John wants Charlie Morton to be the Opening Day starter.
Are you still with us? Do you need a drink, dear reader? I know I did after hearing this.
Charlie Morton. The guy with a 4.54 career ERA. Well, I read John's post (Do if you dare) and he brings up some really good points. Wait. No he doesn't.
We'll go at this in Aaron Nola fashion. Three quick strikes to put him away.
Of course, we need to leave aside the points that it's still very, very early in spring training and we should let the guys figure this out on the mounds in Florida. However, we're going to point out why not only should Aaron Nola be the favorite to be the Opening Day starter, but that Morton probably isn't even in the top three on the list.
Points for MortonFirst, we'll recap John's points.
1. Morton's a veteran.
2. MacPhail sees the Sixers' issues with veteran leadership and doesn't want that happening in the Phillies rotation.
3. Charlie Morton pitches inside/hits batters.
So yeah, Let's knock these down a bit.
1. Charlie Morton is indeed a veteran. This can't be argued. But does it matter that he's a veteran when considering Opening Day starts? Not really. Jose Fernandez and Dwight Gooden both started their season's first game their second years in the Big Leagues. Nola is actually older then several other recent Opening Day starters, including Josh Beckett. It's not like he was a September call up. He got 13 starts in.
2. The Sixers' veteran leadership issues is the hokiest narrative in all of sports. Ron Artest had plenty of veterans around him and he still got in trouble. Veterans aren't going to keep Jahlil Okafor from getting in trouble and the reason the Sixers have lost so many close games is talent. Back to the Phightins. Sure, the Phillies rotation needs veterans who have proven they can eat innings. But those guys don't have to be in the No. 1 slot to eat said innings.
3. Can Charlie Morton not show his teammates the benefits from pitching inside if he is the No. 3 starter?
Who is better?Now let's talk about why Aaron Nola is better. But first, we have to admit, these numbers come from a small sample size.
Nola averaged 5.97 innings per start; Moron averaged 5.60 innings per start. Advantage Nola.
Nola gave up 1.3 homers per nine, which isn't great; Morton gives up an insanely low number of long balls. Advantage Morton
Nola whiffed 7.9 batters per nine; Morton's career high is 7.2 K's per nine innings. He whiffed 6.7 per nine last year. Advantage Nola
Nola gave up 1.2 baserunners per inning; Morton gave up 1.4 base runners per inning. Advantage Nola.
Nola gave up an extra-base hit in 6.6 percent of his at-bats. Morton gave up an extra-base hit in 8.9 percent of his at-bats. Nola gave up a .403 slugging percentage; Morton gave up a .429 slugging percentage.
So yeah, I think it's evident Nola is the better starter. And this doesn't deal with Jerad Eickhoff, who pitched fewer big league games than Nola, but outpitched him in that cameo.
Is Morton even the best veteran in the rotation?Let's say we really believe a veteran needs to start on Opening Day. Is Morton the best vet?
Let's compare the traditional numbers between Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton.
With 135 starts under his belt, Hellickson is 49-48 with a 3.94 ERA. With 157 starts under his belt, Morton is 45-70 with a 4.54 ERA.
Hellickson wins that battle in a landslide, right.
Well, let's delve a wee bit deeper.
Both are coming off years that were below their career marks. But even there, Hellickson carried a 4.62 ERA while Morton carried a 4.81 ERA.
Carrer-wise Hellickson has a 1.274 WHIP; Morton has a 1.443 WHIP.
Hellickson strikes out more batters per nine, 6.7 to 6.3. Hellickson gives up fewer walks, 2.9 to 3.4.
Hellickson pitched at least six innings in 13 of his 27 starts; Morton did so in 15 of 23 starts. So we'll give the innings eating crown to Morton on that.
But you probably have to give Hellickson the slight edge in being the better pitcher.
ConclusionIt would be trite to say Charlie Morton's best chance at starting Opening Day would be if he got sent to Lehigh Valley or was released and found a job in the Atlantic League.
Morton's better than that, and the Phillies need him to be better than that. But he's not going to be the Opening Day starter unless Nola, Eikhoff and Hellickson get hurt.
Bonus pointBy the way, It's worth noting Adam Morgan had a lower ERA, WHIP and fewer walks and hits per nine innings than Morton last year. Morgan did give up more home runs and get more strikeouts per nine innings, though.
One thing that does make me excited about his year's rotation is the walk rates of the possible starters.
David Buchanan 2.9
Jake Thompson: 3.2 (minors)
Vincent Velazquez 3.4
To put that in perspective, the Royals had four starters who walked 3.1 or more batters per nine innings.