Bryan Morris: Next Breakout Pittsburgh Pirates Reliever?


Bryan Morris pitching in Spring Training 2013.

Bryan Morris will be the next Pittsburgh Pirates reliever to impress everyone.  It seems to happen every season with the Pirates.  The 27-year old pitched 65 innings last season, but it got worse as the season went along.  It says here Morris is poised to have a breakout, well as much of a breakout a seventh inning guy can have, in 2014.

Twitter would blow up late in the year when Morris would get the call from his biggest supporter Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle.  After the All-Star break, the Dodgers first round pick from 2006 pitched to an ERA over 4, in September it was over 6.  Many people said it could be attributed to overuse.  Morris pitched multiple innings 19 times and entered the game with runners on base 19 times.

The numbers behind the numbers aren’t pretty.  Strikeouts went down, the FIP in 2013 was near five, walks were still a challenge and an 82 percent strand rate seemed a bit lucky at times.

So let’s look at the numbers from 2013:

In April, Morris pitched in two big league games and gave up one earned run against the Brewers.

In May, his usage spiked.  He appeared in 12 games, the most he would be called on all season.  The 6’3″ fuzz thrower held bad guys scoreless in ten of those appearances, but gave up five earned runs in the other two outings–the Nats touched him up for three and the Astros, yeh the Astros, for the other two.

In June, he became the multiple innings guy and appeared nine times, but was scored on in three games.  The Reds put up three runs and the Mariners plated two runs.

In July, Morris appeared in eleven games.  The Nats hit him up for two runs and the Cubs put a run on him.

In August,  he appeared in eleven games again, but was touched up for six runs.  His ERA sat at 2.65 on August 13, he would never get it back to that number after the Diamondbacks jumped him for three earned runs four days later.

In September, Morris never pitched more than an inning in his ten appearances.  The big damage was four runs given up against the Cardinals.  The Padres added another run before Morris closed out the year without allowing a run in his last five appearances.  He added another scoreless inning in the postseason.

One of the key charts from Baseball Reference is days of rest.  Check it out.

Fast forward to last night in Philadelphia, and Morris was clocked at 96 on the radar gun.

While most signs would point directly at Morris regressing in 2014.  The spring training performance eye test doesn’t hold water with me, but it’s hard to argue the numbers from 2013….they aren’t real sexy.  Morris only struckout 37 bad guys last year and had a 57.5 ground ball percentage that saved his ass on many occasions and a .251 BABIP certainly helped too.

For the majority of 2013, he was a strong pitcher who couldn’t avoid giving up multiple runs in games.  Look for Clint Hurdle to have a quicker hook in 2014, which if combined with the electric stuff Morris has shown this spring (8.1IP, 7K) will lead to another Pirates pitcher breaking the traditional regression mold.   The keys will be if he can reduce his walks allowed and induce more swings and miss with improved velocity.  There is no doubt if he can sustain his ground ball rate, Morris will be the benefactor of the Pirates strong defense, the use of infield shifts and even more outfield shifts.  For us, it all adds up to a stellar year for the contact inducing right hander.