First Pitch: A Look at How Our Pitchers of the Year Started Off Their Big Seasons

On Friday and Saturday, we looked at the past players who were named as our Player/Pitcher of the Month for April. We have named our winners for seven years, so there was a decent sample size to check out.

In most cases, the monthly winner for April tailed off for the rest of the season. Part of that is from being promoted to a tougher level, while another part is just from being the best from a large group of players. If you’re the best for an entire month, then you performed at a pace that would be near impossible to keep up over the course of an entire season. It showed, for the most part, that a hot start to the season doesn’t always lead to success.

Today I wanted to do the opposite article and look at our Pitcher/Players of the Year and see how they started the season. Even the best players over the course of a season will hit a rough patch, but a good start to the season never hurts. I began with the hitters yesterday and now I’m moving on to the pitchers today. We started the yearly awards back in 2011, so it’s a little bit bigger of a sample size for this group.

2019: James Marvel – Marvel (pictured above) began the season in Altoona and finished it with four starts in Pittsburgh. He pitched great in five Double-A starts in April, posting a 1.52 ERA, an 0.74 WHIP and 23 strikeouts in 29.2 innings. It was his best month of the season, though he also pitched very well in both June and July. On the season in the minors, he had a 2.94 ERA in 162.1 innings, with 136 strikeouts and a 1.09 WHIP.

2018: JT Brubaker – Brubaker is the only pitcher (or hitter) who won our yearly award and the April award in the same year. He began the year in Altoona and was promoted to Indianapolis in May. He had a 1.45 ERA in five April starts, with an 0.90 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 31 innings. This wasn’t his best month believe it or not. In August he had a 1.01 ERA and an 0.79 WHIP.

2017: Steven Brault – Brault began the year in Indianapolis and had two stints in the majors. His April was a bit slow for a Pitcher of the Year. He had a 3.86 ERA, a 1.44 WHIP and 24 strikeouts in 25.2 innings. He finished the Triple-A season with a 1.94 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and 109 strikeouts in 120.1 innings. Brault had a great month of May, followed by a better June.

2016: Mitch Keller – Keller was with West Virginia until his final start of the season, which occurred in Bradenton (plus he pitched in the playoffs). He finished the 2016 season with a 2.35 ERA in 130.1 innings, with 138 strikeouts and an 0.92 WHIP. Keller pitched great in April, albeit in only four starts and a somewhat limited pitch count. He had an 0.86 ERA in 21 innings, with 28 strikeouts and an 0.62 WHIP.

2015: Chad Kuhl – The year before he made the majors, Kuhl pitched the entire 2015 season in Altoona. He had a 2.48 ERA in 152.2 innings, with a 1.14 WHIP and 101 strikeouts. Kuhl was off to a hot start in 2015, posting a 1.64 ERA in 22 April innings (four starts), with 15 strikeouts and a 1.23 WHIP.

2014: Tyler Glasnow – Glasnow spent all of 2014 in Bradenton. He had a 1.74 ERA in 124.1 innings, with 157 strikeouts and a 1.05 WHIP. Because of a Spring Training back injury, he made just two starts and pitched seven innings in April. His 2.57 ERA over that limited time was his highest monthly ERA of the season, which tells you just how consistent he was all year.

2013: Tyler Glasnow – Glasnow spent all of 2013 in West Virginia. He had a 2.18 ERA in 111.1 innings, with 164 strikeouts and a 1.03 WHIP. In April he had a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings, with 23 strikeouts and a 1.15 WHIP. Obviously those are strong numbers, but it ended up only being his fourth best month of the season.

2012: Jeff Locke – In 24 starts with Indianapolis, Locke had a 2.48 ERA over 141.2 innings, with 131 strikeouts and a 1.20 WHIP. He finished the year in Pittsburgh, and also had a brief stint with the Pirates in 2011. He had a 2.89 ERA in 28 April innings, with a 1.29 WHIP and 23 strikeouts. His 0.64 ERA in August really put him over the top for the yearly award.

2011: Kyle McPherson – McPherson split the 2011 season between Altoona and Bradenton. He had a 2.96 ERA in 161 innings, with 142 strikeouts and a 1.02 WHIP. April was his best month of the season. He had a 2.12 ERA in 29.2 innings, with an 0.91 WHIP and 26 strikeouts.

Yesterday showed that none of the Players of the Year had their best month in April. They mostly had solid starts, but nothing like the success you see above with the Pitchers of the Year in April. The worst April above really wasn’t that bad, just looks bad compared to the rest of the numbers you see here.





By John Dreker

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one who played one game for the first Pirates team to go to the World Series.

