After the All-Star break, I wrote a post about five areas the Pirates needed to focus on during the final three months of the season since wins and losses in an 18th consecutive losing season was not a concern.
The five areas were:
1. Monitor the progress of their young hitters.
2. Find some answers in the starting rotation
3. Find out what other position players are part of the future
4. Find bullpen depth to get to Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan
5. How to handle the prospects
We addresses question 1 last week, so today, we’ll examine question 2 as we spend the winter putting forth a blueprint to get the Pirates back to respectability.
2. Find some answers in the starting rotation
The starters are 20-57 with a 5.49 ERA – over a half run higher than any other rotation in the NL – and none of the starters have lived up to expectations. GM Neal Huntington has brought in a ton of starters via trade, but none have stepped up. Charlie Morton and Kevin Hart have been busts thus far and Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens and Daniel McCutchen have struggled. Will any of these pitchers, or newly-acquired James McDonald, provide some help? Can Paul Maholm and Zach Duke become reliable?
The starting rotation finished with a 32-84 record, a 5.28 ERA, one complete game, a .297 average against and 540 strikeouts – all major league worsts. The ERA was over one-half a run higher than any NL club, the wins were eight fewer than any MLB club and the losses 12 more than any other MLB club. The batting average was 14 points higher than any other club.
McDonald provided the Pirates some hope after coming over from the Dodgers in the
James McDonald solidified a spot in the 2011 rotation with his performance
Octavio Dotel trade. He went 4-5 with a 3.52 ERA in 11 start. He won as many starts as Ohlendorf and Karstens combined.
Ohlendorf pitched better than his 1-11 mark and 4.07 ERA indicated. His ERA+ of 100 is the third best all-time of pitchers with 10 or more decisions and a winning percentage of .083 or less. Below is the list:
Rk Player ERA+ Dec W-L% Year Age Team
1 Anthony Young 108 17 .059 1993 27
2 Zane Smith 104 14 .071 1989 28
3 Ross Ohlendorf 100 12 .083 2010 27
4 Carl Scheib 96 13 .077 1951 24
5 Guy Morton 95 14 .071 1914 21
Ohlendor’s 4.07 ERA is the best ERA of any pitcher with a winning percentage of .083 since Anthony Young of the Mets went 2-15 in 1993 and the 10th best since 1901. Below is that list.
Rk Player ERA Dec W-L% Year Age
1 Guy Morton 3.02 14 .071 1914 21
2 Jack Nabors 3.47 21 .048 1916 28
3 Zane Smith 3.49 14 .071 1989 28
4 Rickey Clark 3.53 12 .083 1968 22
5 Steve Gerkin 3.62 12 .000 1945 32
6 John McPherson 3.66 13 .077 1904 35
7 Tom Sheehan 3.69 17 .059 1916 22
8 Anthony Young 3.77 17 .059 1993 27
9 Walt Leverenz 3.80 13 .077 1914 25
10 Ross Ohlendorf 4.07 12 .083 2010 27
Ross Ohlendorf was one of the best 1-11 pitchers in the history of the game
Karstens was 3-10 with a 4.78 ERA in 19 starts and Morton finished 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA – the highest ERA for any major league starter with 17 starts since Hideo Nomo posted an 8.25 ERA in 2004 for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 7.57 ERA is the eighth highest all-time. The worst in MLB history belongs to Pirate star and current announcer Steve Blass, who posted a 9.81 ERA in 1973.
We wanted to see if Maholm and Duke could become more reliable, however, each went through the worst stretch of their careers in the second half.
At one point in September, the duo went a combined 3-13 with a 7.70 ERA with 157 hits allowed in 101 2/3 innings over a 20-start stretch. Maholm finished 9-15 with a 5.10 ERA and opponents hit .363 over one 11-game stretch. He allowed 59 doubles – 10 more than any other NL pitcher – was second behind Duke in average against (.303) and fifth in OPS (.812).
Lincoln was 1-4 with a 6.66 ERA in 11 games – 9 starts – and was probably rushed. He made two relief appearances in September.
Duke was 8-15 with a 5.72 ERA, allowed 12 hits per nine innings and allowed opponents to hit
Could Pirates fans have seen the last of Zach Duke?
.328 in his last nine starts. Duke was last in the NL in the following categories among 51 pitchers who made 25 starts.
.321 average against
The Future: McDonald, Maholm, who is under contract through 2011, and Ohlendorf should be locks for the rotation.
Duke, owed over $4 million next season, may have pitched his way out of town. Both he and Karstens, due much less, could be non-tendered. Lincoln could win a spot in the rotation but a curious loss of velocity and former pitching coach Joe Kerrigan’s tinkering with his mechanics set him back. The Pirates have no need to push him, so Class AAA is a likely starting destination.
With ownership stating its willingness to open up the coffers a little, Pittsburgh will probably try and get one or two low-end veteran starters who could double as mentors for the young Pirates: RHPs Jeremy Bonderman, Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Freddy Garcia, Aaron Harang, Dave Bush all fit the bill.
About the Author
Written by Jim Keller
I'm a life-long, suffering Pirates fan who is old enough to remember the Lumber Company, the "We are Family" World Series winners and Roberto Clemente, Bob Prince and "Green Weenies." You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @PiratesProperty.