This uber-popular clip of Charlie Morton’s two-seam fastball and curveball is pure fantasy. And no, that doesn’t make it any less fun to watch so long as you don’t care about its accuracy.
However, I don’t think its physically possible for a pitch to turn on a dime like that, but of course, I’m no physicist. A lot of people seem to believe it can.
Even the potential NL MVP.
Let me show you what’s actually happening in this clip.
‘THE MATRIX’ is the popular overlay with isolated pitches (Ninja used the full clip that was broadcasted in real-time, while I have only the highlight reel version). ‘THE REAL WORLD’ is a simple overlay of both source vids. You can clearly see the curveball camera (on the left) swings down and to the left. It’s at that point, on THE MATRIX clip, the two-seam defies physics.
No human being has that kind of voodoo.
Here are the two source clips back to back. Keep in mind these are not thrown to the same hitter, meaning the overlay is using two unrelated at-bats. The curveball (first clip) was thrown to Michael Brantley in the top of the first inning. The two-seam/sinker (second clip) was thrown to Josh Reddick at the top of the second inning.
Am I sure I’ve got the right vids? Watch the curveball motion and the catcher adjust his glove to catch. You’ll see in Ninja’s vid, right before it cuts off, that the catcher is starting to make the same movement.
Still not convinced? Here here is the overlay of the two pitches from the center field camera.
Does that look anything like the isolated pitch overlay?
David Adler of MLB.com wrote an article that features the Morton overlay which produced over three million views. Everything, in terms of Statcast data, within the article is factual and very interesting. And Alder’s assessments on Mortons two-seam/sinker are spot on.
To piggy-back off what he wrote concerning their movement shapes, a big reason why they break in opposite directions is due to a 190-degree (average) spin axis contrast. Since Morton’s two-seam/sinker has an average axis of 254-degrees and his curve spins on a 63-degree spin axis, the spin tilts are creating a “mirroring effect” (more about that HERE, coined by The Athletic‘s Joe Schwarz), pushing them directly away from one another.
So do they actually work well together when used in tandem? Let’s take a look at his two-seam/sinker and curveball tunneling metrics. (for more context, check out my post over at Fangraphs discussing pitch overlays).
For PREMAX (or how close two pitches are at the tunnel point) the league average is around 1.54 inches. The PlatePreRatio (or how far apart two pitches end up at the plate in relation to how far apart they are at the tunnel point) average is 11.9.
To LHH, CB>SI: 1.18 PREMAX, 19.6 PlatePreRatio
To RHH, CB>SI: 2.36 PREMAX, 6.4 PlatePreRatio
Clearly, the curve to the two-seam/sinker works much better to LHH hitters. Its an incredibly tight tunnel with huge separation at the plate.
Now, the opposite sequence.
To LHH, SI>CB: 1.56 PREMAX, 13.8 PlatePreRatio
To RHH, SI>CB: 2.04 PREMAX, 8.8 PlatePreRatio
The curve to two-seam/sinker sequence to LHH is clearly the best option.
Later on, the piece points out how crazy the movement is on this three-pitch K of Alex Bregman. Pitch two and three are shown here.
That is some crazy movement…to the catcher. While this is very impressive, it comes down to how it appears to the hitter.
Here’s what Bregman actually saw from his perspective.
The orange plot is the two-seam/sinker and the far-right blue path is the curve. These pitches are pretty distinguishable (especially having come out of different arm slots), but no less filthy.
Regardless, the presumed implication of the embedded video being any sort of visual evidence of Morton’s skill is misleading. Morton has done a terrific job designing his pitches and allowing them to work off of each other effectively. However, I’ve never personally witnessed a pitch that can actually behave like the video would suggest.