by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There’s never been a question regarding Charlie Morton’s control or ability to generate groundballs. Last season he owned a 1.97 BB/9 and 56.5% groundball rate (though in just 9 starts). This season, in his 12 starts since returning from the DL, he has been even better with 2.23 and 66.0% marks, respectively.
The question was always if he could generate the strikeouts to put him into the must use tier of fantasy starters. Thus far this season he owns a 6.82 K/9 mark overall and has been even better in the second half with a 7.17. While he may never whiff a ton of batters, he’s proven that he can consistently get 5-6 K per game. With his other skills, that’s more than enough.
One of the keys is likely his improved velocity. Last season he owned an average fastball of 89.9 mph and he has a career mark of 91.6. This season? He stands at 93.1 mph.
Morton was not a bad strikeout pitcher in the minor leagues, with an overall K/9 of 7.1 and a 7.2 mark at Triple-A (over 257.1 innings). That’s not a skill that pitchers simply forget.
Let’s not forget that he’s had significant surgeries each of the last two seasons. First it was labrum surgery late in 2011 and then Tommy John surgery last season. Finally healthy, it appears he’s rediscovered the ability to strikeout batters.
While his WHIP hasn’t been impressive this season, there has been a lot of bad luck. Despite a 17.5% line drive rate, his BABIP stands at .329. There should be an improvement in that regard and that should mean better results as well.
Throw in a Pirates team that continues to win ball games and there is an awful lot to like with Morton.
The strikeouts may not be elite, but with his control and groundball stuff, his increased velocity looks even better. Throw in pitching for a good team and he should remain a solid option for the rest of the season. If you are in a deeper format grab him now and look to reap the benefits.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference