Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Morse's titanic blast

US Presswire photo
Michael Morse circles the bases following his titanic home run.
CHICAGO -- Michael Morse was asked last night if he's hit any balls farther than the one he crushed in the sixth inning, the one that landed at the top of the batters' eye in center field, just a few feet shy of the second deck of Wrigley Field's famed bleachers.

"I've hit some good ones this year," Morse said. "That one in Houston (July 18, over the train tracks in left field) felt pretty good."

How about May 23 in Milwaukee, the one to deep right-center?

"Milwaukee was a pretty good one, too," he replied.

What about last week at Nationals Park, when he reached the second deck underneath the scoreboard?

"Yeah, that was a good one, too," Morse said.

Hmm, we may need to consult a more authoritative source than the man who actually hit the ball. Like ESPN's Home Run Tracker, which has calculated the true distance of every home run hit in the major leagues since 2005.

Turns out last night's blast topped all of Morse's previous ones. True distance: 466 feet.

That's the longest home run hit at Wrigley Field since 2008, when Adam Dunn (then with the Reds) poked one 486 feet onto Sheffield Avenue.

Dunn's shot, though, went straight down the right-field line. Morse's homer landed in waters rarely reached around here. A couple of local sportswriters who have been covering the Cubs for decades (Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune and Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald) couldn't remember seeing anyone else hit one there. Possibly Sammy Sosa in his heyday.

Morse, of course, doesn't like to brag. Or think too much about what he's doing so well during his breakout season. He's now only the seventh National to reach the 20-homer mark in a season (joining Dunn, Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Willingham, Jose Guillen and Nick Johnson). And he's hitting them farther than any other National since Dunn.

Morse has produced six homers of at least 440 feet this season. Nobody in baseball has hit more of that length. Not Prince Fielder (three). Not Ryan Howard or Josh Hamilton (four apiece). Not Justin Upton or Nelson Cruz (five apiece).

"I mean, It's up there with my top ones that felt good, at least," Morse said of last night's rocket. "But as long as it goes over the fence, I don't care how far or how not far it is."


Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Cool! I guessed 465 at the time.
I win an Internet!

Binx Bolling said...

Unless we can ditch La Roche, the Nats' future first-baseman is going back to left-field next year. They should sign Morse as soon as possible before he dips his toe into the free market.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

And may I just add that I am glad, having grown up following the Cubs, that the waters Mark refers to are figurative, and not literal?
Not that Bill Veeck wouldn't have put in a pool if he'd thought of it first.

SCNatsFan said...

I have the MLB package and often get the feeds of the opponents; on a regular basis they say his batting practice displays are awesome and he just crushes the ball. It's not like the home announcers are embellishing these HRs, they are crushed.

NatinBeantown said...

Natslady wasn't the only one bored at Wrigley on Monday before the rain delay. My father-in-law snapped this AWESOME photos of some Nats at play in the afternoon. Iconic with the outfield ivy and--count 'em--THREE Beast Mode shirts.

Can people identify the players?

Carpe Diem said...

This is cool off of the graph of Morse's HR

Carpe Diem said...

Nats In Beanttown, very cool Matteus, Detwiler and Gorzo in the Beast Mode shirts. Jordan Zimmermann throwing. Looks like Ankiel and HenRod in the background.

J. said...

I do hope that the Nats lock Morse up.

Anonymous said...


Steve M. said...

Morse isn't in a hot streak. He is just doing his thing. A solid 680+ at-bat history now with the Nationals is certainly like a little more than a full year for someone who plays every day and this is his Nats career slash line .305/.357/.539

In 2009 Ryan Zimmerman recorded 610 at-bats with 33 home runs for a HR in 5.4% of his at-bats. Morse is hitting HRs during his tenure with the Nats at 5.6% of every at-bats.

I agree that he is a well kept secret outside of Washington and that may be a good thing! BEAST MODE!

PAY TO PLAY said...

