9-29-21 By Craig W. Toth (aka @bucsbasement on Twitter)
I’ve written and said almost everything I possibly could about the journey of Mitch Keller; from former top prospect in all of Major League Baseball to polarizing starter for your Pittsburgh Pirates.
At the end of 2020 when Keller went on his 11 inning no-hit streak, it was the 10 walks to 9 strikeouts that my focus was drawn to. Then back in May and June, before he was optioned to Triple-A , I suggested a move to the bullpen to pick and choose the situations he would brought in to and the parts of the lineup he would face. Following his demotion to Indianapolis, I advocated for Keller to remain with the Indians for the remainder of the season to actually work on his delivery, his command and maybe his confidence. The Pirates and Ben Cherington did neither of these things; merely tweaking his delivery a little bit before bringing him back up, with no really success in the Minor Leagues. I saw this with my own two eyes as I was at his last start in Indianapolis, where his final stat line was 5IP/7H/4ER/3BB/9K.
Now here we are, as Keller has made 10 starts since being recalled from Indianapolis. In these outings Keller has a 5.56 ERA and a 1.81 WHIP, with 38 strike outs and 19 walks. But, as many would like to point out, he hasn’t given up a home run in September; as if this is the only way to allow the opposing team to score. You put runners on base, much like his 9 hit and 3 walk game against the Cubs last night, you are going to give up runs; 6 to be exact.
So, what are the Pirates supposed to do with Mitch Keller moving forward? Well, it’s pretty simple actually. Keller has one more year of team control before he become arbitration eligible, and they will actually have to start paying him. That’s one more year to figure it out; maybe not even as a starter to begin the year. Remember my bullpen suggestion? You know try something different other than every five to six days of the same old thing, and just hoping that all of Keller’s issues fix themselves miraculously.
News and Notes
- Keller’s control is something I have focused on a lot. This time it’s the velocity. Over his last two starts his Fastball velocity has been down 1.5 to 1.9 mph, which has also been mirrored by drops in his three other pitches. It’s obviously the end of the season and he is wearing down, but it also can’t be totally ignored.
- Bryan Reynolds was firing on all cylinders last night. A double, followed by two singles and a well struck ball (101.8 mph) that resulted in a fielding error. Sometimes Reynolds just sees the ball really well and takes what is given to him, which last night resulted in three hits.
- Colin Moran followed suit; beginning with a three run shot in the bottom of the first to get the Pirates on the board and ending his night with an insurance run RBI single in the 7th.
- Jacob Stallings and Micheal Chavis both returned after IL stints. Stallings went 2 for 4 and Chavis put Pittsburgh on top for good with a pinch hit RBI single.
- Hoy Park exactly been setting the world on fire (.243 over his last 15 games), but you can’t really argue with his overall approach at the plate during this time period-11 walks to 9 strikeouts. Also it’s easy to enjoy his two run triple yesterday, and it’s fun to say Hoy, Hoy, Hoy!
- The Pirates bullpen pulled together for five scoreless innings to allow for the Pirates 10th comeback win on the season when trailing to 3+ runs. Yeah, it’s hard for me to believe too. One member of the bullpen that hasn’t been getting enough credit this year is Chasen Shreve. In 55 appearances, and across 54.2 innings, Shreve has a 2.96 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. While definitely not a high leverage pitcher, he is useful in the middle relief role, where he comes in to pitch an inning with no one on. That type of pitcher is also needed in the bullpen, at least for one more year in Shreve’s case.
Yes, it’s Roansy Day in Pittsburgh. Highly touted #6 Prospect according to MLB Pipeline, who was acquired in the Pirates off-season trade of Jameson Taillon to the Yankees, Roansy is expected to make his Big League Debut against the Cubs at 6:35 PM EST from PNC Park.
In 13 Minor League games this season-one in Triple-A-Contreras has posted a 2.64 ERA and a .93 WHIP, with 82 strikeouts in 58 innings. Consistently delivering a 95-97 mph Fastball, with a mid-80’s sinking Changeup, he has keep batters on their heels this year; and probably would have gotten the call-up to Indianapolis earlier in the year if it wasn’t for a two month stint on the IL due to an elbow issue.
Opposing Contreras will be Kyle Hendricks (14-7, 4.81 ERA) for Chicago.