Pittsburgh Pirates: What Continues to Plague Mitch Keller?

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 10: Mitch Keller #23 of the Pittsburgh Pirates reacts after giving up a solo home run in the second inning against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park on May 10, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 10: Mitch Keller #23 of the Pittsburgh Pirates reacts after giving up a solo home run in the second inning against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park on May 10, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates new front office made it very clear that they look for pitchers with plus spin rates.

The Pittsburgh Pirates front office headed by Ben Cherington has made it clear they want pitchers with above average spin.  High spin rates on the fastball and curveball lead to swing and miss, and it’s something this regime has focused on in free agent signings and the draft.  However, their former top pitching prospect’s spin rates have fallen and is something that needs addressed.

Mitch Keller‘s spins rates are simply not good.  Say what you will about his  unconfident look or lack of command, but what it really boils down too is one things: Mitch Keller’s pitches are not that good.  That is why he lacks command and confidence because his pitches are league average at best.  When hitters see his flat fastball early they pounce on it.  If he is throwing strikes and mixing it up, things could start to unravel later the second or third time through.  He can get by from time to time because he does throw hard.  But still, he is not reaching his potential because he simply does not have the stuff.

His fastball averages 2339 rpm which is good for 156th is the big leagues out of qualified pitchers.  His slider is sitting at 2408 rpm which ranks at #155 out of pitchers who throw sliders.  His best pitch has been his curveball, at least when he can throw it for a strike it can be effective.  Still it is just spinning at a 2670 rpm which ranks 77th in Major League Baseball.

So what happened?  Why were we told how great he was going to be when his pitches do not equate?  First and foremost, his velocity was over exaggerated.  There were reports of him sitting 95-97 and at times hitting 100 miles per hour.  Pittsburgh Pirates fans have not seen that type of velocity from Keller.  Also, when Keller was coming up through the minor leagues spins rates were relatively new.  There were some teams, like the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were not completely using them at the big league level let alone the minors.  The same can be said for scouts, they were using radar guns, eyes, and stats to judge the pitcher.  The minor leagues were not equipped with the technology they are today, at least in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system.

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With Keller’s spin falling, Marin and the rest of the coaching staff need to get him back to those 2019 levels by working with his grips.  This will allow for his pitchers to move better and induce swinging strikes.  Right now, Keller is struggling and a big part of that reason is his spin rates.

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