Last week, there were some interesting posts on Bucs Dugout and Eye on Baseball which featured the Pirates’ “All-Time Single Season Team.” They both ranked the best single seasons in team history, position-by-position.
Since the lists mainly consisted of players before our time (with the exception of Cutch), I figured I’d recognize some of the best individual seasons in recent memory by doing a similar list for the PNC Park era.
We did something along the same lines last winter, ranking the top ten Pirates since PNC opened. This is a little different in that it’ll go by position and depend solely on single season success.
To do it as simply as possible, I used FanGraphs’ WAR to be the judge. Whether or not you’re a fan of WAR, it’s still an all-encompassing stat that will give us an idea of who was the best at each spot.
So, here they are, the best Pittsburgh Pirates of the last 13 years, 2001 – 2013…
No surprise here. An all-around solid backstop, Kendall had a nice year in 2004, his last season as a Pirate. He was a tough out, hitting .317 with a .399 OBP and a low 6.2 K%. From behind the dish, Kendall threw out runners at a 36% rate.
Honorable mention: The 2003 version of Kendall was pretty good, too (4.3 WAR). And how about Russell Martin? His 2013 was worth 4.3 wins above replacement.
The fact that Jones was much more valuable over 82 games than any other first baseman in the last 13 years shows how much the Pirates have struggled at the position. And it’s still a weakness.
G.I. Jones broke into the bigs in July of ’09, hitting .293 with 23 homers and a .938 OPS. Besides a nice showing in 2012, Jones never reached those heights again, but he was at least productive enough to make a career out of it. He picked up a two-year, $7.75 million deal from Miami this winter.
“Steady Freddy” was just a solid hitter for Bucs through the mid-2000’s. His best year was in 2006 when he won the NL batting title, but that was when he was over at 3B (more on that in a second).
Honorable mention: Neil Walker‘s last three seasons, in order, are right behind Sanchez. If he can stay healthy for a full year, maybe get a little luckier with the BABIP, maybe hit a little bit more from the right-side, I could see him being a 3-win player.
A-Ram opened PNC with a bang, hitting .300/.350/.536 with 34 HR and 112 RBI in the stadium’s inaugural season.
Honorable mention: As previously mentioned, Sanchez had a great 2006 over at third base, but Ramirez just beat out his 4.5 WAR.
Wilson was an All-Star and Silver Slugger in ’04, hitting .308/.335/.459 with a league-leading 12 triples. Jack Flash entertained with the glove on a nightly basis, as he saved 11 runs and posted an 8.0 UZR.
Honorable mention: Wilson in ’07, ’05, and ’09… then Jordy Mercer last year at 1.4 WAR. Shortstop has been a huge area of weakness for the Pirates since Jack left.
Take a moment to take in these incredible numbers: .298/.450/.622, 38 HR, 103 RBI. That insane .450 on-base percentage ranked second in the league, only behind … Barry Bonds at .582.
Not even close here. MVP.
Honorable mention: Pretty much every season of Cutch, plus Nate McLouth (2008), etc.
Another position that hasn’t been too kind to the Bucs. Sanders hit the ball well in 2003, though: .285 average, .913 OPS, 31 homers. It was his only season in Pittsburgh.
Starting Pitchers (Leaderboard)
Oliver Perez, 2004 = 4.4 WAR
A.J. Burnett, 2013 = 4.0 WAR
Ian Snell, 2007 = 3.1 WAR
Francisco Liriano, 2013 = 3.1 WAR
Todd Ritchie, 2001 = 3.0 WAR
Relief Pitchers (Leaderboard)
Mark Melancon, 2013 = 2.5 WAR
Joel Hanrahan, 2011 = 1.7 WAR
Matt Capps, 2007 = 1.7 WAR
Mike Gonzalez, 2004 = 1.6 WAR
Josias Manzanillo, 2001 = 1.6 WAR
Jason Grilli, 2013 = 1.5 WAR
Salomon Torres, 2004 = 1.2 WAR
Thoughts? Let us know.