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9.21.2006

For God's Sake, Just Shave It Off 

Matt Morris's performance the past month, in the Giants' most crucial run of games all year, has been pathetic. Today was the topper: nine runs in four-plus innings with a little pork fat thrown on the campfire by Jamey Wright. Six walks in one inning -- it's as if Tyler Walker, William VanLandingham, Jerry Spradlin and Jose Bautista were all rolled up into a spiritual ghost-ball and took possession of Russ Ortiz's body.

And that's the good news.

The bad news is Morris's back-loaded contract kicks into high gear next year, with $9.5 M slithering into his coffers each of the next two years. Will the Giants be paying $19 million for man-toast?

I mused earlier this week about Noah Lowry: is he injured? Does he need to make adjustments? Does he need to learn a better curveball?

The same questions apply to Morris. Is this run of putridity an indication of an injury? Are there adjustments he should be making but is too stubborn to make? Why is a pitcher with historically good control suddenly walking batters in bunches?

Here's one theory: the wear and tear on his arm has finally dropped his velocity to the high 80s. This was a guy who threw mid-90s when he first came up. This isn't unusual. Most pitchers not named Ryan or Clemens get slower as they get older. But the good ones adjust. I think Morris has adjusted to the extreme: he's afraid to throw his fastball. Witness all those damn curves. If this theory is true, then what he needs is to get back to basics. Throw the fastball, both two- and four-seam, and regain control of it. Put it exactly where it needs to go. An 88-MPH sinker on the corner is an excellent pitch. Then work in the breaking stuff.

What do you think? Are his problems physical? Mental? Is it the beard? Will his contract be yet another albatross hanging around Brian Sabean's neck?

***

UPDATE:

I just heard Mike Krukow's Friday morning radio spot. He devoted much of the segment to Morris and his troubles. He said Morris is healthy but perhaps tired, seeing how his fastball doesn't have "second-stage life," meaning movement. If you don't throw 90, you need movement. Just as I noted above, Krukow talked about Morris's difficulty making the transition from hard thrower to finesse guy, that he's nibbling around the edges of the strike zone and trying to change speeds off the curveball instead of getting ahead with the fastball.

Krukow then layered on some pseudo-psychology about comfort. In his first year with a new club, Morris has put too much pressure on himself. Perhaps that's true, but does that really explain why he's gotten worse as the year has dragged on?

He finished by saying he thinks Morris will rebound next year, but only so much: he should be expected to be a decent innings-eating starter, not a staff ace. Well, we knew that when he signed, to be honest. The difference is, that's now the ceiling of our expectations instead of the foundation.

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