Originally written on WHYGAVS?  |  Last updated 11/9/14

After a very strong start to 2011, Charlie Morton started to come back to earth quite as the summer wore on. There are plenty of ways to explain how this happened -- his peripherals caught up with him, hitters got used to his new delivery and changed repertoire, etc. -- but perhaps none is as compelling as the most obvious. After a couple of months, clubs figured out that Morton's sinker wasn't nearly as effective against left-handed hitters and started stacking their lineups against him with lefties. The results were often strange to watch; teams didn't seem to be scorching the ball off of him, but it often seemed like they could find holes that didn't exist when he pitched against righties. More than a couple times, he got dinked to death on the mound. 

His splits on the season bear those memories out. Morton gave up 18 more hits to lefties than he did to righties in 93 fewer plate appearances, and of those 18 hits extra hits, 13 were singles. Against Morton, righties hit like Chase d'Arnaud and lefties hit like ... I don't think there's a good comp for .364/.460/.500, to be honest. 

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SO/BB BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip vs RHB as RHP 29 431 381 37 84 17 1 1 28 66 2.36 .220 .289 .278 .567 106 .262 vs LHB as RHP 29 338 280 37 102 15 4 5 49 44 0.90 .364 .460 .500 .960 140 .415

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/6/2012.

What really stands out is that ridiculous .415 BABIP. Lefties reached base on more than 40% of the balls they put into play against Morton last year. That's insane. Now that we have Brooks Baseball's player cards, though, maybe we can learn a little bit about Morton's approach against lefties and try to diagnose the problem. You can see Morton's player card here; all of the data that's coming about pitch selection and result from here on out is taken from right here

Let's start with general pitch selection. Here's how Morton broke his pitches up against all hitters in 2011: 

PitchCountFrequencyH. MvtV. MvtMphH. RelV. RelSpin ΘRPM Fourseam (FA) 232 9% -8.19 -18.54 92.83 -2.26 6.10 230 1,651 Sinker (SI) 1669 61% -12.39 -25.32 91.94 -2.28 6.06 262 1,788 Cutter (FC) 176 6% -1.63 -23.85 89.05 -2.20 6.13 208 759 Curveball (CU) 449 16% 11.24 -47.13 79.14 -2.26 6.16 48 1,580 Changeup (CH) 200 7% -6.86 -31.41 84.64 -2.30 6.09 263 967


That's 70% fastballs/sinkers (I'm putting the cutter in here because I don't know where else to put it, even though it's clearly a different type of pitch), 16% curves, 7% changeups, and 6% cutters. I never really thought of Morton as having thrown a cutter before, but if you look at the movements it's clearly a different pitch when compared to his fastball or his sinker. This will become important in a couple paragraphs. Moving past that, though, if you watched Morton pitch last year, this is about what you'd expect. 

Now let's split it, with the righties going first:

PitchCountFrequencyH. MvtV. MvtMphH. RelV. RelSpin ΘRPM Fourseam (FA) 110 7% -8.92 -18.16 93.25 -2.25 6.07 231 1,738 Sinker (SI) 1076 70% -12.42 -25.52 91.88 -2.26 6.05 263 1,788 Cutter (FC) 27 2% -2.12 -23.39 89.61 -2.16 6.06 211 793 Curveball (CU) 215 14% 11.49 -46.98 79.20 -2.24 6.15 49 1,591 Changeup (CH) 117 8% -6.60 -31.74 84.41 -2.22 6.08 264 937


Everything's almost the same, with one key difference: he barely threw the "cutter" at all and he really leaned on the sinker against righties. Again, about what you'd expect. Now, lefties:

