Last night was a good night for Mitch Keller. The Pirates’ top pitching prospect went five innings, giving up one earned run on five hits, with two walks and four strikeouts. It wasn’t an extremely dominating outing, but it was a good first step in his return to the majors, and something to build upon.

The Angels aren’t exactly an easy team to beat. They rank 11th in the majors in wOBA and sixth in wRC+. The fact that Keller put up the numbers he did was impressive. Let’s dig deeper into those numbers, see what worked, and see what needs to be improved upon going forward.

The Pitch Breakdown

John Dreker wrote yesterday about how Keller had been using his breaking pitches more often in his final starts in Triple-A. Keller didn’t carry the same percentages over to last night’s start, with the following breakdown.

Fastball: 58.5%

Slider: 20.2%

Curveball: 17%

Changeup: 4.3%

Notes: Keller started off fastball heavy, throwing 16 fastballs in 20 pitches in the first, followed by 12 of 17 in the second. He then dropped down to 47.4% fastball usage in his final three innings.

Working the Strike Zone

Keller was throwing strikes, throwing a first pitch strike in 16 of 23 plate appearances. He threw 63 strikes and 31 balls on the night, with the following breakdowns.

Fastball: 40 strikes, 15 balls, 4 swinging strikes, 9/12 first pitch strikes

Slider: 12 strikes, 7 balls, 3 swinging strikes, 3/4 first pitch strikes

Curveball: 10 strikes, 6 balls, 3 swinging strikes, 4/6 first pitch strikes

Changeup: 1 strike, 3 balls, 0 swinging strikes, 0/1 first pitch strikes

Notes: I’ll get to the individual pitch breakdown next. Keller threw almost nothing but first pitch fastballs the first two innings, with the lone outlier being a first pitch slider. He increased the slider and curveball first pitch usage in the final three innings. In that same time, he dropped down to four first pitch fastballs.

The Breaking Stuff

The results from the curveball and slider were encouraging. Keller used his slider more often, averaging 88.2 MPH, and ranging from 82.5 to 89.6. His curveball also got some good usage, averaging 81.9 MPH and ranging from 80.3 to 83.2.

All five hits off Keller came against the fastball, with three line drive hits and two ground ball singles.

Out of the balls in play for outs, Keller had a flyout and two groundouts with the slider, and two groundouts with the curveball. He didn’t allow any line drives with either pitch, with only five line drives on the night — all coming off the fastball, with three of them hits.

I noted the swinging strikes above. Four of those led to strikeouts, with one on the slider, one on the curve, and two on the fastball (one in the first and one in the second).

The Lack of a Changeup

Keller only threw four recorded changeups, and two of them seemed questionable. Gameday had one at 92.4 and another at 93, with the other two in the 90-91 range that his changeup usually sits in.

Keller threw three of his four changeups for balls, and got a groundout with the 93 MPH pitch. He threw two changeups in the third, and one each in the second and fourth.

The Angels had three lefties and one switch hitter in the lineup, so the fact that Keller didn’t get hit hard without throwing his changeup much seems like a good sign that his other pitches were effective. He did give up three of his five hits to lefties, so he might need the changeup more in the future.

A Start to Build Upon

This was a much better start for Keller than what we’ve seen in previous outings this year. He didn’t carry the same approach over from Indianapolis with the pitch usage, but the results are what mattered.

The biggest area I see for improvement is his ability to put hitters away. He threw 33 pitches in two strike counts, with four strikeouts and seven outs in play. There were 12 balls, 8 foul balls, a hit by pitch, and an error.

Keller left after 94 pitches and five innings. He’s going to need to improve on the two strike counts in order to last deeper into games.

My opinion that he needs to use his breaking stuff more often — throughout the entire start — hasn’t changed. It will be interesting to watch his next start to see if he repeats with the heavy fastball usage early, followed by mixing in breaking stuff more often the second time through the order. I could see how going fastball heavy early would be good for Keller to get comfortable as he eases back into the majors, but it’s not a long-term approach that leads to success in today’s MLB.

