Looking at Why Charlie Morton is Replacing Vance Worley in the Rotation

Yesterday the Pittsburgh Pirates announced that Charlie Morton will start Tuesday night against the Red Sox, replacing Vance Worley who was originally scheduled to make the start. Morton has not pitched since August 15th against the Nationals, when he lasted only three innings and gave up five runs. Since that start, Morton has been on the disabled list, attempting to ease the pain that was caused by a sports hernia.

After a rehab start in Altoona in early September and multiple simulated games, the Pirates decided that Morton was healthy enough to re-enter the starting rotation. Morton has been dealing with his sports hernia since the beginning of June, and has had an up-and-down season since. The Pirates were encouraged with what they’ve seen from him in his recent bullpen sessions.

“We liked what we were seeing from Charlie. The ball was coming out of his hand well. He was back closer to the guy that was pitching well when the hip was bothering him and wanted to see how it played out on Tuesday,” GM Neal Huntington said Sunday afternoon.

Huntington was not willing to commit to Morton beyond his Tuesday start, stating that Morton’s health and results will be examined before deciding who will pitch Sunday against Milwaukee in that spot of the rotation.

“If Charlie throws well this will also give Vance an opportunity for a breather. It’s not the end of the world. If Charlie doesn’t throw well we’ll bridge the gap and bring Vance in behind him and go from there,” Huntington explained.

But why risk throwing an injured Morton when Worley is healthy and available and has pitched well this season?

Statistics suggest that Morton is actually a much better match-up against the Red Sox than Worley.

93.7 The Fan Host Dan Zangrilli tweeted that the Red Sox struggle hitting two-seam fastballs and curveballs — Morton’s two primary weapons. Morton throws his two-seam fastball 58% of the time, while throwing his curveball 25%.

The Red Sox have had great success hitting cutters, a pitch that Worley throws often.

With only 13 games remaining this year, each game has heightened importance. The Pirates have six starters they can trust, so they can set up the rotation in order to have the have the best match-ups possible.

Assuming everything goes well for Morton health-wise and he performs at a high enough level on Tuesday, the question is who should make the next start Sunday against the Brewers?

Milwaukee is #1 in baseball in hitting the cutter. They sit 10th in baseball against the two-seamer, and #7 against the curveball. While they still have solid numbers against the two-seam fastball and curveball, they are dominant against the cutter.

Morton has not pitched well against Milwaukee this season, as he has a 4.85 ERA in two starts against them. Things have not gone well against Milwaukee for Worley either, as he pitched against them one time in a losing effort this season, pitching 6.1 innings and giving up 12 hits and 4 earned runs. But in 2013, Morton dominated the Brewers, going 2-0 with a 0.57 ERA in 3 starts.

If things go well for Morton on Tuesday, his 2013 success and Milwaukee’s dominance against the cutter suggest that he would be the better matchup to start on Sunday.

  • Maybe a good time to consider a Cumpton spot start against the Brewers. Not sure what his numbers look like in this situation, but it may be better than throwing Morton or Worley.

    • Unlikely he is stretched out enough to throw 5 innings or more. Hasnt started a game since early August and his longest outing in relief was 5 innings roughly a month ago.

  • Maybe if the offense would get Charlie an early lead he will be able to throw more strikes and shorten his pitch count.

  • Monsoon Harvard
    September 15, 2014 8:11 pm

    Since I dont think Morton was ever really hurt enough to be on the DL in the first place, I don’t see this as a big danger. The reason he has been on the DL is that he was going through a pitching slump like every other pitcher and player does. Being good at baseball is a cyclical thing normally, for even the best of them.
    Morton just needed to be skipped for a while and hopefully he’ll have it back together now after a rest like it worked for Liriano earlier this year.

    The reasoning for going against the Redsox that Zangrilli offered makes logical sense. Now’s the best time for the Pirates to see if Morton is out of his slump because the match-up is in their favor.

    • What if this happened..Morton pitches against the Red Sox AND so does Worley a day later? Pushing everyone back a day so you’re better starters go against Milwaukee?

  • Most important is not Morton or Worley tomorrow night. Nor is it Cole and Liriano missing the Brewers. It’s that Cole and Liriano are scheduled to pitch either in the final weekend if necessary to secure WC or Division Title, or resting to be ready for start of playoffs.

    • I understand why Liriano is in this discussion, should GC be part of the same conversation (5.4 era in September and 4.3 era overall since his return from the DL)? Volquez has substantially better numbers especially recently.

