Walker placed on disabled list
The Pirates have placed Neil Walker on the 15-day disabled list after undergoing an appendectomy tonight.
The Pirates have called up Gregory Polanco to fill his roster spot.
Josh Harrison and Clint Barmes will likely take on the bulk of the work at second base while Walker is out.
(Charlie has the Polanco write up here.)
New and improved
According to the Oliver projection system, the Pirates outfield in 2015 and 2016 projects to compare favorably, if not be better, than the 1991 Pirates' outfield of Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Andy Van Slyke.
1991 Pirates: Bonds (7.3), Bonilla (4.1), Van Slyke (3.8) = 15.2 WAR/600
2015 Oliver projection: McCutchen (6.7), Polanco (4.8), Marte (3.9) = 15.4 WAR/600
2016 Oliver projection: McCutchen (6.4), Polanco (5.0), Marte (3.8) = 15.2 WAR/600
Morton's fine start
With rumors and speculation swirling around Charlie Morton throughout the weekend, tonight he took the mound and pitched a gem against the Chicago Cubs (68 game score). Morton induced ground balls (nine groundouts and a 68.4 percent GB%) and netted seven strikeouts. He was as efficient as we've seen him all season, as he threw only 82 pitches in seven innings work. As much as those numbers are a recipe for success, perhaps most impressively he neither walked nor hit a batter. It was a very fine start by Charlie Morton.
His pitching line for the night reads: 7 innings pitched, 6 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, 7 strikeouts.
Charlie Morton was pitching on six days rest tonight. Asked if that played some role in sharpness that he displayed, Morton said, "I don't know, I felt more well rested."
"I think it helped," Hurdle said of the effect of Morton's extra rest. "I think going out there and performing like he did for seven innings and throwing all those pitches is going to help even more."
Avoiding Hard Contact
This afternoon, Mark Simon, overseer of ESPN Stats and Information, tweeted his quality of contact statistics. Charlie Morton had the lowest Hard Hit Rate (.094 HHAV) in Major League Baseball heading into tonight's game. Francisco Liriano ranked eighth (.110 HHAV). The Pirates staff had the fifth lowest (.140).
Tonight, Morton continued to avoid hard contact, as he allowed only three hard hit balls according to my unscientific count.
I talked to Morton after the game about the statistic. He is a follower of sabermetric websites like Fangraphs, and shows a great interest in and understanding of contemporary baseball analytics.
"I was told [about the statistic] by one of our sabermetrics guys this afternoon," Morton said. "I think it's useful, because if you can induce weak contact and results just aren't going your way, you can ask 'why is that?' It's not because I'm being hit hard. There's something else."
"I think that allows you to be objective about how you go over each outing," Morton added. "It's nice to know that. I've wondered about things like that in the past."
Marte contributes to the offense
Starling Marte showed signs of returning to form, going 3-for-4, with two RBI, two doubles, and one stolen base.
"It's fun to watch him on, it's fun to see him swing the bat with some athleticism," Hurdle said. "This could be a good game for him to regain some his confidence and get moving in a better offensive direction as well."