Morning Report: Mitch Keller Makes His Final Start of the Season Tonight

Altoona has steamrolled through the playoffs on the backs of their starting pitchers. In 36 innings, the group of Mitch Keller, Alex McRae, Austin Coley, Brandon Waddell and JT Brubaker posted a 1.50 ERA and they picked up the wins in all five games. The bullpen has thrown nine innings total in the five games, with four of the eight bullpen arms not even making an appearance yet. Brubaker pitched a great game last night, putting Altoona one win away from the Eastern League title.

The series now shifts to Altoona for the final three games (if necessary) of the best-of-five series. Tonight is the final start of the season for Mitch Keller, although he will continue on in the Arizona Fall League, with a likely stop in the Fall Instructional League in between. His trip to Instructs will just be for him to keep throwing before the start of the AFL on October 11th. I’m sure the Pirates will give the Altoona players going to the AFL a little bit of time off before they head to instructs, which still hasn’t started yet due to the hurricane.

Keeler faced Trenton on the road in his Double-A debut and allowed two runs over six innings. He then faced them again just six days later in Altoona and allowed two runs over six innings. In the second start, he gave up no walks and struck out nine batters. Keller finished his regular season in Altoona with a 3.12 ERA in 34.2 innings, with 45 strikeouts, a 1.04 WHIP and a .197 BAA. That led up to his outstanding performance in game one of the division series against Bowie a week ago today. In that game, Keller allowed one hit and two walks over nine shutout innings. He got through that outing on 90 pitches, with 59 going for strikes.

Trenton will send 24-year-old right-handed pitcher Will Carter to the mound. He faced Altoona three times this season and bounced back from a bad outing the first time, to shut them down the final two times. On June 20th, Carter allowed four runs over 2.1 innings in his season debut. He then threw three shutout innings against them at the end of July, before making his first start of the season five days later. In that third game, Carter shutout Altoona for five innings on one hit and two walks. His regular season high for strikeouts in 15 games this season is three, which he did twice, but he stepped up during his playoff start against Binghamton in the first round. Cater gave up one run over 6.1 innings, with no walks and five strikeouts.

Altoona went 5-8 in the season series between these two clubs and Trenton went 6-4 in games played in Altoona. With the two playoff wins, Altoona has almost made this an even series over the year.

** Just a reminder with Altoona one win away from the title, this could be the final Morning Report until next April. If it is, thanks for reading all year. If they don’t win, I’ll be back tomorrow.


(Durham won the series 3-1)

9/6: Indianapolis 3, Durham 10

9/7: Indianapolis 0, Durham 2

9/8: Indianapolis 5, Durham 0

9/9: Indianapolis 3, Durham 4


(Altoona won the series 3-0)

9/7: Altoona 2, Bowie 0

9/8: Altoona 8, Bowie 4

9/9: Altoona 6, Bowie 1

Eastern League Finals

(Altoona leads the series 2-0)

9/12: Altoona 2, Trenton 1

9/13: Altoona 4, Trenton 2

9/14: Game Three VS Trenton 6 PM

9/15: Game Four VS Trenton 6 PM (If necessary)

9/16: Game Five VS Trenton 3 PM (If necessary)


The Pirates trail in their division by 12 games. They are 12.5 games back for the second wild card spot.


Source: FanGraphs


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 8-2 to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night. The Pirates have off today, followed by a three-game series in Cincinnati against the Reds, which starts on Friday night. Chad Kuhl is scheduled to start the opening game of the series.

MLB: Pittsburgh (68-79) @ Reds (63-83) 8:10 PM
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (4.21 ERA, 68:131 BB/SO, 147.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (79-63) (season preview)

AA: Altoona (74-66) vs Trenton (92-48) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: JT Brubaker (4.44 ERA, 45:109 BB/SO, 129.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (70-62)  (season preview)

Low-A: West Virginia (69-67) (season preview)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (40-35) (season preview)

Rookie: Bristol (17-49)

GCL: Pirates (26-34)

DSL: Pirates (36-34) (season preview)


Here is Brandon Waddell picking up his sixth strikeout on Tuesday night. Video includes the entire at-bat.


9/10: Pirates recall Tyler Glasnow, Johnny Barbato, Dan Runzler, Jack Leathersich, Jacob Stallings and Edgar Santana

9/9: Cole Tucker placed on disabled list. Kevin Kramer added to Altoona roster.

9/8: Gregory Polanco and Adam Frazier activated from disabled list.

