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First Pitch: Getting the Most Out of Chris Archer


Chris Archer makes his Spring Training debut today. If he maintains a five day schedule, adding an inning each start, he’d be up to five innings by the start of the regular season.

The Pirates are never going to regain the value they lost from the Archer trade. That reminder is present every time Austin Meadows or Tyler Glasnow gets brought up. The key for the Pirates with Archer is regaining as much value as they can.

Having Archer healthy for as long as possible is a good start to raising the value. It won’t matter how healthy he is if he doesn’t fix whatever was leading to his poor performance last year.

That’s going to be a big test for new pitching coach Oscar Marin, and a test for the new pitching philosophy that he will lead going forward. Can they get back to having a pitching coach who can rejuvenate former successful pitchers?

They had that with Ray Searage for several years, leading to some of the better reclamation stories in the game over the last decade. Searage gradually saw his results decline after 2015, with the league rapidly shifting to new hitting and pitching philosophies that took advantage of new technology. The Pirates didn’t keep up, and it made it more difficult to get the best results out of their pitching staff.

Marin will need to overhaul the philosophy in a way to at least match the top teams in the game. He’ll also need to show the ability to teach the Pirates’ pitchers that philosophy in a way where it can quickly be applied in games.

In his best years, Searage had both of those things going for him. He didn’t lose his communication skills or his ability to teach by the end of his time in Pittsburgh. He was just teaching with outdated material.

If Marin can get the Pirates back on track here, it could pay some big rewards. That’s not just with Archer, but with other potential reclamation projects like Derek Holland, Keone Kela, or the most important thing — developing Mitch Keller to a top of the rotation starter.





By John Dreker

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, one of them is among the team’s all-time greats.

Willie Stargell, 1B/OF for the 1962-82 Pirates. He played 21 seasons in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform, three more than anyone else in team history. He also hit 475 homers and drove in 1540 runs, both tops among the team’s all-time list. The Pirates signed Stargell at the age of 18 as an amateur free agent in 1958, and he made his pro debut the following season playing Class D ball. He hit just seven homers in 118 games that rookie season. He moved up a level for 1959 and hit 11 homers in 107 games with a .260 average. Stargell never had a great hitting season in the minors, but his breakout year could be considered 1961 when he hit .289 with 22 homers playing for Asheville of the South Atlantic League. The Pirates jumped him up to Triple-A for the next season, and by September he was up in the majors for ten late season games. He would be in Pittsburgh for good from that point on.

In his first full season, Willie started just 71 games and hit a modest .243 with 11 homers in 304 at-bats. He made his first All-Star team in 1964 with decent, yet unspectacular numbers, but the 1965 season was his first true All-Star type season in the majors. He hit 27 homers and drove in 107 runs, earning his second of three straight All-Star appearances. He also garnered some MVP consideration, finishing 14th in the voting. That would be one spot ahead of where he would finish in the MVP voting the next season when he had one of the best years of his career at the plate. He hit a career high .315 with 33 homers and 102 RBIs.

After a couple of down years, including a 1968 season that saw him hit a career low .237, Stargell put together a solid 1969 season in which he hit .307 with 29 homers and 92 RBIs. He followed that up with a 31 homer season in 1970, before putting together the best stretch of his career. The Pirates won the 1971 World Series and the man they would later call “Pops”, led the way. He set career bests in both homers with 48 and RBIs with 125. The Pirates won everything in the postseason, but Stargell provided very little help. He went hitless in the NLCS, then hit .208 with one RBI in the WS.

Those playoff struggles would come back the next season. Despite finishing third in the 1972 MVP voting, he hit just .063 in the NLCS against the Reds, and the Pirates lost the series. Stargell would hit .299 in 1973 with a league leading 44 homers and 119 RBIs. He set career highs with 106 runs scored and 43 doubles. During that 1971-73 stretch he finished second or third in the MVP voting every year. Willie still had plenty of strong seasons left, but the 1974 season would be the last time he played over 130 games in a year. He hit .301 with 96 RBIs during the regular season, then hit .400 with two homers in the playoff loss to the Dodgers. Stargell helped the Pirates to the playoffs again in 1975 by driving in 90 runs , earning a seventh place finish in the MVP voting.

