Don’t be fooled by Charlie Morton’s record: He’s having a solid year for Pittsburgh.
Morton is just 5-10 in 22 games for the Pirates, but that is largely due to a lack of run support: He is receiving just 3.67 runs per nine innings during his starts. The league average is 4.22. Otherwise, he has improved almost every aspect of his game, starting with strikeouts.
The 30-year-old righthander is striking out 7.1 batters per nine innings, the highest of his seven-year career. He is also striking out 2.3 batters for every one he walks. Plus, his off-speed pitches have induced more swings and misses than ever before.
His curveball has also become something to be feared. He is throwing it slightly more often this season (24.8 percent) than last (21.9 percent) but it is much more effective, saving 1.03 runs per 100 pitches thrown. That’s good for 15th best among starters qualifying for the ERA title. Hitters are also seeing more grounders and fly-outs off the pitch, with fewer line drives.
The real improvement lies in how he is performing against left-handed batters. Hitters have managed a weighted on-base average of just 0.293 this season, a much improved mark than in years past.
ZiPS projections have Morton going 2-3 with a 3.90 ERA and 0.2 WAR the rest of the season, but you and I know he is a much better pitcher than that.