9/7: George Kontos activated from disabled list.

9/6: Jack Leathersich added to Indianapolis. Cody Dickson assigned to Bradenton.

9/4: Pirates claimed Jack Leathersich on waivers from Chicago Cubs.

9/3: Josh Harrison placed on disabled list. Christopher Bostick recalled from Indianapolis.

9/3: Austin Meadows placed on disabled list.

9/3: Anderson Feliz and Justin Maffei promoted to Indianapolis. Mitchell Tolman and Casey Hughston promoted to Altoona


Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including the first baseman in the first game in franchise history. We start back in 1882 with Jake Goodman, who hit .317 in ten games with the Alleghenys. When Pittsburgh defeated Cincinnati back on May 2, 1882 in that first game, Goodman batted fifth. He was soon replaced at first base, despite the nice average. That was the end of his Major League career, with his only other playing time coming in 1878 for Milwaukee (NL).

Other players born on this date include four pitchers, three of them lefty relievers.

Jerry Don Gleaton, lefty reliever for the 1992 NL East champs. He had a 4.26 ERA in 31.2 innings over 23 appearances in his only season in Pittsburgh.

Frank Carpin, 1965 reliever. Another lefty with one season for the Pirates. Carpin had a 3.18 ERA in 39 games for the Pirates. He was taken by the Astros in the Rule 5 draft following the season.

Fred Green is the third lefty reliever and he stuck around a little longer. He was a member of the 1960 World Series champs, posting a 3.21 ERA in 70 innings. He pitched three times in the series and got hit hard, allowing ten runs in four innings. Green played for the Pirates from 1959 until 1961 and then again in 1964.

Don Williams, righty reliever. He pitched briefly for the Pirates in 1958 and 1959, posting a 6.75 ERA each season. He signed with the Pirates in 1953 and was sold to the White Sox during the 1961 season. He missed two years due to military service.

  • Enjoyed the Morning Report!!! It always sets my baseball day up during the summer!! Thanks!!

  • lets hope this is the last morning report and Altoona has won the championship.

  • Counting on Keller to bring home the victory, so thanks for a great column all season John! I’ll look forward to 2018.

  • When do instructs start John?

  • Thanks for the Morning Reports, but next year can you do something about those Game Graphs that end up on our opponents’ side too often?

    On a more serious note, I’ve become curious about how our “second-tier” pitching prospects in the upper levels (Brubaker, McRae, Waddell, Eppler, Holmes, etc.) may rank. The velocity readings on Brubaker, for example, make me wonder if he’s Kuhl 2.0–a pitcher who is/was a little under the radar moving through the minors but who may become a solid mid-rotation starter in the majors.

  • Thanks for all of the excellent Morning Reports, John. They always serve as a fun, interesting and informative way to start the day.

  • Exciting watching many players from last year’s Florida State League finals playing each other again for the Eastern League crown. Scranton-Wilkes Barre vs. Indianapolis next year?

  • Really exciting to see all of the Altoona pitchers pitching so well in the playoffs, especially Keller. Keller’s really special though, didn’t expect him to pitch this well right away after the promotion.

    And John, Glasnow yesterday wasn’t as sharp as he was in AAA, correct? A lot of foul balls from the opposing batters yesterday. I don’t know if this is because MLB or because he wasn’t sharp.

    Also I don’t know what Angel Sanchez’s problem is. He’s always giving up extra base hits..

    • michael schalke
      September 14, 2017 9:50 am

      Problem is he probably is not any good.

    • I was covering the Altoona game live, didn’t see any of Glasnow. I didn’t think Sanchez looked MLB ready so I’m not surprised he is struggling. It is important to remember that he is in his first year back from Tommy John and it’s late in the year so there shouldn’t be high expectations.

      • Hmm, I wanted someone who saw Glasnow’s starts in AAA to give an opinion about him. Don’t think Alan saw his starts in AAA and didn’t think Brian saw yesterday’s game. Anyone?

        And yep, no high expectations for Sanchez, but still feel bad seeing him giving up runs every time he pitches.

        By the way, thank you for the morning reports! Enjoyed reading them.

        • My guess by the pitching line is that all of that composure he showed on the mound in Triple-A wasn’t there. In his last eight starts for Indy, he didn’t walk more than two batters in any game. The difference between this year and last year wasn’t just the walk total, it was how much he was around the strike zone. He wasn’t getting as many chases from impatient/undisciplined Triple-A hitters because he was blowing pitches by them.

