I’ve talked about Charlie Morton a lot in the last week, arguing that he deserves to be in the starting rotation. There are plenty of anti-Morton Pirates fans who feel that Morton shouldn’t even be on the team. His strong overall numbers are chalked up to being a fluke, and his bad starts are highlighted. In short, if Charlie Morton is doing well this year, it’s just a small sample size, but a smaller sample of one bad start is the real deal.
Morton had a rough start last time out, which brought on the anti-Morton fans. Tonight he had a great start. My feelings on Morton are the same after each outing. He’s a very underrated starter, and I feel he could start for most teams around the league. I wanted to test that theory out. I decided to look at every team in the majors this year, looking specifically at the FIP numbers for their individual starting pitchers. This is to give a rough guide of where Morton would rank in each rotation this year. I also added notes for each team, since there are some situations where Morton would rank higher than a pitcher, but wouldn’t be starting over that pitcher if he was on the team. All of the numbers and rankings below are based on FIP.
Charlie Morton: 3.85 FIP after tonight’s start.
League Average: 3.89 FIP
Angels: 3rd out of all starters with 10+ starts. 5th overall. C.J. Wilson and Jared Weaver beat him out among the regular starters, but Morton would probably be the number three starter in this rotation.
Astros: 1st out of all starters with 10+ starts. 3rd overall. Basically with Bud Norris gone, Charlie Morton would be the ace, with only Jarred Cosart beating him out over four starts.
Athletics: 2nd out of all starters with 10+ starts. 2nd overall. The A’s have only used six pitchers this year, and Morton beats everyone except Bartolo Colon in both ERA and FIP.
Blue Jays: 1st out of all starters with 10+ starts. 1st overall. I wouldn’t say Morton is the ace here, since Toronto’s staff includes R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle. There’s also Brandon Morrow, who I really like, but who has struggled and went down with an injury this year. Morton has out-performed everyone in Toronto so far this year.
Braves: 4th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 5th overall. Morton beats out Kris Medlen and Paul Maholm out of the 10+ starters, although he barely edged out Medlen, and I’d take Medlen over Morton. Alex Wood only has four starts, and a 2.98 FIP. The fact that Morton rates as one of the five best pitchers in Atlanta’s staff is a positive.
Brewers: 1st out of all starters with 10+ starts. 3rd overall. The Brewers only have four pitchers with 10+ starts. Their rotation has been a mess this year, although I’d take Yovani Gallardo and Wily Peralta long-term over Morton.
Cardinals: 4th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 6th overall. Morton would be top five if it wasn’t for Michael Wacha’s four starts. He beats out Jake Westbrook among the regular starters. I’d take Morton over Westbrook. Except when the Pirates are playing the Cardinals, because they destroy Westbrook.
Cubs: 5th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 5th overall. He’s behind Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, and Matt Garza, who is no longer on the team. Right now Morton would be their 3rd-4th best starter.
Diamondbacks: 3rd out of all starters with 10+ starts. 3rd overall. Patrick Corbin and Brandon McCarthy beat him out. Long-term I’d also take Tyler Skaggs and Randall Delgado over Morton, but Morton would be one of the top guys right now.
Dodgers: 5th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 6th overall. Morton would have made their rotation at some point this year with all of the injuries. Guys like Chris Capuano and Stephen Fife are pretty much in line with Morton, but slightly better.
Giants: 5th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 5th overall. Morton would be their fifth best starter, unless Ryan Vogelsong returns strong from the DL.
Indians: 4th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 5th overall. I’d probably take Morton over Zach McAllister, who has a slightly better FIP. The only other starter with a low FIP is Danny Salazar, who has one start.
Mariners: 3rd out of all starters with 10+ starts. 4th overall. King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma would be ahead of Morton, but Morton would be third.
Marlins: 4th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 5th overall. Henderson Alvarez is the guy with less than ten starts. Morton would be the fourth or fifth best guy in the Marlins rotation.
Mets: 2nd out of all starters with 10+ starts. 4th overall. There are a few guys who rank close to Morton, like Shaun Marcum and Jon Niese. Morton would probably be in the 2-4 range this year, and 3-5 next year if Zack Wheeler pitches well.
Nationals: 5th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 8th overall. I’m not sure Morton would make the Nats rotation, since Dan Haren is the only guy he beats out this year. He’d probably be among the same quality as the #5-6 options. This is a good rotation (Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann), so that’s not a bad thing.
Orioles: 2nd out of all starters with 10+ starts. 3rd overall. Wei-Yin Chen is the only guy ahead of Morton, and the only other guy has one start. The recently added Bud Norris is behind Morton, and I’d rather have Morton. He would probably be the #2-4 starter, depending on personal preference.
