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Think you've seen it all? Watch this Morton pitch

@_dadler
October 8, 2019

Feast your eyes on Charlie Morton's pitch movement. It's magic. You won't be able to stop watching.

Feast your eyes on Charlie Morton's pitch movement. It's magic. You won't be able to stop watching.

That's not a trick. That's Morton's two-seamer and curveball in the Rays' 10-3 victory Monday in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, spinning apart as if repelled by a super-strong baseball magnet. The poor Astros.

'No quit': Rays aim for repeat performance in Game 4

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 4 HOU 6, TB 2 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 5 HOU 3, TB 1 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 7 TB 10, HOU 3 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 8 TB 4, HOU 1 Watch
Gm 5 Oct. 10 HOU 6, TB 1 Watch

Wondering just how much Morton's pitches move? Wonder no more. Statcast has the movement numbers for all of the Tampa Bay right-hander's nasty stuff.

Morton's two-seam fastball averages 18.6 inches of horizontal movement. That's 3.6 inches more movement than similar two-seamers, the third-most two-seam movement above average in the Majors.

And Morton's curveball? That averages the exact same 18.6 inches of horizontal movement … in the exact opposite direction. His curve gets 8.1 inches of break above average, fourth most in the Majors. The overall movement stands alone.

Curveballs with most avg. horizontal movement, 2019
Min. 250 curves thrown (115 pitchers)
1) Charlie Morton (TB): 18.6 inches
2) Rich Hill (LAD): 18.5 inches
3) Adam Wainwright (STL): 18.4 inches
4) Jose Berrios (MIN): 17.0 inches
5) Ryan Pressly (HOU): 16.8 inches

In Game 3 against Houston's lineup, one of baseball's best, Morton's curveball was moving even more than usual, especially when he played it off his fastball. He struck out six Astros on curves, out of his nine total in five innings of one-run ball. Houston whiffed on half of its swings against the curveball, eight of 16.

The six strikeout pitches -- two each against Michael Brantley and Carlos Correa, and one against Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve -- averaged 21.4 inches of horizontal break.

Morton gets all that movement thanks to his high spin rate. His average curveball spin this season was 2,886 rpm, high above the MLB average of 2,523 rpm. And on Monday against the Astros, his curve averaged 3,001 rpm. That 3,000-plus rpm range is the elite level of curveball spin.

Morton's fastball and curveball are both nasty, but it's usually the curve that buries you. Morton got 136 strikeouts on curveballs this season, 27 more than the next-closest pitcher, Aaron Nola. He got 207 swings-and-misses, also the most of any pitcher, again ahead of Nola (199). On the season, opposing hitters had a .151 batting average and a .228 slugging percentage in at-bats ending on Morton's curveball. They went 47-for-311 with the 136 strikeouts.

But what can you do against a guy with voodoo movement?

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.