Pirates Post First Winning Season Since 1992

Gerrit Cole Pittsburgh Pirates

Gerrit Cole looked like an ace tonight. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Five games ago, Gerrit Cole won game number 81, ending the Pirates’ 20-year losing streak. It was one of his best starts of the year, and was only topped by tonight’s outing, which just happened to be win number 82.

As far as symbolism goes, having Gerrit Cole end the losing streak, and then post the first winning season is great. The losing streak began because of the departure of plenty of talented players, including staff ace Doug Drabek. It continued for so long for many reasons, but a large reason why the streak went so long was due to the lack of an ace since Drabek. And now the streak has been ended and a the first winning season since 1992 has been secured, all thanks to the ace of the future.

Cole looked like a future ace tonight. He went seven shutout innings, giving up three hits, two walks, and striking out nine. After his last outing I pointed out that Cole was starting to look like an ace. In the second half he has the second best xFIP in the rotation, behind only A.J. Burnett, and slightly ahead of Francisco Liriano. The downside of Cole winning game numbers 81 and 82 is that the Pirates lost four in a row in between those starts. A big reason for that is because they saw a rare struggle from Liriano, saw a bad outing from Burnett which has been more common lately, saw a decent outing from Jeff Locke who eventually fell apart late in the game, and saw Charlie Morton struggle then leave his start early with an injury. With all of that going on, the Pirates definitely need Cole to step up down the stretch.

They also needed him to be an ace tonight because the Texas Rangers had their own ace on the mound. Yu Darvish came into the game with the best strikeout percentage among Major League starters. That’s not always the best recipe for the Pirates, since pitchers tend to set career bests when they play the Pirates. Darvish was dealing, but only struck out six in seven innings. Still, Cole wasn’t getting much help. The only run came on back to back doubles in the seventh inning. Marlon Byrd doubled with two outs, then scored when Pedro Alvarez laced an opposite field double to the gap to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead.

Cole had some problems later in the game. Earlier he was pounding the zone, getting strikeouts on low sliders, and working efficiently. Later in the game it looked like he was trying to nibble or get batters to chase too often outside. That led to his pitch count elevating in the final two innings. He got out of each inning with no damage, and finished with 92 pitches on the night, throwing 64 strikes.

The Pirates turned to Tony Watson for the eighth inning, who pitched a perfect frame. As I wrote in the last Cole recap, Watson has been one of the best relievers in the second half. Jason Grilli isn’t ready for high leverage innings yet, but the Pirates don’t really need him with the way Watson has been pitching. Mark Melancon came on to close down the game, wrapping up win number 82 and giving the Pirates their first winning season since 1992.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.brooks.581 Stephen Brooks

    And the Chicken Littles are quiet, at least for this night.

  • https://profiles.google.com/101631790193493531079 Mike Dwyer

    As a fan I’m ecstatic for #82. Obviously the stakes are much higher but the wait is over and the Pirates are winners again.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BTxNotyIgAEgJ2M.jpg:large

  • CalipariFan506

    Tonight was an excellent win but it still speaks to some of the problems I was going to replay about on the previous First Pitch article.

    Cole pitched brilliantly obviously. But, he has been our best pitcher recently and he is in uncharted innings territory to say the least. To me at least he isn’t somebody that can be relied upon much longer, through no fault of his own or the Pirates.

    Secondly, Liriano has been wildly inconsistent from home to away starts since the all star break. Away he pitched a lousy game at Cincinnati, Colorado, San Francisco and Milwaukee. He did pitch well at Washington and San Diego during that time period. One thing I’ve noticed, and hopefully Hurdle does too, is that he seemed to have really nice chemistry with John Buck.

    That leads to my next concern. Buck has started four games for the Pirates. Cole allowed 4 runs in 8IP in his first start. The second one was the Kris Johnson debacle on 9/1. The third start was Liriano getting pounded for 7 ER at Milwaukee and the last was Sunday in St. Louis when Morton pitched his worst game in months, even before the injury. I want Buck and Sanchez to reverse roles from here on out. There hasn’t been one quality start since Buck entered the lineup and for Cole, Morton and Liriano, it was possibly their worst starts since early August. Pirates starters have given up 21 ER in 14.1 IP since Buck has started. That’s obviously a SSS but we don’t have time for that. Play Sanchez instead of Buck… PLEASE.

    My last concern is simply Locke. The Pirates have not won a game he has started since the Giants game that we scored 7 runs in the 5th inning after he was pulled. Locke himself hasn’t thrown even a decent game since losing at Colorado on 8/11.

    • michaelbro8

      you’re a vrey concerned person. I suggest relax and enjoy instead !

