Morning Report: A Look at the Pitching Staffs Around the System

The Pittsburgh Pirates got some outstanding pitching yesterday around their farm system. As noted in the Prospect Watch title last night, Taylor Hearn, Eduardo Vera and Nick Kingham put together a nice overall line. Each went six innings, allowing a total of four runs between them. They weren’t even close to the best pitchers yesterday. Evan Piechota was forced into the Power game after an injury to starter Sergio Cubilete and he faced the minimum over six innings, striking out seven batters.

If you saw our newly named top performers article (The 21) on Monday, you would have noticed one of the best group of performances we have ever seen for that article. That includes those late season articles where there are twice as many pitchers to choose from. It was to the point last week that JT Brubaker had a 2.70 ERA in two starts, with 13 strikeouts in ten innings, and he wasn’t even considered for the top ten pitchers.

I wanted to take an early look at the pitching around the system and see how it stacks up against other teams. The first trouble I ran into with Indianapolis is that Nick Kingham, Tyler Eppler and a few relievers have pitched great, while the rest of the staff has pitched very poorly and that shows in their rankings throughout the league. Indianapolis has a 4.38 ERA, which is 11th in the 14-team International League. Their 1.56 WHIP is tied for the worst in the league.

So we move on to Altoona, where the Curve rank second in the Eastern League with a 2.30 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. Later in the year, those numbers would have them at the top of both lists. The league seems to be favoring pitchers early in the year, probably due to the cold weather. For reference, Altoona hitters have a .623 OPS and they are actually closer to the best team in the league than they are to the worst. While you love to see the start so far from Curve pitchers, it’s the league as a group that is down, but it should pick back up once (if?) the weather breaks.

Bradenton is actually in a pitcher-friendly league, though if you’ve watched Spring Training, you know that the balls fly out of the parks. That usually happens early during the year in this league when the wind is constantly blowing out, then the stats plummet during the hot, humid summer months. Bradenton’s 3.60 ERA has them fourth in the league and their 1.19 WHIP has them third in the 12-team league. The Marauders had a 3.59 ERA last year and they ranked seventh in the league. Expect the team ERA to drop during the season. They have a strong group of starters who should keep that number down.

West Virginia is somewhat similar to Indianapolis. They are both 11th in the league in ERA (4.50 for the Power) and West Virginia is 13th in WHIP. The difference between them is that West Virginia has put together a couple of strong starts and a few bullpen arms have pitched well, but it’s been spread pretty evenly, unlike Indianapolis. As a small asterisk, the Power had 41 points added to their ERA in one inning by infielder Ben Bengtson in a mop-up role. That only moves them up one spot in the league ERA and no change for the WHIP placement, so they were still bad without him.

The results are somewhat surprising due to a very strong group of ten players in The 21 article, plus a great night last night. The Pirates lost three of four games in the minors despite allowing seven runs total. We are only two weeks into the minor league season and there have been plenty of games pushed back to later in the year, so one good day should  still make a decent impact in the overall stats. It feels like we have seen a lot of very good pitching so far, but the overall combined results in the system have been fairly average.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 2-0 to the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night. The Pirates will send Chad Kuhl to the mound this afternoon for his fourth start. He allowed fours run on 11 hits over five innings in his start against the Marlins last week. In his previous start, he gave two runs over five innings, while picking up seven strikeouts. The Rockies will counter with 24-year-old left-handed pitcher Kyle Freeland, who has a 4.50 ERA in three starts, with 15 strikeouts and a 1.44 WHIP in 16 innings.

The minor league schedule includes a doubleheader in Indianapolis with Tyler Eppler and Alex McRae on the mound. Eppler threw 5.2 shutout innings in his debut, striking out ten batters. He followed that up with four shutout innings in a game shortened due to rain.  James Marvel makes his third start. After allowing three runs over 4.2 innings in his debut, he followed that up with six shutout innings. Sean McCool wrote about Altoona starter JT Brubaker on Tuesday morning.

MLB: Pittsburgh (11-6) vs Rockies (11-8) 12:35 PM
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (5.74 ERA, 13:4 SO/BB, 15.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (5-4) @ Syracuse (6-4) 10:30 AM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Eppler (0.00 ERA, 11:2 SO/BB, 9.2 IP) and Alex McRae (6.75 ERA, 10:4 SO/BB, 9.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (6-4) @ Akron (6-5) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: JT Brubaker (2.70 ERA, 13:4 SO/BB, 10.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (8-4) vs Palm Beach (8-4) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: James Marvel (2.53 ERA, 10:2 SO/BB, 10.2 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (6-6) @ Charleston (6-6) 11:05 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: Domingo Robles (7.71 ERA, 7:1 SO/BB, 9.1 IP)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Monday night, center fielder Starling Marte with the nice grab on a line drive

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

4/18: Dylan Prohoroff placed on West Virginia DL. Matt Seelinger added to WV roster.

4/17: Brent Gibbs retired.

4/16: Josh Harrison placed on DL. Dovydas Neverauskas optioned to Indianapolis. Enny Romero and Max Moroff added to Pirates.

4/16: Jesus Liranzo activated from Altoona disabled list.  Sam Street assigned to  Morgantown.

4/14: Pirates claim Enny Romero off of waivers.

4/13: Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez recalled. Clay Holmes and Josh Smoker sent to Indianapolis.

4/12: AJ Schugel assigned to Bradenton on rehab

4/11: Pirates sign Denny Roman and Cristian Charle

4/10: Bryan Reynolds placed on Altoona disabled list. Jason Martin activated from DL.

4/5: Pirates claim Jesus Liranzo from Los Angeles Dodgers. Placed on Altoona disabled list.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including pitcher/announcer Steve Blass. He won 103 games over ten seasons for the Pirates and was on the mound at the end of the 1971 World Series. Blass has been announcing for the Pirates since 1983. You can check the link for a detailed bio from his playing days.

Other Pirates born on this date are: catcher Angelo Encarnacion (1995-96), pitcher Larry Foss (1961), catcher Bob Linton (1929), pitcher Jack Scott (1916) and first baseman Jack Rothfuss (1897). Linton has an interesting footnote to his career. He spent the entire season with the Pirates in 1929 and never saw his name in the starting lineup. All 17 career games he played were off the bench. Scott was a pitcher, who played just one game for the Pirates and came into that game as a pinch-hitter before getting on the mound. Rothfuss hit .313 in a late-season trial for the Pirates in 1897 and had the starting first base job going into 1898, but a three-month illness cost him that spot and he never played in the majors again.

Two significant Opening Days have occurred on this date, both before the Pirates moved to the National League. In 1885, the Pirates (then called the Alleghenys) played their first game in April. Their first three seasons all started in May. The next year, the team played their one and only Opening Day doubleheader in franchise history. They lost both games to the St Louis Browns, who are now the St Louis Cardinals, not to be confused with the St Louis Browns team that played in the American League. That AL Browns team is now the Baltimore Orioles, and they actually started as the Milwaukee Brewers in 1901.

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