Smells Like Charlie Morton


Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton probably holds classes on being awesome.  He also could put this awful blog out of existence too.  I can’t confirm the How To Be Awesome classes, but what has been confirmed is as follows:  He can write emotional songs.    He apparently has an upcoming album, Storm Inside.  He writes a killer blog about picking up his dog Bailey’s poop. 

And yeh, he is a major league pitcher.   So Charlie took care of most of the things that the chicks love about a man.  He makes big money, writes his own lyrics,  and sings his own love songs.

In this post we are going to suggest some song titles for the new album since we can’t write catchy lyrics, or even good blog posts for that matter.  Since we don’t have rhythm, or a dog with parasites that likes to poop in parking lots, and since my fastball never moved a vertical or horizontal inch, we are left to blog about Mortons’ pitching performances last season.

So yeh, it’s pretty boring, if you want to back up and read Morton’s blog, go ahead, we don’t blame you.  Not all of us have the total package.

Track One–COME AS YOU ARE.  Charlie could do a nice cover of Kurt and the Boys 

As a Pirate fan, it was easy to see last year that the Bucs had no pitchers at the AAA level that were major league ready. The Bucs made a controversial trade of a fan favorite, (hell I don’t know how else to describe him?) Gold Glove centerfielder Nate McLouth for Charlie Morton and Gorkys Hernandez.  Some people were pissed.  A lot of fans actually felt McLouth would be a cornerstone that would be built around for years to come in Pittsburgh.  We’re just glad Neal and the gang are smarter than that. 

So after the initial shock subsided that ‘Nate the Great’ had been traded, Morton was immediately thought to be the answer for the Bucs rotation in spite of not having much major league experience.  Frankly, we didn’t care how much experience he had.  He had the talent to easily have the best stuff on the staff.  So obviously, we were thrilled with the trade and had faith that Morton could eat up some innings in a much more impressive fashion than what the Pirates options were.

Could you imagine the Bucs fortunes had they not made the trade for Morton?

In his first start he faced his old team, and was injured.  He lasted one inning.  Ten days later on June 20, Morton pitched in Colorado against the Rockies.  He pitched five innings and allowed two runs while striking out four.  He still didn’t look quite comfortable due to the injury, but eight days later in Kansas City, he suffered his first of nine losses on the season.  The Royals scored three runs in five innings.

Morton’s stuff was the buzz on the hard core fan boards in Pittsburgh.  Most could see the talent, the movement, and the use of his five pitches–especially his live, four seam fastball. Morton had pitched eleven innings and he had struck out seven batters while issuing two free passes.  But there were some questions as he seemed hittable.  He had periods where his ball would get up in the zone.  Pirate fans were skeptical.

On July 3 some of the skeptics had to bite their tongues as Morton dominated the Marlins.  He basically had two pitches that night and Florida could only muster one hit.  Morton walked four and struck out four over six innings.

Holy shit Pirate fans, the Bucs have a starter!  It evened his record at 1-1 for the Pirates.  But as Charlies’ season would progress, consistency was hard to come by.  So was run support.


PNC Park was sold out for Mortons’ return to the Steel City against the Giants on July 18.  Morton had pitched ten days earlier in Houston and had lasted just four innings.  He gave up five runs, ten hits and threw 94 pitches.

It was new territory for Morton.

He went into the Astros game with a 2.65ERA.  He looked dominant against the Marlins five days earlier facing the minimum through the first four innings.  So what happened in Houston and what could Pirate fans expect to see from Morton in his homecoming?

Morton pitched seven scoreless innings.

His dominant performance came without his best stuff.  He answered the questions by leaning on an old friend, his favorite pitch.

He threw 90 pitches leaning heavily on his four seam fastball and mixed in a change and a 79-81 mph curveball.   He struck out six Giants batters and walked just two (the first walk came with two outs in the second inning, and the second walk was Giants P Barry Zito  who leadoff the third inning.)

We think the answer for Morton was he got back to his fastball.  According to the ‘totally unoffical’ Brooks PitchFX tool, Morton threw 50 four seamers, 17 changeups, 19 curveballs while tossing just three sinkers and one slider against the Giants.  In the rough outing against the Astros, Morton threw 31 four seam fastballs, 20 sinkers, and 10 sliders while mixing in just eight curveballs.


