Last Night Amplifies Why Charlie Morton is My Biggest Pirate Regret

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Pitching in a World Series game is an incredibly difficult task.  It doesn’t matter who you are, who the opponent is, or how many times you have done so.  It is especially difficult to get three outs in a row, including two strikeouts, on baseball’s biggest stage.  Now try doing that with a broken leg.

Charlie Morton was pitching for the Atlanta Braves in the 2nd inning of last night’s World Series Game 1 in Houston.  Yuli Gurriel for the Astros lined a 102-mph shot off of Morton’s right leg, which ricocheted to 1st baseman Freddie Freeman for the out.  There was a momentary delay before Morton continued pitching.  He would then end the inning on a strikeout of Chas McCormick followed by a lineout from Martin Maldonado.

Morton then came back out for the 3rd inning where he got Jose Altuve to strike out.  He then was forced to leave the game after physically being unable to continue.  It would later be revealed that the final sixteen pitches Morton pitched were on a broken leg.  Braves’ head coach Brain Snitker said Morton did not want to come out of the game but physically could not throw another pitch.  He wanted to stay out there for his team.  Pardon my French, but what an absolute bad-ass move.

Ground Chuck

Charlie Morton originally came to the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Braves in 2009 with Gorkys Hernandez and Jeff Locke in exchange for Nate McLouth (remember all of them??).  Morton had a decent Pirates career.  In 142 starts he had a 4.39 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.  He also had 563 strikeouts in 801 innings pitched with the Pirates.  He was a very productive 3rd or 4th starter for the Pirates for a long time.  Morton also pitched a great Game 4 for the Pirates in the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013, a game that should have clinched the series for the Bucs had they been able to figure out Michael Wacha.

Unfortunately, it took Morton leaving the Pirates to find his true potential.  While the Pirates always had Morton pitch to contact, so much so his nickname became “Ground Chuck”, other teams let Morton pitch for the strikeout.  After the Pirates traded Morton to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 2015 season, he suffered a hamstring injury early in 2016 that ended his season.  Following 2016, the Phillies let Morton explore free agency.

Reinventing Himself

In 2017, Morton was finally allowed to reinvent himself, even at 33 years old, with the Houston Astros.  And why not?  Former Pirate Gerrit Cole would do the same thing in 2018 with the same Astros, to further twist the knife, but Morton was the one to firmly stick it in us in the first place. 

Morton had a fantastic 2017 season, striking out 163 hitters in 146.2 innings.  He also brought his WHIP down .2 points because he was no longer required to pitch to contact.  He would continue his dominance in 2018 with an .833 win-percentage for the Astros. 

After the Astros let, the then 34-year old, Morton explore free agency again, he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019.  That season he struck out 240 hitters in 194.2 innings.  He was an incredibly effective innings eater for a Rays team that only depended on two or three good starters that season among a “bullpenning” strategy.  Morton then signed with the Braves after the 2020 season and that is how he landed in Atlanta for this season. 

It is clear in his numbers that the Pirates extremely misused Charlie Morton.  They had no idea his strikeout potential and that is because head coach Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage tried to fit everyone into a team strategy instead of adjusting the team's strategy to each individual.  This is no more clear than in the Charlie Morton situation.  

With the Pirates he had 563 strikeouts in 801 innings.  Since, Morton has 881 strikeouts in 749.1 innings.  He also has decreased his ERA an entire run per nine innings since leaving Pittsburgh.  Just a gross misuse of a pitcher and one of Ray Searage’s biggest offenses as a coach.

A Great Person and Teammate

In addition to his numbers becoming exceptionally better with other teams, from what I have heard Morton is just an extremely nice guy.  Of course after last night’s performance nobody is saying anything bad about him, but from what I can tell nobody who knows him has ever had anything bad to say about Morton. 

He was very well-liked among teammates, coaches, and the Pittsburgh media during his time here.  He also showed last night that he is an all-time gamer with a ton of heart.  At 37 years old, the guy is still as productive as ever.

While yesterday, I came out with an article on Gerrit Cole and his difficulties acclimating to the New York Yankees clubhouse environment, Morton acclimates well into any roster he is on.  The guy is a true ballplayer, an overall great person, and I will always regret the way the Pirates misused him for the entire first half of his career.