Ode to a Pitcher: Charlie Morton is much better than you realize

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Charlie Morton is one of the world’s best pitchers. Don’t believe me? Here’s a quick piece of proof. Among all starters since 2017 (with enough innings, yadda yadda yadda) Morton’s xFIP is 13th best. His fWAR is 14th, ahead of Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard.

Sorta weird that he signed for so little last offseason, right (2 years, $30 million)? The Rays are a contender and Morton is the best and healthiest arm they have. He’s been excellent for them.

But … uh … the  New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies couldn’t have used Morton?  (Imagining Morton on the Dodgers or back on the Houston Astros might break the space-time continuum. Just don’t.) I just don’t for the life of me get why teams weren’t willing to take this risk. Sure, he’s on the wrong side of 35, but the immediate track record is strong.

Hey, Brian Cashman. Defend re-signing JA Happ for an additional year versus Morton’s 2/30. Go ahead. I’ll be here.

Charlie Morton is good. Like, really good. Nothing has changed since signing with the Tampa Bay Rays, either; in fact, he’s probably only better. Morton has leaned even harder into that nasty curveball, throwing it more than anything else in his bag of tricks and finding elite results: .176 xwOBA (!!!!!!!), 37.9 percent whiff rate (!!!). The average exit velocity off that curve is 82 MPH, which is just ridiculous.

Seriously, that .176 xwOBA is absurd. Just bonkers. Remember, the expected weighted on-base average is driven by batted ball data and the expected performance therein. Hitters are doing nothing against Morton’s hammer. Given what we’ll see soon, that makes perfect sense. Morton doesn’t have a great fastball — the velocity is solid, the spin isn’t — but he knows how to work hitters into bad spots. And what’s a bad spot, you ask? Any count where he can unleash the curve.

Okay, I know the Detroit Tigers are bad. Wait, sorry, terrible. I know. But I wanted the chance to show you some of Morton’s best hammers, and so here we are. Last Friday, Morton squared off with Detroit’s finest. We’ll be working out of the first inning.

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