Crash Bag Vol. 38: Adam Morgan, Leadoff Hitters, and Sports Movies

This week of Phillies baseball has been awesome. Winning consecutive games started by Clayton Kershaw (on the Altherr grand slam), Yu Darvish (on the Hoskins three-run double), and Alex Wood (on the Altherr two-run single) has been awesome. It looks like the Phils are going to avoid 100 losses, which I’ll call a moral victory. It’s also something I outlined as a sign of a successful second half after the All Star Break. Phillies baseball is fun again!

On to the questions:

@riceid: Could Adam Morgan be a Ryan Madson type who continues to pick up velo and becomes a bullpen stud, or is he just a fun bright spot?

For those of you who may not remember, in 2006, Ryan Madson started for about a third of his appearances with a FIP just south of 5. The next year, he came back as a low-leverage multi-inning reliever and produced well with the customary bullpen bump moving his fastball average to 91.4. His 3ish ERA appeared to be a fluke, though, as his 4.20 FIP would indicate.

The following year, he (and his improved 93 mph fastball) struck out nearly 20% of hitters (hey, that was kind of a lot then) and established himself as the Bridge to Lidge en route to the Phillies’ second straight playoff appearance. Then, in the playoffs, all hell broke lose. Madson all of a sudden was throwing 95 and bumping it up to 97 at times. He was dominant, striking out 12 batters to just 1 walk and allowing three runs in 12.2 innings, as the Phillies won the World Series. The following season, Madson averaged 95 on his fastball and struck out nearly 25% of hitters. The season after that, Madson struck out almost 30% of hitters.

Adam Morgan, in 2016, was a terrible starter with a FIP of about 5, fastball velocity sitting at about 91, and a below-average strikeout rate. This year, he’s bumped up his fastball velocity to 94.4 mph en route to striking out 27% of hitters. His FIP is still over 4, because he allowed 5,345 home runs (check my math on that) in the first couple months of the season, but in the second half, his FIP has been just 2.70. He looks like a really good pitcher all of a sudden. You can see the similarities. Continue reading…