P2Daily: Looking Ahead After The Pirates Rotation Finished Strong

A lot has to go wrong to reach 100 losses in a single season, even more so do it back-to-back, something the Pittsburgh Pirates now have done.

While looking at the entire picture of the 2022 season, there wasn’t much to like from the Pirates’ rotation. They finished with the seventh worst ERA, 19th in FIP and allowed the sixth highest opponent’s average.

Even though it wasn’t a great overall performance, if there is one thing you can take from 2022 — and something that is key with teams in the position the Pirates are in — is the progress they made towards the end of the year.

Led by Mitch Keller, the Pirates’ rotation closed out the season strong, posting a 3.76 ERA and 4.05 FIP from September on. They also held opponents to the fifth lowest batting average among starting rotations in that span (.215). 

Keller was fantastic down the stretch, posting a 2.06 ERA in six starts, spanning 35 innings pitched. He struck out 31, held opponent’s to a .216 average and posted a rotation high 0.80 Wins Probability Added (WPA).

A newcomer to the organization, Johan Oviedo recorded a 54.5% ground ball rate that helped him post a 3.23 ERA and .198 opponents average. Luis Ortiz got roughed up in his last start, which wiped out his strong start in the small sample size that was his debut, but still held hitters to a .136 average. 

That’s not even counting Roansy Contreras, who posted a .204 opponents average, but had a 4.33 ERA down the stretch.

Things certainly took a turn in a positive direction for the Pirates rotation, even if the bullpen and lackluster offense kept them from putting up some wins.

Now looking to build on that, the Pirates will have all of those names returning, plus top prospects Quinn Priester and Mike Burrows potentially at some point in 2023.

Adding a free agent, ideally two, would only help solidify the young rotation, add depth, and even allow some added development time to fine tune their game (Ortiz, Priester, Burrows).

Realistically, not everyone is going to build on from that strong finish, but it is encouraging that so many took that step. That’s maybe even a sign that things are going in the right direction.

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Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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jon6er

Okay, WS is over. Good offense meet good pitching or are the Astro’s still the best cheaters? Dusty Baker’s first WS win even though he was out managed by Thompson. I guess Astro’s GM is the real MVP!

b mcferren

anybody else here want to give De Jong a shot in the rotation?

PirateRican21

Indianapolis rotation, I do t think he should be back at all.

omarvelous

Even if they are healthy, all these young arms are going to experience some hiccups next year. Depth needs to be acquired this winter.

jeffw3000

I agree except for Keller. Most young pitchers have their ups and downs. Few pitchers step into the Majors and never look back, but with Keller he is at a place now, that if we do not get at least 2nd half of season Keller, it may be time to give up on him. He will be in his 5th season. If we do not see the pitcher we saw in the 2nd half, it is time to move on from him.

jon6er

MLB is full of pitchers who don’t figure it out till their mid to late twenties so if Keller has finally figured it out that’s great. After his finish to 2022 you have to give him at least a third of 2023 for a chance to stick. I think he will be okay just because he didn’t melt down like before when his teammates were kicking the ball all over the place and sleep walking at the plate. He pitched like a professional pitcher his last 20 starts.

piratemike

Priester must have the best 6.26 era in the history of baseball.

JimEastTennessee

YEAH, not happy with that number, myself.

leefieux

That song was a pleasant surprise. I thought it was some random 50s song that I’d never heard of. It even had my yoga mama swiveling her hips at 9:30 in the morn.

Tim Williams

The Dip has one of my sleeper new albums this year. I had a similar reaction when I first heard this song.

RAS TN

A lot more needs to go right for them to not lose 100 games…

leefieux

I can ‘get with’ Keller and Roansy. However, over (too) many years of watching baseball, I have learned not to get excited about Sept stars/stats.

jeffw3000

I would argue Keller was not just Sept. star this year. After he started throwing the 2-seamer, he seemed like a different pitcher. After July 6, he had 2 games where he gave up more than 3 runs. In 7 of his 15 starts he gave 1 or less runs. He had 2 bad starts in August, but if you eliminate those bad starts he looks even more impressive.

The Gunner

IIRC, Cole Tucker had a good September in 2021 – how did that work out?

RAS TN

Include spring training with Sept stats…

The Gunner

Here are some examples of recent ST stats that support your comment…….

Kevin Newman hit .600 during 2021 ST. Jose Osuna consistently knocked the cover off the ball in ST – I referred to him as Mr. March. Jung Ho Kang hit 6 or 7 HRs during his comeback ST in 2019.

jeffw3000

ST stats have very little meaning. Remember Jake Fox. He had such a huge ST in 2011 for Balt, that the Pirates invited him to ST the next year. He did terrible for Balt in 2011, and could not even make the Pirates the next year.

skliesen

Anyone else concerned the new rule regarding shifts will hurt Keller more than most? Seems his 2-seamer, which dramatically changed his season after introducing it in May, won’t be nearly as effective next season.

Compared to guys like Contreras and Ortiz, who are more 4-seam/slider guys, Keller and Oviedo may need to adjust their game plan to compensate for the higher BABIP on pull side ground balls next season.

leefieux

I had never thought about it.

jon6er

I always found it strange that anytime the shift worked it was heralded but whenever it didn’t work when hits went through vacated sides of the infield or defenders were out of position to make routine dp’s because of the shift or runners took extra bases for the same reason other then an occasional comment by a broadcaster you heard crickets. Now in 2023 I’ll keep hearing how the shift would have stopped that hit. I sure won’t miss the 2nd baseman playing short right field.

jeffw3000

I have to disagree. Bob Walk for one is always very complimentary of hitters when they beat the shift. It just does not happen often these days because most hitters try to pull everything, and are incapable of beating the shift. Bob Walk never misses a chance to compliment Paul Goldschmidt for one, who with 2 strikes especially will hit the ball where it is pitched, and often goes the other way beating the shift. If hitters were beating the shift that often they would not be eliminating it. They are only getting rid of it, because most hitters do not have the bat control to beat the shift.

jon6er

Thank you for agreeing with me. It’s even fooled MLB into thinking that it stifles offense. It’s a gimmick that doesn’t really work that well but keeps stats people in employment. Like I stated before where are the stats showing how many runs and extra bases are generated due to shifts. Sorry but I’ll go with AJ Burnett turning around in a game looking at ss Clint Barmes wondering why he wasn’t at ss where he gave up about 6 more runs than he should have because Clint Hurdle all of a sudden found that new book!

Anthony

Wondering what it would take to get Civale from the Guardians…although NOT a lefty, he seems like a good MOR arm to add to this group of starters.

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