Padres: 3rd out of all starters with 10+ starts. 5th overall. Eric Stults and Andrew Cashner rank ahead of Morton, but I’m not sure I’d rank either of them considerably higher than him. I do like recently added Ian Kennedy as a bounce back candidate.
Phillies: 4th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 4th overall.John Lannan is ahead of him, but I’d rate Morton the same. Jonathan Pettibone might have more long-term value. You could argue that Morton is as good as the present day Roy Halladay, who Morton modeled his game after.
Pirates: 5th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 6th overall. Brandon Cumpton is the only guy with less than ten starts who beats him out, but Cumpton only has four starts. Wandy Rodriguez is behind him, but I’d take Wandy. The Pirates have a good rotation this year.
Rangers: 3rd out of all starters with 10+ starts. 4th overall. Morton would be 4th right now with the addition of Garza. I also like Alexi Ogando, even though his numbers are lower. He’s probably a similar value. Martin Perez might have more long-term value. Morton would be a good 4th-5th starter this year.
Rays: 4th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 4th overall. I’d probably take Jeremy Hellickson and Chris Archer over Morton. He’d be a good 5th/6th guy in this strong rotation.
Red Sox: 4th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 6th overall. He probably wouldn’t make the rotation, since the guys he beats out are Jon Lester and Ryan Dempster. Newly added Jake Peavy would also beat him out. Money buys a good rotation.
Reds: 4th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 5th overall. The other starter, Greg Reynolds, only has one start. I’d rank Morton at least on the same level or better than Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake. He would be the fourth starter for the Reds. They’d also avoid his career 3.97 ERA in 13 starts against them.
Rockies: 4th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 5th overall. Morton would probably be the fourth or fifth best guy in this rotation, depending on the health of Roy Oswalt.
Royals: 2nd out of all starters with 10+ starts. 3rd overall. His FIP is two points higher than James Shields. The Pirates should have traded Morton for Wil Myers. At the least, Morton is the third best starter on this team.
Tigers: 5th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 5th overall. The Tigers have only had six starters this year. I don’t think I’d put Morton ahead of any of the five starters: Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello. He’d be sixth with this good rotation.
Twins: 1st out of all starters with 10+ starts. 2nd overall. Only Andrew Albers, with one start, beats him. The Twins used to be the model small market team. Now their model seems to be “load up on Kevin Correia type starters”. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Morton would be the best starter in this rotation.
White Sox: 3rd out of all starters with 10+ starts. 4th overall. John Danks and Gavin Floyd are intriguing bounce back candidates in future years. For now, Morton would be the third best starter for the White Sox.
Yankees: 4th out of all starters with 10+ starts. 4th overall. CC Sabathia is the only guy behind Morton, but he would start over Morton. Andy Pettitte is about even with Morton, and so is David Phelps. I’d probably take Morton over Pettitte at this stage in their careers, and probably Morton over Phelps.
After looking through all of the rotations in the majors, Morton stacks up very well. He would start this year for about 90% of the teams in the majors. He’s around league average, and would be the third or fourth best starter for the average team. In better rotations he’d be a number 4-5 starter, or a strong number six in an elite rotation. In poor rotations he would be a number two starter, or a number one in really horrible rotations like Houston and Minnesota.
The Pirates happen to have one of those good rotations. I don’t know if I’d say they are elite, since they don’t have the names like the Tigers or Nationals. However, Morton provides the Pirates with a great option as a number five starter in their strong rotation. Any of the other options, like Jeanmar Gomez or Brandon Cumpton, would probably be the same or slightly behind Morton. There would be no reason to switch from him.
Again, Morton can be inconsistent, but that’s normal. The only starters who are consistently good are the guys who are #1-2 starters, or #3 starters in good rotations. Everyone else has a few bad outings, and their overall value is determined by how few bad outings they have. In Morton’s case, he has some frustrating outings, but they have mostly been good. There was a time where Morton would have been one of the best starters in the Pirates’ rotation with the numbers he currently has. Now Pirates fans are spoiled to the point where a guy who would be a top three starter for half the teams in the majors this year, and he’s seen as not good enough to start for the Pirates. That would make sense if the Pirates had someone who was significantly better than Morton. However, they don’t have that pitcher right now, which is why Morton is locked in as a starter.
Links and Notes
**Check out the latest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 15: Recapping the Slow Deadline; The Pirates Are Legit Playoff Contenders.
**Here is the newest episode of Pirates Roundtable Live: VIDEO: Pirates Roundtable Live — Episode 4.