Pirates Prospects Daily: Pirates Showing They May Have A ‘Type’ Of Pitcher

It’s starting to become more clear on the type of pitcher the Pirates are looking to acquire. As the offseason continues, the rumors continue to swirl as to where free agents will sign. One such recent to come around for the Pirates, is right-handed pitcher Kyle Gibson.

The 35-year-old Gibson is coming off a little bit of a down year, although he still managed to make 31 starts and throw 167.2 innings — both of which were more than any other Pirates pitcher finished with in 2022.

On the outside it looks like your typical Pirates reclamation project, and to an extent he is. There is another trend in their reported interest in Gibson, as well how their current pitching staff is made up.

One of the bigger headlines over this past season was Mitch Keller, and his emergence as a legitimate major league starting pitcher. Maybe the biggest reason for his turnaround was his usage of a sinker to help give a different look from the mound.

Keller wasn’t alone, as there were multiple pitchers who excelled throwing the sinker. According to Baseball Savant, the Pirates had seven pitchers in the Top 100 when it comes to Sinker Run Value, led by reliever Yohan Ramirez at 14th. Keller finished just behind Ramirez at 25. Other Pirates who ranked inside the top 100: Dillon Peters (34), JT Brubaker (50), Zach Thompson (78), and Bryse Wilson (98).

Yerry De Los Santos and Duane Underwood Jr. both finished within the next 50 names, giving the Pirates nine total players with a positive run value with the sinker.

Circling back to Gibson, he was among the league leaders last year when it comes to the pitch, with Baseball Savant having him at 770 sinkers (28.1%) in 2022.

Despite it being his most used pitch, I wouldn’t say it has been his best pitch. Both Keller and Gibson allowed hitters to bat just north of .300 against the sinker last year, with near identical wOBA (.369 for Gibson, .367 with Keller) but being able to show it and throw it for strikes, it set up the rest of their pitches to be a bit more effective.

Throwing the sinker so much set up Gibson’s cutter (.244 average, .306 wOBA) and slider (.221 average, .281 wOBA) — the latter of which he was able to put up a fairly good whiff rate for a non strikeout pitcher.

Keller was the same way, with his slider a lot more effective (.206 average, .264 wOBA) thanks to the sinker. Even his fastball became more effective in the right situation having the different look of the sinker.

The Pirates seem to be in the market for at least one starter for their rotation, with Gibson being the name talked about as of late. If the interest in signing him is true, then it obviously shows that the Pirates have a ‘type’ more than a soft tossing lefty reclamation project, like they’ve gone after the previous two seasons.

The success has been there, and with a defense that includes Ke’Bryan Hayes and the arm of Oneil Cruz, it’s not a surprise that the Pirates would want to trend that way — now and in the future.

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams

**The Pirates made their signing of Carlos Santana official. As of this posting, the team has yet to make a corresponding 40-man roster move. That’s unusual that the process has taken this long. It doesn’t seem like your typical “let’s pick which player to designate for assignment” corresponding move. We’ll keep you updated, but for now, Santana is officially on the 2023 Pirates, which is the important thing.

**Our article drop this week looked at the potential impacts for the Pirates of the removal of defensive shifts. I focused on both offense and defense, and Anthony Murphy had a feature on Braxton Ashcraft.

**The Rule 5 draft will take place next week. Baseball America released their best available players in the draft, and the Pirates had Malcom Nunez and Matt Gorski listed.

**Oneil Cruz, Lewin Diaz, and Miguel Andujar saw winter league action on Monday. John Dreker has the latest winter league updates.

**Missed yesterday? Anthony looked at the next steps in Luis Ortiz’s development.

Song of the Day

Pirates Prospects Weekly

In our article drop today, I looked at the potential impacts of the removal of defensive shifts in 2023. On defense, the addition of Santana will pair nicely with Ke’Bryan Hayes to shrink the middle infield — and that will play well for Oneil Cruz and likely Rodolfo Castro. On offense, I looked at the mental toll of the defensive shifts on a hitter.

