ALTOONA, PA – Later today, at PNC Park, the Pittsburgh Pirates will induct four members into their Hall of Fame. This year’s class: Kent Tekulve, Dick Groat, Bob Friend, and Elroy Face.
Tekulve was a member of their 1979 World Series team. Groat, Friend, and Face were members of the 1960 World Series winning team.
On an individual level, Tekulve is the organizational career leader in saves — a mark that may never be broken in today’s baseball where relievers are trade bait after a few seasons.
Groat was the league batting champion in the 1960 World Series winning season, and a three-time All-Star.
Friend leads the Pirates in starts, innings pitched, and strikeouts. Face is the opposite end of that spectrum, working almost exclusively out of the bullpen, and leading the majors in saves for three seasons before that was really a big thing.
These players are the past.
Last night, at PNC Park, the Pittsburgh Pirates saw their best pitcher, Mitch Keller, throw eight shutout innings.
This has been a big season for Keller, which can’t be fully seen in the 4.01 ERA. He’s emerged as a top of the rotation starter, showing many times this year that he’s capable of shutting down an opposing lineup for most, or in one case on May 8th, an entire game.
Keller’s 4.01 ERA is slightly worse than his 3.91 ERA last year. The difference is his advanced metrics say he should have a better result this year. He had a 3.88 FIP last year, which was .03 points lower than his ERA. He’s got a 3.65 FIP this year, which is .36 points lower than his ERA.
The success comes from an increase in strikeouts (20.1% to 25.8%), a decrease in walks (8.7% to 6.9%), a more reasonable BABIP (.320 to .313), and it all comes despite an increase in home runs (0.79 to 1.04 HR/9).
Keller is the present.
Later today, at People’s Natural Gas Field, the Pittsburgh Pirates will have their number one draft pick, Paul Skenes, making his Double-A debut in Altoona.
Skenes has made three appearances in Bradenton, between the FCL and Single-A. He’s combined for four innings, allowing no runs on one hit, with no walks and five strikeouts.
As the best college pitcher this year, and one of the best college pitchers of the last decade, the lower levels weren’t really a challenge for Skenes. This will be his first real test in pro ball. That said, his stuff is still going to be advanced for this level. Most players at this level struggle with mid-90s stuff. Even the best hitters don’t see upper 90s as often as they would in the majors, and rarely see triple-digits at this level. Skenes will provide that tonight.
Paul Skenes is the future.
If the Pirates are going to get back to a World Series any time soon, it will likely be with a rotation that includes Keller and Skenes at the top.
QUICK PIRATES RECAP
PIRATES (58-71) VS Cubs
Score: Pirates 2, Cubs 1
Pittsburgh Starter: Mitch Keller, RHP (4.01)
–Line: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 0 HR
Player of the Game: Keller
- Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B (2-for-3, BB)
- Bryan Reynolds, LF (1-for-4, 2B)
One Sentence Recap: Mitch Keller had his second longest shutout appearance of the year, leading the Pirates to a narrow win over the Cubs.
DAILY VIDEO RUNDOWN
Below is a look at Anthony Solometo’s third inning of work last night in Altoona, when he struck out two batters. He was mostly 89-92, and hit 92 on the second pitch to the second batter in the video below, followed by a low 84 MPH slider for the swinging strike. All of the fastballs against the third batter were 91, with another swinging strikeout to end it. Also, there’s the delivery…
— Tim Williams (@TimWilliamsP2) August 25, 2023
DAILY ROSTER MOVES
- Max Kranick moved his rehab work to Indianapolis on Friday night.
AROUND THE SYSTEM
I’m still in Altoona through the week, and had a live look at Anthony Solometo last night.
Quinn Priester went five innings in relief, allowing one run, and striking out nine batters. He now has 15 strikeouts in nine innings in his first two appearances back with Indianapolis.
Matt Gorski displays one of the best power approaches at the plate in Altoona. I detailed that, with a video of his 16th homer, in the daily Prospect Watch.
My latest player feature looks at Termarr Johnson embracing the energy of professional baseball after his promotion to High-A.
Wilber Dotel went five shutout innings last night for Bradenton, while Charles McAdoo reached base in his 14th out of 16 games.
The DSL Pirates Gold advanced to the semifinals with a win on Friday night. Check out all of Friday’s action in the Prospect Watch.
SONG OF THE DAY
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.