First Pitch: How Many Teams Around MLB Would Charlie Morton Start For?

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.

Charlie Morton would be a 3rd-4th starter for the average team in the majors.
Charlie Morton would be a 3rd-4th starter for the average team in the majors.

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.


**Prospect Watch: Tyler Glasnow Sets a Record; Kris Johnson Pitches a Gem.

**Minor League Schedule: Heredia Faces Familiar Foes Tonight.

**DSL Prospect Watch: Michael De La Cruz Reaches Base Five Times In Win.


**Why the 2015 Pirates Could Be a 100-Win Team.

**The Debate: Should Jameson Taillon Be a September Callup?

**Pirates Notebook: Giancarlo Stanton Was “Relaxed” Amid Trade Rumors.

**Charlie Morton Grounds Marlins in 4-2 Pirates Victory.

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Chris Hale

I love your site but this is a bogus article. Putting Morton ahead of some of these starters based on 1 stat? What stat is there to measure when he turns into a head case and gives up the big inning? You are way overrating Charlie Morton. He has great stuff, all the tools except for one thing , I good head on his shoulders. He usually falls apart under pressure. The most important part of a players game is being able to handle pressure. Players know there is no stat for that. There’s one thing to me that sticks out . Morton’s 4.93 career ERA and his 1.52 WHIP. He’s a #5 starter and soon to be bullpen arm


Thank you for the article. I’ve been exasperated about the complaints about Morton for a while. I realize that he’s not one of the top starters on the Pirates, but he’s an awfully good pitcher who’s getting positive results in his 1st summer after TJ.

I guess most of the fans complaining about Morton weren’t watching the Pirates for the past 10-15 years. A debate over the best Pirates pitcher from 2000-2010 would yield Oliver Perez, Kip Wells, Josh Fogg, Paul Maholm, Kris Benson, Todd Ritchie, Ian Snell, Jeff Suppan, Dave Williams, Zach Duke, & Tom Gorzelanny. You can’t really count Jason Schmidt, Ryan Vogelsong, or Bronson Arroyo because they didn’t perform well w/the Bucs. I’d venture a guess that Morton’s 2011 and 2013 (so far) seasons rank up with the two best seasons that any Pirate pitcher had from 2000-2010.

I realize that using the 2000-2010 Pirates pitching staff sets the bar awfully low, but my point is that I can’t complain about a guy who would be the team ace in the Internet Age.

I hope that the Pirates either find a way to keep him or build his value with starts and trade him for solid prospects in the offseason.


Thanks for the in-depth article, Tim. Puts it in good perspective. Pirates could do a LOT worse than Morton as their #5 starter. Numbers alone don’t always tell the whole story, so good to see your honest input on taking guys over Morton despite what the numbers say.


Do you think there is any chance that the Pirates are the yet to identified team that claimed Mark DeRosa on waivers from Toronto?


Thanks Tim…although Harrison has done some great things of late, DeRosa would have been a good addition. Always seemed like one of those players who was a “winner” wherever he played.


Morton is still working on his mechanics after tommyjohn surgery, he has the best stuff on the team, according to his manager, inconsistency is common for a pitcher coming off of this type of surgery, we are far to judgemental at this time IMO.
The comparisons in the column are for only on FIP’s, but in the real world there are quite a few other factors that determine a pitchers quality.
The Pirates are the best team in baseball because of guys like Morton, Locke who get criticized like they should be dumped for a bucket of balls far too often.
I have watched every team in baseball this year and I can say this, release Morton and Locke and see how long they last before someone grabs them, the ink on release would not be dry before they both were gone.
The Pirate fans don’t know what they have IMO.

Chris Hale

He has great stuff but no where near the best on the team


I am not a Morton fan, but I am a huge Pirates fan, so I am glad he pitched a good game last night. Kudos to him, after a shaky start.

If he does it more consistently and against even the better teams in the league, I will have to confess I was wrong about him. As I said before, time will tell.

I am generally more concerned about our offense right now – struggling to score even against the Marlins. Cutch is on fire, but it seems the rest of the lineup is in a funk.


