Hump Day Pittsburgh Pirates Q&A

2-15-23 – by Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Brand new weekly feature here on A weekly Hump Day Pittsburgh Pirates Q&A with yours truly.

I’ve done these before, I’ve even done some FAQs because some questions can get repetitive, but I think there are a ton of smart fans out there, and I want you to tell me what you want to hear about. Ask me a question about the team, the league, a rule, what a stat means, or straight up point me at a story you don’t think is being covered enough. This thing goes as you go.

I’m committing to this being a weekly feature at least through the end of the season, but if you all keep providing, so will I.

All of these questions came from asking for some questions from one Facebook group and my personal Twitter/FB. So when I open this up, I don’t think we’ll struggle to get material.

Let’s go!

Question 1

Bill Lauris
Another factor –may– be that now the pitchers have a clock. It’ll be interesting to know your thoughts about who it may help more the hitter or pitcher?

We might as well start with a tough one right? Bill, first of all, the implementation of this rule in the minors was fairly smooth. I talked to a couple hitters and a couple pitchers who worked with it and universally they all saw it as being fine.

Now, that’s too simple of an answer. Because when you change a rule in the Majors, in many ways you simply present more things coaches and scouts can find a way to take advantage.

Let’s say you’re a baserunner and your coach has noted that this pitcher almost always delivers to the plate with 2 seconds left on the clock. You already know the pitcher is limited on how many times they can step off too. I could see some gamesmanship here being played.

All in all, if it’s called strictly from both the pitcher and hitter in the box side of things, it ideally should just slightly speed up the game, and I’d hope by July we don’t notice it.

Where I think we won’t be able to avoid noticing though is the post season. There is so much drama built up in that pitcher staring in readying himself for what might just be the most important pitch of his life. The hitter feels his stare and suddenly has to call time and tighten those gloves all while the runner at second is dancing off the bag and the ballpark is deafening. That beautiful drama might pay a bit of a price, but if it’s handled right, it should be advantage nobody.

Question 2

Mark Witzberger

Do you ever look through the different Pirate groups to see what’s being talked about for your future posts? And if so are the groups very different or pretty similar? Add to that question the responses that you get to your posts specifically.

The short answer is, yes. I want to write about what fans want to read about, so if one topic is dominating conversation, yeah, I’ll peruse the boards and see what’s going on. All the groups are different, some are essentially Bob Nutting hate boards, others just want all positivity all the time. It really depends on the moderators when it comes to Facebook anyway.

That said, I don’t really tailor anything to those differences. I write what I think or know to be true, some people won’t like that, some will as evidenced by your third question.

Responses are a mixed bag honestly. Some people will spend almost as much time as I do writing in the first place to comment and I’ll be honest, I’ve had more than a few change my mind or at the very least think of an angle I missed. Those are great. Some you can just tell didn’t read, in fact that’s the vast majority unfortunately.

Not because I care if anyone reads per se, but as someone that really does value comments it’s just a bit deflating they bothered to comment but in reality just wanted to get their “joke” out there somewhere. In my younger days doing this I probably fought back on these, now I just kinda move on.

There are some commenters who are consistent. They consistently comment, regardless of subject and they absolutely did read, but all roads always lead back to their point of focus. Talk about Ji-hwan Bae, somehow Hayes not being an All Star hitter creeps in. Talk about the Starting rotation, sure enough, there’s a way to work Hayes not hitting in there.

I guess to answer that last part best, yes, responses have caused me to write on a subject again. Zachary Kerr on Facebook in particular is incredibly detailed in his comments, and he almost never fails to get me thinking of a subject at least with a new data point or angle. I can’t begin to tell you how valuable that kind of stuff is. You can get trapped in an echo chamber doing this at times if you aren’t careful.

Question 3

Thomas Glovier

Hey Gary. Q: Can the Pirates be 10 wins (or more) better this season than they were last year?

If they aren’t Derek Shelton will be looking for a new job in 2024. Yes, they absolutely should be 10 wins better. They have depth, experience and many of the young players aren’t rookies anymore.

Now, if they lose someone like Reynolds, Keller, Cruz to long term injury, that’s obviously going to take a hit, but they have enough to survive just about anything else and with the new balanced schedule, they get to play ALL the bad teams in the league, not just the NL and whatever division they were lucky enough to draw from the AL.

The NL Central also isn’t a juggernaut, they should have enough to stay in the fight with all of them. Not for overall record, but game in and out, there won’t be a lot they will feel like they’re out of before first pitch.

Yes. I’m not ready for a prediction yet, but I think expecting a 10 game improvement is a good starting point.

Question 4

Mark Witzberger

Every player should have off-season goals that to many of us seem obvious- Cruz to work on his throwing and greatly reduce his errors, Suwinski to hit that lefty breaking ball. Are the players on their own to develop these plans, do the Pirates sit down with the players and develop these goals together, are plans of actions put into place? I hear a lot of how these players go to private hitting/ pitching coaches. Do they do their own thing or do they work in conjunction with Pirates? I’m sure strength and agility training is also included. Do the players come to Pittsburgh or see the coaches elsewhere at any point to get their progress evaluated? I’m just really curious about goes on in the off-season.

Mark Times 2! Yes, every player is typically given some things to work on, but unless there is an injury to deal with, the team doesn’t typically hold their hand. Every player has private instruction they like, or guys they like to work out with. Some go to IMG Academy, Some go to places that specialize in adding velocity, or crafting swing planes.