Anthony Murphy looked at Braxton Ashcraft, a right-handed prep pitcher from the 2018 draft who is returning from Tommy John.

Wednesday is our opinion day, and we’ve got multiple features hitting the site at noon.

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Wilbur Miller

According to Biertempfel, the Pirates are pursuing both Gibson and Quintana. I’m skeptical, to put it mildly, but that would certainly move the needle, which the Santana signing didn’t do.

The Gunner

With all due respect, I’ll believe it when I see it, WM

b mcferren

hodgepodge of something? if its just about innings Zach Davies might be a better target than Gibson

PirateRican21

I love, love the sinker. Fell in love with it after watching a Billy Swift game in which he dominated with it. Do I think it should be a main pitch that you used 60% of the time or more? no. Should a RH pitcher throw it to a lefty, not unless you could do it like Maddox (Brubaker comes close at times!). But what worries me is our infield defense, especially up the middle, especially now that the shift is gone. Move Cruz to RF and sign someone like D. Swanson to play SS and Bae or Marcano to man 2b and then maybe, just maybe the pitch would once again dominates.

b mcferren

1939 Bill Swift?

PirateRican21

This one, when he was with the Giants.
https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/swiftbi02.shtml

b mcferren

R312 National Chicle Pastels

b mcferren

#ExtendKeller
#TradeReynolds

AdministrativeSky236

Why so set on trading reynolds?

b mcferren

ripe tomato

BuccoFan21

I think that the time to trade Reynolds has passed, or at least the ideal time to trade Reynolds. At this point it seems like GMBC intends on him headlining the next contender, should one happen.

roberto

I don’t mean to be offensive, but I fail to understand your argument.

b mcferren

if you don´t pick the tomato off the tree at the right moment and sell it in the market, then it will either turn bad

trading Reynolds last year was a moment that he was at peak value

trading Reynolds now is less than optimal value but still hype for 2023 remains

Waiting for him to recoup value in 2023 before we trade him is too risky of a gamble

Reynolds has been offered an extension and he did not accept

He will be traded and the only question is when

roberto

That’s why I was confused. I don’t sell tomatoes, but I grow them. I usually pick them green, because I can keep them from the squirrels. BTW, they’ll ripen beautifully off the vine.

Scam likely

Maybe reynolds still has value relative to his salary. Where as next year ,his third arb. year he will be making a lot more money and have less trade value because the pirates might forced to move him .If the pirates are not going to sign him to an extention, than he should be traded soon.

NMR

My contrarian take of the day: Mitch Keller’s slider got better because his slider got better and the rest was mostly statistical noise.

We don’t even mention the fact that he completely overhauled the pitch into a modern “sweeper” that’s seeing success across the league!

https://theathletic.com/3222962/2022/04/03/pirates-pitcher-mitch-kellers-new-weapon-is-a-pitch-that-is-sweeping-through-the-majors/

Between ’21 and ’22 his slider gained 2 mph of separation off his fastballs and 11″ of total movement. Horizontal movement went from 1% worse than MLB average to 7% better.

As for the improved results, well, I don’t know man…

mk.jpg
Last edited 1 month ago by NMR
adicesa14

I’m trying to ‘rap my arms around this,’ so indulge me to regurgitate and simplify this thesis. I think you’re saying the Pirates want a veteran pitcher to eat innings and deliver more ground balls. Of course, at this stage, and maybe forever, he must be cheap. If correct, that makes sense, but this team is not ready to contend, so why does it matter. Not all Pirate pitchers have the characteristics to be successful that way. We know Keller, and all those you listed, benefitted from the sinker but others may require different methods. It seems to me that there’s more than one way to ‘get outs,’ and the Pirates would benefit by more than one strategy or tactic. If I’m correct, then a sinker pitcher is the wrong choice.
 
It’s possible the Pirates may be choosing pitchers to enhance the infield development, not an unreasonable idea. Yet, this theory omits some important attributes, i.e., a needed lefty, a veteran with ‘clubhouse acumen,’ etc.
 
