Saturday, March 12, 2011

2011 Blue Jays Preview: Will Brandon Morrow Ascend to 'Ace' Status in 2011?

This article is the first in a series of individual player outlooks for the 2011 MLB season.

After losing Vernon Wells and Shaun Marcum, Blue Jays fans aplenty began writing off Toronto's 2011 season. Add in the fact that Jose Bautista is due for some sort of decline... and suddenly it's difficult to imagine the Blue Jays winning more than 83 or 84 games.

Yet I believe the team will better their 2010 record. Not only will Adam Lind and Aaron Hill surely improve to closer to their career norms, (I mean, they were both among the unluckiest players in the Majors last year) but the rotation is likely to overcome the loss of Shaun Marcum as Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil look to keep getting better, and of course, Brandon Morrow could have the ace-like season everyone expects of him. Brandon Morrow looks to be the unheralded key to the Blue Jays 2011 campaign.

And I believe Brandon Morrow will have that type of year. For starters, his 3.16 FIP was among baseball's best in 2010, and that was even with an incredibly poor start to the season. 

If Morrow simply pitches as well in 2011 as he did from May 31st onwards in 2010, we have a Cy Young candidate on our hands, unquestionably.

Everything in his 2010 statistics point to him being just as unlucky as Adam Lind and Aaron Hill were. His 69% strand rate and .342 BABIP are both well off his career averages, and unlucky for any pitcher regardless of past performance.

Another question with Morrow is, will the Toronto Blue Jays shut him down once again, citing an innings cap? Many sources are pointing to a 175-innings limit, but I tend to think he won't get shut down. Morrow turns 27 in July, and if he comes into September with a sub-3.40, it's probably best for his development to allow him to continue shutting down offenses.

The Verducci Effect applies specifically for pitchers 25-and-under, so I wouldn't be worried in the slightest if Morrow hits the 200-inning threshold.

So there you go, pending a complete collapse/injury, there's no reason to believe Brandon Morrow will fall off the map. He has the stuff, has the promising track record, and in is an atmosphere for him to thrive.

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