Think about a guy like Suwinski, you rightly say he needs to work on hitting that lefty breaking ball, well, he can practice against a lefty all Winter long, but the chances he’s facing Clayton Kershaw is fairly low. So more likely you’d see him told to work on staying back on the ball, or covering the plate away. Something more generic.

They check in, but typically only injured players or guys who live here tend to do a lot of visiting Pittsburgh, in fact Shelton himself doesn’t visit Pittsburgh a ton unless he’s asked to for an event of some sort.

The best indication that this stuff happens is really last off season. Coaches literally weren’t permitted to interact with or check in with players due to the lockout, and both sides of that equation complained about the difficulties that caused.

To be very clear though, no MLB coaches have any issues with players seeking out their own instruction or training in the offseason. Now, if you’re supposed to be a base stealer and you come into camp with 20 pounds of new muscle thinking you’re a homerun hitter like Willie Mays Hayes in Major League 2, there’s probably a discussion.

Further, even though pitchers and catchers literally report today, many young players and even some vets have already been there for weeks.

Pitchers are typically given some dos and don’ts, and hitters are typically just asked to show up in shape and find a way to see some live pitching. For many that will be a local high school, or college, maybe even an MLB friend they live near.

Players and team for sure work together, but how tight or loose the plan is depends on a ton of factors, like the coach and player individually matter for this, and for many, it’s case by case.

Question 5


Mitch Keller is a UFA in 2026. Do you see the Pirates looking to move him as early as next year? I would think if the idea was to extend him, theyd have done it this offseason since if he puts together a season like his 2nd half last year, hes priced himself out of Pittsburgh.

Yeah, I actually wrote about this a little just a couple weeks ago. Beyond Bryan Reynolds, Mitch Keller is probably the number one priority.

It’s hard for me to call it a mistake to be in this position with Mitch though, he took quite some time to develop, and bluntly, he still at this point hasn’t done anything but put together half a good season. I’d like to see him show he doesn’t need to round into form this year before jumping up and down but I too am a Pirates fan Sir, and I equally feel the pressure to see them lock up a guy before he gets too expensive.

That thinking being the first thing we experience when a kid even looks half good is one of the biggest crimes this franchise has perpetrated on this fan base. In reality, they should let him play out this season, see what his arb figure looks like and outbid it in AAV, see if they can get him locked up through 2028 or 2029.

They and Mitch worked hard to develop him into a decent starting pitcher, so you’d like to see the Pirates actually get to enjoy it for a while.

My gut says he’ll be here through 2024 one way or another, if only because they need him and won’t be ready to move on, but it’s not inconceivable they could be ready for life without him by the offseason following 2025.

I think following this season, an AAV of 12-14 might get it done, and if that’s too much for a top of the rotation pitcher, fold the franchise.

Question 6

Dale Merchant

I have always wondered what criteria is used to determine prospect invites to Spring Training? The decisions sometimes seemed random to me, but there has to be solid analysis behind it.

Good question Dale. It’s going to seem like a bit of a copout but it really depends on the GM. For instance, Neil Huntington really only invited prospects he felt had a chance to make the club at some point that year, but Ben Cherington invites a good chunk of the top 30 prospects, and without doubt invites every first rounder they select.

Now, that doesn’t always mean it makes sense on the surface. Take for instance Mason Martin, he’s not invited and even I was like, WTF? Look into this, and ask around a little and I come to find out why. He simply doesn’t fit into the at bat plan. the Pirates have Ji-man Choi, Carlos Santana, Connor Joe, and Malcom Nunez that they for sure want to get X amount of at bats, further, they have a specific plan they want to work with Mason on, and it doesn’t involve watching him launch balls into the gulf stream that would be casual fly balls at PNC.

They have 7 catchers invited to camp, 2 of which have zero chance to make this club Henry and Endy, but even so, that’s 7 squatters who they have to work through. I could argue Abrahan Gutierrez should have gotten an invite too, but where?

So sometimes it’s about space, sometimes it’s about at bats, but one thing it’s never about is whether they “like” a kid or not. If the team doesn’t believe a guy is ever going to make the club, they certainly aren’t scared to move on.

Circling back to Mason, I can honestly tell you, the club spent more individual time with him than any other single hitter in Spring, and it didn’t take. This call could be as simple as maybe they feel they filled his head with too much in 2022.

Hope that answers the question adequately, I get what you’re asking, but the simplest way I can put it is, there is no fits all formula.

Question 7

Alan Bellomo

What are some of early signs that this team is going to do reasonably well this year and what are the indications that this season is going off the rails? (Opening day through mid-May)

Well Alan, it’s too easy to say the record, but I will say, the schedule in April starts easier, and ends hard as hell. If things are going well, they’ll rack up damage on the lesser teams like the Reds, and even Red Sox and hang in there against the Cards and Astros. For me, a big key to getting the expected improvement this season is to avoid long losing streaks. They had far too many last year, and with this pitching staff, they should be capable of keeping those stretches to a minimum.

So I’ll say if you get to mid May and they haven’t had a losing streak go longer than 3 games, great sign they’ll do reasonably well especially looking at some of the teams they have in that stretch. Going off the rails obviously the opposite of what I said for the first part, but also seeing the offense continue to adopt many of the philosophies they did last year. Seeing hitter after hitter take two strikes before looking like they’re interested in hitting was an issue all year, and if that’s how they universally approach hitting again, in my mind the season won’t go well.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

2 thoughts on “Hump Day Pittsburgh Pirates Q&A

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