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Ferguson: Will Blue Jays' Morrow hit his stride at 30?

Scott Ferguson, TSN.ca
2/17/2014 11:21:25 AM
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The Toronto Blue Jays have made it abundantly clear how much they are counting on Brandon Morrow for the coming season.

Morrow made 30 starts in 2011 and appeared to have the "stuff" of which stars are made. He looked even better early in 2012, until a strained oblique muscle shut him down in early June. The injury woes continued in 2013 when an entrapped radial nerve in his pitching arm effectively shut him down from the end of May. So Morrow went from 30 starts in 2011 to 31 combined in 2012 and 2013. Morrow has really only been a starter for four seasons and last lost large chunks of the past two to injuries.

So where does that leave us? Well, Morrow has a career record of 41-40 with a 4.22 ERA. He has never pitched more than 179.1 innings. In 102 career starts, he has four complete games, yet when he has been healthy, Morrow has had moments of sheer brilliance and could easily pass for a staff ace or at least a number two starter. He will make $8 million this season in the final year of a three-year pact, with the Jays holding an option year worth $10 million.

There are those who will say that since Morrow is about to turn 30, if he doesn't make it it now, he never will. In some cases that is true, but you would be surprised at the number of pitchers whose careers didn't take off until they hit 30.

Curt Schilling, who won a pair of World Series titles with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox only won 52 games through the age of 29. From that point until he retired,  he racked up 164 victories. Eventually, he could wind up in the Hall of Fame. 

Though not as extreme an example, lefty Mickey Lolich, who won three games for the Detroit Tigers in the 1968 World Series, won 101 of his 217 career victories after turning 30.

Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield didn't come to pitching until his late 20s, having tried to make it first as an infielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, but from 30 on, he put up 156 of his 200 career wins.

The remarkable Jamie Moyer, the soft tosssing lefty control artist, pitched untill he was 49 and totalled 269 victories. Due to injury, Moyer didn't pitch in his 29th year, but from 30 on, he won the incredible total of 235. So, in other words, at age 29, Morrow has more victories than Moyer did.

There are a couple of other lefties worth mentioning, as well. Jim Kaat, who's probably remembered as much now for his broadcasting work nationally as he is for his playing days, won 283 games over his career,  He won 128 games through the age of 29 and 155 after that until he retired in his 40s.
 

Tommy John, for whom the operation is named, won 288 games, the  seventh-most all-time amongst southpaws. He won 95 games through the age of 29 and he won another 29 more before having elbow transplant surgery at age 31. He missed the entire 1975 season in recovery. John then returned to win 164 more games until he retired in 1989 at age 46.

These last two examples put up the most amazing totals of all after turning 30.

Hall of Fame knuckleballer Phil Niekro only had 31 victories through the age of 29. He finished with 318. Do the math. He won 287 games from the age of 30 on.

Another man enshrined in Cooperstown, lefty Warren Spahn, was almost impressive and, in some ways, even more so. At the age of 21 after just part of one season in the Majors, Spahn left for three years to serve in the United States Army during World War II. When he resumed his career, Spahn racked up 86 wins through the age of 29. From that point on, he won another 277 games for a grand total of 363.

I'm not saying Brandon Morrow is a lock to follow this same kind of path, not at all, but if he does, you shouldn't be all that surprised. Baseball, as you can see, has had plenty of late bloomers...even late blooming Hall of Famers.

- If you can track it down, you must read Joel Sherman's piece in the New York Post from February 16th. It's the incredibly fascinating story of how badly Alex Rodriguez wanted to play in Boston and how close it came to actually happening before the Texas Rangers ultimately shipped him to the Yankees. Incidently, the World Series Count since that trade is Red Sox 3, Yankees 1.

- The Yankees' final series of the coming season is in Boston. That has led fans in the "Hub" to do whatever they can and pay whatever it takes for the chance to see Derek Jeter play his final game of his career in the "Pinstripes." But I would caution the fans that there is no guarantee Jeter will make an appearance. If any or all three are meaningful games and Jeter is healthy, of course he will play. Remember, though , this past season Mariano Rivera made his final appearance at Yankee Stadium. Though he accompanied the team to Houston for its final series with the Astros, he announced in advance, that he wouldn't be pitching in that series.

If you want to dial it even further back, Red Sox legend Ted Williams homered in his final at-bat at Fenway Park back in 1960. That was it for the "Splendid Splinter," as he opted not to go to New York at all for the final series of the season against the Yankees.

So for the sake of those spending all the money, let's hope Derek Jeter is healthy and there is something on the line in that final series.



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