      • Good point, Greg. I lumped him in w Liriano because if Pirates are to make noise in October, they will need both to pitch to their capabilities. As they clearly have the best stuff of those in the rotation, if not the best numbers.

      • Man Volquez just seems lucky lately, especially his last start.

  • So the “Cutter” is what we want to avoid using, that is why we are not using Worley?
    Then I have a simple question, Who is going to close these games? Melancon is cutter USA.

    • So, I guess the Red Sox just loved to face Rivera since they are so good (and presumably were so good) against the “cutter”? Did the Yankees use a different closer when they played Boston? Clearly, not all cutters (or sinkers, etc.) are of the same quality or thrown with the same execution by different pitchers. CM had some serious execution problems in 4 of his last 5 starts for the Pirates (6.58 era in his last 5 starts). It will be extremely interesting to see if this works – it could, but it strikes me as a high risk approach.

    • I would guess Holdzkom and I am serious about that.

  • Let me get this right : you are going to start a guy who hasn’t been under game conditions since a late August start at the AA level, and who was a lot less than impressive then. Ooooo Kay……

    • Agreed! So if this was the “plan” for CM, wouldn’t it have made sense for him to have thrown at least a couple of innings in relief when we had some comfortable leads – as we have had on occasion recently – so we could find out if he was any better than in 4 of his last 5 starts for the Pirates which were pretty ugly?? The Pirates are thinking outside the box (which is not always a good thing) – it will be very interesting to see if this works.

  • Wilbert Matthews
    September 15, 2014 6:25 pm

    I would have put Locke in the bullpen

  • Charlie always pitches just well enough to lose. I’d rather take a chance on Worley, or Cumpton.

  • My problem is that the Brewers are going to miss BOTH Cole and Liriano. WTF???

  • Nice analysis. This is why it’s always amusing to me to see all the “this makes no sense!” posts whenever the team does something that seems a little odd. Things usually do make sense if you have some facts at your disposal.

    • Those stats being used to make the analysis were from an injury free pitcher who had been taking regular turns in the rotation since Spring Training. Not a pitcher who hasn’t been Injury free and on a Major League mound since early to mid August.

  • I hope I am proven wrong, but I have a feeling this is going to be proven to be a mistake.

    • This is a major gamble, but at this point in the season the Pirates have plenty of pitching that can be ready on short notice. From April thru August, a replacement has to come from AAA. In Sep, the replacements are all in the dugout or the bullpen. This is a calculated risk, the same as it was to extend a 3 year contract to him. With 13 games left, we could stand pat and never be second guessed. But if Charlie is throwing as well as we are hearing, he could be just one additional arm to help us get through that 13 games. When he is on, he can be near unhittable – I like the move. We have seen some shaky pitching the past 3 or 4 days, and that could be why this move is being made – sort of a “lets go after it” type of mentality rather than trying to play it safe.

      • Morton can be nearly unhittable, but it usually only lasts 4-5 innings and then the wheels fall off.

        • At this point in the season, 4 or 5 good innings is acceptable to me. Last night, “Big Game” James gave up 3 runs on 10 hits, and Scherzer was worse than that – perfection is not required. In 2013 when it looked like he was going to be left behind, Morton came back in June and pitched well through the second half of the year – maybe down the stretch is his thing – I sure hope so.

          • Maybe that’s the route. Ask Morton to get through the lineup twice and the. Ask Gomez to go through the lineup once and get it to the late(r) inning arms.

      • Let’s just hope Hurdle has the quick hook ready and doesn’t delay like he usually does.

      • I find this move very disturbing. Boston is not a strong team this season, but maybe that is the reason for the experiment. I think someone with an injury replacing a pitcher who isn’t lights-out but has performed well in a pen at race is just very questionable.

  • While this makes sense stat wise, it feels very much like a malox moment waiting to happen. Let’s hope we get ground chuck and not upchuck.

    • I’m amazed I haven’t heard that line before. If it’s an original, kudos to you. Made me laugh.

      So this has nothing to do with Worley’s decreased velocity? Interesting. And if Zangrilli is correct on the reasoning, then wouldn’t Worley be the de facto choice to start the WC game in SF? Obviously the Giants couldn’t touch him last time he pitched there.

      • Glad I put a smile on your face,humor is the best medicine. As for the rest of your comment it seems to me that at this late in the year two things are happening. (1) arms are getting tired so mixing and matching is not neccesarily a bad thing. (2) with that said it’s also a little late in the year the time for experimenting is over. The classic gordian knot, what to do,what to do?

Menu