A couple weeks ago, I speculated that Charlie Morton was tipping his pitches from the stretch. My theory was that when he came set, he was moving his glove prior to fastballs and keeping his hands still when he prepared to throw an off-speed pitch. Well, I noticed a change on Monday night in Philadelphia. As a reminder, here is the photo that I used in my original post, from Morton’s first start in Arizona. Notice the location of Morton’s hands.
Let’s move to Morton’s start against the Reds on May 11th at PNC Park. Cincinnati scraped across three runs against Morton in this game, including two in the first inning. He was definitely tipping his pitches on this day, particularly in that first inning. Again, notice the location of his hands.
Fast forward to Monday night in Philadelphia. Notice anything different?
I’m not sure whether it was an effort to combat his pitch-tipping tendencies, but Morton dropped his glove to his waist for this game. And it seemed to help. His hands were much quieter in this position, better concealing the upcoming pitch. He wavered a bit against Ryan Howard in the third inning, with the bases loaded and two outs in a 1-1 game. After four straight off-speed pitches, he came back with two fastballs. On both heaters, Morton noticeably flapped his glove as he came set. It didn’t seem to affect the match-up, as he tied up Howard with a 95 MPH fastball on the hands. Unfortunately, the weak grounder squeaked through the infield for a key hit. Morton’s hands were fairly still on the pitch that Jayson Werth drove for a home run. That seemed to be the result of a predictable pitch selection. I didn’t notice Morton’s hands moving on any other pitches in this game.
As Pat discussed at WHYGAVS, Morton’s main issue this season seems to be his extremely low strand rate. The BABIP will regress and the HR/FB rate is already dropping closer to a realistic range, but his LOB% remains at a staggering 43.8%. Some of that is certainly bad luck, but there is probably more to it. He is tipping his pitches. He is awful at controlling the running game. And he also seems to struggle mentally when he gets into trouble (start listening around the 20:00 mark). (As an aside, Morton is a really interesting guy. His most glaring issue might be that he is an over-thinker.) Overcoming his troubles from the stretch will be the key to Morton’s season. Eliminating his pitch-tipping tendencies would be a great first step.