Last year there was that group on here that called themselves the Mike Morse Fan Club. That was in those days of double switches and double cheeses.

Remind me again why he wasn't an All Star?

NatinBeantown said...

Carpe Diem, thanks--you're good at this game!

More to the point of the post, Morse is really starting to draw attention. Jonah Keri (formerly of Fangraphs, now of Grantland) had him come up multiple times in a chat. Unfortunately, his PED violation years ago is going to put some drag on his ascendence on the national stage.

In the meantime, we the faithful 9000 few can keep enjoying gorse hackage. Or in the case of the blast last night, Gorse Hackage!

SonnyG10 said...

Anon 1:38, bite your tongue.

Steve M. said...

I am going to go stat geek and use Zim's 2009 line of 610 at-bats as a full year to convert Morse's stats to 610 at-bats.

If I take Morse's Nats numbers of 91 runs scored and 38 home runs and 119 RBIs over his Nats career (683 ABs) and Zim'm up down to a 610 AB season, Morse would be at 81 runs scored, 34 home runs and 106 RBIs.

That is a heck of a season!

Section 222 said...

Jim Riggleman's treatment of Morse until he had no choice but to start him this year once LaRoche went down bordered on managerial malpractice. I take that back, it was clearly managerial malpractice. Remember when he said that Morse was one of those players more suited to coming off the bench? Remember when he double-switched Morse out of the game after Morse had hit two home runs? Remember when he used Willie Harris, yes Willie Harris, he of the sub-Mendoza line BA, as a DH in an AL park, leaving Morse on the bench because he supposedly could only hit left handed pitching? Never mind that there was no statistical evidence to support that judgment, as many of us pointed out at the time.

There are many reasons that the Nats are better off without Riggleman. But that we are spared that kind of idiocy from a "solid baseball guy" is at the top of the list.

End of rant from a charter member of the Mickey Morse Fan Club.

Mark'd said...

NatInBeantown, true on Morse and he is tested like everyone else now. The only difference was he was caught and some will try to paint him like Bonds and most of them are envious fools like Anon at 1:38.

SteveM, love the geek stat. Morse and his agent may need that for his arbitration sitdown

Anonymous said...

How soon they forget. Riggleman only did those things because Rizzo refused to talk with him about an extension, which cramped Riggleman's style and kept him from being able to manage outside the box.

Section 222 said...

@Anon 2:04. Touche! Those moves seemed inexplicable at the time, but now all is clear. It was Rizzo's fault that Morse rode the pine the last two years!

Bowdenball said...

Anonymous 2:04-

That post is too good for anonymity.

PAY TO PLAY said...

Section 222, you detailed Morse's history well for 2010. Strange part was that it was Riggleman who knew Morse from Seattle that helped get Morse to come over in the trade for Langerhans in 2009. That is what blew me away. McLaren was his Manager in Seattle and he didn't seem to help either.

It just never made sense to many of us. You can roll through some early 2010 posts here and see people were on both sides of the Morse argument. Those people of course have disappeared or changed their tune.

Wally said...

SteveM - I am going to throw some different stats out there to see what we should expect going forward. Or 'how good is he, exactly?' Not cold water exactly, but a cautionary note.

But first: I love Morse. His hitting has been a joy to watch these last few months, and he seems like a genuinely good guy. Really, one of my favorite all-time Nats.

So with that lead in, here is the thing - he is striking out almost 5 times as much as he walks (22% K rate, 5% BB rate). I am ok with the Ks, but the walk rate is the thing that should be improved on. This hasn't become visible yet because of his BABIP (batting average on balls in play). I mean, it isn't the highest in the major leagues - it is third (behind AGon and Bourn). To figure out what we should expect from him, I tried a few scenarios of BABIP below. I based all of this on a season of 650 plate appearances and 2011 walk and K rates.