I don’t envy Ben Cherington. He must improve the Pirates on a very limited budget. It would be nice if he could at least sign one of the better free agents. Of course, that’s not going to happen, and we Pirate fans must be patient, loyal, and accept our fate “in quiet desperation,” as Pink Floyd once sang.

sewer2001

It’s very interesting that the Sinker is the pitch (or at least pitching low in the zone was the method) that Searage pushed on everyone. That worked for a while until the league adjusted. I don’t think the Bucs are forcing this on everyone anymore, but it makes sense that they haven’t abandoned the philosophy for those that have good sinkers. It’s a time honored way of getting people out.

Tim Williams

The problem under Searage was complex. It’s been simplified into “MOAR SINKERZ”, but their approach with the sinker wasn’t bad.

Their approach with the four seam fastball, on the other hand…

NMR

The number of pitchers who actually turned out to be harmed by throwing too many sinkers turned out to be, what, like, two?

That narrative has suffered a brutal death. Poor Ray.

Catch_22

Glasnow and Cole?

Wilbur Miller

Archer was severely hampered by trying to bring back the sinker he’d scrapped years earlier. It was literally the worst pitch in baseball that year.
The whole sinker issue gets persistently misstated. It was never just throwing or not throwing sinkers. It was insisting on the same approach for every pitcher instead of tailoring the approach to individual abilities. What it boiled down to was throwing too many fastballs—the Pirates were the most FB-heavy team in MLB for NH’s last several years—and insisting that every pitcher keep the FB down all the time. That especially hurt Glasnow, which is why his control improved dramatically the moment he left. Morton and Cole improved immediately because they went much more heavily with breaking balls. The issue was so obvious that FG literally predicted Cole would improve for exactly that reason.

Catch_22

I think Archer was toast, but NH wanted him from back in his Cle days. I don’t think his problems were pitching philosophy. But, Cole, Morton and Glasnow it was almost criminal how they tried the square peg into a round hole.

At the end of the day, if you made a list of players he helped and players he hurt, the column with helping would be significantly larger.

Happ parlayed 2 months of Uncle Ray into a small fortune from Toronto.

NMR

You’re dead-on with Archer.

He underperformed his peripherals for years because he gave up too much hard contact, the point at which that began happening was when he stopped throwing the sinker, and the sinker is a type of fastball that tends to induce softer contact than the 4seam. Adding the sinker back in was the only logical attempt available at actually improving what turned out to be a pitcher who was toast. He’s still just as shitty.

I don’t know about ground chuck, though. His nickname is literally f*cking Ground Chuck because of how insanely good his sinker is! You saw the writing on the wall with Cole, but Moerton came out of nowhere. Sometimes you gotta give credit where due, the stros tried their own brand of dogma on him and it ended up working.

Last edited 1 month ago by NMR
Wilbur Miller

The problem with the two columns was that the first one ended where the second started. The failures with those three guys were too extreme, and too easily fixed once they left, to be a coincidence.

AdministrativeSky236

Seems like the modern wave is find what a pitcher does well and augment/have them do more of it. Is much more malleable and would have allowed all of those pitchers to see more potential while also building sinkerballers when the profile fits

NMR

And Glas wasn’t even a full-on sinker convert.

roberto

My recollection is that they wanted him to develop a change, not a sinker. I am willing to be corrected.

Wilbur Miller

That would be correct. His CH usage dropped from 12% his last year with the Pirates to 3-4% with TB. They also encouraged him to air out the fastball instead of trying to aim everything at the knees, like the Pirates had him doing. That’s probably why his velocity was consistently better with the Rays. For much of his time with Pgh, it was down around 93-94, which was absurd for a guy with his stuff. And his control was much better throwing harder, which is a good indicator of just how f***ed up the Pirates’ approach with him was. It bordered on intentional sabotage.

roberto

I think the Rays

roberto

real innovation was to say five innings from a starter is OK.

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