Pittsburgh Pirates' Season Review: Grading the Bucs

Andrew Kaufman@akaufman23Senior Analyst IOctober 12, 2008


The Pittsburgh Pirates had an entertaining, and at times encouraging, season, but at the end, fans were left wondering how different the 2008 version of the Bucs is from the teams they have come to know and hate. In Part II of my season review, I grade every current Pirate who spent a substantial amount of time on the active roster.


Ryan Doumit, C

Doumit was one of the Pirates’ most consistent offensive players all season. He has emerged as a presence in the middle of the order, as he is a good enough overall hitter to bat third but also has the power to hit cleanup.

Doumit’s biggest flaw remains his inability to stay healthy—his 116 games played this year were a career high, but they are too few for a team that needs his bat every night. 2008 Season Grade: A-


Adam LaRoche, 1B

It was the same old story for LaRoche—an atrocious first half, followed by an MVP-worthy performance in the second half. The final numbers (.270 average, 25 HR, 85 RBI) were good enough, but by the second half the Pirates’ season is usually already lost. They can’t afford to wait half a year for LaRoche to produce; he needs to solve his early-season problems. 2008 Season Grade: B-


Freddy Sanchez, 2B

Like LaRoche, Sanchez somewhat made up for his first-half performance with a much stronger second half, but a .271 batting average is simply not good enough for someone who does not hit for power.

Sanchez’ 26 doubles were half the total from his stellar 2006 season, and his .669 OPS doesn’t cut it for someone who is supposed to be a top-of-the-order hitter. 2008 Season Grade: C


Jack Wilson, SS

Injuries to Wilson were a devastating blow to the team’s season, as nobody in the Pirates’ organization is a capable replacement either in the field or at the plate. Wilson’s production was slightly down from previous seasons, but unlike Doumit he does not get penalized for his injuries because they represent a fluky season rather than a problematic trend. 2008 Season Grade: B-


Andy LaRoche, 3B

The younger LaRoche was supposed to be one of the key components of the Jason Bay trade. To say the least, his first stint in Pittsburgh was extremely disappointing. In 164 at-bats with the Pirates, LaRoche batted a dismal .152. He is still young and has plenty of time to develop, but he clearly has a long way to go. 2008 Season Grade: F


Nate McLouth, OF

Without question, McLouth was the team’s MVP. He led the Pirates in every offensive category during his breakout 2008 year while playing a well-above-average center field. McLouth joins Doumit as the two position players who should be top of the order presences in Pittsburgh for years to come. 2008 Season Grade: A


Brandon Moss, OF

Moss, one of the less-heralded prospects in the Bay trade, struggled a bit in his first stint as a Pirates. However, he showed signs that, while he will never be a star, he can be a moderately productive outfielder down the road. 2008 Season Grade: B-


Steve Pearce, OF

With the Pirates’ acquisition of Moss and Jose Tabata during the year, Pearce finds himself in a position where he has to prove his worth more than ever. He didn’t do that this year, batting .248 with only 15 RBI in 37 games. He did hit better as he got more playing time, but not well enough to be a starting corner outfielder in the Majors. 2008 Season Grade: D+


Raul Chavez, BN

Chavez did a serviceable job backing up Doumit. He handled the pitching staff well, and his .259 batting average (albeit without any power whatsoever), more than adequate for a backup catcher, was a pleasant surprise for the Bucs. 2008 Season Grade: B-


Luis Cruz, BN

It was said that Cruz impressed manager John Russell in September and is being considered for a spot on the Pirates’ bench as a utility man in 2009. His numbers—a .546 OPS and three RBI in 22 games—didn’t exactly help his cause. 2008 Season Grade: C-


Chris Gomez, BN

Gomez, was not spectacular, but he emerged as a reliable pinch-hitting and spot-starting candidate that hit enough to remain relevant. He was limited in his role as a utility player, due to his inability to field the shortstop position. 2008 Season Grade: C+


Luis Rivas, BN

Rivas had a few good games but played poorly over the course of the year, both in the field and at the plate. He was a slightly more reliable middle infielder than Gomez, but had much less value due to his poor performance with the bat. 2008 Season Grade: C-


Brian Bixler, BN

The young shortstop had multiple opportunities this season, due to several injuries to Jack Wilson, but he never looked comfortable in the majors. His .423 OPS is simply atrocious. 2008 Season Grade: F


Doug Mientkiewicz, BN

The veteran was one of the team’s bright spots. He emerged as a leader in the clubhouse and had a decent hitting season as well. Mientkiewicz also expanded his defensive repertoire, proving himself a worthy third baseman. 2008 Season Grade: B


