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Pirates All-Decade team (starting rotation)

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Pittsburgh Pirates All-Decade team (2010-19). The 2010s were at times unfulfilling for Pirates fans. The beginning of the decade gave us hope of a bright future. The future then came as we got a taste of playoff baseball, even if it was smallest of tastes. Things then got dark and bad starting in 2016. All in all though, I think we can all agree that this decade was much kinder to the Pirates than the 2000s.

Today we will be coving the starting rotation of the All-Decade team. The success (and failure) of the Pirates over the past 10 seasons can mostly be attributed to pitching. For a time, the Ray Searage magic was brewing as many reclamation projects had success in Pittsburgh. Shoutout to the sinker/slider combo and unjuiced baseballs, am I right?

Overall though, the Pirates had a below-average starting rotation as their 96.2 fWAR ranked 21st this decade. Even without the 2010 season, the year in which they won 57 games, the Pirates starting rotation moves up to just 18th in fWAR. Not the worst but not particularly good either.

The starting rotation

Gerrit Cole: 2013-17 (15.2 fWAR) - Oh, Gerrit Cole. What a pitcher you are. For the Pirates, Cole was the closest thing to an ace the team had this decade. He finished fourth in Cy Young voting in 2015. As a rookie in 2013, he helped the Pirates break their 20 year losing seasons streak with key start after key start down the stretch. Cole was the most talented pitcher on the Pirates from the moment he was called up to the moment he was traded. In 127 starts (782.1 IP), he was 59-42 with a 3.50 ERA (3.27 FIP) with the Pirates. His 734 strikeouts led the team (just for fun, let’s note that Cole struck out 602 batters in two seasons with the Astros). Without a doubt, Gerrit Cole is the Pirates’ pitcher of the decade.

AJ Burnett: 2012-13, 2015 (10.0 fWAR) - Although he only spent three seasons in Pittsburgh, Burnett made a remarkable impact on the Pirates. He was the original reclamation project after a few down years with the Yankees. Sinkers and ground balls all day. He brought a certain attitude to the team that propelled them from young, spunky and talented to a true contender. From STFD to destroying rosin bags to barking at the shift, Burnett was a true character that the city really embraced. He was Batman. He was the heart of the team. The guy went to battle every time he took the mound whether he had his stuff or didn’t. In 87 starts (557.1 IP), Burnett went 35-28 with a 3.34 ERA (3.23 FIP) with the Pirates. He struck out 532 batters.

Francisco Liriano: 2013-15, 2019 (7.8 fWAR) - Liriano was yet another reclamation project for the Pirates after years of struggle in Minnesota (and for a short time White Sox). He was the epitome of the sinker/slider, ground ball getting Pirates’ dream. His time in Pittsburgh will be remembered mostly by one night, October 1, 2013. The Wild Card game (well the first one). This was the biggest game of the decade for the Pirates and Liriano was spectacular. He pitched seven innings of one run ball leading the Pirates to a comfortable 6-2 victory. For that night, he was a hero. In 107 starts (623.2 IP) with Pittsburgh, Liriano was 41-36 with a 3.67 ERA (3.61 FIP). His 722 strikeouts (some as a reliever) are the second most by a Pirate this decade.

Jameson Taillon: 2016-present (9.5 fWAR) - In terms of pure talent and stuff, Taillon was on the same plane as the Pirate version of Cole up until his injury this season. Unfortunately for him, those injuries have held him back. In terms of production, Taillon has not disappointed when healthy. His two year stretch in 2017-18 in terms of fWAR (7.1) trails only Burnett’s 12-13 (7.5) and Cole’s 15-16 (7.3) this decade. Unfortunately for Taillon, there are a lot of what ifs. What if he didn’t twice need Tommy John surgery? What if he never returns to what he was or what he was going to be? What if the Pirates drafted Manny Machado instead of him? In his career, Taillon has started 82 games (466 IP) with an ERA of 3.67 (3.55 FIP). He has 419 strikeouts. Here’s to hoping for a strong return.

Charlie Morton: 2009-15 (5.7 fWAR) - For the sake of this article, we are not counting 2009. Morton had an up and down Pirate career. In 2010, he was really, really bad (-0.2 fWAR). From 13-15 though, Morton was a solid number four starter on a playoff team. Yes, like Cole, Morton found much greater success after leaving the Pirates. That said, nobody will ever forget about his electric stuff. His ability to force ground balls earned him the nickname Ground Chuck. Morton was there in 2010 when the team stunk. He was there in 2011 when the Pirates were actually in the playoff race in July for the first time in forever. Morton was there for the final rebuild before moderate success and the fan base took a special liking to him. In 124 starts (704 IP) this decade, Morton was 36-53 with 4.37 ERA (4.01 FIP) with 501 strikeouts.

Honorable Mentions

  • Trevor Williams
  • Jeff Locke
  • Joe Musgrove
  • Ivan Nova
  • Paul Maholm
  • Jeff Karstens
  • James McDonald

Names that made me laugh for no reason (this is not a slight)

  • Kevin Correia
  • Brian Burres
  • Wandy Rodriguez
  • Kyle McPherson
  • Dana Eveland
  • Jon Niese
  • Jonathan Sanchez
  • Daniel McCutchen
  • Ross Ohlendorf

A quick funny story about Ohlendorf and my immaturity before we go.

Sometime in 2011 or so, I was at a game watching the Pirates hit batting practice and the pitchers were shagging fly balls (because that’s what they do). Ohlendorf was among the pitchers and he wasn’t really paying attention to the hitter. Instead, he was talking with teammates. I was standing in the left field bleachers with some friends and Ohlendorf was about 50 feet away from me.

At some point, a weak line drive was hit in the vicinity of Ohlendorf and I screamed, “ROSS WATCH OUT!” as if he were going to get hit. He ducked and covered his face as the ball slowly dribbled past him. His teammates laughed. Some other fans laughed. My dumb friends laughed. I laughed. He gave me a dirty look.

It truly was a great moment.