Pirates’ Morton on pace for historically bad ERA
With slightly more than a month of the season remaining, Pirates
right-hander Charlie Morton is threatening to have one of the worst
years by any starting pitcher in major league history.
Despite spending nearly three months in Triple-A, Morton is 1-10
with a 10.03 ERA in 11 starts for the last-place Pirates. He has
allowed at least five earned runs in all but three starts, although
he hasn’t lasted longer than six innings anytime.
According to STATS LLC, Morton’s 10.03 ERA is the third highest
by a major league starter going into September since the 1952
season. Only Roy Halladay of Toronto in 2000 (4-7, 10.63 ERA) and
the Pirates’ Steve Blass in 1973 (3-7, 10.40 ERA) had higher ERAs
with at least 10 decisions at this stage in the season.
”It’s been up and down, obviously,” Morton said.
According to STATS, the worst ERA in history for a starting
pitcher who figured in at least 10 decisions was Halladay’s 10.64
in 2000. No other pitcher during the modern era that began in 1900
ended a season with a double-digit ERA and at least 10 decisions.
Charlie Stecher had a 10.32 ERA while going 0-10 during his one and
only major league season with the Philadelphia Athletics in
Since then, the only other pitcher to end a season with an ERA
of at least 9.75 and at least 10 decisions was Blass, who went 3-9
with a 9.85 ERA only a season after he was the NL Cy Young Award
runner-up in 1972. Blass, now a Pirates broadcaster, inexplicably
lost his ability to throw strikes during that 1973 season and ended
up retiring a season later when the problem didn’t go away.
No doubt Morton hopes his career eventually resembles that of
Halladay or Blass. Since his 2000 miseries, Halladay has won 16 or
more games seven times, and he threw a perfect game for
Philadelphia earlier this season. Blass had seasons of 19-8, 18-6
and 15-8 and won Game 7 of the 1971 World Series for
Morton, acquired by Pittsburgh from Atlanta in the Nate McLouth
trade in June 2009, can throw his fastball in the low to mid 90s,
but often switches to his off-speed pitches when he gets into
trouble. The Pirates want him to be more aggressive, and rely more
on a fastball that he now throws only about 50 percent of the
Morton, however, had location problems during several starts
early this season when he attempted to stay with his fastball. He
was much more consistent for Triple-A Indianapolis, going 4-4 with
a 3.83 ERA in 14 starts.
Called back to the majors to start Sunday in Milwaukee, Morton
repeatedly shook off signs from catcher Ryan Doumit while giving up
eight runs in 3 1-3 innings of an 8-4 loss.
”He needs to trust his catcher a little bit more,” manager
John Russell said. ”He needs to trust himself a little more.”
Morton’s ERA is nearly twice as high as it was last season, when
he went 5-9 with a 4.55 ERA in 18 games with Pittsburgh. He was 4-8
with a 6.15 ERA for Atlanta in 2008. For his career, Morton is
10-27 with a 6.27 ERA in 45 games.
Earlier in the season, Pirates management insisted Morton didn’t
stay in the rotation for nearly two months merely to justify the
team’s decision to acquire him from Atlanta.
For now, the Pirates are saying only that Morton will start
Saturday at home against Washington, a performance that may decide
whether he stays with them for the rest of the season. Morton is
one of five Pirates pitchers with at least 10 losses, the first
time since 1954 the franchise has had that many double-digit
”At some point, we may feel like it’s better to do something
else (with Morton),” Russell said.