Charlie Morton was rocked by the Chicago Cubs last night, while six days ago he pitched well enough for us to write this piece about his maturation. We were surprised when Morton seemed to lose focus on occasion last night at Wrigley, because that’s something we haven’t seen from the right hander in a long time. The Pirates offense bailed out the Bucs sinkerballer, but we were still intrigued about Morton.
So we set out to find proof that it might have been one of the worst outings since the days before he became Ground Chuck. In reality, all that really happened was that Morton threw a couple bad pitches when he had a pitcher’s count. He grooved a few too many pitches–it happens– and since we have only two starts to look at, we have gone full mission critical in our analysis. It didn’t take long to understand a bit more about Morton once we found the chart we knew existed at Brooks Baseball.
We have heard over and over again about how poorly Electric Stuff pitches against left handed hitters. The numbers we personally worry about are isolated power numbers.
Call us crazy – like you always do – but giving up powerful hits is what concerns us with Morton. Here’s why: Over the years it goes like this with Electric Stuff: The Bucs pitcher gives up a few worm burners, but can usually work his way out of trouble. The only thing that can hurt him is if the worm burners are followed by balls with air under them—those baseballs that get hit into the seats, off the outfield wall or into gaps.
Or exactly what happened last night against Starlin ‘I got my feeling back’ Castro hit a three-run bomb to tie up the game at 4-4.
The troubling sequence in the game happened on the second bomb Castro hit. Morton had two strikes, and we think that if Ground Chuck threw a pitch ten feet outside, Castro would have chased it–he did just that earlier in the at-bat. So all this crap about getting his feeling back would have been squelched if Morton would have bounced a two-hopper in that sequence.
It seems that Morton has so much movement on his pitches, at times it’s difficult for him to command his stuff, the movement wasn’t there as much last night as pitch selection was—don’t give Castro anything to hit when the count is 0-2, 1-2, or even 2-2.
The movement on Morton’s stuff is a pretty cool problem to have—’Damn, this shit just won’t go straight,’ isn’t a sentence you will hear a successful MLB pitcher ever utter.
The right handed hitters are the ones that take advantage, if you want to get real nit-picky after one of the poorest outings Morton has had. Look at this chart. It shows isolated power against Morton since he returned from Tommy John surgery in June 2013.
Most everyone talks about Morton’s batting average against against left handed hitters. We always wonder why? Allow us to explain. If nobody cares about batting average anymore, why do announcers bother to talk about it when referring to Morton? The right hander is serving up more ground balls than any pitcher in the majors. Again, the damage comes when balls get elevated.
The perfect example (although we are still talking about an amazingly small sample) was last night. The Cubs improved against Morton–most teams will when they see a pitcher for two consecutive starts. The fortunate thing for Morton is he has a strong defense–Starling Marte makes a stellar catch by the wall–the Cubs outfielders looked like circus tent workers behind Jackson.
The important thing was the Pirates improved more against Edwin Jackson and the cast of the Cubs bullpen to best the Cubbies in the important first game of the series. The Bucs keep grabbing those first games–they have done it every time again this year.
If you are into it, here are a few Morton graphs we enjoyed checking out.
Charlie slowed down the velocity when comparing his first March start against the Cubs and the one last night.
The horizontal movement chart comparing the two starts against the Cubs is below.
The grooved pitches chart is rather telling for Morton as well.