I’m going to start by talking quite a bit about Charlie Morton. Some people already know what I’m going to say and will agree with me. Some people already know what I’m going to say and are rolling their eyes in anticipation. Some people already want to click away because Charlie Morton’s awfulness thus far in the season makes their eyes bleed. If you’re in any camp but the first, I’d encourage you to at least hear me out here.
Charlie Morton has good stuff. He’s getting raked over the coals on a regular basis this season, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s got a 95 mph fastball (as in, it hits 95 in the game, not that he can theoretically throw 95 but rarely does) that dips, that he’s got a big, looping curveball that even on his worst nights he can use to catch off-guard when spotted with that fastball, and that he’s got a slider and a changeup that may not be as good as the other two pitches, but that he can throw in games and get people out with. I’m not a scout and so you shouldn’t take my opinion on this sort of thing, but I’m also not the only person that thinks this; Ed Price at FanHouse mentioned last week that scouts are every bit as mystified by him as fans like me are.
What makes Morton so frustrating to watch is this year is that his velocity hasn’t mysteriously disappeared like it did for Oliver Perez after 2004 and he’s just more talented than guys like Kip Wells and Ian Snell. His strikeouts are up over his numbers with the Pirates last year and his walks are down, but his home run rate is otherworldly and he’s letting runners score at a mind boggling pace. So far this year, he’s put 67 people on base via hit, walk, hit batsmen, and intentional walks. He’s allowed 44 runs (38 earned). That’s insane. Last year, Luke Hochevar had the league’s worst strand rate among pitchers that threw more than 100 innings. It was 59.3%. Morton’s scuffling below 40% right now. Even accepting that he’s been awful with runners on base, things shoudn’t be this ugly. Even if his strand rate was closer to 50%, which would still be absurdly low, his ERA would be more than two points lower.
The place I’m going with this is here: Charlie Morton is too talented for the Pirates to just give up on right now. He’s obviously got some issues to deal with, particularly out of the stretch, but like Ian Snell last year he’s not the sort of pitcher that’s going to learn anything by baffling Triple-A hitters with four pitches and the ability to throw a fastball and a breaking pitch. He’s got to keep going out there and working at whatever he needs to work on, even if he can turn a scoreless inning into a five-run inning quicker than anyone I’ve ever seen. If the Pirates keep trotting him out there, there’s still a really good chance that they’ll be able to reap quite a reward from doing so.
As for the rest of the game? It sucked. Kyle Kendrick is not a good pitcher, but the Bucs sure made him look like one. Let’s not talk about this one anymore.