What Is Going On With Adam Morgan?
That is Adam Morgan’s line in relief for the Phillies in the month of August. It is a truly amazing accomplishment given that on the season Morgan still has a 4.46 ERA and only 52 strikeouts in 42.1 innings. It is also really amazing because in his first two years in the league Morgan had a 5.37 ERA in nearly 200 innings as a starting pitcher. In his first two seasons his fastball averaged 89.6 and 91.7 mph respectively. He barely missed bats and everyone wanted the Phillies to chuck him aside this spring and for much of the season. So what changed?
He is throwing harder
It isn’t just recently either. Morgan has averaged over 94mph with his 4 seam fastball every month since April (where he was at 93.7 mph). In August, he averaged over 95 mph and touched 97. It hasn’t actually changed much about the outcomes of his fastball, with his whiff percentage on his 4-seam fastball at a career high, but still low 12.2%.
Morgan credits the velocity uptick to finally being healthy after the shoulder surgeries that derailed his career. That doesn’t seem to be the only thing because here is his usage of pitches classified as fastballs.
Among relievers that qualify for Fangraphs’ leaderboards it is second to Athletics’ Daniel Coulombe in fewest fastballs thrown (there are 5 other pitchers with a lower 4 seam rate but a combined rate higher when their cutter is included). So while Morgan is throwing his fastball harder, the pitch continues to not be a good individual pitcher, but he is limiting his damage by throwing it a lot less.
His Slider Changed
From May to June, Morgan’s slider velocity dropped 3 mph, and then in July it dropped another 3 mph, before then rebound 3 mph in August. But it isn’t just the velocity that changed. From May to June he added 3 inches of horizontal movement, and then in July he added another 3 inches of movement. Even when the velocity on the pitch went back up 3 mph in August, he only lost 1 inch of movement. When all was said and done, the changes to Morgan’s slider had him throwing it 3 mph slower, but with a 5 inch larger gain in horizontal movement. In August it all paid off with a whiff percentage above 60% for the month.
His Fastball is Bad, but It Made the Changeup Better
Adam Morgan’s changeup is still relatively straight, but this year he added 3 mph to it and about two inches of sink. This means that he is currently throwing with a 13mph difference from his fastball with the same horizontal movement and some sink below it. This has helped him post a career high rate in whiff percentage with his changeup this year.
The Slider Made it Even Better
The increase in changeup velocity and the decrease in slider velocity this year, finally met in the second half. Morgan is now throwing his slider and changeup from the exact same spot, at the exact same velocity.
And This Allowed Him Destroy Lefties
As you would expect, as a reliever Adam Morgan is facing favorable matchups at a much higher rate than he did as a starting pitcher. Last year he faced a LHB 24.9% of the time, this season that number is 43.7% of the time. Thanks to all of the changes we discussed, he is going a lot better against them.
- 2015: 7.6% BB% / 11.4% K%
- 2016: 7.1% BB% / 20.6% K%
- 2017: 5.0% BB% / 43.8% K%
Overall on the year lefties are hitting .211/.250/.395 off of him. His strikeout rate is the 4th best in major league baseball vs left handed batters. In his hot August run, 26 lefties came to the plate vs him, and they struck out 17 times
He Should Never Face a RHB
103 PA 10 BB 17 K .323/.388/.581
That is what righties are hitting off of Adam Morgan this year. Even in his insane August he only struck out 5 of the 29 righties he faced, this was a month after he had 5 walks to 2 strikeouts in 24 plate appearances. This year among reliever that faced a right handed batter at least 100 times, he was the second worst.
What is Adam Morgan?
He is a lefty specialist. I hesitate to say LOOGY because he has been so dominant against LHBs that he can be most of a disaster vs righties as long as he faces a high percentage of lefties. He is completely unsuited to pitch a full inning reliably in the 8th or 9th innings (if you want to go matchups there, it might work), but he can still be a useful piece. Best case scenario he is a better version of 2008 J.C. Romero who was also a disaster vs righties, and hey, they won a World Series with that.
All Pitch data comes from Brook’s Baseball unless specified otherwise