Morning Report: Altoona Pitchers are Having Success by Pitching to Contact

The run that the Altoona pitching staff has been on since day one this season is incredible, unlike any we’ve seen. In the first ten games of the season, every starter has gone at least five innings and allowed one earned run or less, usually less. To get a good sense of just how good the starters have been this year, here are the top eight ERA leaders in the Eastern League among starting pitchers:

T-1. Angel Sanchez 0.00

Jason Creasy 0.00

Zack Dodson 0.00

Matt Boyd 0.00 New Hampshire

Luis Cessa 0.00 Binghamton

Zack Eflin 0.00 Reading

7. Tyler Glasnow 0.82

8. Chad Kuhl 0.90

That’s right, in the 12 team league, with 60 starting pitching spots, you only have to go down to the eighth spot in ERA to find all five Altoona starters. In fact, the top nine is even more Altoona-friendly, as reliever Thomas Harlan has thrown eight shutout innings, so they have six of the top nine ERA spots. The relievers have run into a little trouble, but the team ERA(1.78) is still 80 points lower than anyone else in the Eastern League.

What might be even more impressive is how they are doing it. Tyler Glasnow(pictured above) has 13 strikeouts already, which isn’t a surprise. The other four starts however, have just 20 strikeouts combined in their eight starts. You see pitchers having a lot of success and you assume they are averaging more than 2.5 strikeouts per outing. Even with Glasnow on the staff, Altoona is last in the league with 55 strikeouts.

The start by Zack Dodson on Sunday is the Pirates’ dream start, one that had everything they teach their pitchers, resulting in six shutout innings. Dodson pounded the strike zone and kept the ball down, even hit a batter, which seems to be a common theme among their pitchers over the last three years at all levels. Dodson didn’t walk a batter or strike out a batter in the game. Instead he pitched to contact, kept his pitch count low and got 12 ground ball outs. That’s the type of start you put on video and show it to everyone else in the system so they too try to get outs in three pitches or less, which is another motto they want their pitchers to live by each game.

Angel Sanchez, who will be the first Curve pitcher to make his third start tonight, has thrown six shutout innings each time out. He has given up one walk and has just five strikeouts, but the results are there because he’s scattered eight hits between his two outings.

Jason Creasy’s success is tough to explain because the numbers don’t match the results in a few areas. He has never been an extreme ground ball pitcher, but he has an 0.47 GO/AO ratio in his first two starts, which is about half of where he was last year. He walked three batters in one of his starts, which is very rare for him, a pitcher that has never walked more than 24 in a season. Creasy also is right on average with the strikeouts for this staff, getting five in two games. Last year he had 100 in 148.2 innings. Yet despite those numbers, he has allowed just six hits and kept the earned runs off the board. Creasy has a 0.00 ERA, yet he has shown in the past that he is a better pitcher than what we have seen so far this season.

Chad Kuhl hasn’t been nearly as good as anyone else with his 1.50 WHIP, but he has nine strikeouts in ten innings and a 1.44 GO/AO ratio, so when runners did get on base, he had quickly settled down and kept the damage to the minimum of one run allowed. Glasnow allowed the other earned run and according to the people there, that was due to the inexperience of Stetson Allie in right field and Glasnow should have got out of the inning without giving up a run.

It’s been a great run so far and a pace no team can keep up, but it’s good to see the Pirates’ “pitch to contact” philosophy showing strong results and it’s coming from four players that have worked their way up the system and another that came around last season after struggling in three other organizations.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates defeated the Brewers by a 5-2 score on Sunday to sweep the three-game series. The win put them at .500 for the first time this year. They now open up a four-game series against the Cubs with A.J. Burnett on the mound, making his third start. He already has 15 strikeouts this year in 12 innings of work.

In the minors, two games were rained out yesterday, so Nick Kingham and John Sever will try again to make their start tonight. Kingham is looking to bounce back from a rough start last time out, while Sever is looking to continue his streak of six shutout innings over two appearances. Angel Sanchez goes for Altoona. He has thrown six shutout innings in each of his two starts. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (6-6) vs Cubs (6-5) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: A.J. Burnett (2.25 ERA, 3:15 BB/SO, 12.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (4-6) @ Columbus (5-5) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (3.60 ERA, 2:10 BB/SO, 10.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (6-4) vs Harrisburg (5-6) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Angel Sanchez (0.00 ERA, 1:5 BB/SO, 12.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (5-6) vs Charlotte (7-4) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Felipe Gonzalez (3.27 ERA, 2:7 BB/SO, 11.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (6-3) @ Kannapolis (4-6) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: John Sever (0.00 ERA, 1:8 BB/SO, 6.0 IP)


From Saturday’s West Virginia game, Tito Polo drives home two runs with a double. If you missed it from yesterday, the Morning Report was about Tito Polo and his progress through the years. He is hitting .346 so far this season.

Recent Transactions

4/19: Wilkin Castillo assigned to West Virginia Black Bears

4/19: Pat Ludwig retires.

4/18: Jaff Decker activated from disabled list and optioned to Indianapolis. Adam Miller assigned to WV Black Bears.

4/18: Junior Sosa sent to Bradenton. Barrett Barnes assigned to Extended Spring Training.

4/17: Brad Lincoln assigned to Indianapolis. Andy Vasquez assigned to Altoona.

4/17: Chris Stewart activated from disabled list. Tony Sanchez optioned to Indianapolis.

4/16: Jordan Luplow added to West Virginia Power. Jose Regalado transferred to West Virginia Black Bears.

4/16: Kelson Brown transferred to West Virginia Black Bears.

4/14: Jose Regalado added to West Virginia Power. Erik Forgione assigned to West Virginia Black Bears

4/14: Collin Balester assigned to Altoona.

4/13: Pirates release Jonathan Sandfort.

4/13: Francisco Liriano reinstated from paternity list. Casey Sadler optioned to Indianapolis.

4/12: Chris Stewart assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/12: Justin Topa placed on Bradenton disabled list. Matt Benedict assigned to Bradenton from Altoona

4/11: Pedro Florimon clears waivers. Assigned to Indianapolis.

4/11: Stolmy Pimentel claimed off waiver by the Texas Rangers.

4/9: Chris Stewart assigned to Altoona on rehab. Jaff Decker assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/7: Pirates release Matt Nevarez, Andrew Dennis and Dwight Childs.

This Date in Pirates History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one significant trade of note. On this date in 1985, the Pirates traded away long-time closer Kent Tekulve to the Philadelphia Phillies for reliever Al Holland and a minor league pitcher.  Tekulve still ranks second on the Pirates all-time list for games pitched(722) and saves(158), plus he added 70 victories and he saved three games during the 1979 World Series. Holland only lasted until August before he was sent to the California Angels in a six-player deal.

Former players born on this date are: Outfielder Chris Duffy(2005-07),  third baseman Mike Mowrey(1914), outfielder Steamer Flanagan(1905) and outfielder Sam Nicholl(1888).

On this date in 1901, the Pirates opened up the season with a 4-2 win at Cincinnati. This was the 20th season in franchise history and ended up as the first time they finished in first place. That was before the modern-day World Series started, so the 1901 Pirates were declared the champions that season. It was also the first year of a three-year run in which they took the National League crown each season.

  • No doubt about it, the earned run Glasnow gave up never should have happened.