650 PAs with a 5.3% BB rate gives him 34 walks in a given year (reducing the denominator for batting average to 616) and 145 Ks. I am not bothering with HBPs and sacs, cause it is too hard and I don't think it changes the numbers materially (but if you want to add a few points to BA and OBP, ok), and I am generalizing the impact on SLG on different BABIPs. And let's say that he hits 31 HRs (HRs are excluded from BABIP calculations - not sure why). So here it is:

.300 BABIP = .265/.298/.425 (league average BABIP)
.330 BABIP = .285/.323/.450 (10% above average)
.350 BABIP = .300/.336/.500 (Morse career average)
.377 BABIP = .320/.355/.550 (current)

I think it is right to expect Morse to have a higher average on hit balls, so I don't see him at the first one (but btw, Adam Laroche has better career numbers than those). The last three: a good player in all scenarios, but not elite until the last one. If he could double his walk rate, he could be an elite hitter in the last two scenarios.

I imagine people don't want to hear this. Just trying to say that it is unlikely he continue at this pace, but still a good player.

NatinBeantown said...

Anon 2:04, I disagree. It somehow has to be Desmond's fault. Or possibly Guzman's.

Joe Seamhead said...

Section 222, I agree with you regarding the treatment Morse got from "Solid Baseball Man" formerly known as "Manager." Even the defensive replacement argument was weak, as Morse was never charged with an error in OF as a National. Baseball is also a game of streaks, and more importantly, chemistry, and they are fragile things...My biggest gripe with Jim was that he just didn't seem to grok this part of being a manager.
I've been a Michael Morse advocate since early last year. I think of how many times people still don't give the guy credit for being able to play a more then adequate corner outfield and I get testy. As I've said before, he's not exactly grace in motion out there, but he gets the job done better then a lot of others, including Josh Willingham! If Adam LaRoche comes back next year healthy and strong, Morse will be the left fielder until further notice, unless Rizzo trades him for a front of the rotation type starter.

PAY TO PLAY said...

Wally, without 1,800 atbats at this pace its going to be extremely difficult to trend where Michael Morse is going except that basically he just finished his Rookie season. I think he will keep improving if he keeps his current mindset. While he has been compared to Jayson Werth as a late-bloomer, Werth didn't even accomplish these types of numbers.

You are right, approach with caution. He is under Nats control for 2 more seasons and still time to let it ride and see where it goes or lock him up long-term to a fair deal making part of the core here.

Anonymous said...

@Wally, (HRs are excluded from BABIP calculations - not sure why).

Its because HRs are considered out of play and can't be caught.

jd said...


That's a very good sensible post. I think we all tend to over estimate players having career years but it's good to have realistic expectations based on reasonable data. BABIP and walk ratios are normally very telling because when one has a very high BABIP average one is lucky based on the general principal that when you hit the ball there is an element of luck involved as to whether the ball is a hit or an out (unless of course you hit it 465 ft).

NatStat said...

Bottom line from Section 222's discussion of MM, is that Morse could have had his current year, last year---except for the Riggleman/Rizzo disturbed perception of his potential.

Most of his batting skills were well-evident to some of us when he came to the team in the latter part of the 2009 season.

It came as a real pleasant surprise to many of us to see how well he could play 1B. Seems that manager and FO should have known more about his skills at 1B last year and beyond.

Section 222 said...

Given the discussion in the last post of anonymous posts, and the excellent contribution by Anon 2:04, I thought I'd mention that some poeple may think they have to choose Anonymous when they "Select profile" becaus they can't seem to sign in to WordPad or Google. I have that problem using my work browser sometimes and only recently discovered that if you choose "Name/URL" you can just type your name and you don't need to give a URL. And voila, you are no longer Anonymous unless you really want to be.

NatsJack in Florida said...

NatStat.... you are correct. I mean what does it take to project a 6'5", 230 lbs. former second baseman/shortstop as a first baseman? What are these guys looking at?

Anonymous said...

