In 2011, Charlie Morton altered his mechanics in a way that mimicked one of the best starting pitchers of the last decade. Thanks to Bucs’ pitching guru Jim Benedict, Morton became a near clone of Roy Halladay:
(GIFs via SB Nation)
The results have paid off for Morton – who earned a three-year contract extension in December – especially with his Halladay-like sinker. Now, he’s working on refining another pitch the recently-retired Halladay perfected: the split changeup.
David Todd tweeted this – by way of Travis Sawchik – this afternoon:
— David Todd (@DTonPirates) March 4, 2014
(Morton had a nice outing against the Tigers, pitching three almost perfect innings.)
Halladay added the split change to his repertoire prior to the 2010 season. His old changeup was hit hard in ’09 – .333 opponent batting average, .528 slugging. Halladay saw much better results with the split-fingered version from 2010 through 2013: .216 average, .301 slugging, plus a lower percentage of line drives and a higher percentage of whiffs.
Ground Chuck has thrown a splitter a bit in the past, but just 6% of the time in 2013. Perfecting it and throwing it more often would give him another solid offspeed offering to play with, in addition to his curve. Furthermore, as DT mentioned, it could help him neutralize left-handed hitters. Morton has had huge platoon splits in his career:
vs. RHH: 251/.316/.345
vs. LHH: .327/.410/.497
Lefties crushed Morton’s pitches last year (especially his bread-and-butter sinker), except for his curve. Anything to give him an advantage against left-handed hitters would be a big deal; maybe the split change will be it. Let’s hope another Halladay-esque improvement helps produce more #ElectricStuff.
Morton is a huge part of the Pirates rotation this year (and the next two or three) in an underrated way. He will never be in the spotlight as an ace, but has the potential to be a really solid backend starter. Along with the rest of the staff, Morton still has something to prove. Can he stay healthy? He’s only made more than 20 starts once. Is he worth the money? It could end up being a bargain. I’ll be rooting for him.
Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty