Pirates Discussion: Are Fastballs Still King?

[The Producer]

Starting today, the daily Pirates Discussion will be led by Jeff Reed — not the former Steelers kicker, but long-time Pirates Prospects reader and commenter Bucs’N’Pucks. Anyone who checks out the comments on a regular basis knows the extra information that Jeff brings to this site. Now, he will be able to do all of that while leading the discussion of the MLB club each day, kicking it off each day with a topic of discussion.

I think I speak for everyone here when I say that no one wants to read a Pirates discussion led by Tim Williams. He might be my boss, but in all honesty you guys, there are some days where I’m not even sure he knows there is a Major League Baseball player named Tyler Heineman. I ask him and he always responds with something vague like “Gotta get that opportunity!” Then he immediately starts talking about all of the left-handed relievers who have surprised in Pittsburgh over the years.

All I’m saying is, let’s all extend a warm welcome to Jeff Reed! The Pirates discussion each day just received an upgrade.

*****

Would you take a starting rotation with the following ERA’s?

  • 2.70
  • 3.44
  • 3.66
  • 3.69
  • 4.72

That looks like a rather solid group, and all five starters either have or had ties to the Pirates.

I’ll add in the fact that none of the five listed pitchers (as of the morning of 6/22) have a K/9 over 8, with two actually under 7.

Four of the five have a BB/9 higher than 3.

All five are putting up a K/9 and K% that is under their career averages.

Four of the five are experiencing a GB% lower than their career average.

Those five starters?

  • 2.70 – Jameson Taillon
  • 3.44 – Chris Archer
  • 3.66 – Jose Quintana
  • 3.69 – Chad Kuhl
  • 4.72 – Mitch Keller

As has been noted, Keller began throwing a sinker in his May 18th start. Since then, he’s thrown it on average of 30% to a little over 40% per start (Per Baseball Savant). He hasn’t abandoned the four-seam, but it’s down to around 15% usage, compared to 50% or higher previously.

Kuhl has all but abandoned the four-seam (4%) and now using his sinker 40% of the time, his highest usage since his 2016 debut season.

Quintana’s highest sinker usage was during his seven scoreless inning start on May 15th, and has slowly declined since then.

Taillon’s sinker usage has remained consistent over his career, but he introduced a cutter in 2021, that he’s now using 15% of the time.

Archer on the other hand remains largely unchanged, aside from abandoning the sinker, that he used 10% of the time in Pittsburgh. He also has the least supported ERA by advanced metrics.

This isn’t me pounding the table saying “MOAR SINKERZ!!!” as it is rethinking that our perception had been skewed against sinkers.

I think the focus should be — and appears to be becoming — which specific fastball works best for tunneling purposes. Keller’s fastball was average to below average across the board, so adding a sinker that breaks in the opposite direction of his above average curveball — one of best in terms of movement vs league average — is extremely beneficial if he’s able to effectively tunnel those two pitches.

PIRATES @ RAYS

Time: 7:10 PM EST

Pirates Starter: Mitch Keller (2-5, 4.72)

Rays Starter: Jeffrey Springs (3-2, 2.00)

Keller Notes: Mitch Keller opens up the series against the Rays, having posted a 2.54 ERA since he introduced his sinker on May 18th. He hasn’t given up more than two earned runs in a start over that span, while covering at least five innings in each of his last four starts. The opposing pitcher, Jeffrey Springs, is a 29 year old former Texas Rangers 30th round draft pick. This is his second season with the Rays, but first time seeing an extended time in the rotation.

UPDATE: Jerad Eickhoff out. Austin Brice in.

