1984 would open with Drabek on the “A” level Midwest League Appleton Foxes, winning his only start. He earned a promotion to the “AA” Eastern League Glens Falls White Sox, going 12-5 with a 2.24 ERA. On August 23rd, Chicago traded him to the New York Yankees with pitcher Kevin Hickey (as players to be named later) for a trade initiated a month earlier in the form of infielder Roy Smalley. He closed out the season with the Nashville Sounds, the Yankees “AA” affiliate in the Southern League, going 1-2, 2.32.
1985 would see Swift post a 13-7 record with a 2.99 ERA in the “AA” level Eastern League with the Albany-Colonie Yankees. He went 1-4 with the “AAA” level International League Columbus Clippers, posting a 7.29 ERA in 1986. Despite his inflated numbers, he made his major league debut with the Yankees on May 30th. He allowed one hit and struck out four in 4.1 innings of relief as the Yankees were defeated by the Oakland Athletics, 6-3. He soon after entered the rotation, posting a 7-8 record and a 4.10 ERA, starting 21 contests and allowing 8.6 hits per nine innings. After the season, the Yankees traded him along with fellow pitchers Logan Easley and Brian Fisher to the Pirates for pitchers Pat Clements, Cecilio Guante, and Rick Rhoden.
In 1987, Drabek started 28 games, posting a 3.88 record and an NL fifth best 1.197 WHIP, going 11-12 as the Pirates number two starter. He earned his seventh win of the season on August 30th, allowing three hits and striking out seven in a 7-0 complete game win over the Houston Astros. Pittsburgh finished at 80-82, 15 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL East title.
1988 would see Drabek go 15-7 with a 3.08 ERA, starting 32 games and posting a 1.112 WHIP. He struck out 127 batters while walking only 50 over 219.1 innings pitched. Still Pittsburgh’s number two starter, his best game of the season was on June 26th, as he pitched eight innings and allowed two hits, striking out six in a 3-0 victory over the Montreal Expos. Exactly a month later, he struck out seven and allowed three hits, pitching 8.2 innings of a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates improved to 85-75, finishing second in the NL East 15 games behind the New York Mets.
In 1989, Drabek went 14-12 with an NL sixth best 2.80 ERA, starting 34 games and earning a league second best five shutouts. He struck out 123 and walked 69 over an NL fifth ranking 244.1 innings pitched, finishing with a 1.162 WHIP. He started out the season right, pitching a complete game two-hitter in a 3-0 win over the Expos. On July 7th, he pitched a three-hitter, striking out six in another 3-0 win, this time over the San Diego Padres. The Pirates closed out the season at 74-88, 19 games behind the division winning Cubs.
In 1990, Drabek won the NL Cy Young Award, finishing eighth in the NL MVP vote. He went 22-6 with a 2.76 ERA to lead the NL in wins. He started 33 contests, holding his WHIP down at 1.063. Now the number one starter, he pitched nine complete games, including three shutouts. On July 29th, he pitched a two hitter, striking out eight in a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. He faced the Phillies again in his next start, an 11-0 blowout complete game in which he allowed only one hit and one walk, striking out five. On September 3rd, he again defeated Philadelphia, allowing four hits and striking out six for his 18th win of the season, 4-1. In the last start of the season, he pitched a complete game three hitter, defeating the Cardinals, 2-0. Pittsburgh mirrored Drabek’s success, winning the division with a 95-67 record. Drabek started two games in the NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds, going 1-1 and allowing 12 hits with a 1.65 ERA and a 0.918 WHIP, striking out 13. The Pirates were sent home in six games by the eventual World Champions.
In 1991, Drabek went 15-14 with an NL tenth best 3.07 ERA. He started a career high 35 games, completing five, including two shutouts. He pitched a one-hitter on May 27th, earning an 8-0 win over the Cardinals. The Pirates went back to the playoffs by winning the NL East by 14 games ahead of the Cardinals, going 98-64. Drabek pitched 15 innings over two starts, allowing only one run on 10 hits but finishing with a 1-1 record. The hard-luck Pirates lost the series in seven games.
1992 would mark Drabek’s final season with the Bucs. He finished fifth in the NL Cy Young award poll, going 15-11 with a 2.77 ERA over 34 starts. He kept his WHIP at an NL fifth best 1.060 and struck out 177 (NL fifth) while walking only 54 over an NL second best 256.2 innings. On June 30th, he earned a complete game victory, striking out nine and allowing three hits as the Pirates took a 2-0 decision over the Cardinals. On September 19th, he struck out 11 Phillies in a 3-0 complete game victory. The Pirates went to the postseason for the third season in a row, winning the NL East by nine games over Montreal, at 96-66. In the NLCS, Drabek started three games, losing all three by allowing 18 hits in 17 innings as the Pirates were defeated by the Atlanta Braves in seven games. After the postseason, he was granted free agency, signing a contract six-days later with the Houston Astros. It was a four year deal worth over $18 million.
In four seasons with the Astros, Drabek went 38-42 with a 4.00 ERA, earning his first and only all-star selection in 1994. He later played with the White Sox (12-11, 5.74) and the Baltimore Orioles (6-11, 7.29).
In the 20 seasons since Drabek left, the Pirates have failed to return to the playoffs or even achieve a .500 or better record. Coincidence or curse? I don’t know, but if it’s a curse, may I suggest the front office make a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays for Kyle Drabek….it couldn’t hurt.
All-Time Statline: Six seasons, 92-62, 3.02 ERA, 199 games, 196 starts, 36 CG, 16 shutouts, zero saves, 1362.2 innings pitched, 1227 hits allowed, walked 337, struck out 820, 1.148 WHIP, 20.7 wins above replacement.