First Pitch: The Departures from the 2019 Pitching Staff

I saw last night that Alex McRae signed with the Chicago White Sox. I didn’t even know that he was a free agent. He was designated for assignment after the season and sent outright to Indianapolis on November 4th when he cleared waivers. Since this was his second DFA, McRae had the option to become a free agent. That was never announced, but I found out late last night that it happened three days later. McRae signed a minor league deal with the White Sox back on January 8th, but that was just announced yesterday.

McRae pitched 26.2 innings for the Pirates in 2019. His departure made me wonder about how many people are returning from the 2019 staff that saw 34 pitchers used during the season. So here are the pitchers no longer in the Pirates system and how many innings they contributed towards one of the worst pitching seasons in team history. In case you missed it, their 829 earned runs allowed in 2019 is a franchise record, as are the 241 homers, and somewhat surprisingly, their 1,443 strikeouts.

Jordan Lyles 82.1

Dario Agrazal 73.1

Francisco Liriano 70

Felipe Vazquez 60

Nick Kingham 34.2

McRae 26.2

Parker Markel 17.1

Yefry Ramirez 14

Rookie Davis 10.2

Tyler Lyons 4

Wei-Chung Wang 4

JB Shuck 1

To save you some addition, that’s 12 out of 34 gone and 398 out of 1,440 innings. Jameson Taillon won’t be back in 2020, though he only pitched 37.1 innings, so the Pirates are still returning over 1,000 innings from the 2019 pitching staff. Their basically relying on the pitchers they kept to individually get better results.

** MLB Pipeline posted their top ten shortstops today. Oneil Cruz wasn’t in that group, though just like with Mitch Keller/RHP, I’ll note that it’s a loaded position. The Pirates have had two reps on the top ten lists with Ji-Hwan Bae at second base and Ke’Bryan Hayes at third base.




I’m sure most of you heard about the Hall of Fame voting yesterday, with Larry Walker and Derek Jeter getting in and people complaining about Jeter falling one vote short. While the 100% mark would be nice, it doesn’t really mean anything significant to me once the first person to get it was a relief pitcher. It’s a footnote, but 100% of the vote doesn’t get you a different plaque than 75%. Once Babe Ruth didn’t get 100%, the number really became meaningless. No one in their right mind thinks Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter was better than Ruth, and it’s not even close enough to discuss. That would be like trying to make a case for Jack Wilson being the best shortstop in Pirates history.

I mentioned those two players in particular because of a comparison I saw between Rivera and Bill Wagner, which was trying to make a case for Wagner (Trevor Hoffman was also mentioned). Those three pitchers combined threw 1,000 fewer innings than Jim McCormick, who pitched for the 1887 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He had a career 2.43 ERA and won 265 games. Somehow he isn’t in the Hall of Fame. Do you really think those three should merit a big discussion when a guy like McCormick retired 133 years ago and still isn’t enshrined?

How about a little closer to home with Jeter. Shortstop Bill Dahlen, who spent much of his career in New York (Brooklyn and Giants), has a career 75.4 WAR, including ranking as the 12th best defensive player ever. Not in the Hall of Fame and he last played in 1911. And I’m supposed to care about a 72.4 WAR player missing by one vote in his first year on the ballot? How about no.

Or maybe three spots behind Dahlen on the WAR chart, nine spots ahead of Jeter. Lou Whitaker just got rejected by the veteran’s committee vote this year! With his 75.1 WAR.

I’ll care about one vote when it actually means something. Rivera isn’t close to the best player ever, Jeter isn’t close to second, so no one should put any significance behind their vote total. It’s nice to see voters actually doing a better job, but that’s not personal to them, they just became eligible at the right time. Plus those voters who didn’t vote for All-Time greats didn’t keep any of them out. Ruth still made it his first year, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams and Willie Mays all made it their first year.

So while it’s tough to make a case for not voting for them, it doesn’t do any actual harm. The best case I actually heard was someone saying a few years ago that the voting limit kept them from picking a certain player. Their 11th best player may have needed the vote to stay on the ballot, while the best player was a no doubter. I can live with that explanation and move on to the more important matter of getting the overlooked players in finally.


By John Dreker

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.

