FanPost

Charlie Morton and potential offseason acquisitions

For your Sunday reading pleasure or save it for the workweek.  That one I put together on Jo-Jo was pretty sloppy, so I tried to make this one better.  It's certainly a hell of a lot longer.  Probably about twice as long as I anticipated so you should grab a snack if you're gonna do this in one sitting.  I have fun putting these together while learning a lot more than I'd ever expect.  I'll do a less bloated one for Jair in a week or two.

As suggested, the primary focus will be on Charlie, but we'll also take a look at potential offseason pitching targets as well.  Pitch f/x doesn't really have any accurate comparisons for Charlie so this works out.  (Note: Afterwards, I found a couple good ones and it's in Charlie's section at the end.)  Here's Charlie's pitch f/x.  If you notice, he has an extra clump of pitches listed as his changeup.  Those are most likely sliders and I tried to separate the data between the change and slider.  We'll take a detailed look at all 5 of his pitches.

Here's the potential offseason targets:

Free Agents: Dempster, Lowe, Garland, and Burnett (if he opts out)

Trade Targets: Harang (don't think anyone wants him) and Halladay (mostly for kicks)

I was thinking about putting Sabatthia and Sheets as well, but we aren't really targeting them.  Here's a summary: Sabatthia throws a ~ 95 MPH fastball with a little above average movement and a hard (81  MPH) slurvy curveball (kinda like K-Rod).  Has a changeup too.  Sheets is about ~93.5 MPH fastball with more movement and a power curve (80 MPH) with more drop and less horizontal than CC's.  Supposedly has a short hump and drops late, which this pitch f/x doesn't show.  Sheets also throws what I think is a 2 seam, but is listed as splitter.  I was going to cut out Harang too, but I wanted to see why he was sucking this year.  Anyway, on to the meat of the post.

Fastballs

Charlie's is above average.  About 92 MPH with some movement in on righties.  It's more like a 2-seam than a regular fastball cause of all the movement.  Looks like a nice pitch.  Dempster's fastball is listed as a cutter for whatever crazy reason.  It's a little similar to Charlie's in both movement and velocity.  Dempster has a little less horizontal movement though, so it seems like Charlie' fastball is better than Dempster.  Dempster's is pretty average.

What's listed as Low's fastball looks like a sinker, but there's a sinker listed too!  This is because he throws 2 variations of a sinker.  I guess you could call it an offspeed sinker.  We'll skip it here and talk about it in the sinker section.

Garland's fastball is about 91.7 MPH with a little "rise" (ie. vertical movement) compared to the average fastball and it cuts in on righties a bit.  Harang's is very similar.  About 1.5 MPH slower and the movement is almost identical.  Surprising that Harang throws the slowest fastball here.  Pretty average speed-wise, but some movement.  Thought his would be better since he's a good pitcher. 

Burnett's the one with real zip on his fastball.  95.45 MPH on average, but the movement isn't really anything special.  Halladay's isn't listed as having one, but I think he throws one somewhere in the 93-94 range.  Pitch f/x doesn't show it because it's mixed in his sliders.  His data is seriously messed up.  There's at least 4 different pitches listed as his "slider".  Maybe 5.  I'll talk more about it later.

Burnett and Halladay have the best fastballs from sheer velocity, while the others are very average in velocity with maybe slightly more movement than average.  Charlie may throw the best fastball from the 90-92 MPH group.  Maybe Garland.  The velocities are close and Charlie's moves horizontally more while Garland's moves vertically more.

Harang thows his fastball the most, around 71% this year (up from 66% last year), partially explaining his struggles.  I'll go into more detail in his section.  Morton throws it about 43% of the time and everyone else throws it under 40% of the time.  This is an interesting group of pitchers as they don't rely on their fastballs a lot, other than Harang.

Sinkers

Charlie, Lowe, Burnett, Garland and Halladay throw sinkers.  Lowe throws 2 types of sinkers and throws one or the other about 67% of the time.  Halladay throws it a third of the time (but I think there's a few other pitches mixed in), Garland 24%, Charlie 20%, and Burnett  12% of the time.

Lowe's primary sinker and Charlie's are somewhat similar.  Lowe has an inch more movement down than Charlie, white makes Lowe's horizontal movement a little above average and Charlie's slightly below average.  However, the velocity and horizontal movement  are pretty much identical.  The velocity is about the same as an average sinker, but they both cut in on righties about an extra 2 inches.  Lowe's other sinker is a little slower with some extra movement.  He uses it much more against lefties than righties.  Charlie's sinker is definitely worse, but it's around an average pitch and that's a good weapon since a sinker is easier to throw for a strike than sliders and curveballs.