Jason Michaels, outfielder for the 2008 Pirates. He was in his eighth season in the majors when the Pirates acquired him from the Indians four days after his 32nd birthday. Michaels was hitting .207 with no homers and nine RBIs in 21 games for Cleveland prior to the deal. With Pittsburgh he played 102 games, seeing time at all three outfield positions. He hit .228 with eight homers and 44 RBIs in 228 at-bats for the Pirates. On June 2nd, he hit a game-tying pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh inning against the Cardinals, a game won 5-4 by the Pirates. In his next at-bat, three days later, he hit a three-run home run. Following the season he left via free agency. He signed with Houston and played three seasons for the Astros before signing with the Nationals the next off-season. Michaels played 35 games in Triple-A in 2012 before his pro career ended. He was a career .263 hitter in the majors with 299 RBIs and 332 runs scored in 1,031 games.

Ken Oberkfell, infielder for the 1988-89 Pirates. The Pirates acquired him from the Braves on August 28, 1988 in exchange for young outfielder Tommy Gregg. Oberkfell was in his 12th season in the majors in 1988, spending the first 7 1/2 with the Cardinals before being dealt to the Braves in June of 1984. Atlanta was using him at third base in 1988, but he saw plenty of time at second base throughout his career. When he got to Pittsburgh, they ended up using him at all four infield positions, with most of his time spent at second base. After hitting .277 with 40 RBIs in 120 games for the Braves, Oberkfell hit .222 with two runs batted in for the Pirates. In 1989 he was being used at both 1B/2B through the first 31 games of the season, when Pittsburgh dealt him to the Giants in exchange for pitcher Roger Samuels. Oberkfell was hitting .125 at the time of the deal. He ended up playing through the 1992 season, finishing his 16-year career with a .278 average and 1,354 hits in 1,602 games. Twice during his career he led NL third baseman in fielding percentage, something he also accomplished once (1979) at second base.

Zip Collins, outfielder for the 1914-15 Pirates. On July 21, 1914 the Pirates purchased Collins from San Antonio of the Texas League. According to Pirates scout, Howard Earle, Zip (first name was Edgar) was the best player in the Texas League at the time. Ten days after being purchased by Pittsburgh, Collins played his first Major League game. He collected one hit and impressed the crowd with his speed in the field and on the bases, as well as with his heads up play and strong throwing arm. He played 49 games that season, hitting .242 with 15 RBIs. He failed to hit a home run and only stole three bases. In 1915, Collins hit .294, but he was a singles hitter, who wasn’t using his speed on the basepaths, going 6-for-13 in stolen base attempts. He also made a high amount of errors, finishing with the fifth most in the league, despite playing just 89 games for the Pirates. In early September of 1915, he was sold to the Boston Braves. Collins played 107 games over parts of three seasons with Boston, returned to the minors until the end of 1918. He then came back to the majors in August of 1921 to finish the season with the Phillies, his last season in pro ball. He was one of three Major League players born on 5/4/1892.

Vic Saier, first baseman for the 1919 Pirates. From 1911 until 1916, Saier was a strong first baseman for the Chicago Cubs, twice earning MVP votes. He didn’t hit for a high average, but he had really good power for a dead-ball era player, and he took his share of walks. Early in the 1917 season he broke his leg and didn’t return until the very end of the season, then was released by the Cubs to make room for another player on the roster. The Pirates put in a claim on his contract, which was disputed by the Cubs, but Pittsburgh finally acquired him on December 24, 1917. After all that effort by Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss to get him, he ended up quitting baseball during the 1918 season to help with the war effort. When the war ended, he returned with the Pirates in 1919 as their regular first baseman. It was said at the time the Pirates officially acquired him, that due to his age (27) and the fact he lived a clean life, he should still be assured a long career. He ended up playing just 58 games for the Pirates, hitting .223 with 17 RBIs before being released in early August, marking the end of his baseball career.

Lou Gertenrich, right fielder for the Pirates on July 21, 1903. With both Fred Clarke and Jimmy Sebring unable to play, the Pirates called upon Gertenrich to step in as the right fielder. He batted second and went hitless in four trips to the plate and caught both balls hit his way. Two years earlier he played two games for the Milwaukee Brewers of the American League, the original name of the current Baltimore Orioles franchise. Those three games were the extent of his Major League career. He was an amateur and semi-pro player from the Chicago area, occasionally playing for a minor league team along the way. The reason he was able to play one game for the Pirates was because they were playing local (Chicago) that day, Clarke had an arm injury days earlier and Jimmy Sebring, the regular right fielder, had left to get married. Pittsburgh played two exhibition games the next two days and they used pitchers in RF until Sebring returned. After his playing days, Gertenrich owned a candy company that advertised on the back of baseball cards in 1922.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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