Actually,I thought that the first 4 or 5 innings Charlie had a couple of weeks ago in his start against the Nats were a preview of what he might be able to do after a full recovery from the TJ. His stuff that night was about as nasty as anyone’s I have seen this season so far,with the exception of Fernandez against the Bucs. Anyhow,I ,much like jg41,would be looking into the possibility of moving him,( or a Cumpton ),for another piece to next season’s puzzle.


The basic headline on this (great) analysis is that Charlie Morton would hold a more-important rotation spot on roughly 22 of 29 other teams, than he currently does as the 5th/6th-best starter on the Pirates.

Given that he is the 5th/6th-best starter on the Pirates, and with the pipeline behind those starters…..what should the Pirates do with this kind of information?

To the Pirates he is worth “X”. To 22 other teams, his value is some premium over “X” (theoretically), which is usually a circumstance that tells you that you can leverage one asset for another asset of potentially greater value.

With September call-ups coming up i.e. Cumpton, maybe Kris Johnson, etc.), and a 4-man rotation coming up in the playoffs, I would be looking hard at the possibility of using his final (affordable) arb year as leverage to get something more valuable to the team in return.


I didn’t mean to imply his technical/dollar value changed. But his relative value definitely would change team-to-team, based on their relative needs and their situation.

IOW, in the open market, try to consider what the Pirates would be willing to give up to get a #5 or #6 starter on their team, vs. what, say, the A’s or Rangers or Royals or O’s or others would be willing to give up to get their #2 or #3 starter.

Charlie Morton’s relative importance/value in the context of the current Pirates is different than his importance/value is to some other team in contention where he would become a #2 /#3 SP. If he improves a rotation to that degree in that context, then I could definitely see that team being willing to part with some asset/surplus of higher relative value.

Does that make more sense?


I like Morton, but he always looks like he’s unsure of himself. I would like to see him pitch with confidence. I hate when people were calling into the radio saying Pedro looks like he doesn’t care, because that’s BS. This is different, his facial expressions look as if he’s waiting for something to go wrong.

Faye Zbuksukcz

There were a couple of games in 2011 where I thought Charlie had finally come of age. He looked like he owned the mound and was in complete charge.

Haven’t seen that since. But there have been flashes, including the 5th-7th innings last night (I was at the game). Different body language and confidence. I found myself actually hoping Harrison and Mercer would make outs (or Mercer would homer) so Charlie might not get PH for.

That said, he was hit HARD the first four innings. While the Fish scored their second run on a bloop, a lot of the grounders early on were smoked. But the defense was up to the challenge for a change.

So while in context of this article, it may be that Charlie could start for most MLB teams, those teams better have a solid infield defense. With a weaker 3b than Pedro out there, the game might’ve gotten out of hand early.


I am not a Charlie hater, in fact I liked the mclouth trade when it happened. However, saying Charlie is just as good as Shields is bizarre. I don’t care what his SSS fip says, or his xfip, or even his flippityfoop. Morton is not as good as Shields. Shields can dominate an opponent by himself while Charlie has always required great defense behind him to succeed.
Like I said, not a Charlie hater, but everyone would take Shields over him, if both salaries were similar, of course.


wA: Good points, and there is no comparison between “Big Game” James Shields and “Ground Chuck” Charlie Morton. I liked the outing last night, and his command will get better as he continues to rehab from TJ, but he lacks that “out” pitch. The 4 seamer is meat to MLB hitters even at 95/96. The 2 seamer is strong if he allows it to be – at 93 it is to much velocity to maximize the break; at 90/91 it has good bite and breaks in and down to a RH or out and down to a LH hitter. He could even experiment with that same pitch at 88/89. His Curve is hard and big, sometimes too big to control. Jeff Andrews who used to be with the Bucs used to teach a “football curve” that took no effort or stress on the arm to throw, and would come in as an offspeed pitch with just natural break from the release of the pitch out of the hand.

Now, Charlie is a $2 mil guy in this his rehab year – he will be in Arb again after 2013 and I place him at $4 to $5 mil, and if he keeps throwing consistently like he did last night, he will be between $5 to $6 mil. If he continues to throw well, his trade value will go up accordingly. Combining he and Jose Tabata or James Harrison could be an interesting twosome for a lot of teams.


