Atlanta Braves: Why You Should Be Optimistic About Charlie Morton in 2023

Atlanta Braves veteran Charlie Morton is locked in as the third or fourth starter this year for the Braves. He is a part of a four-headed monster that any team would love to have.

Here’s a quick look at how the rotation looks right now. On paper, it’s a beautiful thing. I can’t see it enough. So if you want to see it on paper, print this sucker out and put it on the fridge!

  1. Max Fried
  2. Spencer Strider
  3. Kyle Wright
  4. Charlie Morton
  5. Kenny Powers*

Obviously the last one is a fictional character. Please don’t look up Kenny Powers in the Braves top prospects. Read more about the battle for the fifth spot between Dylan Dodd and Jared Shuster here.

Morton had some rough stretches last season but he also brilliant in others. Overall, he finished with a pretty solid stat line:

9-6, 172.0 IP, 4.34 ERA, 205 SO, 1.23 WHIP, 1.6 WAR

A Stretch of Brilliance from Charlie Morton in 2022

I specifically remember his first start of July at Cincinnati. Morton was brilliant, going 7.0 innings, striking out 10, and allowing just one hit and one walk. Between July 3 and August 16 (8-game stretch) Morton had 62 strikeouts in 49.1 Innings. He had a 2.92 ERA and held opponents to a .182 average.

Morton had been pitching better prior to that magnificent start in Cincinnati. If we expand the range of dates from June 17-September 2 (14-game stretch) the numbers look even better! During that span, Morton posted a 2.84 ERA with 109 SOs in 85.2 innings.

Charlie Morton finished fifth in the NL in total strikeouts in 2022 with 205. The Braves were satisfied with the return on their investment enough to sign the veteran to a one-year extension worth $20 million in 2023 with a club option in 2024 for the same price tag.

Will Charlie Morton be Worth $20 Million to the Atlanta Braves in 2023?

Well, that’s a good question. My gut says yes. What do the statistics say? Who knows. I’ve seen articles saying his fastball velocity is down and so age must finally be catching up with the old man. I’ve seen people and pundits (also people) say he was bad last year so why would the Braves pay him $20 million this year when he’ll only be worse?

Charlie Morton was not bad last year. He finished fifth in the NL in strikeouts and while his ERA was a little below league average, we have to acknowledge some facts about that. The dude broke his leg in the World Series the year prior. He spent his offseason rehabbing. I pointed out some of his second-half stats, including an epic run that helped propel the Braves to a fifth-straight division title that shows the old man still has it.

Since his regression has been mentioned, let’s take a look at some metrics.

He went 9-6… He won more games than he lost. Isn’t that all you need to know? That was a joke, relax.

Did Charlie Morton Lose Velocity on his Fastball in 2022?

The short answer is yes. Morton’s fastball declined in average velocity over 2021. It dropped from 94.1 to 93.7 mph. Is that a big deal? I don’t think so.

Here are Morton’s career average velocities:


Are you confused? The Pirates used to preach two seamers and groundballs to pitchers who had the stuff to be strikeout pitchers. Morton was one of those guys. Baseball Savant tracks fastball velocities but it’s not differentiating between two-seamers and four-seamers. When Morton got to Houston they preached pitching the four-seamer up to setup his disgusting curveball as a strikeout monster.

So, in 2022, his fastball velocity was roughly the same as it was in 2021, about 94 mph. Meanwhile, his breaking balls actually improved over last year’s velocity. Morton throws a very hard biting curveball which averaged 87.2 mph last season. This is a part of the reason he was fifth in the league in strikeouts.


After I posted that photo, I realized you can’t read my notes. Thanks to Baseball Savant for the graph.

Note 1: Went to Astros
Note 2: Astros told Morton he was ALLOWED to throw a four-seam fastball.
Note 3: Morton realized his curveball was dank AF!

I love sinkers as much as I love the next guy, but the Astros made the right call here. Morton relied heavily on his curveball and four-seam fastball the past several years and judging by the velocity of the curve, it still seems to be working. Look at it with your eyes. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out it is one of the best curveballs in the game.

Is the curveball still that good?

Morton’s curveball ranked in the 98th percentile in the league in spin rate in 2022. On top of that, his fastball was blazing red in spin rate on Baseball Savant ranking in the 81st percentile. His K% ranked in the 82nd percentile of the league. Morton was in the 32nd percentile in walk percentage. The numbers look good.

Morton relied on his curveball more than any other season in 2022. He threw it 38% of the time while throwing his four-seamer just 33.3%.

I feel great about Morton rounding out the top four of the Braves’ rotation this season. As you know, the fifth spot is not decided but it is full of fantastic options.

Charlie Morton is a key factor in the Braves having one of the best rotations on paper in 2023. Some may say that $20 million is too much, but I disagree. What say you? Tell me in the comments below.

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