Lineups:

Pirates

Rays

1. Randy Arozarena (R) DH
2. Ji-Man Choi (L) 1B
3. Yandy Diaz (R) 3B
4. Josh Lowe (L) RF
5. Luke Raley (L) LF
6. Taylor Walls (S) SS
7. Jonathan Aranda (L) 2B
8. Rene Pinto (R) C
9. Brett Phillips (L) CF

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mikeschalke

I was following on CBS sportsline and was amazed that all the Ray’s relievers were all 2.50 or under. Eventually our 5.50 couldn’t hold up.

jon6er

Shelton would need to have an active roster of the top 26 players in the game to just get over .500 in a season!

mikeschalke

Might be true but I wouldn’t blame him for this loss.

jon6er

Tampa had one out and runner on second and then runner steals third. The chances that any pitcher but Bednar is going to strike out the next batter is possible but not likely so Shelton plays the infield in when he has the better option of walking the next batter and hoping or trying to get a double play. They can still lose the game but it’s their best chance once the runner gets to third with one out on the road in extras. So yeah not totally his fault when things don’t work out right but it’s his job to give them the best chance to win and in my opinion he didn’t do that tonight.

mikeschalke

You keep pitching Bednar in every critical moment of every game and you’ll wear his ass out in a hurry. Not only that in the top half of that inning they had first and third with no outs and couldn’t do squat.

Last edited 1 month ago by mikeschalke
roibert.kasperski

Well poop……💩💩💩

PiratePrimate

Happy Trails to you
Until we meet again

agent00

suwinski turning into pedro at the plate. all or nothing lol

agent00

it’s like….why the fuck is he batting first. his obp is .294

bucsws2014

There were only 3 players available tonight with an OPB >.300

Reynolds .335
Vogey .310
Chavis .303

That’s embarrassing.

jon6er

Shelton is king of the WTF, what and why. We know he’s going match ups ph Chang for Mitchell but you need a right handed ph who actually gives you a better chance of getting a hit and Chang isn’t that guy!

1979andCounting

That was a tough call for shelby…….Vogey or Jack, Vogey or Jack.

PiratePrimate

That’s how the ouija board laid it out. Shelton’s not in control

1979andCounting

Castillo should have tried to steal a bag. Nothing to lose with Chang and Heiney hitting

jon6er

What were the chances of Chang not striking out, lol.

Tim Williams

It’s Tyler Heineman!

Wilbur Miller

So Chang isn’t good enough to start against a LHP, even though Vogelbach is 0-for-his-career against them, but he’s good enough to PH against one. Has Dumbo ever managed the whole way through a game without looking like a blithering idiot?

jon6er

No!

Wilbur Miller

He Moyered the Rays tonight.

PiratePrimate

Chang’s got’em nervous

Wilbur Miller

Chang and Heineman PHing in the 9th of a tie game. They’ve got a lot of guys who’ve played well against a good team, but they have to battle the two idiots running things, too.

skliesen

Any word on Hayes?

1979andCounting

Day to day, Shelton hoping he’ll play Sat or Sun.

Wilbur Miller

OH NO! NOT DAY-TO-DAY!!

1979andCounting

That’s one of the shortest short-arm deliveries you will ever see by Wisler.

jon6er

50/50 Stratton is up. It’s 50 percent will he blow the game or 50 percent Shelton leaves him in too long if he gets in trouble.

Wilbur Miller

Cam’s 78-79 mph slider has these guys tied in knots

1979andCounting

You are seeing a good one tonite. Although bullpen games vs Rays BP can be problematic.

john_fluharty

That’s the thing he’s never been able to solve in the past.

roibert.kasperski

Wham! Another Homer!!

agent00

keller really has a power sinker going right now. what a world

jon6er

So far my early thought this spring that Chavis wouldn’t bring much to the Pirates was unequivocally wrong and I’m really enjoying being wrong as I watch him play, lol. I also am pleasantly surprised at being wrong about Vogey bringing anything but along with the offense he’s showing the young guys some leadership which is invaluable.

