Stats Corner: Morton finally taming lefty batters
When Charlie Morton unleashed his turbo sinker on the National League several years ago, he became tough on right-handed batters — and a punching bag for lefties. The Pirates starter limited righties to a .605 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) from 2011-13, fifth-lowest among right-handed starters facing at least 500 same-side batters over that time frame. But left-handers pummeled him for an .885 OPS, third-highest among right-handed starters.
Morton is still suffocating righties in 2014 (a .664 opponent OPS entering his start Saturday), but he's also exacting revenge on left-handers. He's holding them to a .617 OPS, a mark bested only by NL right-handers Johnny Cueto (.542), Julio Teheran (.575), Tyson Ross (.592), Adam Wainwright (.594), Tom Koehler (.606) and Stephen Strasburg (.615).
With a full year of pitching under his belt since returning from Tommy John surgery, Morton is hitting his spots much more often versus lefties.
Right on spot
Here is Morton's strike percentage against left-handed batters
Pitch 2013 2014
Sinker 62.8 64.0
Curveball 55.1 67.2
Changeup 48.3 54.5
Source: Texas Leaguers
Lefties are taking lots of cuts against Morton's curve. But the approach isn't paying off: left-handed hitters are a combined 7 for 62 (.113) versus the pitch.
Few right-handed Pirates starters have ever shut down lefties like Morton is in 2014. Steve Blass (.560 OPS in '70), Tim Wakefield (.564 in '92), Don Robinson (.592 in '78), Rick Rueschel (.594 in '85), Rick Rhoden (.596 in '86), Dock Ellis (.611 in '71), Gerrit Cole (.611 in '13) and Doug Drabek (.616 in '88) are the only righties in Bucs history to post a lower single-season OPS versus left-handed batters (minimum 200 faced).
David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.