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Potanko: Top 3 Pirates Takeaways From 2023 Season



Pittsburgh Pirates-Mitch Keller

This is the second part in a four-part series where our staff at Pittsburgh Baseball Now gives our takeaways from the Pittsburgh Pirates 2023 season. Click here for part one

The Pittsburgh Pirates 2023 season has come to an end. For the eighth straight season, the Pirates missed out on the playoffs, and there needs to be severe addressing from the front office if they plan on making the playoffs in 2024. 

From the beginning of Pirates GM Ben Cherington’s tenure, we were painted a picture of the “future,” and now the future is here to collect. The question is, can the Pirates and Cherington pay the bill that has been way past due? 

Time will tell. 

With the Pirates finishing 76-86 on the season, there were quite a few takeaways, but three stood out. Let’s discuss.

Bullpen Uncertainty

Aside from Carmen Mlodzinski and David Bednar, the Pirates are left with a bunch of relievers who leave us with more questions than answers. 

Sure, Dauri Moreta closed the season strong. Of course, Ryan Borucki had some clutch moments; you could even put Colin Holderman in the conversation. What was once a strength for the Pirates in the mid-2010’s is now a shell of its former self. 

Cherington mentioned Tuesday morning that they will look at all avenues to help the Pirates next season. One of those avenues includes trades or even free agency acquisitions. A combined 4.27 ERA will not cut it. 

What do the Pittsburgh Pirates do with Jared Triolo?

Unlike most Pirates’ problems, figuring out what to do with Triolo is a good problem. Since the Pirates acquired him in the 2019 draft, Triolo has been able to adapt and play any position. 

Granted, Triolo is better at some positions than others, but his glove will play. The biggest question with the New Hampshire native was if he could hit the ball and hit it for power.

Towards the end of the season, Triolo proved he could hit the ball, and we even saw a little bit of a power surge. 

In September, Triolo went on a tear. In 17 games (57 at-bats), Triolo slashed .368/.471/.596 with an OPS of 1.067 and nine extra-base hits. In addition, Triolo had 21 hits on the month. 

There were suggestions to place Triolo at first base for 2024, but in all honesty, if the Pirates go forward with that plan, they genuinely aren’t trying to contend. 

Sure, you can throw Triolo at first base occasionally, but you need to utilize his athleticism and use him in multiple positions.

Mitch Keller Found Himself

Of all the takeaways, Keller finding himself is the most significant development for the Pirates and their 2023 season. Of course there were ups and downs, but Keller showed he could lead a pitching staff. 

After years of struggling with his pitches, velocity, and confidence, Keller found balance. 

In years past, Keller stuck with his four-seam way too often. In 2021, he used it 56.7% of the time; in 2020, 55.6%; and in 2019, 59.5%. Fast forward to 2023, Keller used it 26.1% of the time. 

Keller’s pitch distribution went four-seam (26.1%), cutter (24.2%), sinker (22.7%), sweeper (16.1%), curveball (8%), and changeup (2.9%). This balance led to Keller registering 210 strikeouts (Pittsburgh Pirates record). 

The biggest question for Keller heading into 2024 is sustainability. Can Keller continue to build off his season and learn to maintain his body for a long season?

By far, Keller surpassed his previous high mark for innings pitched. In 2023, Keller pitched 194.1 innings; his last mark was 159.

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