The Pittsburgh Pirates have a clear problem with their pitchers picking up strikeouts in the minors. Their pitchers, for the most part, are still getting results and strikeouts don’t automatically equal success. That being said, low strikeout rates in the minors rarely translate to success in the majors. Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of where each club ranks in their respective leagues around the farm system.

There are 14 teams in the International League. Indianapolis ranks ninth in their league in strikeouts, both in total and strikeouts per inning.

The Eastern League has 12 teams. Altoona ranks last in total strikeouts in the league, but they are ninth in strikeouts per inning. Due to rain outs, the Curve have played three fewer games than any other team in the league.

The Florida State League has 12 teams. Bradenton ranks 11th in total strikeouts and 11th in strikeouts per inning, though a different team trails them in each category.

The South Atlantic League has 14 teams and West Virginia ranks 12th in total strikeouts. They move up to tenth when you look at strikeouts per inning.

It’s a little too early for the three short-season teams in the U.S., but we can look at them anyway. Morgantown ranks 13th in total strikeouts  and strikeouts per inning among the 14 teams in the New York-Penn League.

Bristol ranks sixth in the ten team Appalachian League in total strikeouts. They drop one spot when you look at the per inning total, inching ahead of the team with the fifth most strikeouts, but falling behind two teams with fewer innings.

The GCL has 18 teams this year and the Pirates rank last in total strikeouts. It’s not as bad when you do the strikeouts per inning, where they rank 16th…okay, that’s barely better.

In the DSL, the league reaches the halfway point on Saturday, so that’s a big enough sample size. It’s a huge league, with 44 teams. The Pirates1 rank 37th and lose a spot when you look at the per inning average. Brace yourself for this…the Pirates2 rank third! And they even move up a spot in strikeouts per inning.

For individual players, West Virginia reliever Matt Seelinger is average 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings. For starters, Travis MacGregor leads with 11.9 per nine. Without regards to strikeout rates, here are the top ten in the system going into Thursday’s action.

  1. Taylor Hearn, 94
  2. Mitch Keller, 91
  3. JT Brubaker, 82
  4. Cam Vieaux, 82
  5. Tyler Eppler, 81
  6. Alex McRae, 80
  7. Clay Holmes, 79
  8. Luis Escobar, 79
  9. James Marvel, 78
  10. Domingo Robles, 74

It’s a pretty good list of names there. Not all top prospects, but no fillers either. Ten spots is actually the perfect place to end it, because there’s a fairly large gap to 11th most (61, MacGregor).

It’s clear from the team-by-team numbers that there is a lack of strikeouts in the system. The top club in their league (by a huge margin) is in the lowest level of the system and that team does have some fillers, plus they rank 29th in ERA, so the strikeouts aren’t helping. Every other club is in the bottom half of their league and all but Bristol and Indianapolis are within striking distance of being the worst.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 6-3 over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night. Nick Kingham will be on the mound today for his ninth start, coming off of one run over six innings against the Philadelphia Phillies in his last start. The scheduled Brewers starter is right-hander Junior Guerra, who has a 2.79 ERA in 93.2 innings, with 92 strikeouts and a 1.22 WHIP. He faced the Pirates back on May 4th and allowed five runs over five innings.

The minor league schedule includes a doubleheader for Altoona. Cam Vieaux attempts to continue his strong start with the Curve, while Scooter Hightower makes his first Double-A start in the second game. Brandon Waddell goes for Indianapolis (Alex McRae ended up going yesterday instead of Waddell). He allowed two runs over seven innings in his last start. Bradenton starter James Marvel has allowed three runs over 20 innings in his last three starts combined. West Virginia’s Cody Bolton has allowed nine runs over his last eight innings, after giving up just three runs in his first 26.1 innings. Bristol starter Oliver Garcia threw six shutout innings in his last start.