      • michaelbro8

        very (corrected)

      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

        lol

        • CalipariFan506

          You worry about Taillon, I worry about John Buck. We both have our issues haha.

        • Kevin_Young

          I’d call it more of a loathing.

    • ImmortalStyle

      Buck is a far more experienced and logical play than Sanchez right now as Martins backup.

      You siting Bucks 14 innings as a Pirate catcher as evidence that he cant call a game or work with pitchers because they got hit around some is beyond absurd.

      Implying Sanchez is better suited to catch any Pirate pitcher over a well respected ten year vet solely because Liriano was sharp for two starts with him catching is just as absurd.

      Buck is rightfully the backup, get over it.

      Quit creating things to cry and complain about.

      It gets annoying to read.

    • stickyweb

      First off Calipari, I think I speak for all commenters here when I say thank you for giving up on the “This is only an 85 win team” drivel you peddled out here every day until about 2 weeks ago, which was about a month past when it was obviously wrong. Yesterday you said 87 or 88, so you’re getting warmer. When they have 90 wins with 6 games left, please don’t bother typing that they’re only a 92-93 win team.

      Now onto your point, which on the surface seems a plausible argument. But a closer look reveals some flaws. You state there hasn’t been 1 quality start in games he’s started, yet Cole’s effort was 3 ER (4 total) in 7 1/3 innings, so it was a quality start in MLB’s eyes, though you may have a different definition. Or is Buck somehow responsible for errors by other fielders? The next start was Johnson’s debacle. It was pretty obvious from the first pitch that Johnson was as nervous as he could possibly be, and the Cards were making a statement that they wouldn’t be swept after losing 4 of 5 to the Bucs in the last series. While a different catcher MAY have been able to get Johnson to relax a little, holding Buck responsible for a first starter’s nerves isn’t quite fair. Next was Liriano’s mess. I don’t know if you watched it or not, but I couldn’t get over how much Frankie was sweating, from the first pitch on. It was a pleasant 70 degree day and the announcers and talkings heads since have all speculated that Liriano was not feeling well. Did Buck give Frankie a virus? And last was Morton’s game. Which you may note he left with an injury. Did Buck tackle him in the dugout?

      So 1 quality start in 4 games, which seems to be about what all of the starters are having in the weeks since Buck was acquired. Plus extenuating circumstances in the other 3 games. So you may have a better argument that Buck is worse than a black cat carrying a broken mirror under a 13 rung ladder, than saying he’s worse than Sanchez right now.

  • CalipariFan506

    I meant Liriano had nice chemistry with Tony Sanchez. Both guys spoke about how much they enjoyed working. I really hope Hurdle started Sanchez tomorrow and DH’s Martin.

  • emjayinTN

    The Pirates are reaping the benefit of having different, young SP’s all come through at different times this year. Jeff Locke the first few months, Liriano the middle three, Ground Chuck after the AS Break, and now Gerrit Cole at a time when many thought he would have already been shut down for the year. He was as overpowering as I have seen any Pirate pitcher and it was much needed. Watching somebody just come after hitter after hitter and not messing with trying to hit the edge made for very enjoyable watching. It was also the most meaningful victory in 20 years, in the last month, and especially after getting hosed 3 straight in St Louis. Thank you, Pirates.

  • https://profiles.google.com/115522615427589477970 Mike C.

    i really dont get this love of Buck.
    he’s bad hitter and bad defender.
    at least barmes was a plus defender.
    only thing he’s got is veterean experience and leadership.
    I remember fans here crying to see the young guns play, but now since it’s PO time, we’re in love with veterans again?
    veterans with lesser talent no less??
    talent trumps “veteran saavy” any day all day.
    im not a big fan but start the sanchez kid. sss and all can’t be worse than Buck so far

    • stickyweb

      Dude’s hitting .429 as a Buc. What would be acceptable? .600? .700? Yes fans wanted Sanchez ahead of McHenry, who truly couldn’t hit or catch. Now that there’s a proven veteran available, it’s not unreasonable to start him ahead of a guy with 44 MLB ABs and is hittiing a cool .227 and had the yips a month or two ago in the minors.

  • CalipariFan506

    Especially the way Sanchez hits lefty pitching he should start for Liriano tonight. Let Martin DH and Buck be the emergency guy. Martin can catch AJ tomorrow afternoon.

    If thinking judging Buck off of 4 games is absurd then when do we start judging him? Or is he just the guy that catches twice a week now no matter what because he’s a veteran? Personally I have seen enough of Buck and that was in New York, Miami and Toronto let alone Pittsburgh.

    • stickyweb

      Maybe Buck is the perfect “change of scenery” candidate. It’s not like the Mets, Marlins and Blue Jays are exactly player’s paradises. But Sanchez does crush lefties so I’m in favor of him batting against them.