          Last year, he could have some games with only two walks, but still be all over the place. If the hitters laid off pitches, then he would start walking more batters. In one of his games this year, I believe it was the four walk game, he showed some of his best control. Two of the walks had questionable calls and he was just off the plate with many of the pitches. In the past, he would have more bad misses per inning than he had during that entire game.

          That’s why we constantly said last year that what he was doing wouldn’t translate to the majors. What he was doing this year should translate to big league success, but it’s all out the window if he doesn’t have his head right.

          He still has three more starts, so I’ll wait until the end to really judge him.

          • Yeah, not judging him, just wanted to confirm whether what I found hopeful was right or wrong (since I’m kind of biased, I really feel optimistic about his future for some reason) I thought his first and second innings were fine despite the walks. I could see him throwing more strikes and there were some bad calls. But he suddenly lost control in the third inning and it got worse after the homerun.

            Hopefully he’s better next start. His final line is horrible but I think he looked better in the first two innings than before.

          • I’ve been one to say things like “his head isn’t right” etc. because I don’t scout the minor league performances. I’m not there, I can’t see the body language and it’s really just not fair for me to say. I look at the box scores, ball/strike counts and read what you guys are saying. But he looked like last night he lost his composure. Maybe someone can comment on his mechanics, someone obviously more qualified than myself. I missed the first inning but when I turned it on in the second he had absolutely no control of his fastball. Then he’d abandon it for breaking pitches. He just looked out of sorts. Nothing like he was being described as in AAA (most recently).

            • Last year in Indy, he could get off of his game so easy, just by missing the zone. He would also speed up the game when he wasn’t throwing strikes. It was to the point, where he would walk batters on four pitches, faster than he struck them out with three pitches. Easily flustered at the first sign of struggle last year. That wasn’t there this season at all. Kept the same pace all game, was throwing more strikes and the bad misses were few and far between.

              Can’t really judge by one game in the majors, so I’ll wait to see how he does the rest of September.

              That bad thing to do would be to immediately write him off after he showed major improvements in Triple-A, over this year in the majors and over his past performances in the minors. His pitching for Indy over the last two months is the best he has ever looked over an extended time, and it really isn’t a close comparison.

              • I don’t think he has anything left to learn in Indy. He needs to be with the Pirates whether it’s a starter or long relief.

          • “Two of the walks had questionable calls and he was just off the plate with many of the pitches. In the past, he would have more bad misses per inning than he had during that entire game.”

            You literally just described Glasnow’s performance last night, FWIW.


            I don’t know of anywhere that publicly produces minor league zone plots, but watching him on video showed much of what we saw last night. Better *control*, but still little resembling *command*.

            Pitches that were blown past minor league hitters were getting spoiled by big leaguers last night.

            • Did you notice anything off with his mechanics? It looked like he had very little command of his fastball and just abandoned it but I only saw half the start. Then there were guys stealing bases and no one was covering the bag. It was a mess.

              • Nope. That’s Tyler Glasnow.

                John’s obviously correct not to write him off after one start, but I don’t think this is about what’s in his head. At least not the root of the problem. It’s a flat, low-spin fastball with more control than command. Just doesn’t miss big league bats, even when elevated.

                Now a thousand little things could add up to better starts. Diaz’s game calling and framing were awful last night. A couple of those flares could’ve been outs. 35-pitch innings could’ve been 20-pitch innings, which reduces stress and keeps him fresher.

                But there’s no doubt that we’re also seeing the fine line between minor and major league bats. Flat fastballs left over the plate don’t cut it anymore, even when they’re at 99.

            • One was an egregious mistake on the part of the umpire. It was a 3-2 pitch I believe to Walker that was in the zone by a comfortable amount and got called a ball. The runner was going and the ump just flat out blew it.

          • Going by what NMR mentioned, it seems he has yet to learn “how” to pitch. No movement and spin on his fastballs isn’t pitching, its throwing. I wonder why they the coaches missed that kind of stuff. I also believe if Cervelli was catching, it may have been a little different.

            • Do you really think the coaches miss stuff when they are there every step of the way with these players, including bullpens we never see and video sessions where they sit down with the pitcher and catcher and go through the game? There is more to it than that with Glasnow.

              • Seeing it is one thing, fixing it is another.

              • I know what your saying John but I can’t figure out why he can’t “through to the mit” in the mlb. I was always taught ” don’t aim, just through at the target” and you usually don’t miss. I don’t know. I couldn’t wait for these guys to get here and now they seem to be failing.