12.12.2005

Sometimes Morris Happens...

Most accounts in the news says that the Giants won the Morris sweepstakes for 3 years at $27M. Sounds like it'll be at the 3 years at $25M level plus $2M buyout plus team option for the 4th year, probably around the $10-11 level. At this salary and injury risk factor, I can only hold my nose and wish for the best.

I know my title connotate more of a negative tone to my stance on the deal, but I'm not that torn up over the deal. I wouldn't say that we are getting ripped off, as some have put it. His stats last year was still good overall, but we are certainly at risk for overpaying slightly for average results and definitely at risk of having another Robb Nen situation of a pitcher lost for the season with nothing to show for $9M - he's been seriously injured twice during his healthiest years, his 20's, there's no reason to believe that he'll miraculously become healthy in his 30's.

However, his risk is no worse than when we signed Schmidt to his contract. Schmidt only had that beautiful half season with us on his record as a starting pitcher, he was pretty ordinary previously plus frequently injured. I was similarly scared by that contract over an unknown quantity - one could say even more worried as at least Morris had done well before, whereas Schmidt just had that lovely half-season with us. Both will have the injury Sword of Damocles hanging over them for the rest of their careers: so will we get domination or will we get injury marred seasons? Hopefully, their risks will "negate" each other, like risky stocks in a portfolio, and we get one dominating season from one and we'll see from the other. That plus Lowry and Cain should be enough to get us to the divisional title in 2006, damn what happens in the future.

This is also no worse than the gamble the Giants took with Bonds' $95M contract. How many of you thought Bonds would be hitting well at 41-42? Even 40 was questionable, the history of baseball said that it was extremely unlikely he would do well, only Ted Williams did and fortunately he's the one who matched up best with Bonds skill and career-wise at that stage of Bonds' career. But we could have been paying $20M to Bonds for slop, history said it, our guts said it. Age and injury were huge question marks for Bonds - I'm more than glad most of it worked until 2005. And I assume we all agree that his injury put a wrench into the works in 2005's season.

I could have went either way with Morris, signing or passing. If we are going to blow away a big chunk of money anyway on a starting pitcher, I preferred Morris over the choices who were in our price range (under $10M per year) as most of his "substitute goods" are journeymen mediocre pitchers whereas he actually had pitched well before. I didn't consider any of Boras's stable of pitchers to be substitute goods because he somehow snookers teams to overpay for his clients, both in years and dollars, and I assume $10M is the where the bar is set for the limboing set. No thanks, I'll pass on that drama.

As I have recently written, I have become of the persuasion that it probably is better to dip into the non-tender market and find, say, 4 cheap mediocre starters and let them battle Hennessey for the last two spots in the rotation. Obviously signing Morris would kill that idea for the most part. But the Giants could always do that for the last spot.

For those who want to compare Morris' uninspiring last two seasons to Tomko, I think it's hard to judge his results for 2004-5 because of his injury. I'm not as convinced about the second half "collapse" that most nay-sayers have been pointing at and holding their noses. In July he had a 4.36 ERA and in September, he had a 4.08 ERA, those hardly connote a collapse; it was in August where he stunk and even then it was a 4.93 ERA, which, while not great, is certainly an acceptable result for a good starter, he can't be great every month.

This is similar to what happened to Tomko in 2004, only in reverse. In that case, everyone was wowed by his dominating post-ASG stats but when I dug into them, he had two average months sandwiching a dominating one month. Which was real and which was illusion for Tomko, the two average months or the great one month? Same for Morris.

He was also "homeriffic" those last three months vs. the first three, 6 homers in first 3 months vs. 13 homers in last 3 months. Looking at the stats, I don't know how significant or not it is, but 7 of those 13 homers were in games against Chicago, else he was about on par with the first half of the year. As he's never really been a homer type, I think he'll be better going forward.

His K's also went down in the last two months but it was pretty good the first 4 months of the season. As well, his K/W ratio was extremely good (>2.0) until his final month.
Also on a positive note, he pitched really well his last two games of the season, 6.0 IP, 1 hit/3 BB, 1R/0ER, 4 K then 6.0 IP, 5 hits/1 BB, 2 R/ER, 1 HR, 3 K; except for his K total, they were two of his best games pitched in the post-ASG period.

Essentially his tailspin began soon after that long layoff between starts because of the ASG, 9 days between starts. He had an OK but short start, then a string of 5 bad starts, killing August, before righting himself enough for so-so starts until those final two games. So he looked pretty much like the Morris of old until the final two months. The question is whether the decline was due to fatigue, or a new or recurring injury, or even just damn random luck - maybe it was just one of those stretches when he couldn't strike anyone out and everything guys were hitting were falling in for hits, Schmidt had that type of period in the 2005 season but he did it early so that he had time to fight back and do well again, whereas Morris' was near the end, though he did pitch really well his last two starts.

Don't know which it is for certain, right now I am inclined to predict that he will do well, but in any case, it looks like we Giants fans will have front row seats to see what will really happen.

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