Blue Jays Opposing Pitcher Report: Charlie Morton

KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 15: Charlie Morton #50 of the Houston Astros throws in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on June 15, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 15: Charlie Morton #50 of the Houston Astros throws in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on June 15, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

On Tuesday, June 26, the Blue Jays will play the second game of their three-game series in Houston. While it is unconfirmed, Ryan Borucki will likely make his major league debut in this game, opposing Charlie Morton.

Charlie Morton is another name in a long list of surprising seasons from starters on the Houston Astros. The big right-hander never had a great season in his previous seasons in the major leagues. An Atlanta draftee, he bounced around the Braves’, Pirates’, and Phillies’ systems before being signed by Houston in the 2016 offseason.

The best season of his career came in 2013 while he was a member of the pirates. The righty pitched 20 games, posting a 3.26 ERA, 3.60 FIP, and 1.271 WHIP. However, it was his season in 2016, while a member of the Phillies, that clearly caught the attention of the Astros.

In 2016 the right-handed hurler pitched to a 4.15 ERA but also posted a 3.09 FIP and 3.01 xFIP. As a result, the Astros signed him to a 2 year, $14 million contract. The contract is not much of a risk to take, but it was not dumb luck that he’s now excellent.

While this is in no way confirmed information, it seems the peripheral numbers sold the deal to the Astros. The team realized that the 2015 Phillies defence was nothing compared to the young Astros defence. As a result, the old, sinkerball pitcher, when pitching in front of an excellent defence, would fully benefit from some luck on balls in play.

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Needless to say, the gamble the team took on Morton has worked, as he posted a 3.62 ERA and 3.46 FIP in 25 starts this year. This season, the Houston starter has posted a 2.74 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 1.128 WHIP, and 137 ERA+. On a contract fit for a fifth starter, the righty has posted top-end-of-the-rotation numbers.

The crafty veteran will mix between a four-seam fastball, curveball, sinker, cutter, and splitter. However, while there are multiple variations, the big righty is primarily a fastball-curveball pitcher.

The four-seam fastball has been thrown by the veteran 30.8% of the time this season. The heater is quite quick, averaging a velocity of 96.96 mph. The four-seamer has posted a good .235 BAA, but has also allowed 10 extra base hits.

Morton breaks off big-breaking curveballs 29.2% of the time this season. The hook averages a velocity of 80.24 mph and sweeps hard towards the glove side. As a result of this incredible movement, batters have whiffed at a crazy rate of 48.21% of swings. In total, the curveball has been responsible for 66 of the right-hander’s 109 punch outs this year.

The big righty has fired home sinkers 25.9% of the time this season. The sinking fastball is very hard, posting an average velocity of 95.93 mph. Unsurprisingly, batters have hit ground balls against the pitch at an incredible rate of 64.56% of balls in play. These worm burners have been converted into outs well this season, as well, as the sinker has posted a .220 BAA.

The right-handed hurler completes his pitching repertoire with occasional cutters and splitters. The cutter and splitter have been used 7.5% and 6.5% of the time, respectively. The splitter has posted a great .222 SLGA with no home runs, while the cutter has been responsible for a huge .539 SLGA and one home run.
While the Astros were smart to pick up Morton, he has been playing a bit over his head this season. Despite holding an incredibly high 51.7% ground ball rate, the starter has posted a low .257 BABIP. Based on past numbers, this BABIP is not sustainable for the veteran. His FIP suggests that he has been about a run worse than his ERA. However, this BABIP may be slightly aided by an excellent Houston defence. Therefore, this may not correct itself this year, but it likely will next year.

The right-hander has excellent strikeout numbers this year, posting a 29.6% K-rate and an 11.06 K/9. However, deep counts have not always favoured the Astros starter, as he has also posted a poor 10.1% BB-rate and 3.76 BB/9.

The Blue Jays, as a whole, have not managed much against the New Jersey native. However, the only player who has hit against him has been excellent. Steve Pearce has managed four hits and a walk in eight plate appearances—all of these hits have been singles, though. Russell Martin and Kendrys Morales have struggled against Morton. Martin has never managed a hit in seven at-bats, while Morales has managed just one hit in eight at-bats.

Next: Blue Jays’ Bo Bichette is back to bashing baseballs

The Blue Jays have drawn two difficult pitching match-ups in a row against the Houston Astros. However, the Jays should try to work some walks and make their way into the struggling Houston bullpen.