At Arizona on July 23, Morton would pitch for the first time since coming over from the Braves with a full five day rest, he was in the rotation rhythm. But it was off key.  He would only last 4.2 innings allowing seven hits and four runs.  A Jason Upton line drive went off the glove of Freddy Sanchez to put the DBacks up 1-0 in the first inning. 

But with some help from his catcher, the Pirates gave Morton a 4-1 lead heading into the fifth inning thanks to a bomb hit by Ryan Doumit that chased DBack stud Dan Haren who had a 1.95ERA at the time. 

It wouldn’t stand up however as the DBacks wood came alive in the bottom of the fifth sending Morton to the showers.  Four DBacks hits produced four runs including the cherry bomb that was a two-run blast by Gerardo Parra that made it 4-4.  

For the game, Morton threw 20 changeups, fifteen of them were strikes.  In fact, he had four DBacks swing and miss on his change, double that of any other pitch he threw.  It was just that one shitty inning.  Sounds like a blues tune to us.

Track Four–MR. VELEZ sung to the tune of GNR’s Mr. Brownstone

On July 28 at San Francisco, Morton was stung from an unlikely source.  Mr. Eugenio Velez.  Morton allowed a homer in the second inning to Velez, walked Velez, and then in the sixth, he fell behind two balls and no strikes to the Giants second baseman.  Velez ripped the 2-0 pitch for an RBI double into right field. 

Morton got through the inning, but didn’t go back out for the seventh.  His final line was six innings, two earned runs, and he struck out five Giants.  The frustrating Pirate offense had plenty of hits with ten, but couldn’t generate more than two runs.  The Bucs lost 3-2 and Morton fell to 2-3 on the year with a 3.72ERA.

Track Five–SOME LIKE IT HOT cover of the Power Station with Robert Palmer classic  

The dog days of August weren’t great for Morton mainly because of the Cubs outing we have all heard about too many times.  In five appearances, four at home, Morton threw 24.1 innings in August and allowed 29 runs with 10 of those coming in his one inning start at Chicago.

His last appearance of the month came against the Phillies.  The champs put one run on the board in the first inning which was a common occurence for Morton in 2009.  Andrew McCutchen tied it with a solo shot in bottom of first.  

Another trend for Morton in 2009 was allowing homers to offensively challenged players.   It continued as Morton gave up a solo homerun to the Mendoza line Paul Bako.   Then later in the game a full count turned into a walk to Bako.  It was strange.

Mortons’ pitch count was over 60 through three innings.  He had a 1-2-3 fifth inning with the Bucs trailing 2-1.  He quickly got two outs in the sixth, but then issued a four pitch walk to Bako.  Charlie does that, he is good at making his fans scream.  “The atmosphere was electric,” Morton told Rob Biertempfel after the game.

For the game, Charlie went six giving up just two runs.  Charlie was good, but not great.  He relied on his fastball and changeup all night.  Those two pitches counted for 87 of his 106 total pitch count, but JA Happ was mowing down the Bucs all night until Garrett Jones blasted a two-run HR in the bottom of the eighth to give the Bucs a 3-2 win. 

Pirate fans were excited because it was the second effective start Morton had after the 10-run outing in Chicago and also because the Bucs took two of three from the first place Phillies.

Track Six-  SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER.  Charlie could do wonders with this Earth Wind and Fire classic

On September 1, Morton faced the Reds, a team with primarily AAA hitters in the lineup.  After Mortons’ first 38 pitches, the first inning had ended.  He faced nine batters allowed four hits, and two walks.  Morton was throwing a healthy dose of his curveballs.  (He threw 18 with just six called strikes.)  The Bucs infield didn’t provide much help, but this was a case of Charlie not trusting his stuff much as his pitches rarely made it inside on the Reds hitters.

The Pirates lost to the Reds 11-5 after Morton allowed six earned runs and nine hits over five innings.  The frustrating part of watching Morton pitch reminded me of when  I hear Penguins fans  scream “shoot the puck!”   Everyone could see his stuff had more moves than Mae West, as Penguins announcer Mike Lange would say, but I would find myself screaming at him to use it.

Morton’s WHIP had reached 1.65.  The league average was 1.39.

After allowing four walks in five innings to the Reds, Morton wouldn’t pitch again for ten days.  But he made corrections.  From September 11 until the season ended, Morton made four starts and would allow just eight walks in 29 innings pitched.

It wasn’t exactly a flick of the switch from good to great, but it was a noticeable improvement.

