clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Bucco breakfast: Can the Pirates win without a star?

New, 484 comments
MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

This subject came up in the comments yesterday. The Pirates have shown a genius for collecting 1- to 3-WAR players, not to mention AAA depth players. The question remaining, though, is whether they can win anything with this type of roster. Does a team need star players to succeed?

What follows is a list of the playoff teams from the last three years and every player on those teams who accumulated at least 4.0 fWAR. As you’ll see, every one of these teams had at least one player reach 5.0 fWAR.

2018

Astros — Bregman 7.6, Verlander 6.8, Cole 6.3, Altuve 4.9

A’s — Chapman 6.5, Lowrie 4.9
Braves — Freeman 5.2

Brewers — Yelich 7.6, Cain 5.7

Cubs — Baez 5.3
Dodgers — Muncy 5.2, Turner 4.2

Indians — Ramirez 8.0, Lindor 7.6, Bauer 6.1, Kluber 5.6, Carrasco 5.3, Clevinger 4.3

Red Sox — Betts 10.4, Sale 6.5, Martinez 5.9, Bogaerts 4.9, Benintendi 4.3
Rockies — Arenado 5.7, Story 5.0, Marquez 4.5, Freeland 4.2

Yankees — Severino 5.7, Judge 5.0, Hicks 4.9, Gregorius 4.6, Stanton 4.2

2017

Astros — Altuve 7.6, Correa 5.2, Springer 4.6, Gonzalez 4.0

Cubs — Bryant 6.7, Rizzo 4.0

Diamondbacks — Goldschmidt 5.2, Greinke 5.1

Dodgers — Seager 5.9, Turner 5.4, Taylor 4.8, Kershaw 4.6, Bellinger 4.0

Indians — Kluber 7.3, Ramirez 6.6, Lindor 5.8, Carrasco 5.5

Nationals — Rendon 6.7, Scherzer 6.1, Strasburg 5.7, Harper 4.8, Murphy 4.4

Red Sox — Sale 7.7, Betts 5.3
Rockies — Blackmon 6.5, Arenado 5.6

Twins — Dozier 5.0

Yankees — Judge 8.2, Severino 5.8, Sanchez 4.4, Gregorius 4.0

2016

Blue Jays — Donaldson 7.6
Cubs — Bryant 7.9, Rizzo 4.9, Fowler 4.6, Hendricks 4.5, Lester 4.3, Zobrist 4.0
Dodgers — Seager 7.0, Kershaw 6.5, Turner 5.0
Giants — Cueto 5.5, Crawford 5.3, Bumgarner 4.9

Indians — Lindor 5.4, Kluber 5.1, Kipnis 4.7, Ramirez 4.6

Mets — Syndergaard 6.3
Nationals — Scherzer 5.7, Murphy 5.7, Rendon 4.3, Strasburg 4.0

Orioles — Machado 6.3
Rangers — Beltre 5.4
Red Sox — Betts 8.2, Porcello 5.2, Bradley 5.2, Pedroia 4.9, Bogaerts 4.8, Price 4.5, Ortiz 4.4

The Pirates during those three years didn’t have a player reach four fWAR. Their leaders were Jameson Taillon and Starling Marte with 3.7 in 2018, Andrew McCutchen with 3.7 in 2017, and Marte with 3.8 in 2016. They haven’t had a player reach 4.0 fWAR since, you guessed it, 2015, when they reached the post-season. That year McCutchen put up 6.0 and Gerrit Cole 5.5. The same was true in 2014 (McCutchen 7.4, Russell Martin 5.0, and Josh Harrison, Marte and Neil Walker all over 4.0) and 2013 (McCutchen 8.1 and Marte, Martin and A.J. Burnett all compiling 4.0+).

Of course, fWAR isn’t a flawless measure and there’s nothing especially magical about 5, or 4, fWAR. But an imperfect measure logical should be more likely to produce outliers, yet there wasn’t one in 30 playoff teams. I’m sure there must be teams that won without a 5-WAR player if you go further back, but it does look very difficult to get beyond the “competitive” level without a star. That also doesn’t mean somebody won’t step forward for the Pirates in 2019, but I have trouble seeing anybody other than Taillon as a good candidate to do that.

Daily Links

  • If you subscribe to The Athletic, Eno Sarris has a piece on pitchers who could break out in 2019 by making one small adjustment. Happily, he includes Nick Kingham, as he likes all of Kingham’s pitches except his fastball, which he doesn’t like at all. Which obviously suggests the adjustment. I’m sorry to link a subscriber article but I couldn’t pass this one up.
  • Maybe launch angle isn’t everything. Hopefully Rick Eckstein will get the balance right.
  • Curtis Granderson anyone? I thought the Pirates needed an outfielder regardless of Gregory Polanco’s status, so I don’t see how the addition of Lonnie Chisenhall gives them all the outfielders they need, especially not with the injury risk. And Granderson isn’t likely to get much money.