July 6, 2022

The Pittsburgh Pirates All-Time PNC Park (2001-2021) Team

April 2, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

In 2001, the Pittsburgh Pirates moved to their beautiful new home PNC Park and many baseball fans have called it the most beautiful ballpark in America. If only the ballpark had a team worthy of it. In the 21 seasons that PNC Park has been the Pirates’ home, only four have been winning ones and only three times have the Pirates reached the post-season.

The Pirates’ overall record from 2001 to 2021 is 1,484 wins to 1,811 losses. Think of it as 327 games under .500. However, the saying “there’s no place like home,” rings true for the Pirates. Despite their overwhelming overall losing record, the Pirates have a winning record at PNC Park. The Bucs have won 833 games and lost 815 as the home team.

With all those non-winning years, choosing the Pirates’ All-time PNC Park team was definitely a challenge. Some players by virtue of playing more than one position limit, if not eliminates them, from being considered for an all-time team position. For example, Garrett Jones played 331 games at first base and 275 in right field. Two-time All-Star Josh Harrison played second base, shortstop, third base, left field, and right field.

Here is a position-by-position breakdown for the All-Time Pirates PNC Park team:

CATCHER: Jason Kendall. Kendall played the last four years of his Pirate career playing in PNC Park and in those four seasons he hit a combined .298, and in 2003, he hit .325 and had 191 hits. Kendall followed up that season hitting .319 in 2004. Not only did Kendall take his lumps behind the plate, but he was also hit by a pitch as a batter 73 times in those four seasons.

Honorable mention: Russell Martin. Despite being a Pirate for only two seasons in 2013 and 2014, Martin helped bring a winning attitude from his New York Yankee days in helping the Pirates reach the post-season for the first time since 1992. Martin hit .290 in 2014 and garnered enough MVP votes to finish 13th in MVP balloting, the highest MVP finish for a Pirates’ catcher in 43 years when Manny Sanguillen finished eighth in 1971.

FIRST BASE: Josh Bell. Yes, Josh Bell. Bell played five years in Pittsburgh and hit .261 with 86 home runs. In his All-Star year of 2019, Bell hit 37 home runs and had 116 runs batted while hitting .277. I’m sure there are a fair number of Pirate fans that would pick Adam LaRoche. In comparison, LaRoche’s best home run year with the Pirates was 25 in 2008 and 88 runs batted in 2007. Bell’s second-best season, in 2017, exceeds both of LaRoche’s bests with 26 home runs and 90 runs batted in.

Honorable mention: Adam LaRoche. In not quite three full seasons in Pittsburgh, LaRoche did hit 58 home runs and hit .265 but he also struck out 334 times in 375 games. What about Kevin Young? Young only played three of his 11 Pirate seasons at PNC Park and in those three seasons, he hit a total of 32 home runs with only had 123 runs batted in and batted .236.

What about Garrett Jones? If Jones solely played first base during his Pirate career, an argument could be made that Jones should be the Pirates’ all-time PNC Park first baseman having hit 100 home runs, driving in 325 runs, and hitting .256 as a Pirate. Statistically, Jones played more games at first base than in right field in three of his five Pirate seasons (2010, 2012, and 2013), and in the games that Jones did play first base, he hit 57 home runs and drove in 213 runs batted in while batting .249.

For those that might mention Colin Moran, Moran only played 114 games at first base in his three seasons as a Pirate.

Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez

Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez

SECOND BASE: Freddy Sanchez. Sanchez played third base in 164 games compared to 91 games at second base in 2005 and 2006 but beginning in 2007, he played second base on a regular basis and in all played second base 446 times as a Pirate. Sanchez was an All-Star three times, twice as a second baseman in 2007 and 2009. Sanchez would hit .304, .271, and .296 in the two-plus seasons he was a Pirate second baseman.

Honorable mention: Neil Walker. In Walker’s seven seasons as a Pirate, he hit .272 and was a steady performer in bringing the Pirates to three winning seasons for the first time in more than two decades.