MLB: Pittsburgh (44-49) vs Brewers (55-39) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (4.26 ERA, 42:11 SO/BB, 44.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (48-40) vs Toledo (50-39) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (6.51 ERA, 17:13 SO/BB, 27.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (46-39) @ Erie (41-47) 4:35 PM DH(season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (2.08 ERA, 30:4 SO/BB, 39.0 IP) and Scooter Hightower (7.36 ERA, 6:0 SO/BB, 3.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (44-42) @ Daytona (49-37) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: James Marvel (3.90 ERA, 78:23 SO/BB, 101.2 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (48-38) @ Hickory (40-48) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Bolton (3.15 ERA, 33:5 SO/BB, 34.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (11-15) @ Hudson Valley (16-10) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex Manasa (6.15 ERA, 16:11 SO/BB, 26.1 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (11-11) @ Pulaski (10-13) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Oliver Garcia (4.80 ERA, 14:13 SO/BB, 15.0 IP)

GCL: Pirates (8-10) vs Yankees East 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (16-19) vs Red Sox2 10:30 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (14-20) vs Mariners 10:30 AM (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From the Eastern League All-Star game, Will Craig wins it for the Western Division with 305 points during the hitting competition. The game ended as a 4-4 tie, so with no pitchers left, the hitting competition decided the winner.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

7/11: Ardent Pabst promoted to Altoona. John Bormann assigned to Bradenton.

7/11: Mitch Keller and Clay Holmes assigned to Indianapolis. Sean Rodriguez assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

7/10: Joe Musgrove activated from disabled list. Alex McRae optioned to Indianapolis.

7/10: Jackson Williams placed on disabled list.

7/10: Mitch Keller assigned to Bradenton.

7/9: Sean Rodriguez assigned to Bradenton on rehab.

7/8: Francisco Cervelli activated from disabled list. Jacob Stallings optioned to Indianapolis.

7/7: Pirates activate Michael Feliz, recall Alex McRae from Indianapolis. Dovydas Neverauskas and Josh Smoker optioned to Indianapolis.

7/7: Pirates released Felix Vinicio, Pablo Santana and Carlos Garcia.

7/6: Jake Brentz placed on Bradenton disabled list.

7/6: John O’Reilly assigned to Bristol. Sent back to GCL on 7/7, back to Bristol on 7/8 (really happened)

7/6: Rafelin Lorenzo assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab. Raul Hernandez assigned to West Virginia.

7/6: Jin-De Jhang activated from Altoona disabled list. John Bormann placed on disabled list.

7/6: Clay Holmes optioned to Bradenton. Pirates recall Jordan Luplow.

7/6: Raul Siri assigned to Morgantown.

7/6: Pirates sign Zack Kone

7/5: Royals claim Enny Romero

7/5: Francisco Cervelli assigned to Altoona on rehab.

7/5: Dylan Busby assigned to GCL on rehab.

7/4: Pirates recall Josh Smoker.

7/4: Scooter Hightower promoted to Altoona. Ryan Haug assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/4: Jason Delay activated from Bradenton disabled list.

7/3: Pirates released Larry Alcime.

7/3: Pirates sign Michael Burrows.

7/3: Pirates recall Dovydas Neverauskas. Tanner Anderson optioned to Indianapolis.

7/3: Montana DuRapau promoted to Indianapolis. Erich Weiss placed on disabled list.

7/3: Travis MacGregor activated from West Virginia disabled list. Gavin Wallace promoted to Bradenton.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one who played eight seasons for the Pirates.  We start with third baseman Lee Handley, who played for the Pirates from 1937 until 1941, then again from 1944 until 1946. Usually when you see a gap for a player during the early 1940’s, it’s due to military service, but Handley actually injured his arm during an off-season automobile accident and spent those two years in the minors. During his time in Pittsburgh, he hit .269 over 843 games and played solid defense.

As for the other six former players born on this date, we have 2011 outfielder Ryan Ludwick, 1997 relief pitcher Clint Sodowsky, first baseman Rich Aude (1993, 1995-96), lefty pitcher Frank Bork (1964) and 1899 second baseman John O’Brien, who was one of the players going to Louisville in the famous Honus Wagner trade. We also have Jiggs Donahue, who caught for the 1900-01 Pirates. He has an interesting note to his career that you may have never seen in a Major League game, depending on how old you are. Donahue was a lefty catcher, one of four in team history.

On this date in 1958, the Pirates swept a doubleheader in St Louis, winning 10-8 and 8-6 over the Cardinals. The interesting note about this doubleheader is that Vern Law saved the first game, then won the second game by throwing five shutout innings. He only faced one batter in the first game, but Curt Flood represented the winning run and Law was able to get him to ground out to Bill Mazeroski to end the game. Mazeroski had six hits on the day.

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