9-22-21 By Craig W. Toth (aka @bucsbasement on Twitter)
Obviously the main goal for the Pittsburgh Pirates going into last night’s matchup with the Cincinnati Reds was to win; and by doing so, attempt to prevent one of their most hated division rivals from making the postseason, in what has been a pretty highly contested Wild Card Race. Although, at this point any loss by the Reds almost certainly guarantees that a team I hate almost nearly as much, the St. Louis Cardinals-winners of 10 straight-will be punching a ticket to face either the Dodgers or Giants in a one game, loser goes home contest. However, who is really to blame in all of this is the San Padres; team that is currently in the middle of an implosion, in spite of their recent off-season millions of dollars spending spree. But, I digress.
A secondary, albeit a more important goal of last nights game would be to get, and keep, Mitch Keller on track by hopefully stringing together a few solid starts to end the season.
Ever since Keller had those two hitless performances to end the 2020, while walking 10 batters I might add, it has been an ongoing battle between the bad and good Mitch Kellers for the entire 2021 campaign; even resulting in a demotion to the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians for a stint, from June 12th through July 30th.
Since returning to the Big League Club, Keller has posted a 4.76 ERA and a 1.695 WHIP, as well as the 3.61 FIP that many seem to want to mention; still for me, we have been down the FIP rabbit hole with Keller before-7.13 ERA versus 3.19 FIP in 2019-so I really don’t want to do that again. Even though I will point out that he had a 2.91 ERA versus a 6.75 FIP last year, which in all honestly only makes me want to warn people once again to stop using predictive stats to make projections. That’s not how they work.
As I have written about before the main forecaster as to whether or not we actually saw good Mitch or bad Mitch, and whether or not steps have actually been made toward overall improvement, is Keller’s command of his fastball. All of his other pitches play off of his fastball. Even his slider, which he clearly can’t get batters to chase outside of the zone-and is only effective if it somewhat mirrors his fastball-plays off the accuracy of his main pitch.
For example in a game against the Cardinals on August 26th, where he gave up 7 runs on 6 hits while walking three and striking out 2, this is what his illustrator looked liked in terms of his four-seam fastball control.
Then again on a game against Detroit on September 8th-one in which he allowed 4 runs on 10 hits, but struck out 6 and walked only one-his fastball control looked like this.
Now, in a good Keller game, like the one against the Cubs on September 2nd, where he struck out 8, didn’t walk a single batter or give up a run on 6 hits, his fastball command was much more on point.
Finally here’s the one from last night’s 6-2 victory over the Reds. A 2 earned run, 7 hit, 4 walk and 2 strikeout performance.
So, tell me which one(s) this illustration is more similar to? Undoubtedly, there is a more direct comparison to the bad Mitch Keller games. Yes, he battled, which is something we have seen from him in the past, and something he absolutely needs to do at times to become a productive member of the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation in years to come. Yet, I can’t help but think that he has to do more, be more consistent and change from the all too familiar pattern we have seen from him him over his 37 career starts; earning a 5.90 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in the process. 4.31 FIP be damned.
News and Notes
- Cole Tucker accounted for the game winning RBI with a single to centerfield in the top of the 5th. In the month of September Tucker is batting a career best .263, but still only has a wRC+ of 82 and is striking out a near team high 28.7% of the time.
- Colin Moran on the other hand is having a downright awful September. For the month he is batting .175, with a 50 wRC+ and a 27.9% strikeout rate.
- Over the last month, not surprising, the teams most productive at bats have come in the form of Yoshi Tsutsugo, Anthony Alford, Bryan Reynolds and Ben Gamel; in that particular order. Gamel did his part by getting the Pirates on the board last night with a solo home run in the top of the 4th.
- With the Jacob Stallings on the shelf, Micheal Perez broke out of a 2 for 51 slump with a 2 for 4 night; including an RBI single in the top of the 8th. He now has a .143 AVG and a 40wRC+ on the season.
- The Pirates on again/off again bullpen was mostly on last night, as they shutout the Reds over 3.1 innings.
The Pirates are looking for their 5 series victory in a row, only about an hour from now at 12:35 PM EST, as Connor Overton (0.00, ERA) takes the mound for his second Major League start of his career, in his 8th appearance of the season. AKA, here comes a bullpen game.
For the Reds, Luis Castillo (8-15, 4.08 ERA) is on the bump.