There Was No Doubt About It

A Pittsburgh Pirates Blog

Pirates at Royals, Game 94: Preview

07.22.15 Posted by

Morton vs. Volquez, 8:10 PM

Having Gerrit Cole start in a game that can win you a series against an elite team is a great place to be. Having Charlie Morton start in a game that will either win or lose you that series is…less so.

But that’s where we are: after getting swept by Milwaukee, we’ve split the first two against a very good Royals team. With Morton on the mound, we’re not favored, but we’re only modest underdogs. We’re smaller underdogs than the Royals were yesterday, and we know how that turned out.

Morton’s been quite good this year; his ERA is 4.34 (not that such a mark is terrible for a #4 starter), but a huge chunk of that comes from the nine runs he gave up in just two-thirds of an inning against the Nationals. Without that start, his ERA is 2.98.

Some of you are now saying “well, okay, but lots of people’s stats look better if you take out their worst games.” True, but for a starting pitcher, how you give up your runs matters a great deal. Technically, a guy who throws ten shutouts and then gives up 90 earned runs without recording an out the next game has an ERA of 9.00, but he’s actually more valuable than someone with a 4.50 ERA who gives up a run every other inning consistently.

You can only lose each game once, so a guy that puts up a sub-3.00 ERA in nine starts and gives his team a chance to win each, but completely blows up in one other, is probably helping his team a lot more than his ERA would suggest. And that’s what Morton’s done: apart from his blowup against the Nationals, his worst starts have been of the “six innings, four earned runs” variety. He’s given up 3 ER or fewer in seven of his 10 starts, even though five of those were his first five, and he’s looked fairly average lately.

You also have to worry a little about an extreme groundball pitcher going up against a team as fleet of cleat as the Royals. Odds are good Morton gives up a few runs, but that ultimately we win or lose this game based on whether or not the lineup looks more like it did Monday, and less like it did on Tuesday. And with all the injuries, it’s hard not to think the latter is going to be more reflective for the next week or so.

This would be a pretty big series win. First pitch is at 8:10 PM.

Filed under: Charlie Morton, game preview