NatStat, when it looked like Dunn was going to leave and the 1st base Free Agent pool was Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee and Adam LaRoche, there were a few on here that suggested Morse could play 1st base although his sample size was so small it wasn't met with much enthusiasm. Things have a funny way of working out some times.

Bowdenball said...

I agree with a lot of what Wally says, but one thing that I think should be pointed out:

Using his career BABIP, Wally came out with a line of .300/.336/.500. An .836 OPS would still rank him in the Top 20 in the NL, with the closest guys to that figure being guys like CarGo and McCutcheon, guys who will probably be All Stars for a good part of the next decade. And a .500 slugging percentage would rank him 15th, just ahead of Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Beltran and just behind Jose Reyes and Joey Votto.

Not to argue semantics, but those are elite names in my opinion.

Grandstander said...

Proud to be part of the Mike Morse Fan Club!

WRT his walk rate, that will increase naturally as he gains the respect of the league. Since the ASB, he has a 7/24 K/BB ratio and a 6.8% walk rate. Still low, but not as egregious as it had been.

NatinBeantown said...

I think this team was dead set on finding an LH hitter for the 1B slot. Even if they oould have predicted Morse's breakout spring, they would have still gone out shopping for Pena, Lee, LaRoche, etc.

Tom said...

A high BABIP does tend to indicate "luck", but surely guys who hit the ball as hard as Morse are going to have more balls make it through the infield for a hit.

I would love for him to get some more walks and raise his OBP, but he is 6th in MLB in average (2nd in the NL) and 10th in OPS (7th in the NL). I am not complaining!

Section 222 said...

Tom makes an excellent point. I assume that most of the top hitters have better than average BABIPs. It stands to reason because they hit fewer weak grounders and pop ups. Morse really drives the ball. He gets alot of hits right back through the box. So we can expect that his BABIP will at least be above average-- until he starts getting unlucky.

A DC Wonk said...

Anonymous said...

How soon they forget. Riggleman only did those things because Rizzo refused to talk with him about an extension, which cramped Riggleman's style and kept him from being able to manage outside the box.

I don't get this comment at all.

First of all -- Riggs went out of his way not to play Morse _last_ year. This year, Morse won a starting position, until he played himself out of it with a horrendous April. With LaRoche out, Morse filled in and won back his starting position.

Still at Sec3MySofa, but I'm wavering said...

Those people of course have disappeared or changed their tune.

FWIW, I haven't disappeared.

Gonat said...

Michael Morse is #12 in the entire MLB for Runs Created per game and #6 for batting average in the MLB and #2 in the NL for batting average and #6 in slugging percentage in the NL.

Its all good!!!!

Gonat said...

Still at Sec3MySofa, but I'm wavering said...
Those people of course have disappeared or changed their tune.

FWIW, I haven't disappeared.

August 10, 2011 4:20 PM

LOL. Probably referring to those who were critical of calling Morse a bench player.

Anonymous said...

Chris said...
Mike Morse is a better offensive player than Guzzie? Ok, I've heard it all now.

And what's wrong with wanting to get Guzzie AB's this Spring? He was coming off shoulder surgery.

You are absolutely clueless, Peric.

Oh, and stop addressing Rizzo in your posts. Believe me, he doesn't care what you think.

April 4, 2010 5:51 PM

Anonymous said...

Morse will be on MLB Network at 5

JaneB said...

Wonk, put your tongue firmly in your cheek, and go back and read the post from Anon again. It's hilarious, with the right lens on.

Navy Nats Fan said...

While reading the story on Matt Kemp in the current issue of Sports Illustrated I was VERY disappointed to see a picture of Kemp in a Beast Mode t-shirt.

There can be only one!

(to bring in another Scottish reference to go along with the gorse)

Joey said...

hey Navy Nats fan, Kemp has been wearing Beast Mode since 2008 with Juan Pierre who still wears it in Chicago. back off bro

go Dodgers!

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