It was only a few years ago that Astros right-hander Charlie Morton was a ground ball specialist in Pittsburgh, benefitting largely from an increase in shifts that was revolutionary at the time. Fast-forward to the present, and Morton is suddenly one of the hardest-throwing starters in the American League and mixes in his hammer curve to rack up the K’s. Travis Sawchik of Fangraphs leads us through the fascinating process in which Morton used PITCHf/x data to better understand his actual performance, figure out what he’s in control of, and use it to improve his results. After picking up close to 3MPH on his average fastball, Morton learned to trust his mechanics and began to throw his four-seamer up in the zone more often. Sawchik uses a great combination of quotes and charts to tell the story of how Morton managed a breakout age 33 season and was trusted with the ball in Game 4 of the World Series tonight. We highly recommend giving the piece a thorough read.
A few other items from the 2017 World Series…
- Anthony Slater of The Athletic (subscription required and recommended) tells the story of Brandon Morrow, a reliever-turned-starter-turned-reliever-again from Rohnert Park, California. The fifth-overall pick in the 2006 draft was the second player in his draft class to debut in the majors (after 2016 ALCS MVP Andrew Miller), but seemed to be a relative letdown compared to some of the superstars drafted around him. His career nearly came to an end due to surgeries, but the Dodgers took a chance on him last offseason, signing him to a minor-league contract that included a spring training invite. 45 stellar regular-season appearances later, Morrow had earned a spot at the back of the Dodgers’ bullpen, thanks in part to a career-high 97.8 average fastball velocity that propelled him to a 10.31 K/9 mark and a 1.55 FIP. The 33-year-old will reach free agency after the World Series is over, and should be in line for a respectable payday.
- Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times adds his own perspective to the Yuli Gurriel incident in which the Astros first baseman used a racial slur in reference to Darvish in Game 3. Interestingly, Hernandez (who was born to a Japanese mother) seems to suggest that perhaps the incident shouldn’t be viewed through an American lens, through which it potentially carries more weight than it would in Latin culture due to the events in US history over the past century. This doesn’t make it okay, Hernandez makes sure to mention, and the majority of people will agree that Gurriel’s behavior was offensive and insensitive. Hopefully the Cuban infielder has learned from the experience and will not repeat this mistake in the future.
- Mike Oz of Yahoo Sports got a chance to speak with 7-year-old Hailey Dawson, the girl with a 3-D printed hand who threw out the first pitch in Game 4. While many readers may already know her story, the conversation between Dawson and Oz is well worth a read; the quotes and Oz’s descriptions really capture the emotion and excitement of a little girl who just two months ago got her prosthetic hand and dreams of throwing out a first pitch in all 30 ballparks.