Charlie Morton and the Buccos’ Rotation

Prior to yesterday’s games, the Pittsburgh Pirates were the only team in the Majors without a starter who had thrown 100 pitches in a game. Naturally, Paul Maholm replied to my tweet with this nugget by throwing 100 pitches exactly. The Pirates have had four starters removed before topping 80 pitches, which is second in futility only to the Washington Nationals. Here are the Pirates’ six starters this year and their notable numbers:

Brian Burres – 1 GS, 4 IP, 5.03 FIP
Zach Duke – 3 GS, 19 IP, 4.13 FIP
Paul Maholm – 3 GS, 17.2 IP, 4.27 FIP
Daniel McCutchen – 2 GS, 7.1 IP, 9.98 FIP
Charlie Morton – 2 GS, 9.1 IP, 7.31 FIP
Ross Ohlendorf – 1 GS, 5 IP, 7.03 FIP

(Yes, I know the samples are small. The FIP is there just to illustrate how awful some oe the performances have been.)

Generally speaking, when it’s April and Burres is getting starts for you, something has gone wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. That wrongness is Ohlendorf being hurt. Ohlendorf is more interesting for his off the field accomplishments than his on the field pitching. The real gem of intrigue in the Pirates’ rotation right now is Morton.

Morton was the power arm acquired by the Pirates in the Nate McLouth deal. He has something spectacular growing on his chin in the form of a beard. Check his gamelogs so far:

4/9 @ ARI: 3.1 IP, 1 HR, 6 SO, 1 BB, 4 FB, 2 GB, 8 LD
4/14 @ SF: 6 IP, 3 HR, 3 SO, 0 BB, 7 FB, 10 GB, 4 LD

That Arizona start is incredible to me. He gave up eight earned runs despite posting a 6/1 K/BB ratio and only allowing one home run. I guess there’s no bias in those eight line drives, because, jeez. I actually used the Baseball-Reference Play Index to find comparable starts since 1980. As it turns out, Morton shares some, um, really good company. No, really.

In 1998 Randy Johnson struck out 12 batters while allowing eight earned runs (giving up three homers undoubtedly played into that). Ryan Dempster, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, Nolan Ryan, and Floyd Youmans gave up boats of runs while striking out 10 apiece. Kerry Wood, Roger Clemens, Johnson twice, Sidney Ponson, Kevin Gross, and Mike Norris K’d nine through rough starts. And the list goes on. Josh Beckett, Kenny Rogers, John Smoltz, Mark Langston … they all got battered around while fanning at least eight.

Of course there are some stinkers on this list too. But right now, Morton’s name resides next to A.J. Burnett, Jon Lester, Justin Verlander, and Roy Oswalt. That’s not too shabby. Now, before someone takes this the wrong way, I’m not saying good pitchers get hit around super duper hard while striking batters out. It does happen sometimes. But, I’m not saying this is some harbinger to Morton winning the Cy Young. It’s just not a death knell by any means.

Note: I tried including the B-Ref PI link so everyone could view the report. At first and second try this did not work out. I’ll try again later with hopefully more success.

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11 Responses to “Charlie Morton and the Buccos’ Rotation”

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  1. Temo says:

    Did you list a lot of guys who struck out a 8+ batters only? There’s a difference between 8 and 6, I suppose. Especially when the 6 comes against a team with a bunch of “Three true outcomes” guys (Arizona is 4th in K’s in the MLB), and the people he struck out include Mark Reynolds, Connor Jackson, and Miguel Montero (twice).

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  2. byron says:

    Aren’t you just basically arguing the merits of FIP without saying so? That there are better ways to evaluate a pitcher’s ability than the runs he gives up, and that Ks and BBs are big parts of that? I can’t tell which side of the FIP/xFIP homer-debate you’re on, but it’s one of them.

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  3. don says:

    Rich Harden gave up 4 runs in a 3 inning start and struck out 8. Sometimes the bar eats you.

    Cole Hamels struck out 11 and walked 2 in a start while giving up 5 runs.

    There are lots of curious lines out there, I suppose.

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  4. Eric Cioe says:

    I was hoping you’d mention the relevant Verlander start, where he struck out 13 Rangers, walked none, and gave up 5 runs over (I think) 7 innings. He did something similar against the Royals, too.

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  5. deadpool says:

    I think these comparisons would be more pertinent if Morton had ever showed that he could hang with Major Leaguers for more than one start in a row. I didn’t watch him alot with the Buccos last season, but I had seen every start he made for the Braves up till the trade. All the peices are there, decent GB rate, decent K/BB rate, but for some reason the guy gets hit. Maybe its just one of those things numbers can’t capture, like maybe he’s just so lacking in deception that if he can’t overpower a hitter on stuff alone the batter can get into him.

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  6. Jeff koch says:

    I watched the Morton start. He had K’d 6 through the lineup the first time. Frankly, he was dominating. Right up ’til he had to pitch from the stretch. The fastball slowed 2MPH and moved much less. The curve was seen by all before it was released. He got shelled. I’d think a minor adjustment and he’s back to being what you’re suggesting.

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  7. Starting Charlie Morton on the basis of his xFIP was the worst decision I ever made…until I also started Gio Gonzalez against the Yankees later that very night…sigh…

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  9. Dart Spielen says:

    wunderbare erafte mit klisskre und rasch cksstart, sehr freing und vorung. upole schon solisiebt hat vietegra, stand und sennenet mit auchtirmt.

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  11. Lemuel Lalin says:

    well written, thanks

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