Preview: Blue Jays (10-8) go for series sweep in Cleveland (7-10)

Brandon MorrowWill the real Brandon Morrow please stand up?

This year – like he has throughout his entire career – Morrow has shown flashes of brilliance mixed with episodes of incompetence.

Morrow’s struggles this year are very easy to be pessimistic about. He’s posted a 5.52 ERA in 3 starts against Twins and Astros lineups who couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat and a Will Myers-less Tampa Bay. But (small sample size acknowledged) his underlying numbers give reason to be optimistic.

Pitchers have little control over what happens once balls are hit in to play, but what they can control are things like strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches and home runs. The sabermetric wizards in baseball came up with a stat called FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which shows what a pitcher’s ERA should have been assuming that his defence’s performance on balls hit in to play was league average. FIP has been proved to be a better predictor of future performance than ERA.

Despite Morrow’s 5.52 ERA this year, his 2.87 FIP suggests he hasn’t gotten much help or luck on balls in play (.366 BABIP). He has done an excellent job of striking people out (10.43 K/9) and has only allowed 1 home run in his 14.2 innings of work. Morrow’s control is always the big question, but his stuff appears to be as good as ever, especially considering his swinging strike % (percentage of strikes that were swung at and missed) is up to 10.7%, even higher than it was during his excellent 2012 (9.0%).

Even more encouraging is the type of contact Morrow is allowing. His line drive % is down to 17.1% (20.4% last year) and his ground ball % is way up to 56.1% (37% last year). And, obviously, his fly ball percentage is down from 42.5% last year to 26.8%. He’s not going to give up many home runs with that kind of ground ball rate and you can definitely expect his BABIP to regress if he manages to keep his line drive percentage down.

So which Morrow will we get today? The one that needed 98 pitches to record 11 outs in Minnesota (and only found the zone 55 times) or the one who was hitting 98 against Houston and struck out 6 of the first 9 batters he faced?

Speaking of inconsistency, the lineup deserves to take some heat as well. Edwin Encarnacion, while starting to get some hits, still hasn’t homered or generally been very productive. Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie each have 3 homers but it feels like those are their only 3 hits all year. Meanwhile, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Dioner Navarro have all been as good or better than advertised. Hopefully the return of Jose Reyes will provide a spark, but overall the lineup has the potential to be so much better. And it needs to be. They have the chance to do some damage today against Carlos Carrasco who has a 6.93 ERA and 1.7 WHIP over the last 2 years. Yup.

A sweep over the Indians today would obviously be huge and mark a 6-3 road trip heading in to a big homestand against the division rival Orioles and Red Sox. Here are your lineups for today (note: No Navarro today and Juan Francisco (!) is in the 5 hole and playing first base):


Blue Jays 04/20 (10-8)
SS 7 Jose Reyes .167 0 1
LF 53 Melky Cabrera .353 4 5
RF 19 Jose Bautista .450 6 12
DH 10 Edwin Encarnacion .321 0 5
1B 47 Juan Francisco .500 0 0
3B 13 Brett Lawrie .192 3 11
CF 28 Colby Rasmus .258 3 5
C 22 Josh Thole .455 0 1
2B 17 Ryan Goins .204 0 0
P 23 Brandon Morrow 5.52 3 0


Indians 04/20 (7-10)
CF 24 Michael Bourn .200 0 0
1B 33 Nick Swisher .269 2 7
2B 22 Jason Kipnis .384 2 7
C 41 Carlos Santana .333 1 3
LF 23 Michael Brantley .347 2 14
SS 13 Asdrubal Cabrera .290 1 5
RF 7 David Murphy .364 2 12
DH 9 Ryan Raburn .250 0 4
3B 8 Lonnie Chisenhall .500 0 0
P 59 Carlos Carrasco 7.84 0 2

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