The Astros proved to be intimidating to Morton again on September 11.  He fell behind 13 of 23 batters.  With two outs in the first inning, Lance Berkman  jumped out to a 3-0 count.  Morton battled back, but on a full count Berkman drove the baseball into the RF seats for an early Astros lead. 

The Astros didn’t look back.  The Bucs and Morton would lose 9-1.  In his two outings against the Astros, Morton had allowed 16 hits in ten innings with three walks and six strikeouts.  The Pirates scored one run for Morton in those two starts.  Morton allowed eight.

Something we found interesting was Morton couldn’t get the Astros to swing and miss.  In the first game,  seven Astros missed his four seam fastball, but in the second game just three swung and missed against Mortons’ full arsenal, two on sinkers.

Morton’s final three starts were an exciting glimpse at the future.  Bucs announcer John Wehner has said that Charlie Morton reminds him of Kevin Brown, that certainly is some big shoes to fill.  Brown is known for the early movement on his pitches, Morton has late tail, late sink on his pitches.  Perhaps Morton might have given Wehner that vision during the final three starts of 2009.    

From July 23 to September 11, Morton had allowed a homerun in six of his last nine starts.  In his final three starts, he allowed none.  Morton finished the year with a solid 0.65 HR/9, imagine if he was taken deep by the likes of Bako and Velez.

Track Seven-  ENCORE.   Eminem

Morton went seven innings against the Padres, seven innings against the Reds and in his final start of the year, pitched a complete game against the Cubs.   In a normal situation, the buzz would have begun.  The Pirates were slugging (bad word) it out trying to avoid 100 losses.  Morton came through helping the Bucs avoid such fate.

When we looked at the chart compiled from Brooks Baseball, we focused on the last three games.  What was different for Morton?  We found Morton throwing more fastballs.  He threw more curveballs too, which makes sense as two of the games were at PNC.   It was the most four seam fastballs, 162, he threw in any three other starts during the season.  More curveballs, 78,  than any three starts all season as well.

The Padres visited Pittsburgh and Morton fired his four seam fast ball early and often.  It was the most he would throw it in his 18 starts in 2009.  It was one of his best performances.  Pirate fans expected a win and they got it.

Morton threw 61 four seamers and held the Padres to one run over seven innings.  The Bucs won 5-1.

The Reds came to Pittsburgh in late September, Morton realized it would be the last appearance against the Reds and he saved his best for last.

Morton suffered the loss and it focused around a four batter, two-out sequence when Drew Sutton doubled home the first run, Joey Votto doubled home two more, and Brandon Phillips singled home the fourth.  It was all the offense the Reds would need as the Bucs struggled most of the way losing 4-1. 

Morton was agressive and in re-watching the game, he pitched inside more.  He certainly pitched well enough to deserve a victory as Bronson Arroyo admitted after the game that he didn’t have his best stuff.  But in the Pirates 2009 season, sometimes opposing pitchers didn’t need it.

Morton started three games against Cincy going 1-2.  He allowed two earned runs in the one win, but ten earned runs in his losses.  He gave up 21 hits and walked nine Reds batters in 18.1 innings.

Like any rock star, Morton sparkled in his last appearance on the big stage September 30th at Wrigley Field.  He allowed just four Cubs hits and nothing went for extra bases.  Two hits were infield singles.  He plunked two Cubs in going the distance striking out eight.  Morton had a good sinker.  Morton threw the sinker 15 times with 12 being strikes.  All four of his pitches were impressive, each being consistently down in the zone.

In the final three games, Morton threw the fewest number of four seamers, 48, against the Cubs.  Don’t forget this was a complete game, a four hitter in which Morton threw 119 pitches.  We obviously thought Morton would have thrown more four seamers and curveballs because he was pitching longer into the game.  Wrong.   He mixed in a good sinker 15 times firing 12 of them for strikes.  In his two prior starts against the Padres and Reds, Morton threw a total of five sinkers.

We are guessing that the four seamer was simply his best pitch.  The damn thing moves more than a thirty foot John Daly putt.  Now in 2010, he just needs to trust it.

2010 will be a big year for Charlie Morton.  The tour begins in just over two weeks for Charlie Morton.

The first track suggestion for 2010?  Fastballs, Fastballs, Fastballs….sung to the catchy Motley Crue tune of Girls, Girls, Girls  (Charlie certainly knows a thing or two about girls.)

Rock on Charlie.  Rock on.


Sources for the longest post I have done and might not repeat again…

Brooks Baseball

Tribune Review.