Logan Morrison is older and wiser, and he’s off to a strong start this season with the Tampa Bay Rays. Over 46 plate appearances (including this morning’s game), the 29-year-old first baseman is slashing a healthy .302/.348/.535, with three round trippers. Thanks in part to a grand salami and a .350 batting average with runners on base, he’s tied for the team lead in RBI, with 10.
He’s still colorful. Morrison has long been good with a quip, and while his hitting approach has matured, his personality remains engagingly offbeat. That’s good new for scribes and fans alike — everyone loves a snappy quote — and LoMo supplied several when I spoke to him over the weekend.
Morrison on his career thus far: “I’d say I’ve had some ups and downs. There have been some speed bumps along the road, but I’m still here. They’re trying to get me out, but I’m still here.
“I was 22 years old when I got called up. I didn’t know [crap] about anything I was doing. I thought I did. I thought I had it all figured out, and I actually did pretty well that first half-season. I carried it over into the next year, too, but then I got hurt and got off the tracks a little bit. Then I got hurt again. I had to have another surgery on the same leg.
“Since then, I’ve been able to slowly but surely put together some lengthy times without being on the DL. I did go on the DL twice last year, though. I had the wrist stuff. Honestly, it’s about staying healthy. I feel like if I stay healthy, I’ll put up numbers.”
On learning to not overthink hitting: “I think about hitting less than I used to. It’s been an evolution process. I wasn’t thinking about it at all when I first came up, then I started thinking about it all the time. When I would struggle, I’d try to change things. I’d look at my swing. I’d look at what I valued. I’d look at other guy’s swings and what they valued. I’ve tempered that down. Now it’s more of just letting it happen. If it happens it happens, and if it doesn’t, go get ‘em tomorrow. I don’t start thinking I have to change something.
“It’s a peace-of-mind thing for me. It’s a been-there-done-that type of deal. Sometimes you just have to go through it. I went through it last year. I was terrible in April. There were a lot of sleepless nights. But shoot, that’s part of baseball. It’s not easy. So far this April, I’m sleeping pretty well.”
On hitting the ball in the air: “I’ve looked at All-Stars in the league, and what they believe. I’ve heard guys say if they fly out three or four times a night, that’s a good night. I was always taught to hit the ball on the ground and run. And I’m not even fast.
“When you’re struggling, what are you told to go to? You go back to basics and try to hit a ground ball up the middle. I get shifted, so that would mean I’m out. So now, my “back to basics” is to try to hit a fly ball up the middle. Valuing that side of it — launch angle and all that stuff — has helped me out a lot.
“I read what Josh Donaldson was saying when he was going to his leg kick. Justin Turner… listening to him talk. Talking to my teammates, like Brad Miller and Evan Longoria. [Hitting coach Chad Mottola] wants me to hit the ball in the air. He wants me to err on the side of pull, rather than the opposite field. We have cool battles with that, but it’s not… the main thing is, just hit, right? Who cares?”
On keeping things simple, and up the middle: “A lot of it is just getting the best pitch you can to hit. Right? Give me something in the middle of the plate, and if my swing is good enough that day, it’s going to do damage. I know that. Barrel the ball in the air, and I’ll do damage. It’s easier said than done, but as a hitter, you want to make everything as simple as possible. A guy like Longo isn’t going to get much over the plate. I’ll get more. I’ll get those opportunities, and I need to do something with them.
“I’m not very good at what I want to do, because I want to hit home runs to center field. That’s my aim. It gives me a little more room for error. If I can get a pitch middle, and I’m looking to do damage in the middle of the field, that opens up right center and left center. I have the freedom to adjust.
“What I ultimately want to do is hunt fastballs middle, but at the same time, I want knowledge on what the pitcher likes to do. Especially in certain counts. If I know a pitcher doesn’t like to use one side of the plate, that helps me out even more. If it’s a guy who can do everything, I’m just trying to get a fastball middle until two strikes. Sometimes pitchers don’t comply.”
On looking for pitches up in the zone: “To me, [plate discipline] is a plane thing. Does that make sense? As a hitter, you want to hit the ball up. You want the ball middle. But, at the same time, if the ball starts middle, it’s never going to end up middle. Maybe sometimes, but not usually. Getting it up, and seeing it on that plane, helps you put the barrel on the ball. If it’s down… you might take some strikes at the bottom of the zone, but a lot of times they’re trying to get you out underneath the zone. It helps to lay off that stuff.
“As far as [pitch location], I’m more of a up-and-middle, middle-away guy. I just think there’s a lot of stuff down and in that can get you out if you’re actually looking there. It’s a reaction pitch. If you’re able to react to that, and it’s a strike, you can do damage with it, no doubt. But again, there’s a lot of stuff down there that goes out of the zone. You swing over those.”
On working in the cage and watching video: “A big feel thing for me is being able to, I guess, have a zero-to-100 type of feel to my hands. A slow start, then that whip out front. That’s the only thing I try to feel in the cage.
“Mechanically — I’m going to give you an answer to nothing here — the only thing I look for is whether my head is moving forward too much. This is when I’m watching video. If I’m able to… wherever I start my load, I’ll pick out a reference behind it, whether it’s a fan’s head, or whatever. Whether my head stays behind that spot is all I look for.
“Maybe it’s something on the dugout. At the Rays’ park, the side angles we get… usually, where I line up, that little starburst we have on our dugout is right by my cheek. If I’m starting here, and then I go back in my load and come forward, and it’s behind me, I know my head is moving forward too much. Does that make sense? But if it stays right here, I know I’m staying behind my front side, and behind the baseball. Does that make sense?”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.