PLAYOFF PUSH

Indianapolis has 22 games left. They trail by nine games in the division and 8.5 games in the wild card.

Altoona has 21 games left. They trail by 13 in the division.

Bradenton has 20 games left. They trail by ten games in the division.

Greensboro has 21 games left. They trail by five in the division and they are a 1/2 game back for the second best record, which could possibly get them a playoff spot.

Morgantown has 20 games left. They trail by two games in the division and two games in the wild card spot.

Bristol has 15 games left. They trail by one in the division and they’re one out of the second playoff spot.

GCL Pirates have 17 games left. They trail by 12 in the division.

DSL Pirates1 have been eliminated from the playoffs.

DSL Pirates2 have clinched a playoff spot

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 10-2 over the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night. They will send out Trevor Williams tonight for his 18th start. He gave up six runs over five innings against the Milwaukee Brewers in his last start. Williams pitched against the Mets in his two prior starts, allowing a total of five earned runs over 13 innings. He has a 4.17 ERA on the road this season, compared to 6.11 at home. The Angels will counter with 23-year-old right-hander Griffin Canning, who has a 4.76 ERA in 79.1 innings, with 86 strikeouts and a 1.20 WHIP. He threw six shutout innings in his last start, albeit against the worst team in baseball (Detroit Tigers). That was after facing the second worst team (Baltimore Orioles) and giving up five runs in two innings. His previous start was against the Seattle Mariners, which means that he will be facing one of the seven worst teams in baseball during four consecutive starts. Canning has a 4.33 ERA at home.

The minor league schedule includes James Marvel trying to continue his strong run in Triple-A after a bit of a shaky outing last week. Marvel tossed four shutout innings, but he walked a career high five batters. He has allowed just two runs in his last 22 innings (four starts). Sean Brady makes his 18th start for Altoona. In his previous 17 games, he has gone at least five innings in all 17 games, and 6+ innings in 15 of those starts. Quinn Priester will make his seventh appearance for the GCL Pirates. He has a 2.55 ERA in 24.2 innings, with 28 strikeouts, a 1.14 WHIP and a .234 BAA.

After a rain out yesterday, today will be a doubleheader for Bradenton. Gavin Wallace should get the start in game one this evening. He has given up one run in each of his last three starts, throwing a total of 20.1 innings. Greensboro’s Alex Manasa allowed one run over five innings in his last start and reached the century mark in strikeouts. The last time he faced today’s opponent (Kannapolis), he tossed six shutout innings. Morgantown’s Jesus Valles gets his tenth start. He has given up just one run in his last 16.1 innings (three games). His six strikeouts last time out set a season high. Bristol’s Santiago Florez threw five shutout innings in his last start, despite issuing five walks. He is holding batters to a .213 BAA.

MLB: Pittsburgh (49-69) @ Angels (58-62) 10:07 PM
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (5.06 ERA, 78:24 SO/BB, 99.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (58-60) vs Rochester (60-59) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: James Marvel (1.87 ERA, 35:15 SO/BB, 33.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (59-60) @ Harrisburg (63-55) 6:30 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Sean Brady (3.83 ERA, 61:29 SO/BB, 105.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (63-54) @ Florida (45-73) 4:00 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Gavin Wallace (3.61 ERA, 69:19 SO/BB, 86.1 IP) and TBD

Low-A: Greensboro (70-48) @ Kannapolis (53-65) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex Manasa (3.59 ERA, 100:24 SO/BB, 117.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (30-25) vs Auburn (21-34) 6:35 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Jesus Valles (3.49 ERA, 28:13 SO/BB, 49.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (26-26) vs Bluefield (25-27) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Santiago Florez (3.12 ERA, 20:16 SO/BB, 26.0 IP)

GCL: Pirates (13-26) vs Braves (13-23) 12:00 PM  (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (28-33) vs Indians/Brewers (14-43) 10:30 AM  (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (49-12) vs Royals2 (27-34) 10:30 AM  (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Altoona on Sunday, Francisco Cervelli nearly hits one out. This was an error first, then changed to a double for no reason.