SHORTSTOP: Jack Wilson. In Wilson’s nine years as a Pirate, Wilson hit. 269 making one All-Star game appearance in 2004. That year, Wilson hit .308 with 201 hits becoming only the ninth shortstop in National League history to reach 200 hits in a season. Also in 2004, Wilson led the National League in assists, chances, putouts, and double plays and set a Pirate record for most double plays in a season by a shortstop with 129, breaking the long-time Pirate record of Gene Alley’s 128 set in 1966.

Honorable mention: Jordy Mercer. Mercer’s steady play for seven seasons at the shortstop position for the Pirates helped the Pirates reach the post-season for the first time in more than two decades.

THIRD BASE: Pedro Alvarez. In Alvarez’s six seasons as a Pirate, he hit 131 home runs, and in 2013 led the National League in home runs with 36 and was a one-time All-Star. In his final season with the Pirates in 2015, Alvarez hit 27 home runs as a first baseman.

Honorable mention: Aramis Ramirez. Had not Ramirez been traded to the Cubs in his prime for basically used baseballs, he unquestionably would have been the Pirates’ greatest third baseman since Pie Traynor. In seven years with the Pirates, Ramirez hit 82 home runs and batted .261. His best year was in 2001 when he hit 34 home runs and drove in 112 runs while hitting .300. During the 2003 season, Ramirez was traded with Kenny Lofton and cash to the Chicago Cubs for Matt Brubeck, Jose Hernandez, and Bobby Hill. Brilliant!

For one season of excellence, as a third baseman in 2006, Freddy Sanchez won the National League batting title with a .344 average, had 200 hits, a league-high 53 doubles, and drove in 85 runs.

LEFT FIELD: Brian Giles. Giles, a two-time All-Star in his five years as a Pirate hit 30 or more home runs four times, drove in 100 runs in a season three times, and scored 501 runs, hit 165 home runs and 174 doubles, drove in 506 runs, and hit .308.

Honorable mention: Jason Bay. In Bay’s five seasons with the Pirates, he was a two-time All-Star hitting more than 30 home runs and driving in more than 100 runs twice. Overall, in his five years with the Pirates, Bay hit 139 home runs, drove in 452 runs, and batted .281.

CENTER FIELD: Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen spent nine years patrolling center field and was without question the greatest Pirate in PNC Park’s history thus far. In nine seasons, McCutchen hit 203 home runs, stole 171 bases, drove in 725 runs, and hit .291. McCutchen’s 203 home runs are fourth all-time in Pirates’ history and the most home runs and runs batted in for the Pirates during the PNC Park era.

A five-time All-Star and a starter for Major League Baseball’s All-Decade team for 2010-2020, Cutch had three seasons finishing in the top three of National League MVP balloting and won the award in 2013. With just three more steals, McCutchen will join some pretty exclusive company in MLB history.

Andrew McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen

Honorable mention: In 2008, Nate McLouth had a terrific season as a Pirate center fielder. In McLouth’s All-Star season, he hit 26 home runs, drove in 94 runs, had 46 doubles, scored 113 runs, stole 23 bases, and hit .276.

RIGHT FIELD: Craig Wilson. In Wilson’s six seasons as a Pirate, he hit 94 home runs with his best season in 2004 when he hit 24 home runs, had 82 runs batted in, scored 97 runs, and hit .264. Wilson played 276 games in right field and 219 at first base.

Honorable mention: Xavier Nady. It’s hard to believe someone that played less than three full seasons and only 265 games could merit serious consideration for an All-Time PNC Park position, but that tells you how weak right field has been for the Pirates at PNC Park. Nady’s 2007 season when he played 125 games for the Pirates was his best, hitting 20 home runs and driving in 72 runs while batting .278.

Honorable mention: Reggie Sanders. The best season by a Pirate right fielder in the PNC Park era was by Sanders in his one and only year as a Bucco. In 2003, Sanders hit 31 home runs, drove in 87 runs, and hit .285 in 130 games.

