Logan Morrison: Bad or Just Bad Luck?
Image courtesy of Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportsFortunately for the Twins, 26 plate appearances is a pretty small sample, and unless Morrison completely forgot how to play baseball, he will turn it around. Even before Morrison’s breakout season last year he had a career OPS+ of 104, so it’s not like 2017 was a one-hit-wonder.
As is often the question with extreme performances over a small sample, has this performance been based on the player’s skill during that time, or has it been propped up/dragged down by luck? Fortunately, with the evolution of Statcast, along with other metrics, whe can make more reasoned assumptions about a player’s performance than we would have been able to in the past. So, let’s dive into the numbers and see if there is anything definitive that we conclude about Morrison’s performance.
If a hitter is in the middle of a slump, it is often due to having poor plate discipline during the slump. This makes it a great starting point to see if a hitter is playing poorly because of outside factors, or if he is simply taking a poor approach at the plate.
Looking at Morrison’s strikeout and walk rates, neither sticks out as anything too far off from where he sits normally. Morrison currently has a 23.1% strikeout rate, which is right in between the 22.4% and 24.8% he averaged in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Additionally, his walk rate is at 7.7%, which isn’t too far off his 10.5% career average.
While Morrison’s strikeout and walk numbers don’t look that bad, his swing rate tells a different story. So far this season, Morrison has an O-Swing rate of 35%, which is a full 8% higher than his career average. His overall swing rate is also up by 11.1% on his career average. To me this is a sign of a hitter who is pressing to make an instant impact on his new team. This is hurting Morrison as he is usually falling behind in the count, and not getting many good pitches to swing at.
To start the season, Morrison has put 17 balls into play with just one of those balls falling for a hit, resulting in a .059 BABIP. While it might be easy to jump to conclusions that this low number is based mostly on luck, that does not appear to be the case. According to Statcast, Morrison’s deserved BABIP is just .179.
This number is a little bit higher than his actual BABIP, and suggests Morrison has been a little bit unlucky, but the entire difference can’t simply be written off as luck. For starters, the Statcast numbers do not control for the batted balls that are hit into a shift, thus decreasing the chances that they will become a hit relatively speaking. Unfortunately for Morrison, the book seems to be out on where to play defensively against him. Just look at how the Astros lined up against him with nobody on base Monday night.
In all, Morrison’s low BABIP can partially be written off as bad luck, but it is mostly a result of Morrison making poor contact and paying the price for being an extreme pull hitter.
wOBA vs xwOBA
Comparing Logan Morrison’s wOBA and xwOBA (expected weighted on-base average) works in much the same way as comparing Morrison’s BABIP with his deserved BABIP, in that wOBA is a results-based statistic and xwOBA is a Statcast generated statistic. However, using wOBA gives us a better all-around picture of how Morrison has been hitting.
Thus far Logan Morrison’s wOBA sits at just .131 (league average is usually around .330). This is the fourth lowest number by any hitter with at least 20 plate appearances so far this season. By comparison, Morrison’s xwOBA sits at .166, which is the third worst mark of any hitter with at least 20 at-bats this season. So it is safe to say that Morrison has been performing about exactly as poorly as his Statcast data says he should be.
After digging through the data, it is quite apparent that Morrison’s slow start is almost entirely a result of bad hitting by Logan. If Morrison wants to turn it around he will need to bring a more patient approach to the plate. Much like it was for Eddie Rosario last season, Logan Morrison’s O-Swing% might be the key stat to follow for him as the season goes on.