Wilbur Miller

There’s yet another example of the cost of having an automatic out like Perez in the lineup.

jon6er

I just don’t understand why they can’t give Delay some playing time before the break.

john_fluharty

Or even Carter Bins – at this point I’m ready for about anyone but the two guys we have.

jon6er

I like Delay so they can’t use the 40 man excuse, lol.

ricramer

DFA Perez when Marcano returns. Call up Delay and send Castillo to the minors for some work.

Wilbur Miller

Tucupita has such a great name he takes up three roster spots. DFA Perez, Fletcher and Chang.

Wilbur Miller

Hard to see any downside

PiratePrimate

Some fool wrote on here that Cruz could even help Perez get better. “Transformed” I recall. The stupid mofo must have been high.

roibert.kasperski

Well if Cruz put Perez’s uniform……nah, he is almost twice as big. No one would be fooled……

Wilbur Miller

Reynolds is baffled by this guy’s change.

PirateRican21

Just tune in, let’s see. 2 inning 50 pitches down 3-0. Keller must be on the mound……

PirateRican21

I’m gonna call that outing a competitive outing by Keller. A great not terrible.

Last edited 1 month ago by PirateRican21
Wilbur Miller

First regular season game I’ve been to in years and I have a bad feeling I’m gonna be seeing Austin Brice.

PirateRican21

No doubt, unless what I saw in the third holds.

Wilbur Miller

He’s not getting hit hard. Two weak grounders for singles — one beat the shift, the other would have been an out but they weren’t shifting.

AdministrativeSky236

Other than the 4 pitch walk and the balk, i actually think he hasnt looked bad at all

jon6er

I was surprised with the emotion Keller was showing after the balk. I rarely ever see him show any emotion at all and then when he came off the field he screamed the ‘f’ bomb, lol.

john_fluharty

I’m actually a little bit encouraged by that.

jon6er

With Keller that’s a good sign.

1979andCounting

Cal’s arm isn’t going to cut it on a contending team. Three bounces just to get it to Chavis.

AdministrativeSky236

1B is probably his best option

PirateRican21

I’ve been saying!

AdministrativeSky236

I know springs is very good, but cruz isnt ever going to see consistent pitches in the zone if he keeps chasing everything within a foot

docdon385

Except when he makes contact and hits one of those pitches 430 feet, which is something he’s done several times in the past. There have been plenty of super star bad ball hitters in the majors, a fellow named Clemente for one. Of course he needs to learn how to recognize major league pitches better and swing at ones that are easier to hit but the only place to do that is in the majors.

PiratePrimate

He wouldn’t be the first super prospect laid low by breaking pitches

joebaseball

Cruz has no awareness of the zone. No sense pitching him strikes. He needs plenty of work to stick in majors.

PiratePrimate

Nickles needs to talk to Keller’s agent about buying out those last three arb years and a couple option years to sweeten the pot.

1979andCounting

I’m against an extension. But you could twist my arm at $6 mil/3 years if BC wants cost certainty in arb years. Fair deal for both sides. But that’s about all he’s worth.

patrick_kelly

Continued steady improvement. Slowly working his way closer to his upside. Count me in on a 5-6 year, I have no idea how much deal ($60m?), with an option or 2 and I’m in. Small potatoes deal to unload if it doesn’t work out.

Tim Williams

Keller’s sinker is working early. Generated a groundout and two swing and miss strikeouts in a 1-2-3 first inning.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tim Williams
NMR

Anyone ever notice how few “homegrown” players Tampa has in their lineup on a given day?

Roster churn is simply a fact of modern team building, at least for the teams that are consistently successful.

Wilbur Miller

My biggest complaint about the Pirates’ last two GMs has been the reluctance to make roster moves. I see it as this reflexive conservatism, clinging to no-value “assets” the way Nickels pinches pennies. Like it could somehow cost the Pirates anything at all on the field if they “lost” Aaron Fletcher. Nutting said he wanted to emulate the Rays and A’s, but their approach to the roster couldn’t be more dissimilar.

