Michael Morse as Swing Virtuoso

aiki-Doc taking office visits

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HERE IS THE ESPN VIDEO, a 2:05 clip in which Michael Morse explains the dynamics of his hitting motion.

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I was in a terrible slump in the late 1970's.  The harder I tried, the worse I got.  Finally I was walking the course one day and a fellow pro, seeing the look on my face, asked me "Johnny, do you LIKE golf?"  After that I never had a bad slump again.  - Johnny Miller, ancient SI interview, reproduced from memory 

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BSR linked us up to the ESPN vid  ... we ought to embed that puppy in the sidebar.  A picture's worth 1,000 words.  :: wait ::  OK, it's embedded.  Go check out the 2-minute video; you'll come back excited for the 2013 season.

Amigos scheduled an 9:45 a.m. appointment for Morse's swing.  Dr's R/X:  take a two-year contract extension and call him in the morning.  All this and brains, too, eh Michael.

Morse's comments in boldface, with our cornball kibitz following on that:

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"The perfect swing for me is ..." It's not an offhand phrase that he tosses out there one time.  The interview is saturated with Morse's search for better and better swing dynamics.

His enthusiasm, his love for his craft, is contagious.  Remember Bruce Lee?  "This is not about winning.  It's about perfection."

In aikido this is the mu-shin, the "no-mind," where you are not distracted by GREED FOR SUCCESS.  Consider that phrase, GREED FOR SUCCESS, for a few minutes today.  

With mu-shin, with TRUE focus on the perfect process, you are in flow.  You are focused on slightly better and better execution, and you gain a state-of-mind that transcends the enemy and the danger.

Compare a basketball shooter who has the hop in his step, the flick and followthru in his fingertips, who is seeing the swish of the net go cleaner and cleaner, who is enjoying the purity of the basketball's rotation, and whose opponents sort of vanish into transluscence around him.

Schwarzenegger said that, doing dumbbell curls, he became mesmerized by the visual of a ridiculously huge bicep, overpowering the dumbbell, getting larger and larger ... "Every rep, every set, is one step closer to your goal.  Even if a bomb went off next to you, you would not notice it."

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"It starts with my base ... it's like COILING like a SNAKE."  There is a reason that shao lin monks compare kung fu movements to animals'.  An animal, obviously, has a very pure and sincere motion as it attacks.  

There is a reason that Jesus compared very complex thought processes to very simple analogues - His parables were always grounded in everyday things like the flowers of the meadow, the grape on the vine, the door into a barn, the wind blowing through the field.  There is something about the "everyday item" parable that is unsurpassable when it comes to absorbing difficult information.

Morse isn't musing as he describes the snake, isn't grasping for a metaphor.  The snake coil is a mantra for him, a dynamic visual that he reproduces, AB after AB, without effort.  In fact he rehearses this coil before AB's.

We're not saying that Morse has spiralled off into his own MLB hitting universe.  We're saying that he is evidently in the Ted Williams, Ichiro, Wade Boggs category of player, the one who enjoys the beauty and virtuosity of hitting for its own sake.

Morse's obvious joy in the game is a major competitive advantage for him.  Happy-happy joy-joy thoughts are helpful because --- > they promote the visualization of home runs, rather than of strikeouts.  It's helpful for a batter to not be thinking about striking out during an AB.

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"I call it my samurai cobra snake."  Watch the video and you will see all of Morse's appendages contract in to one particular place on his body ... the CG.  The hara.  The one point.  His movements are then organized correctly, and derive their power from the right spot.

Notice, for example, that Morse's hands in "the cobra" are near his CG, like where you have them when you're opening a jar of pickles.

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"My front leg is real light on the ground, and my hands give me a nice whip feeling."  These are wispy, effortless characterizations that carry a HATHA YOGA flavor.  Google Jennifer Kostel Yoga and you'll hear her talking like this.  It goes to the question of body control, of being better-than-average at moving your own body parts.

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"The biggest thing I wanna feel is ... my body ... like a DOOR HINGE. ... I want everything to just ROTATE."  Bee-yoo-tee-ful.  The thing here is that it captures a very difficult movement --- > in a very decisive and convincing parable.

Words on paper are fine.  But some mantras WORK and some don't.

The hinge on a fire door is not flexible about the way it's going to move - it does not move one way in the morning, and another way in the evening.  Its direction of movement is a given, and other things are welcome to coexist with the hinge after they have accepted the nature of the hinge.

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"My hands are freed up ... :: clears biceps over pecs several times :: ... I feel like I can go inside and get a ball... I can go right over the middle ... if it's outside, I'm right there." - Reminds of Bruce Lee's loose-as-a-goose ready state just before an exchange of blows occurred..

Obviously, other MLB hitters understand swing dynamics, also.  However, other MLB power hitters do not have Mike Morse's results:

Morse is considerably better than other ML cleanup hitters, when it comes to strike zone coverage.

