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Thread: Morton for real per ESPN

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    Default Morton for real per ESPN

    When a player has been in the majors for a few seasons, we usually have a pretty good idea of his abilities.

    But every once in a while we get a situation when a guy performs in a manner that is so radically different from what we've seen from him before that we have to reconsider our perception of him. Which brings us to Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton. Drafted by Atlanta in 2002, he was sent to the Bucs as part of the Nate McLouth trade two years ago. After posting a 7.57 ERA last season (with a 2-12 record) he remodeled his delivery after Roy Halladay and suddenly has a Doc-esque 2.51 ERA with two complete games in 10 starts.

    In Sabermetrics 101, we'd probably look at his 2010 batting average on balls in play (.353) and compare it to his 2011 BABIP (.283) and conclude that he was insanely unlucky last year, a bit fortunate this year, and his real skill level is probably somewhere in the middle. The problem is that the rest of Morton's stat line is so atypical that we can't fall back on such facile analysis.

    To wit: Morton's ground-ball rate of 63.1 percent is the best in baseball. Going back five years, here are the five pitchers who have led the majors in ground-ball rate: Tim Hudson, Joel Pineiro, Brandon Webb and Derek Lowe twice. While that may not be Hall of Fame company, those are some pretty good pitchers. So Morton must be for real, right? Well, maybe not. Thus far in 2011, Morton has 37 strikeouts to go with 29 walks. To play the arbitrary end-points game for a second, only once in the last 25 years has a pitcher had a strikeout-walk ratio of 1.3 or below and an ERA of less than 3.00, and that was Wilson Alvarez in 1993. In other words, Morton's current stat line is a bit of an outlier and is probably unsustainable.

    So where does that leave us? Upon examining Morton's pitch data, there are reasons to remain bullish about the 27-year-old. After throwing his two-seam fastball less than 60 percent of the time in 2010, he is throwing it more than 80 percent of the time this year, which is the most in the National League.

    Morton has done a remarkable job of running his two-seamer in on right-handers, while he left it out over the plate far more frequently last season. His ability to keep the ball on that part of the plate is represented quite clearly in his splits: Righties have a .475 OPS against Morton, while lefties are mashing him to the tune of .888.

    Clearly, Morton needs a better weapon to combat lefties. He might want to consider implementing his changeup more, since he's thrown it just 35 times to lefties this year and they have managed just two singles off the offering. However, that's not much of an issue when you can turn the average right-handed hitter into Mario Mendoza. Furthermore, Morton isn't even getting much help from his defense. Even lefties put the ball on the ground 56 percent of the time against him, yet according to defensive runs saved, Pirate infielders Lyle Overbay, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez have all been well-below average with the leather this season.

    More than anything, it's obvious that Morton is a pitcher in transition who has changed his delivery and has become far more reliant on his fastball. Considering the success he's had locating his two-seamer to righties thus far, it's not unreasonable to think that his overall command will improve -- and it has already shown signs of doing so. After walking 23 men in his first six starts, Morton has issued just six free passes in his last four outings, while allowing the same number of runs.

    It's easy to look at Morton's stat line and assume there will be regression, but not every player develops in the same manner, which is what makes player evaluation so tricky. Morton won't hit free agency until after the 2014 season, and until then he looks like the kind of pitcher who can help Pittsburgh actually contend at some point in the next few years.

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    Default Re: Morton for real per ESPN

    If ESPN says it, it must be true.

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    The k/bb rate has to improve. I want Morton to succeed and he has always had a ton of talent. He still needs to improve though. 2:1 should be what we're looking for. Just like I have said about Justin Wilson.
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    Default Re: Morton for real per ESPN

    Quote Originally Posted by BigBen2112 View Post
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    The k/bb rate has to improve. I want Morton to succeed and he has always had a ton of talent. He still needs to improve though. 2:1 should be what we're looking for. Just like I have said about Justin Wilson.
    Morton cut his BB/9 rate in May. He had a 1.73 BB/K ratio compared to 1.00 in April and brought his BB/9 down from a really a high 4.9 in April to 2.8 in May. If Morton can bright up the K rate a little more he would be bordering on Roy Halladay's 2005 season where he went 19-7 with a 2.93 ERA, a 2.4 BB/9 and 6.3 K/9.

    Technically, Morton should get more comfortable, confident and better as the season goes on as he practically started throwing the new delivery and using the new sinker grip a high amount in spring training
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    Default Re: Morton for real per ESPN

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    Watching the two wins against the Phils has given back to me my MLB package investment, although my new Bucs hat--worn to my nearby West Virginia casino--has produced about $2K in losses.

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