NMR

Bingo!

patrick_kelly

I wonder how much of it is Ben and NH wanting to seem like a place that is friendly to mid-tier talent and willing to give them chances. On one hand, having players think Pittsburgh is a good place to go is a positive. On the other hand, who the fuck really wants these players on the roster? I’ve been patient with the build and cheerlead Ben’s approach to this season so far. Patiently waiting now to see if he has the balls to DFA guys coming off the IL instead of turning the roster old again, quickly.

Tim Williams

I was just looking at the Meadows trade.

They got Isaac Parades and a Competitive B pick. Right now, I think you could argue that Parades is already as good or better than Meadows, based on the early small sample. He’s four years younger, and under team control longer. Not only did they extend that production window, but they added another prospect in the upcoming draft.

That type of trade — selling at the right moment for Meadows and getting a guy who is about to break out and a draft pick — is what keeps them contending.

My hope is that we’re seeing early signs of the scouting part of that trend from the Pirates. They’ve done well to get Contreras and Suwinski before their own teams knew how good they were. The other half of that equation is trading guys early, when their value is high. That won’t be popular in Pittsburgh, but will be easier if they display a tendency to find more value like Contreras/Suwinski.

NMR

Precisely my “everybody wanna be the Rays, nobody wanna act like the Rays” comment over the years!

waitwhat

Yeah I wanna see a good sell-high once so I can get on the similar bandwagon. I don’t care if it’s popular or not, it’s what you have to do as a team like the Pirates.

AdministrativeSky236

Im sure the rays were crucified for trading blake snell a few years ago, meanwhile hes been bad and patino, meija, wilcox, and hunt is an excellent return that helps the team in more way than one

buccobrach2

This sucks, just when I thought the buccos might be able to turn this around , get Cruz up , hayes goes down. This team can’t catch any type of momentum.

PiratePrimate

The fastball up and in, followed by a knockdown pitch used to be pretty effective. It’s tougher on pitchers these days when they have to be nice to hitters. Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale would have not been happy campers pitching today.

EightMenOut

For his career left handed batters have better numbers against Springs than right handed batters, so i guess i feel a little better about this line-up

Danatural08

I was ready to make a complaining comment about how rare it must be for a MLB team to be starting 4 guys in the same lineup with a sub.200 batting average this late in a season, then realized the Rays are doing the same thing. Should be a real barn burner tonight!

John Dreker

Pirates have seven guys under .220 in the lineup. The A’s are actually hitting .209 as a team! Someone let them know the deadball era ended 102 years ago

NMR

Killed homeruns, but it did nothing at all to decrease strikeouts or raise batting averages.

Pitchers are really, reeaaaallllyyyy good.

agent00

i think the next time the pirates have their lineup out before the opposing team, will be the first time, in the shelton era

Last edited 1 month ago by agent00
AdministrativeSky236

Just like that and its out lol

No Hayes 🙁

Last edited 1 month ago by AdministrativeSky236
agent00

IL stint incoming

AdministrativeSky236

I consider myself to be a big fan of the game of baseball, and I do not recognize their 5th, 7th, or 8th hitters but know they will probably each be on base twice tonight because rays

1979andCounting

Really, Jeffrey Springs? HTH do the Rays do this every year? He had so much talent that the Rangers gave him a draft signing bonus of $1,000. And he’s a Lefty…..worried we’re going to have trouble with him……

Anthony Murphy

Rays see a reliever and say ‘he’d make a good starter’ is an anti-Cody statement 😂

skliesen

First, great topic for your first day on the job, BNP! You’ve set the bar pretty high.

As for the title of the topic, yes the fastball is still king, and always will be. The best SP’s throughout MLB history have almost always had an overpowering 4-seam fastball.

Now that doesn’t mean I’m not a fan of a good two-seamer, but it should be used if 4-seamer isn’t good enough. A pitch that gives the perception of rising will always be harder to hit if located well than one that sinks.

