Matt Morris- Ready to make a difference

What a difference a year makes. Just one year ago the St. Louis Cardinals were picked by most "experts" to finish third in the NL Central, mostly because of what was considered to be a weak pitching staff. In 2005 the Cardinals will start the season with a revamped pitching staff that includes potential aces in Mark Mulder and a healthy Chris Carpenter, but what about Matt Morris?

Despite posting 15 victories in 2004, Morris had the worst big league season of his career posting an ERA of 4.72, over a run higher than his career ERA of 3.53. Morris struggled with a shoulder injury throughout the season and when he was bad he was REALLY BAD giving up the second most home runs in the National League (35). There were precious few bright spots when he did look good- mixing in a nasty changeup with 92 mph heat. Morris threw two complete game shutouts last season (May 2 vs. CHC, July 25 vs. SF).

So what difference will a year make for Matt Morris? Off season shoulder surgery should allow Morris to return to full strength early this season and he has already shown improvement this spring. In his first start of spring March 12th, Morris threw two scoreless innings giving up only 2 hits and recording 3 strikeouts against the New York Mets.

At age 30 Morris is still young enough to rebound from one poor season. Let's examine Morris' stats from the past four seasons to determine what he is capable of in 2005.

Matt Morris 2001-2004

Year IP Wins K's ERA

2001 216.1 22 185 3.16

2002 210.1 17 171 3.42

2003 172.1 11 120 3.76

2004 202.0 15 131 4.72

Reviewing these statistics it's clear to see Morris injury has limited his velocity because pitchers don't start a statistical decline at age 28. Part of battling through that injury meant learning how to pitch without blowing batters away with the fastball. If the shoulder is better, and all signs this spring would say it is, then Morris should be able to get back to a sub 4 ERA and 150 plus strikeouts in 2005.

One thing is for sure; Morris will have to return to form for the Cardinals to make another World Series run in 2005.

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