Why not, Matt Morris?
Since I originally started this blog to keep track of how my fantasy baseball team (then named “Reign of Error”) was doing, it’s probably time to take a look at this year’s squad, called “That’s So Taguchi!”
I think the best way to state things is that they’re getting better. To date, my biggest slugger - Ryan Howard has just started showing signs of life. Carlos Lee has been better than I could have hoped, but he’s the only guy I spent a lot of money on who has earned his salary. Felipe Lopez has been a HUGE disappointment with only six stolen bases and a pathetic average. His teammate, Ryan Zimmerman is probably about a C-student for me, but I need more. (Drafting two Washington Nationals turns out to be a pretty bad draft day strategy.) Bob Abreu seems re-energized by batting 3rd in front of Alex Rodriguez (perhaps the best batting slot in baseball these days) and I have Corey Hart and/or Hunter Pence shoring up the 3rd outfield slot while Jim Thome needs to contribute from the UT slot. The final slots of the infield are Dan Uggla who has been solid, even more than that, and Johnny Estrada who plays catcher, so I don’t much care. (Though he went 3/5 today, so – yay, Johnny!)
Usually, my pitching stinks, but I have the luxury of owning Johan Santana, and Chris Young, Chris Capuano, Tom Gorzelanny and Matt Morris (more on him later), rounded up by my closers of Ryan Dempster, Matt Capps, Dan Wheeler, Brad Lidge, Antonio Alfonseca. Once Josh Johnson gets healthy, he’ll be added to the mix. (Look at those closers again and tell me why you’d EVER pay for saves.)
It’s a team that has underperformed all season but now has my team in about the middle of the pack. I need help across the board in offense – I’m not getting the home runs I need and the associated goodies that come with it – and my strikeouts are just too low for a team with this staff. So, we’ll see.
But I started writing this largely because of the aforementioned Matt Morris. I picked him up off the waiver wire after I traded away Noah Lowry for Adam LaRoche (another guy rounding into shape, albeit largely on my bench.) As of this writing, Morris has started 13 games and has a 7-3 record, with a 2.56 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and has 45 strikeouts to 29 walks in 91 1/3 innings. Now, I’m sure that ERA will pop up a bit, but every roto “expert” (of which, since I write for a pretty popular fantasy site, I’m one) seems to have the same advice here: He can’t keep this up.
That’s based on real numbers – Morris was 24-25 over the last two years, with an ERA closer to 4.50 than his career average of 3.72, and he’s allowing a .241 batting average this year, which isn’t exactly dominant.
Well, with the obvious caveat that I’m speaking as much from self-interest as anything else, allow me to retort. Morris has thrown three complete games this season which is pretty stunning for a guy who has had arm troubles in the past. His last effort took just 110 pitches though, which is pretty normal pitch count for a game, regardless of how far in the game went. So, he’s being very efficient. And, isn’t it possible that he’s finally rebounded and got healthy from his 2003 injuries? The truth is that he pitched pretty decent the last two years, and things got bad for Morris last year when he suffered a rib injury. Sure, he’s no longer the ace who went 22-8 with 185 strikeouts and a 3.16 ERA in 2001, but is there any reason he can’t win 15-16 games with an ERA around 3.50? I can’t figure out a good reason why not. And given that he’s the fourth starter (maybe the fifth behind Zito, Cain, Lincecum and Lowry), he seems to me to be a truly hidden weapon in what’s looking like the best starting pitching staff in the National League.