P2Daily: Positive Momentum For the Future of the Pirates Pitching Staff

Mitch Keller has been on a roll lately.

The right-hander has a 2.54 ERA in 28.1 innings over the last month. Those numbers coincide with Keller adding a new sinker to his arsenal, which has also brought a 52.5% ground ball rate in that span.

There are some concerns that Keller could regress from these results. His FIP is 3.70, and the xFIP is lower at 4.43. Keller has been trending up in each of his starts, and the last three indicate that if there is any regression, it would still leave Keller as a solid starter.

There are a lot of small sample sizes at work here, but overall there’s positive momentum for Keller.

Roansy Contreras has been excellent this year, now making nine appearances and six starts. The right-hander has a 2.89 ERA in 37.1 innings, though again that comes with a lower FIP and xFIP. Both numbers are around 4.00, so Contreras would still be a starter with any regression.

The most important thing here is that Contreras is 22-years-old. We can expect more progression to his game as he gets more experience in the majors from a young age. The fact that he’s starting off so strong is a great sign.

The Pirates have a lot of options to add to Keller and Contreras, both in the big leagues and the minors. Most of their options project as back of the rotation guys.

They do have two upper level starters who are emerging ahead of the pack.

Mike Burrows had a 2.94 ERA in 52 innings in Altoona this year, before moving up to Indianapolis. That promotion came after 2019 first round pick Quinn Priester arrived in Altoona.

Both starters have a chance to join Keller and Contreras in the Pittsburgh rotation in the next year. That is almost certain for Burrows if he stays healthy. Priester would need to remain healthy as well, so that he can get the upper level experience he lacks right now.

The Pirates offense this week has been solid after the additions of Oneil Cruz and Bligh Madris to a growing prospect group.

The pitching staff isn’t to a point where this team can be a contender. They do have a group of starters who can help get them there, with two trending up in the majors, and two more on the verge of arriving.

Overall, a lot of positive momentum all around.

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This is the most optimistic I have been about our young rotation in a long time and that is mostly due to the health we have seen from the youngsters in the major league club. Maybe that is why we are handling our starters like it is the pony league. Contreras is the really rare pitcher who looks like he can succeed from day one. Most pitchers who succeed on day one flounder for the rest of their careers. Please, no trades for veterans to bolster the staff. Since Bert Blyleven I don’t think the Pirates have come out on the good end of any top of the rotation pitcher trades.

Last edited 1 month ago by Born4rf

Love seeing any amount of positive success for Keller.

Getting by long-term with an 18% K-rate against an 11% BB-rate, as he’s performed over even his latest hot stretch, is more or less unheard of over the past half-decade or more, but maybe he’s on the leading edge of benefiting from the reduced offensive environment the league seems to have successfully created.

A return to the halcyon days on Magic Ray!


When I watched Keller he seemed to leave allot of pitches over the middle of the plate that the hitters missed. I would like to see him use the corners more and keep the four seam in the upper part of the zone. I think they should give BRyce Wilson another chance.


Yeah his command still sucks. At this point, it doesn’t seem like it ever gets fixed. That being said, the early returns on his sinker seem promising. So maybe he’s rescued something here.

Last edited 1 month ago by ArkyWags

Command matters a bit less with a two-steamer, I think. Two-seamers tend to move more and move more variably. I have seen nothing about the vertical or horizontal movement of his two-steamer. Help?


I think brubaker can be a middle of the rotation guy. Maybe I’m higher on him than some but he looks like musgrove did when he first got here. I believe he will get better as he continues to get experience.

I think if a SP that they really like is on the market this offseason then they will give him a bigger deal, but they won’t do it unless it’s an almost perfect situation as they don’t need to sign guys just to sign them at this point.
I really hope they bring in 2-3 bullpen guys that can help bednar close out games when we have a lead after 6.
I really believe if this team had clay Holmes and 1 other good bullpen arm that this team would be over .500 and have a chance to stay in the race for a wildcard come September. BC really needs to do a much better job at building bullpens in the future.


Please do not mention Holmes again. 🙂


Spot on about BC needing to do a much better job building a bullpen. He needed at least two more high leverage arms to start the season to be competitive.