Burnett has a lot less horizontal movement than the average sinker, but it has the same vertical movement with about 3 MPH more velocity (93.48 MPH), making it a pretty nice, hard sinking pitch.  And then Halladay: 93.6 MPH on his sinker and it still breaks 2 inches more than the average sinker.  If you compare it to Webb's, Halladay has about 4-5 MPH more velocity, but less drop.  Carmona's sinker moves the fastest (close to 95 MPH I think), but his vertical movement is less.  Very good sinker.  I think some splitters are mixed into his sinker, skewing the data a bit.  Maybe fastballs too.  It's hard to say how much, but let's just hope they average out and give a good average approximation of his sinker.  Even if the real sinker drops less than the one listed, it's a plus pitch because of the velocity.

What's listed as Garland's splitter is his sinker.  It's got some good cut in on righties, but it doesn't drop much.  It's like Morton's, except about 2 inches less sink.  It's rather unimpressive and it's probably more 2-seam than sinker.  It's a useful weapon, but as you can tell by Garland home run rate, he's not really keeping things down in general.

So Lowe is a legit sinker ball pitcher.  He's got above average movement on his pitch and can change it up.  Halladay's could throw his sinker more if he wanted to, but he doesn't need to.  Burnett uses it the least since, as you'll see, his curveball is elite. He could be a sinkerballer too.  Garland's isn't particularly good, but it's a decent option.  And if it wasn't for Garland, poor Charlie would look totally out of place here, but it's a nice average pitch you can throw for a strike.  He doesn't need to depend on his fastball as heavily as other pitchers. 

Curveball

Charlie, Burnett, Halladay, and Garland throw curves.  Garland's curve is just crappy.  Very little movement.  He throws it 5-6% of the time so it's a show me pitch.  Burnett's curve is really amazing.  I've heard people call it one of the best curveballs in baseball and it really shows.  Huge horizontal and vertical movement, while still moving 81 MPH.  It's ridiculous.  I hear it might be a knucklecurve cause of all the movement, but those move slower (I think).  Burnett throws it 27% of the time-only 3% less than his fastball.

Halladay's is a slurvy curve.  I thought it was a 11-5, but it's a ton of horizontal and average velocity.  Only throws it 7% of the time, but I think some of it is lost in his "sliders."  I think he used to throw a knucklecurve, the pitch I expect, when he was younger.  He might throw two variations of the curve (if the other set of "sliders" are curves).  The data below is what's listed as a curve in the pitch f/x.  Other one looks slighty faster, maybe 1-2 MPH on average and the horizontal movement is maybe an inch more, but the vertical is probably 3-4 inches higher.  It's definitely a little different than the curve, and maybe some of them are curveballs while others are a true slurve?  It's hard to tell.

Charlie gets above average movement on this curve, with a little below average velocity.  It only shows up 10% of the time, but it's a good pitch to throw people off.  Let's compare their fastballs to their curveballs.  Halladay's curve is compared to his sinker.

Horizontal

Vertical

MPH

% Thrown

Morton

13.19

-13.79

-16.88

9.86

Burnett

10

-16.53

-14.11

27.65

Halladay

15.91

-7.06

-16.87

7.1

MLB Average

9.2

-12.9

-11.7

 


Positive horizontal means the curve is moving away from righties more than the fastball.  Negative vertical is the drop and negative speed is how much slower the curveball is.  Slight change in format.  Vertical movement is more important on curves than horizontal, but hard curves (80 MPH ones) that slurve are really good pitches.  Well, Halladay's isn't exactly hard (77 MPH or so), but I thought I'd let you guys know that tidbit.  I left off Garland cause his curve is below average.

Burnett's is just amazing.  A real power curve.  Very good pitch.  Of course he throws it so much.  Halladay has crazy horizontal, but since it's relative to the sinker, it makes the vertical difference look worse.  It's probably closer to the 11-13 inches in drop if I could compare it to his fastball.  Charlie's fastball cuts in on righties quite a bit and it makes his curve look a lot better.  It's a nice combination and I'd say it's a good 11-5 hook.  Possibly bold statement: It might be better than Halladay's.  When the pitch breaks and the deception of it are important too, so it's hard to tell, but Charlie's extra vertical (less horizontal) makes, potentially, a better curve.  It'd be a little easier if I could compare the curve straight to Halladay's fastball.  Either way, it's a good curve and so is Halladay's.

Changeups

Morton, Halladay, Burnett, Garland, and Dempster throw changeups.  Halladay's is mixed up in what's listed as his slider, so I can't get a great read on it, but it looks about 85 MPH.  Let's look at the rest by comparing the change to the fastball.