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"My ENERGY generates from my legs, goes through my core, gets to my upper body" - there's a reason that in aikido, we speak in terms of energy.  It promotes the mental "capture" of long, dynamic lines of interplay, captures the idea of acceleration, and gives a 3-D perception of the acction.

A beginner might speak in terms of blocking a punch at the 6-inch mark in front of his face.  A black belt might think in terms of a 3-foot-long lightning bolt, with a vector and a launch moment, and it's easier to avoid a long, moving line than it is to avoid a suddenly-appearing dot.

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Top hand rotation and "Topspin" swing - look at the positions of Morse's palm in the below screen captures:

Morse has a miniscule 6% infield popup rate for his career.  Further, that 6% is with respect to his fly balls -- and his fly ball rate is ITSELF much lower than average.  Here's the dreaded Ibanez/Sexson "topspin" hitter, a guy with a high grounder rate and yet a high HR rate.

You want to know why Morse has a sensational .344 BABIP for his career?  Part of it is that he pops up like twice a year.  :- )  Another part is that he hits the ball a little harder than, say, Brendan Ryan does.  Another part of it is that grounders, whizzing through the infield with topspin, "accelerate" with respect to grounders that don't have as much topspin.  In the same sense that Stephen Pryor's fastball rises, Mike Morse's grounders accelerate.

Morse is a career .295 hitter, despite 120+ strikeouts a year and an 0.25 EYE.  Despite the fact that Morse is one of the strongest players in baseball, you can afford to think of him as a .300 hitter -- he gets on top of the ball, he uses the whole field, and he whistles the ball through the fielders.

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Kendrys Morales is similar - a guy who would be a good hitter (HIT tool) even if he didn't have power.  Despite their sizes, Morse and Morales are two of the best hitters among power guys in the majors.  

Even for the Angels, even last year, when Morales was in the lineup he usually hit #4 for them.  In 2009 and 2010, he most often hit #5.

Morse last year split time between the #4 and #5 slots; in 2011 he usually hit #4 for the Nationals.  Zduriencik has added two guys who have been hitting cleanup --- > for contenders.  

Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales are not superstars, not by a long shot, but they are the first legitimate difference-making bats we've had in Seattle since the guys playing for the 116-win club.*   With the exception of Richie Sexson for a year or two, they're the first thumpers in Seattle since the 2001-03 Edgar era.  

I sure wish people would reflect on these guys' roles as offense fixers, guys who disrupt enemy pitching, rather than trying to cleverly school-essay them as 2-WAR mediocrities.  These two guys can flat out hit, and it's been awhile, gentlemen.

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Comments

... especially useful on the first tee, no?  :- )

You've got one part of your mind on a 300-yard howitzer high and deep down the middle, and another part of your mind on your co-workers watching, who've never seen you play, and you want REAL bad to hit a glory shot, and this is the only time you'll get to play this month ... that's just about the perfect state of mind, wouldn't you say?

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ghost's picture

ghost

...Morse is not a greedy hitter (nor is Morales)...and those two guys are stealing Smoak's job. Think maybe Smoak will learn to stop grinding the bat into sawdust and swinging from his heels at every pitch?

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Rauuuul's lifetime OPS+ is 112, Morse's 126 ... 

I know what you're saying, that Raul had a 3-year period for us there where he was a 120-125 guy, went over 100 RBI three years straight.  Then slugged .552 for Philly's World Series team.  If we're talking about Raul's little peak from 2006-09, that's not a bad comp, but some probably remember his 110-OPS type years.

I wonder, if people are expecting the .275/.350/.460 type Raul-level bat, if Morse isn't going to re-frame the debate pretty quick on them.  :- )

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Right, I mean the .290/.350/.500 Raul in the Safe, who comes back to Seattle after being tossed aside, is derided for terrible, awful, no-good, very-bad defense and yet is the ROCK in the lineup, dislikes DHing and knows his swing and his strong points better than anyone and just keeps producing.

Dying for a guy like that. Maybe he and KMo can be two guys like that. And Morse might slug .550 instead of .500, which would be... impressive to see.

~G

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That attitude is IMPORTANT.  And it's contagious.

Enjoying the game, vs. grinding it out, makes a big difference in the results on the field.  If Michael Morse infects a few guys with his "Let's Play Two!" attitude, that alone will be worth the price of admission.  Then he really would deserve a paycheck for good seasons other players were having.

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Felix, by the way, doesn't get enough credit for this.  Richly deserving of a franchise contract.

 

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There is the glass half full version and you never know whats going to happen. Who'd thunk the M 's would've be flirting with the WC or win 75 games in 2012. The big picture is clearer if you have a foundation to build on save Jaso and Vargas.
It's not impossible to fill the holes.

