How about them Pittsburgh Pirates? Off to a tremendous start, sweeping the Florida Marlins, putting up four shut outs in eight outtings. As of this post, sitting pretty with a 9-6 record, third in the division behind the St.Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs err Cincinnati Reds.
Leading this tremendous turn around is none other then base stealing extrordinare. The highly entertaining the consumate professional, Nyjer Morgan.
Ok that may be a bit much, considering the season is still in it's infancy , and let's face it, these are the Pittsburgh Pirates, but it's fun to watch a bad team play well. As for Morgan, he's been great.
Let's flash back to draft day, in your standard 12 team league Nyjer Morgan was either a 23rd round flier or he may have even gone undrafted.
Fast forward to day, and you're looking at the most fearsome stolen base threat....in the world! Well not really, but he is off to a fine start.
Lets compare this hot streak to his previous performances and see if his numbers are legit.
2007-15r, 1hr, 7rbi, .299ba, 7sb, 9bb, 19k .359obp, .430slg, .789ops
2008- 26r, 0hr, 7rbi, .294ba, 9sb, 10bb, 32k, .345obp, .375slg, .720ops
2009- 10r, 0hr, 9rbi, .323ba, 6sb, 4bb, 10k, .371obp, .415slg, .786ops
I know those numbers don't seem overly impressive, but lets take it into context that Morgan has only made 332 MLB AB. Resulting in 22sb, and a very tidy .301ba (to date).
A closer look at his minor league numbers is a much better way to paint the picture. Over 3 seasons in the minors in 4 different levels, Morgan compiled 129sb in 166 attempts for a 77.71% success rate. Combine that with a very solid .304 minor league batting average and you've got yourself a player.
What else do you need to know?
1- High Ground Ball Rate- For speed guys like Morgan and company having a hit ground ball rate is conducive to good contact. Putting the ball in the air is generally not a good plan as he lacks the pop to hit many home runs. Slapping the ball, and running it out for base hits is his best approach. Combine a slighlty declining GB% (57.%, 49.6%, 43.1%) with a rising LD% (15.9%, 24.8%, 26.4%), and we may be seeing an offensive break through.
2- Low BB/K Rate- .40BB/1k Not something to want to see from your lead off man, your ace most definately, but when you're lead off man is sent back to the dugout after being rung up at a 2.5K/BB rate, something is not right, and he's not likely to remain your lead off guy for long.
3- .367 Babip- I know that seems almost outer worldly but Morgan has always maintained a high Babip. Consider that a .333 is his lowest minor league total, and a very impressive .356 his is lowest MLB totals. Bear in mind of course that he's never made more then 322Ab at any one level in one season.
4- 27- Morgan has reached that mythical age that allows all players to break out of their mediocre exsistance to become superstars. Well it may not happen like that all the time, but for what it's worth it bears mentioning. In a weak line up Morgan will get AB.
If you've got Nyjer Morgan on your team get him in your line up for cheap stolen bases. Play the matchups, and you'll be fine, just don't be expecting to see anything under the HR category.