His beastliness has boasted a bodaciously full-bodied HR/FB of just over 19.2% since the start of the 2009 season. This season (small sample size warning) we see no reason that his overall production will slow down as his GB% has dropped a tick to about 40% while his LD% has increased to over 20%. The way the ball leaps off his bat makes his .342 BABIP sustainable (he’s a career .347 BABIP hitter). In fact, without any changes I think it would be fair to suggest his HR/FB rate normalizes around 20% for the rest of this season (15% HR/FB right now) and we should expect more homers and fewer pop-flies from our guy.
But there is some reason for concern.
Michael Morse has been a bit of a free-swinger. He’s put the bat through the zone on almost 40% of pitches outside of the zone this season and 36.5% of them last season. This makes his miniscule walk-rate of 3.3% and hefty K-rate of 28.9% understandable.
Fortunately our hero’s walk rate has been higher in previous seasons. His power has come at a price and it’s no coincidence that his increased ISO of the past three seasons (it jumped from .111 to .231 in 2009 and was a similar .229 last season) coincided with his poor walk and strikeout rates.
After last year’s strong season in limited at bats, the book is undoubtedly out on Michael Morse and the main question is whether pitchers will continue to get him to chase out of the zone. The Morse Code has been cracked and it’s up to our favorite ball-mashing (don’t laugh) first baseman to lay off of the outside cheese and force pitchers to throw to him.
An extended look at first base could be just the thing he needs to master his big-league pitch recognition and approach at the plate. If Riggleman’s confidence in marching Mikey M out there everyday keeps Morse from feeling like he has to knock every pitch out of the park, especially those outside of the zone, then average defense at 1B could be enough to make him a beastly first-bagger.
I encourage anyone sitting behind the Nats’ dugout for the next few weeks to hum and whisper in a ghostly tune – “Mikey… watch the outside sliders… and also… that pitcher just called you a dork.”