Cracking the Morse Code – Mike Morse’s Key to Hitting Success

Every hitter has a pattern of some sort, that can be used as an indication that he’s locked in, seeing the ball well, and is at the apex of confidence in his hitting mechanics. Whether it’s a visual aspect of his swing, where he hits the ball, or how hard he hits it, every hitter has that tangible cue that makes it known that his swing is optimal and clicking on all cylinders.

For Seattle Mariner Mike Morse, his ‘locked in’ cue was on impressive display last night against the Oakland Athletics:


Those 2 green dots up in the stands are his two home runs against the A’s in a 7-1 victory for the Mariners. Overall, Morse had himself quite a day – 2 for 4 with 4 RBI – and those green dots out in right-right center field should be encouraging signs for M’s fans, and discouraging ones for AL pitchers.

Why is that?

Similar to his former teammate Bryce Harper, Morse displays an unorthodox batting profile; as a right-handed power hitter, Morse does his best work going to the opposite field. When Morse is locked in and his swing mechanics are in total harmony, Morse kills pitching to the opposite field, something not often seen with big boppers. The always fantastic Jeff Sullivan of SB Nation’s Lookout Landing made his own references and inferences to this notion just after Morse was traded to Seattle, but let’s take a closer look at Morse’s career homerun and 2013 spring training stats and see if there was something that could have possibly predicted Morse being locked in so early in 2013.

With the help of Baseball Reference, we have the breakdown of Morse’s 70 career home runs prior to last night, in terms of which field they were hit:

Screen shot 2013-04-03 at 12.43.35 PM

The highlighted boxes are the homeruns Morse have hit to either right (9) or right-center (89) field in his career  – it ends up being 41 percent of his career total, which is an absurdly high percentage of opposite field homers. In comparison, only 70 of Albert Pujols475 career homeruns were hit to the opposite field – about 15 percent.

So now we can see that not only is Morse a great opposite field hitter, his best work is done going that way, which makes his 2 homer day so early in the season a good omen for the Mariners, who have been sorely lacking a middle of the order presence for a number of years. Now, let’s back it up a tad, and have a look at Morse’s 2013 spring training stats, again, courtesy of Baseball Reference:

2013 SEA 66 56 14 20 3 0 9 15 7 18 0.357 0.439 0.893 1.332 50 2 2 0 1 0 9.0

The bolded emphasis on Morse’s spring training slugging percentage is mine, as it brings up a curious, but not terribly reliable (more on this in a bit) assessment of spring training production – the Dewan Rule. This rule posits that a player can be projected to have a breakout season if the following criteria are satisfied:

– 200 or more career MLB at-bats

– 40 or more ABs in that year’s spring training

– spring training SLG > career SLG by 200 points or more

…and with Morse’s career SLG at a robust 0.495, his spring training SLG exceeds his career SLG by 398 points, thereby satisfying all points of the Dewan Rule.

You can read more about the Dewan Rule and some very thorough research and debunking of its utility and reliability in predicting breakout seasons via spring training stats over at Baseball Prospectus. Briefly, the brilliant folks at BP didn’t find the Rule a robust or reliable predictor of future performance, mentioning it is at best a jumping off point to encourage discourse, and not a debate ending metric. However, when paired with our visual cues of Morse’s swing being in midseason form already, it would be no surprise if Morse’s 2013 goes against what Baseball Prospectus results would indicate, and that the Dewan Rule, paired with our data, confirm a breakout season with his return to the American League.

With Morse’s propensity to go about things the opposite way, should we really be surprised?

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Sabermetrics for Dummies (or those just wanting to know more) | GET REAL BASEBALLGET REAL BASEBALL

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