As for this being the reason they are under .500, that’s a big fat NO.

BC didn’t choose Cruz and Madris to be on OD roster even though they had played well enough in camp to make the roster. And of course, they failed to buy any legitimately valuable ML hitters in FA last winter. The combination of these two things has caused the offense to be the least prolific offense in NL YTD.

No matter how good the bullpen is, it can’t hold a lead it never has.


You make some good points but having Cruz and to a lesser extent Madris on the opening day lineup made no sense. Wasting a year of their service time on this season would not be a smart move.


I understand the economics. It makes sense on a certain level to manipulate service time, but there’s a cost to it. In no other sport do the best players not make the team out of camp.

Just because it makes sense for management doesn’t mean it makes sense to players or most fans. They just see it for what it is, shortchanging players and fans today in the hopes of a future reward that may never materialize.

As for the “this year” comment, that’s 100% on BN & BC. If they wanted to put a contender on the field, they could’ve. We play in one of worst divisions in MLB after all.


Man, Scotty, how in the world are you of all people turning this into a money issue!?

A player could not possibly do more to justify a minor league assignment than Oneil Cruz demonstrated over about the first six weeks of his season.

He then used that failure to tighten up his game, make adjustments, and demonstrate tangible improvements that inarguably have put him in a better position to succeed at the highest level.

Why in the hell do we even have minor league baseball if not for precisely this scenario?

Take the godd*mn win when you get them, we’re Pirate fans for chrissakes!


Man! I LOVE your takes.


I don’t know about contender but Nickles has a responsibility to his fan base, the city and his own players to spend enough money to be respectable and always striving to get better. That has never been the case with Nickles. Even in the playoff years, he short changed his team, its fans and the community with his criminal behavior. And make no mistake about it, when you take money that is specifically funded to help solve economic imbalance and make a small market team competitive and you STICK THE MONEY IN YOUR POCKET!!!!! it’s theft.


Worth noting how great thompson has been over the last several weeks, even a few starts longer than mitch has been hot. If brubs, keller, and thompson can all pitch fairly well for the rest of the season, that would be very helpful going into next year


I’m watching a different Thompson than you, I’m seeing a guy getting by on luck. FIP of 5.58 is not good


His hard hit rate and avg exit velo are both well better than average, i think some other advanced metrics will hurt him for not being a big K guy


He’s a useful 5 on a contending team, IMHO.


I think best case scenario is the other four all settle in as 3’s or 4’s.


A rotation of Contreras, Keller, Brubaker, Thompson and a Free Agent pick up this offseason (a legit one with a multiple year deal is preferred) could really be a good start to the season, as the rotation has been solid as of late. Then by June Burrows and Priester can take the spots of the two worst performers. I think Thompson can be a really good bullpen arm so I think that adds value and I think Brubaker or Keller could be a dominant back end guy. However, they both have been pitching well. I am optimistic. I think Keller has really turned the corner, now lets hope he grows into a consistent MLB starter!


Yes, preferably a LH starter. Get a LH 1B (Dominic Smith from Mets might be an option), and a couple bullpen arms too. 2023 promises to be interesting.


I would love a Chavis/D Smith platoon at 1B


Yeah I agree, the perfect scenario would be to go get 2 starting pitchers a legit guy you give a multiple year deal to and then an Anderson/Quintana type. Do you think they will actually do this though? I would love it, but I doubt it happens.


I am sure they will do the latter at least. I would also love a legit starter in addition, but seeing the cluster that the pen is this year, I dont know if I would mind a quintana type then 2 legit bullpen arms instead


Yeah that is another way to look at it. I just think they need a really good veteran starter like Liriano and Burnett.


Perhaps Keller’s improved results may well be in part due to a new pitch, but it seems control is more important. How often has Keller’s performance suffered from multiple walks that end up as runs. Further, his inability to pitch deep in games is because of too many 20+ pitch innings. Lately, he ‘s been throwing strikes. His ‘stuff’ is so good it’s been sufficient but imagine what he could become if he gains ‘command.’

Rob Baran

Thanks Tim, pleased to see a logical explanation for Keller not sucking lately. Good stuff.

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