"Splitsville" is a series of articles on the Nationals' prospects that we'll be doing throughout their minor league careers. In version one/chapter one (v1.1) of Ricardo Morales, we'll look how he did at home versus the road, how he pitched with runners in scoring position, and more, while pitching for the Savannah Sand Gnats.
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Finally Made It To A-Ball: Ricardo Morales, originally signed by the Montreal Expos out of the Dominican Republic way back in 2001, pitched three seasons with the Dominican Summer League Expos before making his U.S. debut with the Gulf Coast League Expos in 2004. He entered the 2005 season with a career 13-12 record and a 3.30 ERA, striking out more than one batter per inning pitched in 61 games, before making his long-season debut with the Savannah Sand Gnats in 2005.
Couldn't Avoid The Big Innings: Ricardo Morales finished the 2005 season with a solid 8-7 record and a 3.94 ERA. But as good as that was, Morales' year could have been a lot better had he been able to avoid the disastrous starts. Morales allowed four earned runs or more in 10 of his 25 starts with the Sand Gnats this past season.
Throw in the fact that 11 of his 16 home runs allowed in 2005 came in just four of his starts, Morales' season could have been a lot better with just a few small in-game adjustments over the course of the entire season. If Morales can learn to avoid the big innings as he continues to develop, he could become a solid pitching prospect for the Nationals.
Summer Swoon: Morales' start to the 2005 season was right on target with his final numbers, going 2-0 with a 3.97 ERA in his first four starts with Savannah. However, as the weather heated up with summer approaching, Morales' numbers began to go south. He went just 2-5 with a 4.74 ERA in his 9 starts in the months of May and June.
After turning things around slightly in July, going 3-2 with a 4.06 ERA in his next six starts, Morales finished the year on a high note. Despite going just 1-0 in his last six starts, Morales posted a 2.53 ERA and allowed just one home run. The Nationals are hoping that his stellar pitching down the stretch is a sign of good things to come in the immediate future from the 21-year old southpaw.
His Surroundings Didn't Matter: One of the more significant numbers among Morales' splits this past season was how consistent he was pitching either on the road or at home at Grayson Stadium, home of the Savannah Sand Gnats. Usually pitchers of his lack of experience will have more pronounced splits either at home or on the road.
Morales posted a 3.90 ERA and opposing batters hit .284 against him in his 12 road starts, which was only slightly better than his performance at Grayson Stadium. He limited opposing batters to a .274 batting average at home, posting a 3.99 ERA. His consistency in 2005, no matter the surroundings, is a good sign for his future development.
Lefties Could Be A Problem: While his consistent pitching either at home or on the road was a solid sign, his lack of success against left-handed batters, especially as a left-handed pitcher, is very discouraging. Morales, who held opposing right-handed batters to a .274 batting average this past season, got lit up by lefties.
Left-handed batters, going against traditional baseball splits, hit .299 off of Morales in 2005. But as bad as that was, the fact that lefties collected 46.9% of their hits off of Morales for extra bases shows that they not only hit him early and often, but hard. Morales is going to have marked improvement when facing left-handed batters if he's going to get his shot at the Major League level someday.
First Inning Jitters: 21.7% of Morales' earned runs in 2005 were served up in the first inning of his starts. His ERA in the first inning of his starts was 4.68 this past season, and a combined 2.26 in innings two through four. His splits clearly show that he's not ready to come out of the bullpen, seeing as he has a hard time getting off to a quick start in his games. If Morales can make a small adjustment at the beginnings of his starts, perhaps a different warm-up regiment, he could shave his ERA by a full run.
Two Outs A Problem: It is a well known fact that most hitters are not nearly as good when batting with two outs. Don't tell that to Ricardo Morales however. As the pressure mounted facing Morales, opposing batters enjoyed more success.
South Atlantic League batters hit .272 off of him with the bases empty and their average jumped up to .288 with runners on base. Morales was hit for a .274 average with runners in scoring position, and when there were two outs with runners in scoring position, opponents hit a robust .302 off of him. Throw in the fact that he gave up a .319 average overall with runners on base and with two outs, his lack of success in the pressure situations is an alarming sign as he continues to progress through the Nationals' farm system.
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