The 1976-77 seasons were tough ones for Stargell between family and physical problems. He played just 180 games total those two years. He was 38 years old going into 1978, but he proved that he wasn’t done as a player. He hit .295 with 28 homers and 97 RBIs in 1978, making his seventh and final All-Star appearance. He may not have made the All-Star team in 1979, but he did one better. He led the Pirates to their fifth World Series title, and in the process won the regular season MVP, the NLCS MVP and the WS MVP awards. He hit 32 homers and drove in 82 runs during the season, then hit .455 with six RBIs in the three-game NLCS and .400 with three homers and seven RBIs during the WS.

That would be the one final shining moment for Stargell, who still played another three seasons with the Pirates, but only saw action in 179 games, many of them off the bench. In his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1988, Pops was voted in with 82.4% of the votes. He finished with a .282 career average, 1,195 runs scored, 2,232 hits, 475 homers and 1,540 RBIs. He also holds the Pirates all-time record for walks with 937 and had 227 career intentional walks.

Francisco Cervelli, catcher for the 2015-19 Pirates. He played 450 games for the Pirates over five seasons before they let him go late last year, which allowed him to sign with a playoff contender. He was acquired followed the 2014 season in exchange for pitcher Justin Wilson. Cervelli’s best season with the Pirates was his first year, when he hit .295 and played 130 games. He also had a strong 2018 season, setting career highs with 12 homers and 57 RBIs. In 12 seasons in the majors, he has played 100+ games three times, all with the Pirates. He’s a .269 career hitter in 714 games and he batted .264 during his time in Pittsburgh. Cervelli signed with the Marlins for the 2020 season.

Clint Barmes, shortstop for the 2012-14 Pirates. He was drafted in the tenth round in 2000 by the Colorado Rockies and made his Major League debut three years later. Barmes played eight seasons in Colorado, one for the Houston Astros, then signed as a free agent with the Pirates prior to the 2012 season. In three years with the Pirates, he batted .224 with 13 homers and 75 RBIs in 300 games. Barmes played one more season in the majors (2015 San Diego Padres) before retiring. In 13 seasons, he was a .245 hitter with 89 homers in 1,186 games. His 2.5 dWAR in 2005 rated him as the best defensive player in the National League. His uncle Bruce Barmes played for the 1953 Washington Senators.

Bert Husting, pitcher for the 1900 Pirates. He began his pro career in 1899 for the Milwaukee Brewers of the Western League playing for Connie Mack. The next year the team moved to the American League (one year before the league was recognized as a Major League). The Pirates acquired him from the Brewers in August after he had a salary dispute. He would pitched just two games for Pittsburgh, both in relief, going eight innings in which he allowed five runs, but recorded seven strikeouts. The next season he returned to Milwaukee and went 9-15, 4.27 in 34 games, 26 as a starter. That Brewers team eventually became the current day Baltimore Orioles, with a stop in St Louis in between. He signed with the Boston Americans (Red Sox) for 1902, but after one very poor start in which he allowed 15 runs and 23 base runners, he was sold to the Philadelphia Athletics, a team managed by Connie Mack. After going 14-6 for the Athletics that year Husting retired to take up law, ending his playing career.

John Coleman, outfielder for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys from 1886-88 and 1890. He started his career as a pitcher for the Phillies in 1883 and set four pitching records as a rookie that will never be broken and none of them are positive. He lost 48 games that season while giving up 772 hits, 510 runs and 291 earned runs, all Major League records. In his defense, the team wasn’t any better when he wasn’t pitching and he did throw 538.1 innings with the worst fielding team in the league behind him. Coleman played 31 games in the outfield his rookie season and by 1884 he was in the field more often on the mound. He pitched just 18 more games after 1884, two of them for the 1890 Alleghenys. He hit .299 with 70 RBIs in 1885 and was hitting .246 with 65 RBIs, 16 triples and 28 stolen bases when Pittsburgh picked him up at the end of the 1886 season. He hit .349 with nine RBIs in the last 11 games, earning the starting right field job for 1887 when the team moved to the National League. That year he hit .293 while scoring 75 runs and driving in 54 runs. His production dropped off significantly in 1888, and he would play just nine more Major League games over the next two seasons. Following his last season in the majors he played another four seasons of minor league ball before retiring as a player.

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Tim Williams
Tim Williams
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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