STARTING PITCHER: Gerritt Cole. In Cole’s five seasons as a Pirate, Cole had a 59-42 record with a 3.50 ERA. Cole was a one-time All-Star and a 19-game winner in 2015. Cole’s 59 wins are the most by any Pirate pitcher since PNC Park opened in 2001 and his 8.444 strikeouts per nine innings are third all-time in Pirates history.

Gerritt Cole

Gerritt Cole

STARTING PITCHER: Francisco Liriano. In five seasons in Pittsburgh, Liriano compiled a 46-39 record with a 3.65 ERA. In 2013, Liriano was 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA in leading the Pirates to their first post-season appearance in 21 years. Liriano has the highest strikeout per nine innings ratio in Pirates history with 9.368 strikeouts.

STARTING PITCHER: A.J. Burnett. Burnett brought a much-needed winning attitude to the Pirates and compiled a 35-28 record with a 3.34 ERA in three seasons in Pittsburgh. Burnett was an All-Star in 2015 but his best season as a Pirate saw him win 16 games in 2012 and Burnett ranks second all-time in strikeouts per nine innings in Pirates history averaging 8.591 strikeouts per nine frames.

STARTING PITCHER: Jameson Taillon. In four seasons with the Pirates, Taillon had a 29-24 record with a 3.67 ERA striking out 531 batters in 579 and 1/3 innings. Taillon’s best season was in 2018 when he went 14-10.

STARTING PITCHER: J.A. Happ. Hard-pressed to name any other Pirate starter with a winning record (to name a few: Trevor Williams, Chad Kuhl, Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke all had losing records), Happ’s 2015 season with the Pirates stood out with a 7-2 record and a very impressive 1.85 ERA. Happ struck out 69 batters in 63 1/3 innings that season. Unfortunately, not signed by the Pirates, Happ went 20-4 with a 3.18 ERA in Toronto the following season and over the next four years had a 59-29 record.

CLOSER: Mark Melancon. In his four seasons as a Pirate, three of which he was an All-Star, Melancon saved 130 games and had a 10-10 record with a 1.80 ERA, and set a Pirate single-season record with 51 saves in 2015. Melancon overall had 241 strikeouts in 260 and one-third innings pitched.

Mark Melancon

Mark Melancon

Honorable mention: Mike Williams, Jason Grilli, Joel Hanrahan, Jose Mesa, and Tony Watson. Williams was a two-time All-Star in 2002 and 2003 and as a Pirate saved 46 games in 2002 and 140 total in his six years in Pittsburgh which has him third on the all-time Pirates career save list. Grilli struck out 222 batters in 161 and two-thirds innings and was an All-Star in 2013 with 33 of his 47 Pirate saves coming that year.

Hanrahan was a two-time All-Star and had 82 saves in his four seasons as a Bucco with a high of 40 in 2011. Mesa had 70 saves for the Pirates with a high of 43 in 2004. Watson earns honorable mention not as a closer, but as a setup man. Watson was spectacular in that role in 2014 and 2015 when he compiled a combined 14-3 record with ERAs of 1.63 and 1.91 respectively those seasons.

MANAGER: There have been only four winning seasons in the 21 years that PNC Park has been home to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and only one manager was responsible for all four – Clint Hurdle. Hurdle managed the Pirates for nine years and compiled a 735-720 record with three postseason appearances.

Other articles by John Baranowski

Pirates All-time Forbes Field Team

Pirates All-time Three Rivers Stadium Team

Photo Credits

PNC Park Photo credit: DAN GAKEN IMAGES on Visualhunt

PNC Park night Photo credit: jcsullivan24 on Visualhunt.com

Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez Photo credit: jmd41280 on VisualHunt.com

Andrew McCutchen Photo credit: Terry Foote on VisualHunt.com

Gerrit Cole Photo credit: jmd41280 on Visualhunt.com

Mark Melancon Photo credit: jmd41280 on Visualhunt.com

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications, and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog: https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/

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