BTW Dr. D. always admired you're work I remember you off Sportspot and MarinerCentral .

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... mostly just had a bunch of young no-name pitchers come through.

We are conditioned to think, "Well, it's not reasonable to hope for five different guys to come through."  It isn't what you'd PREFER to do, to hope for Paxton and Hultzen to be twin ROY's. But that doesn't mean you should cast the thought out of your mind.

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Thanks for sayin' Mike.  :- )

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Good point. When we look at the 2012 A's they were initially built with bundle wire and duct tape. They were projected to be 3rd or 4th in the division. Rewind... To 2011 the A's mirrored the Mariners 2012 W-L record just saying They were also shuttling players between AAA and OAK.

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I also know that through much experience being a fan we could expect the worse scenario. Exicted to see prospects? Sure but you expect the young starters to improve through natural progression and PA's. Time will tell.

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ghost's picture

ghost

So let's see...if we made no further changes our 25 man roster would likely be:

Rotation:

King Felix
Hisashi Iwakuma
Erasmo Ramirez
Blake Beavan
James Paxton / Danny Hultzen

Bullpen:

Tom Wilhelmson
Stephen Pryor
Charlie Furbush
Carter Capps
Oliver Perez
Josh Kinney / Shawn Kelley
Lucas Luetge (WOW that's a good bullpen)

Catchers:

Jesus Montero
Jesus Sucre (this needs fixing)

Infielders

Mike Morse
Kendrys Morales
Dustin Ackley
Brendan Ryan
Kyle Seager
Robert Andino
Alex Liddi / Vinny Catricala / Justin Smoak

Outfielders:

Raul Ibanez
Jason Bay
Franklin Gutierrez
Michael Saunders

You do have the option of going with Casper Wells or Mike Carp as a fifth outfielder in the circumstance where either man is crushing the ball in ST and you consider it OK to gamble with Robert Andino backing up everywhere except first base on the IF and 1B being triple-covered by Morse/Morales/Ibanez

We have tow obvious needs to be filled via FA

BC - we need something more established to keep the pressure off of Montero. My vote goes to the recently DFA'd George Kottaras at basically nothing (the As are paying him...he is under contract).

And you need to do everything in your power to (a) force Hultzen/Paxton to earn his spot in the rotation and (b) never let Lake Beavan see the light of day unless in the case of injury or placeholder status while minor leaguers get better prepared.

So go drop the dime to sign Shaun Marcum and be done with it.

Call that your offseason and I say it's not too bad.

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CMB's picture

CMB

Kottaras CS% 15%
Montero CS% 17%
League Average CS% 25%

Would teams be running wild on us with those two?

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Zduriencik had evidently decided that the "stoploss" was a problem.  They might have gotten into the year, with Jaso and Montero, and found out the catching was ruining the season.

Assuming Baker is right, which I would! assume, they're not going to replace Jaso with a bat-first catcher.  No way no how.

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I'd like to see Porcello instead of Marcum or any other of the free agents. If we could get him for Wilhelmsen (they have a rookie slated to close), Wells (they want a RH hitter as another outfielder and Wells' name has come up as a possible re-acquire), and Triunfel (they want a backup IF who fields better than Peralta), I'd MUCH prefer that. They may be asking for Franklin, though, and then I understand why it's not done yet.

If that went through, then I'd also like to see Wells' replacement be a better fielder than Bay or Morse, but still have some offensive upside - another Saunders, if you will. If Stanton isn't available until mid-season, but we want to keep most of our prospects for that possibility, how about seeing what Philly might want for Domonic Brown, since he's apparently fallen out of favor (I think he's a PRIME candidate for a change of scenery). Their bullpen is still a bit weak, with Adams not ready to start the season, and they need backups around the infield, and they want some RH power. I wonder if a package of, say, 1) Kelley, 2) Mitchell, Moran or Luetge, and 3) Liddi might be enough for Brown and maybe something else.

Finally, we need that backup catcher. While Shoppach looks like the best of the FAs, and Kottaras might be cheapest in trade, I'd rather see if Carp, or Noesi, or Beaven might bring back a young defensive catcher, along the lines of Bryan Anderson (ex-StL, now on the CWS) or Dan Butler of Boston. Anderson bats LH, so he'd be preferable in the long-term, but Boston has apparently expressed interest in Carp, so maybe Butler is the best (if we don't want to just sign Olivo and get it over with). Butler was good enough at AAA to earn a shot and has about a 33% CS rate and very low PB rate, so he might be a good complement to Montero.

If we clear the guys out of options, or that are redundant, for our remaining needs, I'd say it's better than not too bad (but I'm still mystified how Raul fits except as 2nd hitting coach).

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ghost's picture

ghost

Can I get an EEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW from the congregation??

I proposed Marcum because he actually misses bats and has a normal BABIP. Porcello is horrid. PASS

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