#LaunchMo | The Process Report

#LaunchMo

Logan Morrison‘s 2016 season was a tale of two seasons: a dreadful April and then five months of quiet production as he tried to dig out of the early hole. 2017 has had a much different feel to it as LoMo is now LaunchMo.

In late April last year, Hanselman took a look at why Morrison was struggling and suggested he was pressing. Everything Morrison even put into play during that stretch was either harmless flyballs or balls beat into the ground.

 

Morrison ended that dry spell with a .094/.147/.125 slash line (and a -29 wRC+) that was very reminiscent of Hideki Matsui‘s time with Tampa Bay in 2012. The Rays cut Matsui loose after 103 plate appearances and his time in the majors was over, but did not do the same with Morrison despite the public outcry. Morrison took five days off to get right in his head and hit .270/.355/.478 with a 127 wRC+ the rest of the season until a wrist injury ended 2016 for him in September 11th. His batted ball chart looked much different after that reset:

 

Morrison hit the free agent market with little interest, even from the Rays. They were rumored to spend the offseason looking for right-handed power in Chris Carter and Mike Napoli, but ended up back with Morrison for $2.5M once Napoli returned to Texas. The Rays re-signed Morrison before Carter eventually took less money to go to New York where he and his agent saw a better opportunity and more playing time. To date, the moves the club did not make have paid off handsomely:

If we stretch Morrison’s numbers back to last year’s reset date of May 7th until the completion of last night’s game in Texas, he is currently triple-slashing .262/.355/.506 with a .363 wOBA and a 132 wRC+. To put his production in perspective at first base since he hit the reset button last season, consider the following:

Last night, Morrison hit an extra inning homer and it was his 15th home run of the season, surpassing last year’s total in 187 fewer plate appearances. As we have watched Morrison hit throughout the season, he appears to be embracing the “Air Ball” movement and the numbers bear it out. He has a 46% fly ball rate this season, well above his career rate of 36% and the first time since the 2012 season where that rate has eclipsed the 40% mark. His 2017 launch angle chart shows how Morrison’s loft has changed since last season:

The added loft to his swing is allowing him to drive the ball to and over the fence. Morrison’s average launch angle from 2015 through 2016 was between 10.7 and 12.1% with his average batted ball distance between 172 and 175 feet. So far in 2017, his average launch angle is 15.1% and his average batted ball distance is up 50 feet from last season to 215 feet. His 18 Barrels leads the club and his bat is a big part of the team’s offensive production in May.

The guy many wanted gone last May and were perplexed when the team brought him back for the 2017 season has in fact become the middle of the lineup bat the team has searched for at first base for far too long. How he can maintain this new approach and level of production will be critical to the club’s future success as the scheduling gods finally turn the Rays’ way both in terms of strength of schedule and days off. Sometimes, it is the moves that a team does not make that end up being the best move. The decision to bring back Morrison while not overpaying for Carter nor Napoli, to date, is looking like one of the best moves of the offseason.

 



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