It was a joke…no one would actually take morton over shields. it was more of a jab at the royals for trading one of the best power hitting prospects in baseball for a #2 starter when theyre clearly another year away from being true contenders

joe g.

Morton reinvented himself with the 2 seam fastball, and had a solid year while going thru the transformation. THe injury and TJ surgery set him back a year. Essentially we are looking at two seasons where he is showing us glimpses of what he could be, with an injury year sandwiched in between. I believe that Morton will reach his potential next year and be highly successful. It can take a year after TJ surgery to optimize control. Next year We will see better control, which will help him pitch inside more consistently to left handers. Notice this year the number of times he’s hit a LH batter trying to pitch inside. We will see less of that next year.


Or……… LHs continue to eat Charlie alive. We could do a lot worse than Charlie, but he is what he is: average at best.

Andrew Smalley

Not only has the strawman been killed, his eyes have been ripped out, his tongue has been chopped off, and his wife has been slapped.

I guess it’s not possible to think that Charlie Morton *should be* in the rotation, *would start* for many other teams, but *should not* be counted on to start a playoff game over G. Cole or Jeff Locke.

I guess that’s just not an opinion one can have….

Cato the Elder

Count me as one of Morton’s supporters – and this article does a good job of illustrating why – but it seems worth mentioning that it is a bit dubious to compare a NL pitcher’s FIP to AL pitchers’ FIP without qualification. I don’t know this to be true, but it seems likely that a DH would have a greater relative impact on FIP than ERA. And even if that is not the case, while most have a working knowledge of ERA, I don’t get the impression that everybody comprehends the inner workings of FIP (see the case of Jeff Locke) so it seems worth pointing out that a 3.85 FIP in the NL doesn’t necessarily translate to a 3.85 FIP in the AL and vice versa.

Lee Young

I’m not a Charlie fan, so this article opened my eyes.



I like Charlie, definitely agree with you that he’s terribly underrated.

That said, he’d be more valuable to a team that’s in need of pitching depth than a team like the Bucs which can run out 12 guys in a season and still have the best record in baseball. What’s his trade value? Could you find a contender that needs pitching help and get a RF bat for him? Obviously hypothetical, with the deadline gone and Charlie unlikely to clear waivers if you tried.


Good article. I like Charlie and think they’d be crazy not to keep him for next year where he should be fully back from TJ. The only team I disagree with you on is Cincinnati. Cingrani has probably been their 2nd or 3rd best pitcher and he gets pulled from the rotation every time cueto is back healthy so I doubt dusty would put Morton in over those guys as well

Roger Huffman II

Good for Morton. Good for the Bucs. I’m happy that he was able to shut down the worst lineup in the NL last night after they had success on him in his last start. I was more impressed with how he mowed them down the last 3 innings. I wanted Hurdle to actually leave him in. Morton appeared to be throwing a different breaking pith last night and it seemed to work for him


An excellent outing by Charlie Morton, and one that was much needed, because the Marlins are turning into a team that nobody will want to face. They pitch well, field OK, and they can put the ball in play. Most important is that although we all have our favorites, the Rotation is working like it should. When some are down, others step up and carry the overall team effort forward. Pitching depth! With 49 games left we need 10 to match last year’s 79 wins, 12 to insure the first .500 season in 21 years, and IMO, 19 wins to assure a playoff spot in 2013 in the NL – 88 wins – anything more is pure gravy.

More than Charlie though, how about the fans showing up on a mid-week game against the team with the worst record in the NL?

Keenan Funk

So how would you handle the rotation if Wandy is able to come back before the regular season is over and is able to pitch like he was earlier in the season?


I agree. Wandy will not be ready by Sept. 1, so he is unlikely to be on their post-season team (barring an injury). You usually go with 4 starters in the postseason, so Cole could stay in the BP or possibly get a spot start.

Kerry Writtenhouse

Nice write up Tim! Charlie is such a lightning bolt for criticism. I’ve always been a fan of his stuff, but admittedly, he is as frustrating as anyone out there. Just when he appeared to be finally putting it all together, he went down for TJ surgery. I’ve seen it said about pitchers coming back from TJ that command takes the longest to return, which just happens to be his biggest problem right now.

I would avoid throwing him against the Cardinals however. That’s a bad matchup while he has excelled against the Reds.

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