Horizontal

Vertical

MPH

% Thrown

Morton

-2.78

-3.72

-10.3

~18.75

Dempster

-0.23

-4.51

-8.84

15.85

Burnett

-1.11

-7.32

-9.01

6.16

Garland

-3.33

-3.47

-10.3

16.71

Average

-1.1

-2.8

-9.8

 


Charlie's pitch f/x is a little messed up.  Sliders are included in his changeup so I did my best to filter it out the movement and guess the % thrown, but I didn't do the velocity.  Negative horizontal is on righties, negative vertical is down, and negative speed is how much slower the change is.

The difference between the change and fastball is really what matters.  Out all pitch, this is the easiest straight comparison to the fastball since changeups are supposed to look exactly like fastballs leaving the hand, but make the hitter look stupid when he swings too early.

Charlie and Garland throw nice changeups.  Some movement and good speed difference.  Burnett's looks like a circle change with all the movement and its speed difference is good enough.  He doesn't need it much since his curveball is so devastating.  Three good changeups.  Dempster's got the worst change here, but the movement makes up for it some.  Probably average.

Charlie's sliders mixed in his pitch f/x are a little faster than his change, so the speed difference in his changeup should be even better.  In that case, Morton's changeup is better than Garland's.  It's maybe got a speed difference of 11 MPH.

Slider

Charlie's other group of "changeups" is a slider.  Halladay also throws one along with Garland, Dempster, Lowe, and Harang (did you forget about him?).

Charlie throws 84 or 85 slider and it looks pretty good.  The data on it I had to estimate from the graph, and we'll take a closer look.

Halladay's slider data mixes in a lot of other pitches.  Some sliders are curveballs.  Some are changeups.  Others are cutters.  The fastball is in there too.  The biggest green blotch in the middle is definitely a mix of fastballs next to cutters next to sliders.  Estimating, I'd say low 90's cutter and a 87-89 slider.  Yeah, his stuff is good.  The blotch on the right contains slurves and the green points inside the sinker are changeups.

Fastball/slider comp:

Horizontal

Vertical

MPH

% Thrown

Morton

9.22

-3.52

-8.06

~8

Dempster

7.95

-8.18

-6.86

27.78

Lowe

10.32

-2.14

-6.39

32.32

Garland

6.28

-8.1

-8.12

14.2

Harang

7.15

-9.22

-9.04

28.54

Average

6.4

-6.7

-7.9

Left out Halladay cause of the crappy data and Lowe's slider is compared to his sinker.  A good slider's speed is closer to the fastball and the horizontal movement is more important than vertical.

Garland's is very average.  Harang's slider was better.  It had more velocity last year.  Movement was a little different too.  He's throwing it less now too.  It really explains his struggles.  Dempster and Lowe have good sliders.  Morton's slider is nice too.  A lot of horizontal and the fact that his fastball cuts in on righties emphasizes the difference in movement between the two pitches.  I wish I had better data on Charlier's slider, but it looks like a good pitch.

I'd say Lowe throws the best one slider (other than Halladay) with Dempster or Charlie second.  Charlie's got the advantage in horizontal movement, but Dempster's is slightly faster and the low vertical is interesting, but I don't really know how much weight to give it.  Harang's would be good if he still had the old one.

Splitters

Just Burnett and Halladay.  Burnett's is really a power pitch at 94.61 MPH with a bunch of horizontal and good vertical movement.  It's hard to compare splitters since few pitchers throw them and they're a little different to very different, but I think he has a good one.  I think Halladay's is mixed in with the sinkers and it's hard to tell, but it looks maybe 93 MPH with more drop than the sinker.  Good pitch.

Harang

He's a two pitch pitcher with that fastball and slider.  Well, I think he threw a curve about 4% of the time last year, but it wasn't particularly good and was just a show me pitch.  I know some people say they can't be starters, but if you've got two good pitches, it works.  Ervin Santana and Rich Harden come to mind.

Harang's lost some velocity (about 3 MPH) on his slider and he's throwing his fastball more (71.46%, up from about 66% last year).  His fastball is pretty average, and maybe above average and the great control (52 walks in 231 innings) of it was a part of his success before.  This year, his walk rate slightly (about +20%), but his K rate is still good.  The problem is that he's getting hit hard and his home run rate is looking like Chuck James.  You can't throw a fastball that many times against big league hitters, especially as a starter.  Was it Bobby or Leo Mazzone who said big league hitters can time a jet if they see it enough times?  That's the thing about two pitch pitchers.  When you start losing one, you're screwed.  Definitely don't trade for him as the Reds will want max value and he just isn't worth that right now, and may never get it back.