PitchCountFrequencyH. MvtV. MvtMphH. RelV. RelSpin ΘRPM Fourseam (FA) 122 10% -7.54 -18.88 92.45 -2.27 6.13 228 1,574 Sinker (SI) 593 50% -12.34 -24.97 92.04 -2.33 6.08 261 1,790 Cutter (FC) 149 13% -1.54 -23.93 88.94 -2.21 6.14 208 753 Curveball (CU) 234 20% 11.01 -47.26 79.09 -2.27 6.16 46 1,571 Changeup (CH) 83 7% -7.24 -30.94 84.96 -2.40 6.10 263 1,010


There's a clear difference in approach here; Morton moved waaay away from the sinker against lefties and threw that "cutter" and his curveball a lot more. This makes sense: his sinker and his four-seamer bear in hard on right-handed hitters, but to a lefty they're just kind of hanging out over the plate. Using a cutter that won't tail away like that should in theory keep hitters honest. And Morton's curve was a good pitch last year, even if it wasn't quite as pretty as it was when he was throwing overhand. Let's look at the same splits, only using pitch results instead of count and break. Righties are first, lefties are underneath. 

PitchCountsBallCall Str.SwingsFoulsWhiffsBIPGBLDFBPU Fourseam (FA) 110 38.18% 26.36% 35.45% 12.73% 9.09% 13.64% 6.36% 1.82% 3.64% 1.82% Sinker (SI) 1076 30.02% 15.89% 50.65% 20.17% 8.83% 22.86% 15.24% 3.44% 3.62% 0.56% Cutter (FC) 27 55.56% 14.81% 25.93% 3.70% 22.22% 14.81% 7.41% Curveball (CU) 215 42.79% 19.07% 36.74% 13.95% 10.70% 12.56% 6.98% 2.33% 1.86% 1.40% Changeup (CH) 117 45.30% 7.69% 45.30% 15.38% 11.11% 19.66% 10.26% 2.56% 5.13% 1.71%

 

PitchCountsBallCall Str.SwingsFoulsWhiffsBIPGBLDFBPU Fourseam (FA) 122 52.46% 7.38% 39.34% 18.85% 6.56% 13.93% 5.74% 4.10% 4.10% Sinker (SI) 591 40.61% 16.07% 41.29% 14.55% 3.55% 24.20% 14.21% 6.60% 3.05% 0.34% Cutter (FC) 149 35.57% 9.40% 51.01% 23.49% 8.05% 21.48% 12.08% 4.70% 3.36% 1.34% Curveball (CU) 234 38.46% 13.25% 47.44% 18.38% 17.95% 11.11% 6.84% 2.56% 1.28% 0.43% Changeup (CH) 83 54.22% 9.64% 36.14% 12.05% 1.20% 22.89% 9.64% 4.82% 7.23% 1.20%


Here you can really see how ineffective the sinker is against left-handed hitters. Against righties, it's a strike almost 70% of the time, it generates foul balls 20% of the time, and it gets swinging strikes almost 9% of the time. Against lefties, it's only a strike 60% of the time, it only has a 15% foul rate, and the whiff rate is 3.5%. Lefties hit it for line drives at nearly twice the rate righties do. His regular fastball gets pounded pretty badly, too. With the cutter, he gives up a a decent amount of line drives, but he does generate swings and misses and he gotes a lot of swings with it. His curveball also looks like it was hugely effective against lefties last year, getting swings and misses 42 of 234 times. 

Let's take this information and play a little game. Based on his monthly splits, when did Charlie Morton start throwing his cutter more regularly to lefties? I'll bet you can figure it out. 

I Split W L W-L% ERA G IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB April/March 2 1 .667 3.00 5 33.0 27 12 11 2 18 0 18 1.364 4.9 1.00 May 3 1 .750 2.06 5 35.0 37 10 8 0 11 1 19 1.371 4.9 1.73 June 2 2 .500 8.50 4 18.0 32 19 17 0 6 0 13 2.111 6.5 2.17 July 1 2 .333 4.97 5 25.1 29 17 14 3 14 1 17 1.697 6.0 1.21 August 1 2 .333 2.84 6 38.0 37 12 12 1 14 2 td<td align="right" style="border: 1px solid #ccc
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