Pittsburgh Pirates All-Decade Team 2010-2019

Pittsburgh Pirates
12 May 2015: The embroidered logo of the Pittsburg Pirates looks on during the MLB game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies played at the Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA (Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Pirates All-Decade Team 2010-2019

The 2010’s will forever be the decade that brought baseball back to Pittsburgh. A two-decade-long playoff drought concluded with the delirium of the 2013 campaign, which saw the Pittsburgh Pirates run the Cincinnati Reds out of PNC Park in the NL Wild Card game before falling to the St. Louis Cardinals in an entertaining five-game Division Series. The subsequent two regular seasons were not unlike 2013, as the team won 88 games in 2014 and exploded for 98 wins in 2015. Despite this tremendous three-season run, only one of these teams managed to win a playoff game, and that team failed to win a series. Management failed to capitalize on a roster of budding talent following the 2015 season; thus began a four year stretch of mediocrity to end the decade.

The final four years of the decade brought a disappointing pattern to Pittsburgh. The Pirates would find themselves in contention at the All-Star Break (see: the eleven game winning streak of July 2018 and the debacle that was the 2019 NL Central) but collapse as the dog days wore on. The decade concluded with the dismissal of manager Clint Hurdle, general manager Neal Huntington, president Frank Coonelly and a number of other personnel.

For all its trials and tribulations, the decade produced some memorable names and talents. In concocting the Pirates’ all-decade team, only the most impressive single-season iteration of each player was selected to make up the 25-man roster.

Starting Pitcher: Gerrit Cole, 2015

Before Gerrit Cole was the highest-paid pitcher of all time, he was an exciting, if not frustrating, young ace for the Pirates. After strong seasons in 2013 and 2014, Cole filled the stat sheet and turned heads on a national level. In 32 starts, he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP. Surrendering only 11 home runs in 208 innings pitches, he turned in an impressive HR/9 of .5. He was selected to his first All-Star Game, finished fourth in the race for the National League Cy Young Award and even received votes for NL MVP. He was rewarded for his efforts with the starting nod for the Wild Card game against the Cubs, a losing effort to conclude the three-year playoff run.

Closer: Joel Hanrahan, 2011

Before the career revivals of Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon and the dominance of Felipe Vazquez, the Hammer trotted out of the PNC Park bullpen to the sounds of revving engines and Slipknot’s “Before I Forget.” In 70 games, the 2011 version of Joel Hanrahan posted a 1.83 ERA and a 1.049 WHIP while racking up 40 saves. His 2.18 FIP further legitimized his dominant campaign and he was selected to his first of two consecutive All-Star games.

Catcher: Russell Martin, 2014

Russell Martin is now most fondly remembered among Pirate faithful as the man that homered off a rattled Johnny Cueto in the 2013 Wild Card game. However, his contribution to the 88-win 2014 season was remarkable. He was on base at a torrid .402 clip to accompany a batting average of .290 and a slugging percentage of .430. His 5.7 WAR was enough to earn him a number of NL MVP votes, finishing thirteenth in the voting.  He was no slouch defensively, throwing out 39 percent of potential base-stealers. Already a fan favorite, Martin proved his meddle in 2014 with one of the best seasons ever by a Pirates catcher.

First Base: Josh Bell, 2019

Josh Bell‘s 2019 sticks out like a sore thumb in terms of offensive production. Bell spent the first half of the season obliterating baseballs at break neck pace and, although he cooled off as summer dragged on, he posted impressive season totals. Boasting a slash line of .277/.367/.569, Bell smashed 37 home runs, drove in 116 runs and saw his OPS+ jump to 143. He was selected to his first All-Star Game and was a bright spot for an otherwise tumultuous season in Pittsburgh.

Second Base: Neil Walker, 2014

Since his debut in 2009, Neil Walker had been one of the more consistent second basemen in baseball. The Pittsburgh native was dependable but broke out offensively in 2014. Boasting an average of .271 and an OPS of .809, he swatted a career high 23 home runs and drove in 77 runs. His offensive performance was enough to earn him his first and only Silver Slugger. Not known for his defense, Walker made only five errors in 630 chances.