Here’s a nifty play by Mitchell Tolman

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

8/12: Pirates recall Mitch Keller. Richard Rodriguez placed on injured list.

8/11: Pirates release Tyler Lyons. Cody Ponce promoted to Indianapolis.

8/11: Clay Holmes activated from injured list. Parker Markel optioned to Indianapolis.

8/11: Francisco Cervelli assigned to Altoona on rehab.

8/11: Rookie Davis assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

8/10: Mariano Dotel assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

8/9: Braeden Ogle activated from Bradenton injured list.

8/9: Pirates release Eduardo Vera. Cam Vieaux sent to Altoona.

8/9: Kyle Mottice activated from Greensboro injured list. Victor Ngoepe sent to Morgantown.

8/9: Tom Koehler assigned to Morgantown on rehab

8/8 Robbie Glendinning placed on Altoona injured list. Bralin Jackson activated from Altoona injured list.

8/8: Max Kranick placed on Bradenton injured list.

8/7: Pirates sign Luis Joseph.

8/7: Eric Wood activated from temporary inactive list.

8/6: Steven Brault activated from injured list. Richard Rodriguez activated from paternity list. Dario Agrazal and Yefry Ramirez optioned to Indianapolis.

8/6: Tom Koehler assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab

8/6: Pirates release Joseivin Medina

8/5: Pirates sign Omar Alonzo and Juan Fuentes.

8/5: Yoyner Fajardo promoted to Bristol. Fernando Villegas promoted to Morgantown.

8/5: Clay Holmes assigned to Altoona on rehab.

8/4: Blake Weiman placed on Indianapolis injured list.

8/4: Pirates release Jung Ho Kang

8/3: Pirates claim Yacksel Rios.

8/3: Richard Rodriguez placed on paternity list. Pirates recall Parker Markel.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a day in 1926 that changed the franchise. Since this day is so big, I’m just going to list the players and remind you that the link at the beginning of this section has a bio for all eight players.

Jonah Bayliss, 2006-07 pitcher

Tom Prince, catcher from 1987 until 1993, and has been with the Pirates in numerous capacities since.

Jeff Ballard, 1993-94 pitcher

Mudcat Grant, 1970-71 pitcher. He turns 84 today. Grant won 145 games during a 14-year career.

Vinegar Bend Mizell, 1960-62 pitcher…two great nicknames in a row and both played on World Series teams.

Sid Gordon, 1954-55 3B/OF

George Susce, 1939 catcher

Steve Swetonic, pitcher from 1929 until 1933

On this date in 1926, the Pittsburgh Pirates released pitcher Babe Adams and outfielder Carson Bigbee, while also putting Hall of Fame outfielder Max Carey on waivers. Not only did they put Carey on waivers, they also suspended him until another team picked him up so he wouldn’t get paid. They were getting rid of one of the best outfielders in team history, one of the best pitchers in team history (and the only player from both the 1909 and 1925 WS winners), plus Bigbee, who spent his entire 11-year career in Pittsburgh. This was such a big deal, that it became front page news in Pittsburgh for four days straight.

The Pirates had brought in old manager Fred Clarke to be a bench coach and the players claimed that they were getting conflicting signals from Clarke and Bill McKechnie, to the point they questioned who was in charge. When players started getting fines due to these mix ups, they held a player meeting to vote on whether to get rid of Clarke. The vote came back 18-6 in favor of keeping him and Adams, Bigbee and Carey were three of the votes against, along with three rookies, all of whom were supposedly swayed by the veterans. So instead of getting rid of Clarke, they cut the three veterans. It was an extremely unpopular move for the fans, especially when the Pirates dropped out of first place and finished the season by going 23-24 after August 13th. It was known as the ABC Affair, for the first letter of each last name.

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