    • Andrew

      @ CalipariFan506
      While I have issues with the starting pitching falling off the cliff and the Pirates will win at near replacement level pace over the final 19-20 games, arguments. I agree with your assessment of Buck. Watch how many low pitches he takes down to the dirt and the how many clearly in zone strikes are called balls.

      Buck is a below average to downright bad pitch framer/receiver, I have seen several articles that rate him as such. (Russell Martin is top five) Is Buck the driving factor in some of the recent poor performances, I think Stickyweb discusses that? Conversely, I have seen estimates that 50% of a catcher’s true defensive value comes from pitch framing, 25% from caught stealing, 25% from stopping past balls. It has been suggested that Martin’s ability has helped Burnett’s and Liriano’s uptick in strikeouts. Pitch framing has value.

      This does not provide evidence that Tony Sanchez would be better just several unknowable question.
      -Pirates spent significant money on Martin, how much if at all did they value receiving?
      -If they do value receiving why bring in Buck?
      -He was not brought for hitting, .243/.301/.401, I believe he is rated fair in the other defensive aspects.
      -I have seen anecdotes that rate Sanchez highly as a receiver, but this leads back to those questions.

      I believe your complaint about Buck has some validity, even if others do not. However, you may have poisoned the well with your fatalism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    Tim….VERY minor quibble….in your last paragraph you write: “The Pirates turned to Tony Watson for the seventh inning,” It was the eighth inning.

    But, that’s okay, you’re still OUR ace!!

    Foo

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

    Is AJ the FIRST Pirate pitcher to have back to back GOOD seasons during the 20 year streak?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      I think Jeff Karstens was the first.

      Ross Ohlendorf had back to back average seasons, with two years right around a 4.00 ERA. Of course at the time his 3.92 ERA in 2009 was considered “good”.

      • emjayinTN

        So, you two think Burnett has had two GOOD seasons? 16 – 10 last year, but only 7 – 10 so far this year?

        You two have to be Masters of the Understatement! He has not had two GOOD seasons, he has had two phenomenal years. In 2012 he was 16 – 10 with an ERA of 3.51, 202 IP, 180/K’s, and a GO/AO around 2.00. In 2013 he is only 7 – 10, but with a lower ERA than last year of 3.31. Injury cost him innings and he will be lucky to get 180 IP this year, but with 176 K’s already in 163 IP, he looks like a lock to have more K’s than IP and his GO/AO is right there at 2.00 again. He has been the keystone of this staff since getting here, and his performances belie that he is doing this at the relatively advanced age of 36. I would be looking for the Pirates to make an attempt to sign him for another 2 years. We have some young kids waiting to get to the majors, but watching the development of youngsters like Jeff Locke and Gerrit Cole, I think Burnett means a lot more to this team than just the stats, which, IMO, are Top 10 numbers among all SP’s over the past 2 years.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

      Actually, I did some digging and I would go with Francisco Cordova over Karstens or Todd Ritchie. They all were primarily starters, while Karstens flipped back and forth.

      And, what are you doing up so early? Or were you so excited you never went to bed? “)

      Foo

      • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

        I got a full five hours of sleep.

  • CalipariFan506

    The Pirates pythag record is 76-67. So how again am I crazy for saying they are a mid 80s win team? That’s pace for 86-76.

    • stickyweb

      Nobody has said you’re crazy, though some others are more harsh than I am. But I can’t find that pythag record anywhere in the sports section. Or is it on MLB.com somewhere? Maybe sometimes reality is more important than theories.

      If they make it to the World Series, please keep on bringing up that they didn’t make the playoffs, pythagorically speaking.

    • Andrew

      You are not crazy, but there are several issues with attempting to predict final record from pythagorean record.

      1) There is average error in the pythagorean record, then there is a standard deviation for that error, which mean 95% of teams final record fall within in some 7 wins of their pythagorean record. (Yeah 2012 Orioles)
      2) Pythagorean is very predictive of final record early on and is better predictor than current record until late May.
      3)In mid-August predictive value of pythag vs actual record diverge somewhat, meaning current record becomes relatively more predictive. (This due to accumulation of games)
      4) Pythagorean record is valuable, it is not some abstraction, it merely ask what if all runs for/against were distributed evenly what would be record. It is testable and valid, but there are caveats.

      I only know this because I have asked similar questions, again due to randomness and luck almost anything can happen over 20 baseball games. However there is a likelihood that needs to be assigned to predicted outcomes. Currently 92.8 wins is more likely than 86.5 wins.

  • CalipariFan506

    Well Tony Sanchez is starting catcher tonight. My baseball day has been made.