Third Base: Josh Harrison, 2014

The ultimate utility-man, Josh Harrison hadn’t managed more than 276 at-bats in his first three seasons with the Pirates. In 2014, still a utility player but more a third basemen than anything else, he burst onto the scene offensively. He posted a slash line of .315/.347/.490 and made a serious bid at the batting title. Anything but a power hitter, Harrison tallied an impressive 38 doubles. He earned his first of two All-Star bids and came in ninth place in MVP voting, tallying a formidable 5.6 WAR. It was an impressive season and one of the most unexpected in recent memory.

Shortstop: Kevin Newman, 2019

In a decade occupied primarily by Ronny Cedeno, Clint Barmes and Jordy Mercer, climbing to the top of the shortstop mountain was not the tallest of tasks. Nevertheless, Kevin Newman pieced together an impressive rookie campaign. He claimed the starting job when Erik Gonzalez went down with an injury and never lost it, slashing .308/.353/.446 with 12 home runs and 16 stolen bases. His average was good for eighth in the National League and first among NL shortstops.

Left Field: Starling Marte, 2015

Often the unwarranted target of Pirates fans’ ire, Starling Marte was one of the most prolific and underappreciated players of the decade. A true five tool player, Marte put all of them on display in 2015. Producing a slash line of .287/.337/.444, Marte posted then-career-bests with 19 home runs and 81 RBI. He swiped 30 bases and took home the first of two consecutive Gold Gloves. He tied Andrew McCutchen for the team lead in WAR with 5.1 and helped the Pirates to one of the most successful regular seasons in franchise history.

Center Field: Andrew McCutchen, 2012

There is an argument to be made for any edition of Andrew McCutchen from 2011 to 2015. He won the MVP in 2013 and was the X-factor in bringing back the Pirates’ winning ways. However, 2012 was potentially his most complete season. His offensive numbers were gaudy, with a .327 average and a .953 OPS and career highs in home runs and RBI with 31 and 96, respectively. He stole twenty bases and tallied 6.9 WAR in a season loaded with accolades. He was selected to the All-Star Game, participated in the home run derby, won the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove for center fielders, and finished third in MVP voting.

Right Field: Gregory Polanco, 2018

Right field has been a problematic position for the Pirates, especially given Gregory Polanco’s inconsistency since his debut in 2014. But, in 2018, it looked like he was finally figuring it out. Before a season-ending injury in late August, he slugged .499 with 23 home runs and 81 RBI. His plate discipline improved, turning in a .340 on-base percentage despite hitting only .254. His 2019 was further derailed by injury, but Polanco looked healthy during the Pirates’ abbreviated Spring Training.

Batting Order:

  1. Kevin Newman, 2019
  2. Starling Marte, 2015
  3. Andrew McCutchen, 2012
  4. Josh Bell, 2019
  5. Gregory Polanco, 2018
  6. Neil Walker, 2014
  7. Josh Harrison, 2014
  8. Russell Martin, 2014

Rotation:

  1. Gerrit Cole, 2015
  2. Jameson Taillon, 2018
  3. Francisco Liriano, 2013
  4. A.J. Burnett, 2015
  5. Trevor Williams, 2018

Bullpen:

  1. Joel Hanrahan, 2011
  2. Jared Hughes, 2012
  3. Justin Wilson, 2013
  4. Mark Melancon, 2013
  5. Tony Watson, 2014
  6. Evan Meek, 2010

Time will tell what is to be made of the 2020 season, but it will be an important one for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They will not compete, but it will be the first chance for Ben Cherrington and his staff to evaluate who they want to build around and establish a realistic timeline for competition. There’s a reason for optimism in Pittsburgh. With a new, more in-tune regime at the helm and a lot of interesting talent waiting in the wings, competition may not be as far away as some expect.

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