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Statcast Heroes: The Pirates Have a Rotation That Can Contend in the Playoffs

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have a fun team to watch. We could debate whether they will contend this year, or even finish with a winning season. What isn’t up for debate is the quality of the pitching. There’s an interesting starting pitcher to watch almost every single night, with the injury to Quinn Priester removing that fifth day wild card starter.

In addition to the starters, the bullpen has been stepping up lately, with strong late inning work from David Bednar, Colin Holderman, and Aroldis Chapman.

This week, that big league pitching was the highlight when looking at the Statcast data.

The Core of the Rotation

The Pirates have the makings of a contending rotation, led by Mitch Keller and rookies Paul Skenes and Jared Jones.

Jones made two starts this past week, combining for a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings of work. He also combined for 26 whiffs, with 12 in his first start, and 14 in his second outing. In his first start, Jones out-dueled Tyler Glasnow in a 1-0 win, picking up six whiffs each on his slider and four-seam. The Pirates couldn’t win the second game, but Jones picked up six more whiffs each on the slider and four-seam, with two more added on the changeup.

Skenes allowed three runs in five innings of work, striking out eight while getting plenty of run support from the offense. He picked up 12 whiffs, with 11 coming against the four-seam fastball. His fastball averaged 99.5 MPH, touching 101.3 across 48 pitches. In five starts in the majors, the 2023 first overall pick has a 3.00 ERA and a 38:6 K/BB ratio in 27 innings.

Keller pitched six shutout innings against the Twins, striking out eight for the second straight outing. This was also his 44th start in a row where he pitched at least five innings. Keller picked up 13 whiffs, with eight on 12 swings against his sweeper, and three on five swings against the curveball.

These three starters are looking like a group who could make a difference in a shortened playoff series. Keller has been reliable enough to trust in a single-game playoff series.

Chapman Lights Up The Radar Gun

Despite having Skenes and two starts from Jones this week, all of the top velocity readings came from Aroldis Chapman. The veteran reliever topped out at 104.0 MPH, while throwing five other pitches in the 103 MPH range. The tenth fastest pitch this week was a 101.8 MPH fastball by Chapman.

Jones and Skenes joined in with a few 101 MPH pitches of their own. Skenes had two pitches at 101+, with 16 total pitches hitting triple digits. Jones had three pitches at 101 in his first start, with nine total pitches at triple digits.

The effort from Chapman was spread across several appearances. He followed Skenes with nine pitches at 101+ MPH, including his 104, and three more pitches hitting triple digits. Two days later, he topped out at 103.5 MPH, with three other pitches at 101 or above. He finished the week in relief of Jones, hitting 100 once.

In total, Chapman threw 17 pitches at triple digits this week, with 13 of those pitches at 101+ MPH, nine at 102+, and six at 103+ MPH.

Oneil Cruz Gets Back to Crushing Baseballs

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Tim Williams
Tim Williams
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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