Jason Michaels, BN

Michaels displayed some power and had some big hits after being acquired from Cleveland, but he was not nearly consistent enough to merit a spot in the starting lineup. He does have the potential to be a source of power off the bench, though. 2008 Season Grade: C


Nyjer Morgan, BN

Morgan once again impressed in his September call-up, serving as an offensive catalyst at the top of the order. However, he is still very raw and hits for no power whatsoever, making it unlikely that he will evolve into an everyday player. 2008 Season Grade: B-


Paul Maholm, SP

Maholm recovered from a slow start to 2008 to emerge as the Pirates’ ace. His win total would have been much higher if not for extremely low run support, particularly in the second half of the year. 2008 Season Grade: A-


Ian Snell, SP

The Bucs’ opening day starter took a step back in 2008, struggling to find any consistent form amid flashes of brilliance. He did have a strong last two months of the season, which provides some hope that he can regain his 2007 form in 2009. 2008 Season Grade: C-


Jeff Karstens, SP

Karstens had an incredible start to his Pirate career, allowing no runs in his first 15 innings pitched and nearly throwing a perfect game in the process. He struggled for much of the rest of the year, but his 4.03 ERA and 1.34 WHIP make him a pretty viable candidate to start 2009 in the rotation. 2008 Season Grade: B+


Ross Ohlendorf, SP

Ohlendorf, an important part of the Xavier Nady trade, did not prove himself to Bucs fans in his first stint in Pittsburgh. He has the stuff to succeed at a major-league level, but he has a long way to go to become a decent starting pitcher. 2008 Season Grade: D


Zach Duke, SP

Duke was the same pitcher he has been over the past few years—extremely high WHIP, a much lower ERA—only not quite as good. He needs to get hitters out more consistently or he may find himself out of a job come 2009. 2008 Season Grade: D+


Phil Dumatrait, SP

The young left-hander actually was one of the rotation’s leaders for a short period of time before a June swoon and ensuing injury torpedoed his season. He remains an intriguing prospect who has more potential than some of the other Pirate starters. 2008 Season Grade: C+


Tom Gorzelanny, SP

Nobody saw this coming. After a breakout year in 2007, Gorzelanny took several steps back in 2008, posting a dreadful 6.66 ERA and 1.80 WHIP. His season included an extended trip to AAA and was cut short in early September due to an injury to his left middle finger. 2008 Season Grade: F


Matt Capps, CL

Aside from a poor stretch in June during which it seems he was playing hurt, Capps was spectacular all season. He could be saving games in Pittsburgh for a long, long time. 2008 Season Grade: A-


John Grabow, RP

By far the Pirates’ most consistent set-up man, Grabow took on an even greater role after Damaso Marte was traded to the Yankees. There is a chance Grabow will not be back in 2009; if that is the case, he will be sorely missed. 2008 Season Grade: A-


Sean Burnett, RP

The young reliever’s numbers weren’t all that impressive, but he improved as the season progressed and showed he was capable of pitching in the seventh and eighth innings. 2008 Season Grade: B-


Denny Bautista, RP

Bautista gave the Pirates a much needed power arm in long relief, and he was relatively successful in that role. A few particularly bad September outings tarnished his overall statistics. 2008 Season Grade: B-


Tyler Yates, RP

The sinkerballer didn’t have horrible numbers, but was plagued by control problems throughout the season (41 walks in 73.1 innings pitched). 2008 Season Grade: C


Craig Hansen, RP

Speaking of control problems, Hansen averaged nearly one walk per inning. Seriously. He clearly has a long way to go in his development, even if he does have the potential to become a dominant major-league reliever. 2008 Season Grade: F


T.J. Beam, RP

Beam performed much better than expected—then again, little to nothing was expected of him. His 4.14 ERA and 1.38 WHIP reflected his solid performance, and he was consistent throughout his tenure in Pittsburgh. 2008 Season Grade: C+


John Russell, Manager

Russell brought a culture of winning to a team that sorely needed it; the Pirates’ numerous comeback victories throughout the year were a testament to that attitude. He will have a critical role in Pittsburgh in the years to come, as almost the entire Pirate team is young and has talent that needs to be nurtured and developed. 2008 Season Grade: B+


Neal Huntington, GM

Pirate management made some positive steps this season, especially as far as revamping the team’s farm system goes. The Pedro Alvarez saga was irritating to management and fans alike, but the bottom line is he is a Pirate now, so Huntington did his job there. That said, the Pirates still have a long way to go if they are to contend for a World Series anytime soon. 2008 Season Grade: B


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