Charlie Morton isn’t a pitcher that many casual baseball fans know about, but he is trying his best to earn some name recognition. The Pittsburgh Pirates have had one of the best pitching staffs in the National League in 2013 thanks in large part to the two guys at the top of the rotation, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett. However, the Pirates have used nearly 15 starting pitchers this season, and just about every one has done well enough to win games.
Morton has fit in well as the third starter in the rotation after completing his rehab from Tommy John Surgery. He has come back stronger than ever and his fastball shows it. His fastball has added a few miles per hour that he didn’t have before his surgery. Morton’s fastball, however, isn’t an average fastball. He throws a nasty two-seam/sinker that gives hitters fits. His sinker is a huge reason that Morton has a crazy-high 65 percent ground ball rate this season. Getting ground balls prevents home runs as well, Morton has a HR/9 of just 0.54.
In just 15 starts this season, Morton is 7-3 with a 3.00 ERA. Coming into this season, no one really knew what to expect from the sinker-ball pitcher. People were just hoping he would be able to induce ground balls by using his sinker. It turns out that everyone’s hopes have come true as Morton is becoming a dominant pitcher for the Pirates. His best season prior to 2013 came in 2011 when Morton went 10-10 with a 3.83 ERA. Morton has progressed a ton since that season; he is walking less batters and he is getting more ground balls.
Even though Morton has a top of the line sinker, it isn’t his only good pitch. He uses a filthy sweeping curveball that he likes to front door against right-handed hitters and back door against lefties. When watching Morton pitch, he will make at least five pitches per game that will make you literally say “wow” to yourself.
Before Morton’s return to the rotation, I was wondering if there was even room for him to pitch as a starter for the Pirates. Now the question isn’t if he should be in the rotation, but the question is whether he is the second or third pitcher in a potential playoff series.