A.J. Burnett

Amazing stuff.  All his pitches are good.  Very good fastball, power sinker, absolutely devastating curve, good change, and a good splitter that's faster than most people's fastballs.  I've always heard he's had ace stuff, and he legitimately does.  Not only quality, but quantity as well.  I can't believe he isn't more successful.  Like a Harang level of success at least.  Well, Burnett threw a no hitter and it's power pitchers like him that you expect to.

Injuries are a part of his problem, but I'm surprised his K rate isn't a little higher.  He probably tries to pitch to contact at times since his sinker is so good.  Walks are a slight problem.  Maybe his control?  Crappy defense?

Steinbrenner is all over his nuts so the Braves likely won't sign him.  Plus Burnett will be expensive anyway because his stuff is so electric.  He's an interesting pitcher.  I had no clue his pitchers were this good until I looked.

Ryan Dempster

His problem was walks and HRs since his K rate is pretty good.  Now that I think about it, that's a pretty dumb thing to say because Chuck James's problem is walks and HRs (and I guess screaming line drives).  This year, Dempster has his lowest walk rate and one of his lowest HR rates.  The defense is good to him too.  Getting some luck.  Career year just in time.  His fastball is pretty average, but his slider is good and his changeup is okay.  I liked the idea of signing him at first, but now I'm skeptical.  If he can keep the walks and HRs down, then he'll still be a good major league pitcher.  Certainly not a low 3 ERA guy, but an under 4 ERA guy, which is still a good pitcher.  Signing him is buying high, and, besides, the Cubs seem interested in keeping him.

Roy Halladay

One of the best pitchers in the game.  He can do everything.  Strike hitters out or pitch to contact and eat innings.  Low walk rate.  Just an amazing pitcher who's a great competitor and wants to pitch a complete game every game.  Dominates in one of the toughest divisions in baseball.  Can you feel the man crush? 

Ridiculous sinker along with a power slider.  Fastball is good too, and the curve has a huge horizontal.  He throws a cutter, change, and splitter as well.  That's 7 pitches and they're all good or very good.  I wish pitch f/x could differentiate better so we could be in full awe of his arsenal.  The huge variety of pitches and the ability to throw them all for strikes in any count just makes him a legitimate ace of MLB type pitcher.  An absolute shame that he's never pitched a playoff game.

Halladay's my Cy Young pick.  Cliff Lee is pitching amazing as well, but he's getting luckier than Halladay and Lee's had more run support.  Plus I'm biased.

So some people were talking about trading for Halladay.  The Jays semi-put him on the block to test the waters and gauge his value.  There's 2 years left on his contract at 15M a year so he'll probably take a Bedard package to get.  I don't think people are willing to give that up for him, even though he is amazing.  Mostly because we won't field a particularly competitive team next year so it's a waste and he could easily walk after 2 years.  I'll just stick with having him as the Braves' ace on MVP Baseball.

Jon Garland

Garland doesn't K enough people and gives up too many HRs.  His walk rate became pretty good in recent years.  Most of his pitches are around average or kinda bad, though his changeup is pretty good and his fastball is a little above average.  His strikeout rate is alarmingly low, down to about 4 per 9.  Another thing I noticed is that he throws his fastball in 2 strike counts more than he does in any other count, other than 3-1.  So it seems like he uses that as a strikeout pitch instead of throwing something else or using the fastball more to get to 2 strikes.  I read a scouting report on him that said he had trouble changing speeds at times, so that's probably an issue as well.  Sounds like he doesn't get the most out of his pitches.

 With Garland, you can look at it like he's due for a bounceback year, or maybe he's losing it-though was never great.  His career is very average and a little above at times, so that's the best you can expect from him.  With pitchers like Silva getting crazy contracts, I don't really know what to expect.  Garland's just not that good and I wouldn't want him long term, especially with his awful strikeout rate.  Every team needs innings eaters though and 200 innings at a league average ERA is something the Braves sorely need.  If the Braves must sign an offseason pitcher, then it might be forced into signing him just cause the other options are too expensive and Lowe is possibly too old.  Well, there are a few other options too.  Lohse?  Oliver Perez?  We haven't really talked about those.