Jimmy Anderson, pitcher for the 1999-2002 Pirates. He was a ninth round draft pick of the Pirates in 1994 and had a strong debut in the rookie league straight out of high school, going 5-1, 1.60 in 56.1 innings with 66 strikeouts. He made 14 low-A starts in 1995 and posted a 1.53 ERA, earning a mid-season promotion to high-A. In 1996 he had a 13-6, 2.77 record in 162.1 innings, spending more than half the season in Double-A at the age of 20. Despite that early success at a young age, he stalled out the following two seasons posting a combined ERA near 5.00 in 60 games. He pitched better in 1999 earning a brief call-up in July followed by a permanent one in early August. He would go 2-1, 3.99 in 13 games (four as a starter) that rookie season with the Pirates. In 2000, Anderson was in the Pirates starting rotation where he went 5-11 5.25 in 144 innings. The following year he made a career high 34 starts and went 9-17, 5.10 in 206.1 innings. He was fourth in the NL in games started and second in losses. In 2002 he was released after going 8-13, 5.44 in 140.2 innings with a 63:47 BB/SO ratio. Between 2003 and 2006, Anderson pitched a total of 20 MLB games and was a member of eight different organizations in that four-year period. He last pitched in the majors in July, 2004.

Fred Cambria, pitcher for the 1970 Pirates. He was a third round draft pick of the Pirates in 1969, who didn’t take long to make it to the majors, getting there just 14 months. He went right to Double-A after signing and had a 9-2, 2.16 record in 14 starts. Beginning the next season in Triple-A, he had a 12-7, 4.17 record in 26 starts before getting called up to the majors. He made his debut on August 26, 1970 and was the tough luck loser in a 2-1 game. He started again four days later and got a no decision in a 2-1 Pirates loss. He would get his only Major League win six days later, going 7.1 innings while allowing four runs to the Phillies in a 6-4 game. He started two more games, taking one loss and another no decision before finishing his MLB career with a two inning shutout performance in relief. He would develop arm problems the following season and never quite recovered, pitching just 73 minor league innings over the 1971-72 seasons. He pitched briefly in Double-A for the 1973 Yankees before retiring. One interesting note about him, Cambria was born in Cambria Heights, NY.

Diomedes Olivo, pitcher for the 1960 and 1962 Pirates. He is supposedly the second oldest rookie ever to Satchel Paige, but just like Paige, questions surround his actual age and he may have been much older than the 41 years he claimed when he made his MLB debut with the 1960 Pirates. He originally signed with the Reds in 1955. Olivo was a top pitcher in the Dominican Republic during his day, who didn’t want to play in the majors until later in life. Olivo had a 2.88 ERA in 150 innings at Triple-A in 1960, earning a late season call-up and four relief appearances for the Pirates. He spent the entire 1961 season in Triple-A and posted a 2.01 ERA in 130 innings, earning a spot on the Pirates 1962 Opening Day roster. He would pitch 62 times for Pittsburgh that year, finishing with seven saves and a 5-1, 2.70 record in 84.1 innings.. Following the season, the Pirates would trade him, along with Dick Groat to the Cardinals for Julio Gotay and Don Cardwell. He would go 0-5, 5.40 in 19 games and never pitch in the majors again. His brother Chi-Chi Olivo and his son Gil Rondon both played in the majors.

Eugene “Huck” Geary, shortstop for the 1942-43 Pirates. He began his career in the minors at age 18 in 1935 and it took him 7 1/2 seasons to make it to the majors for the first time. The Pirates acquired him on June 17,1942 from the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association. He played just nine games that rookie season, going 5-for-22 (.227) at the plate. In 1943 he played 46 games at shortstop for the Pirates, hitting a paltry .151, though he walked 18 times against just six strikeouts. His defense was league average for his position. Geary played his last major league game on July 16, 1943, and he would play just ten more minor league games after that date, all coming in 1947. In between he served in the military during WWII.

Warren McLaughlin, pitcher for the 1902 Pirates. He began his pro career in 1897 for a team from Pennsylvania called the Williamsport Demorest Bicycle Boys. His next known pro experience would come for the Philadelphia Phillies, pitching one game in 1900. It was a six inning relief outing, in which he allowed four runs and six walks in six innings, getting a no decision. McLaughlin then pitched for two seasons in the minors, spending most of that time with a team from New London. The Pirates brought him to the majors in early September that year and gave him three starts, one against his former team and the other two against the Cardinals. McLaughlin won all three games and got great support from the Pirates bats, as they scored at least seven runs in each game. That 1902 Pirates team has the best winning percentage in franchise history at .741. Prior to the 1903 season, the Pirates sold McLaughlin to the Phillies, where he pitched three games and lost all of them. That would be his last big league experience. He pitched in the minors until 1907 before retiring as a player.

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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