve got to be famous somehow, right?”"

That’s OK Logan. As the Marlins blogosphere’s resident “stats guy,” I’ll be more than happy to discuss your baseball rather than your online antics or your fear of mantises. Morrison has been in an extended slump, having hit just .205/.278/.395 since the start of June. Let’s compare his general numbers in 2010, 2011 through May, and 2011 from June through now.

2011, April-May143.320.406.574.418
2011, June-August234.205.278.395.297
2011, Total377.247.326.461.342

Unlike Stanton, whom I detailed yesterday, Morrison’s season has been anything but consistent, as seen in the massive slump in June and July compared to the hot first two months of the season. Like Stanton, we are likely to be able to find some reasoning behind what is happening to Morrison by taking a deeper look at his numbers.

The peripherals

2011, April-May18.912.6.2540.795.356
2011, June-August18.37.7.1900.930.213
2011, Total18.69.5.2140.868.264

The differences between the different parts of his season are as broad as night and day. In 2010, he displayed Nick Johnson-like patience with limited power. In early 2011, it looked like he was putting it all together, having hit seven homers after hitting just two all of the season before while walking at about an expected pace. Since June however, his walks have dropped precipitously, with only his power supplying his game. Obviously, a good deal of his struggles probably has to do with bad BABIP luck, as he is hitting just .213 on balls in play. It is simply unlikely that he will continue to do such a thing.

The plate discipline problems of the last two months are odd and a little alarming. While maintaining almost the same rate of strikeouts throughout the year, Morrison’s walks have fallen to below acceptable levels. Perhaps his plate discipline numbers can elucidate some o the reasoning behind this change.

MorrisonP/PASwing%Whiff%Called Strike%
2011, April-May3.8742.318.234.6
2011, June-August3.9739.315.039.9

These numbers are absolutely fascinating. In Morrison’s struggling months, he actually looked more like his 2010 self, taking more pitches and whiffing less often. The problem was perhaps in the drastic increase in called strike percentage. In the case in Morrison, it seems like only one situation could explain why he would have a sudden increase in called strikes: pitchers are throwing in the zone more often at him. In the early part of the season, Morrison was swinging a bit more aggressively and perhaps pitchers were avoiding his a bit more, but as the season has worn on, Morrison has become more passive at the plate and pitchers may have adjusted by pounding him in the zone more often. Both FanGraphs (using BIS data) and StatCorner (using MLBGameday data) show around a two to three percent increase in pitches seen in the zone by Morrison this season, and it could very well be that those pitches came primarily during his June and July months.

How could Morrison solve that? Clearly that is up to someone who actually understands baseball mechanics, but this analysis is only good for locating the problem. It would be the job of Morrison and hitting coach Eduardo Perez to find a way to counteract this possible approach by pitchers with their baseball knowledge. However, this does seem to explain a good deal of the findings we see between the two time periods, particularly the mostly static strikeout rate (he is whiffing and swinging less but taking more called strikes to even that out) and the decrease in walks (the ratio between balls and called strikes is likely down). Morrison’s inclination is towards a more patient approach, but this is just one of those adjustments major league pitchers are expected to make. How the Marlins possibly battle this is going to depend on luck (to counteract the BABIP drop) and a planned-out strategy to adjust to this new battle plan against Morrison. Given his natural skill, I suspect that this adjustment is coming soon, and we should not have too much to worry about, but I would keep an eye on this development going forward.