As for the tunneling question, I’m under the impression a 4-seam and curve tunnel off each other well, and a 2-seam and slider tunnel best. Am I wrong?

PiratePrimate

“The best SP’s throughout MLB history have almost always had an overpowering 4-seam fastball” — unless they were left handed

roberto

Not wrong, but it’s more complex than that. What’s the shape of the FB? What’s the shape of the breaking pitch?

skliesen

Nothing is simple about this game.

NMR

Wow, congrats Jeff!

ArkyWags

Good work BnP! I’d add that if sinkers make a comeback, let’s move Cruz to the OF. Or Hayes will have to play the entire left side himself.

joesolo6181

Jeff is he at least giving you a free subscription to the site?

Wilbur Miller

MOAR BnP!!!

1979andCounting

Congrats BnP on turning AUTHOR! And for coming over to “our side” the MLB team. But who is going to monitor the minors as closely as you did? We really going to have to rely on Tim now?? (j/kidding Tim)

Anthony Murphy

Take a day off and everyone forgets about me 😂

agent00

hey congrats BnP! always cool to see a commenter turned author here!

Rob Baran

Well done Bucs’N’Pucks – a good read to follow Tim’s ramblings in the Daily. Do you think Mitch Keller could actually become a good Pitcher? What do you think the ceiling is throwing a sinker?

jon6er

You’re spot on about his waste pitches which highlights the fact that most mlb catchers are defense first because most of his waste pitches are potentially wild pitches.

PirateRican21

It’s been command issues, he used to throws so many pitches down the middle, this is why the sinker is working as long as it moves the way it supposed too. He could just aim middle and forget about painting the top or corners, which he has proven he can’t do consistently.
By the way, Jeff, can’t you provide some change up numbers, is a bit hard but the movement is good and it seem to have gotten better, almost mimic his sinker perfectly at around 6-7 mph slower ( going off memory here!)

Last edited 1 month ago by PirateRican21
PirateRican21

Not enough separation, but I like the movement.

AdministrativeSky236

That author tag suits you Bucs’N’Pucks

RAS TN

Command and Control are the kings, and it starts with the fastball…

john_fluharty

We’ve all known that Keller’s fastball was an issue for a while. I guess finding a solution is easier said than done. My question is: assuming he has figured things out and becomes a good pitcher, how much longer will he be a Pirate?

Last edited 1 month ago by john_fluharty
JimEastTennessee

Welcome to the Big Leauges!

PirateRican21

congratulations, let’s see if you are ready for a splitter….if Quintana is trade come trade deadline time who do you see replacing him, at least at first. I’m thinking Wilson gets another crack.

AdministrativeSky236

Wouldnt mind de jong and bolton for 3 each as a bullpen type game at some point this year when we need a spot start

AdministrativeSky236

Fair enough on de jong! I know his underlying numbers havent supported his success this year so assuming some regression to the mean. Guess I am just trying to come up with more exciting options than bryse wilson

1979andCounting

“Bryse is already falling into the annoying role of AAA hitters can’t touch him, but MLB hitters can’t miss him.”

That’s a GREAT observation! So many folks think it’s a natural progression, have success at AAA and come on up and duplicate it in the show. Doesn’t work that way……for a lot of guys.

AdministrativeSky236

Seems like the return of the sinker that we have seen could partially be due to the baseballs not flying like they have been as well

NMR

Bingo!

This is what make’s an answer to Jeff’s topic so loaded.

I think his rhetorical question would obviously be answered “yes” based on the offensive environment we’re now used to seeing over the last half decade or more, but if the sinker’s return to prominence is based on that environment being tamped down overall then all the sudden those numbers take a relative tumble as the rest of the league stands to benefit equally.

Gerrit Cole posted an ERA of 3.55 in 2014 and that was good for 5% worse than league average!

roberto

The folks at FanGraphs concur.

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