The Giants designated Neil Ramirez for assignment over the weekend, replacing him on the roster with Bryan Morris. This means the Giants have a Morris, a Moore, and a Morse on the roster.
DUANE KUIPER: So Morris is in for Moore, with Morse coming in on the double switch. Moore pitched well and deserved more than he got, but the Giants’ offense is proving mortal, and Morse hitting ninth allows Morris to absorb more innings. Also, I quit.
Yeah, well, it was a good run. But we should focus on the team. Ramirez had the highest strikeout rate on the team, but he also led the team in fastballs left out over the plate, which is a statistic I’m making up and not apologizing for. If you wanted to know why people consider command and control two different things, Ramirez is the best example in recent memory. He had average control, in that he could throw strike. But he had absolutely spotty command, which allowed hitters looking for mistake pitches to tee off.
The Giants kept Ramirez out of spring training, exposing Ray Black and Ian Gardeck to waivers and optioning Steven Okert because of their confidence in him. Then they designated Clayton Blackburn for assignment and traded him for a lackluster C or C-minus prospect because they were so eager to give Ramirez a shot.
I don’t blame them, at least before the odd Blackburn move, because Ramirez was missing so many bats, and he came from a solid prospect pedigree. Sometimes, those guys turn into eighth- or even ninth-inning options out of nowhere. The experiment failed, though. The Giants will try something new.
That something new is Morris, who a) has impressive major league stats and b) has unimpressive strikeout and walk numbers. In this brave new statistical world, it’s probably smarter to pay more attention to the latter. Morris has walked 3.8 batters per nine innings, which means he gives away more free bases than the typical reliever. He’s struck out 6.4 batters per nine innings, which means he strikes out fewer batters than the typical reliever. That is a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich of red flags.
But his career ERA over 215 innings is 2.80 (133 ERA+), which is a quality mark for a reliever. His FIP is more than a run-and-a-half higher, so he’s either lucky or pitching in a way that defies conventional statistics. It’s possible that he’s in the latter camp — Brad Ziegler has done it for a decade. Of course, Ziegler is a submariner, so FIP doesn’t really apply to him. He’s basically a knuckleballer when it comes to deception and funk, which means that fielding-independent stats aren’t as useful. Morris doesn’t have that.
He does have a sinker, though, so it’s possible in baseball’s hit-the-ball-in-the-air environment, a heavy sinker can help a pitcher not play by FIP’s rules. It’s also possible that he’s outran the luck wraiths for most of his career, but now he’s going to San Francisco, where the luck wraiths have a condo under the bullpen mound. They came up and dragged George Kontos’ effectiveness down to their fiery depths, for a recent example.
If you want some background on this type of pitcher, read Ben Lindbergh’s excellent profile of Jeff Manship, who enjoys the same cognitive dissonance between his results and peripherals, pitching in Korea because of it.
So, no, this isn’t a sexy move (like, say, calling up Reyes Moronta), but it’s unmistakenly a very Giants move. Morris should be competent without being dominant. While he’s unlikely to stick around for the next few years, he should at least give the Giants a little bit more value than Ramirez did.
I just wish Clayton Blackburn were still here, dang it.