Derek Lowe

He throws an above average sinker with a second slower sinker that he uses primarily against lefties.  He throws a good slider that he uses as the K pitch.  The walk rate is good and he K's enough with an above average HR rate.  His career groundball rate is about 65%, but he's at 59% this year.  This could be a warning sign, but he's still pretty successful.  He's a better pitcher than Garland, more available than most other pitchers and likely will be a Type B so he won't cost a draft pick.  The problem?  He's old.  Sign him for 3 years and you've got him from 36-38.  It's not 40, but it's still risky.  He's still a good pitcher though.  Most likely the best off season option.

Charlie Morton

Charlie's a headcase.  In the majors, he's got no confidence, pitches scared, and has poor control too.  I'm not too worried when no one's on base, but once one runner gets on, I'm scared the floodgates could open.  If you look at his minor league numbers, he improved significantly in Richmond this year.  Walk rate became reasonable, wild pitches down, zero HRs given up, and 72 Ks in 79 innings.  He mostly sucked before that.  It's interesting that he didn't do very well in AA last year in 79.2 innings, but improved significantly this year, the first time he's been in AAA.  A little part of it is luck with hits, but when you walk a reasonable amount, don't give up HRs, and strike out almost a guy an inning, you'll be a successful pitcher.  It seems confidence and maturity are the biggest issues.

His pitches are good.  It turns out he throws the same 5 pitches as Jon Garland and all 5 of his are better than Garland's, though the changeup and fastball might be a push.  Fastball and sinker are pretty average, give or take some, but his 3 breaking pitches are all above average.  The fastball and sinker cut in on righties.  Then he can throw the batters off with the 11-5 curveball or slider.  The changeup works too as it's got above average movement and good speed difference.  That's two pitches that are easy to throw for strikes and then 3 junk pitches, all with above average movement and pretty good speed.  That's a very good combination.

Charlie's got a lot of potential there.  He has a higher ceiling than Jo-Jo.  Really, at worst, Charlie could be as good as Garland and that isn't bad.  The Braves seemed high on him and now I know why.  All of his pitches are legitimate big league pitches.  His release points look good too.  Some pitchers vary release points with the pitches, making it easier for big league hitters to pick up, but Charlie releases all his pitches around the same point.

I dug around a bit more and it turns out that Charlie also throws the same five pitches as Mark Buehrle.  The first thing that defines Buehrle is his control.  He walks about 2 per 9 innings along with a league average HR rate and a below average strikeout rate.  He's basically a high 3 ERA guy.  I thought he'd be a little worse than he is based on his stuff and K rate, but when you throw a large variety of good or average pitches combine with great control and pitching knowledge, you will be a good big league pitcher.

Charlie doesn't have the control Buehrle does, and probably never will.  Few pitchers do, but Charlie's stuff is likely better overall.  Every single one of Charlie's pitches is faster than Buehrle's and every single one has either similar movement or more movement.  Charlie's changeup speed difference is better too.  When the pitches break and how the pitcher hides them is very important as well, but based on pure break and speed, Charlie looks like he has better stuff.  I don't think Charlie will be a Buehrle type pitcher, because he doesn't need to.  Buehrle is a finesse junkballer who must throw junk because he averages 87.82 MPH on his fastball.  I found it interesting that someone with the same repertoire as Charlie is so successful.

Take a look at what pitches Charlie throws in what counts.  The fastball is thrown 50% in a lot of 2 strike counts other than 1-2 (34%) even though he only throws it about 43% of the time in general.  He's throwing it more in strikeout counts than he does normally.  Comparatively, Smoltz throws the fastball about 45% of the time in general and about 30% of the time in 2 strike counts, even 3-2.  Burnett throws the fastball 30% in general and 16-26% of the time on most 2 strike counts (36% on 3-2).  Of course Charlie doesn't throw the same elite slider or curveball to throw 50% of the time in those counts, but he holds three good alternatives.  I looked at Beckett and Nolasco as well and it seems like they throw the fastball about the same in strikeout counts as they do in general, so the jury's still out on this.  Obviously there's more than one way to pitch.

Morton does mix his pitches up fairly well in general, but does he mix them up at the right time?  I probably shouldn't comment too much on this because I don't know a good answer, but I was under the impression that pitchers threw less fastballs in strikeout counts.  I could be horribly wrong, but it's something to think about.  Certainly as Charlie matures, he'll figure the right pitch in each situation.

Charlie's pitches are effective enough to develop him into a good big league pitcher, but he's simply too scared to throw strikes.  Control is a big part of it too, but he really needs to believe in his own pitches.  It's really frustrating seeing his poor confidence keep him from pitching effectively.  Charlie has a lot more potential than I knew, and I really hope he can figure something out by next year.  I'm going to watch his starts extra close the rest of the year and hope for the best.

This FanPost does not express the views or opinions of Talking Chop.

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