Pittsburgh Pirates All-Time 26-Man Rosterby John Lepore October 11, 2021 3 comments
The Pittsburgh Pirates franchise has been around since 1882 when they were known as the Alleghenys. That name stood until 1890 and since 1891 they have been known as the Pirates. They started off the 20th Century well and lost the inaugural World Series to the Boston Americans (Red Sox) in 1903. Since then, the Pirates have been to six World Series, winning five of them. They have a flair for the dramatic as all five of those championship series went to seven games.
The lineup was tough as they have had some truly great players so a few guys who would probably be starting for some other teams are left on the bench. The pitching was never Pittsburgh’s strong suit although they have a solid bullpen. Let’s see who makes the cut for the final roster.
Make sure to check out all of our other All-Time Rosters.
Kendall was a first-round pick in 1992 and made his debut in 1996. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting that year and played nine seasons with the Pirates averaging 139 games per season even including his shortened 1999. Over that time, he slashed .306/.387/.418 and while he didn’t have a ton of power (67 home runs), he did swipe 140 bags. Kendall was also a quality defensive catcher, putting up 60.9 dWAR during his time with the Pirates.
Willie Stargell, 1B
Pops played for 21 seasons in a Pirates uniform. He was a seven-time All-Star and finished in the top three of MVP voting four times winning the award along with Keith Hernandez in 1979. During a great 15-year stretch from 1965-1979, Stargell had a .395 wOBA and a 149 wRC+. He also had a .906 OPS during that time while averaging 33 HRs and 104 RBIs per 150 games.
For the “We Are Family” Pirates of 1979, Stargell was the unquestioned patriarch. He took home the NLCS MVP and the World Series MVP with a ridiculous 1.381 OPS and driving in 13 runs in just 10 games. Pops was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1988. For more on Stargell, check out the article here.
Bill Mazeroski, 2B
When it comes to iconic moments, there are very few that can compare to Mazeroski’s walk-off in Game Seven of the 1960 World Series. Overall, Maz’s value came mostly from his defense where he is largely considered the best defensive second baseman ever. According to Baseball-Reference he is first in Total Zone Rating at 148 and put up 200.9 dWAR according to Fangraphs. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001 by the Veteran’s Committee.
Pie Traynor, 3B
Traynor played all 17 years of his career with the Pirates helping them win their second World Series in 1925. In that series, he went 9-for-26 with a couple of triples and a homer. During his 10-year peak from 1923-1932, the third baseman slashed .329/.373/.455 while averaging 91 runs and 101 RBIs. He was top 10 in MVP voting six times in total and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1948.
Honus Wagner, SS
Considered by many as the best shortstop ever, Wagner has more WAR than any other infielder in history at 130.8 rWAR and 138.1 fWAR. He began his Pirate career in 1900 and for the next 13 years he put up an amazing 105.6 rWAR. He led the NL in batting eight times, RBIs four times, and stolen bases five times. In 1909, he led the Pirates to their first championship with a .967 OPS along with six RBIs and six steals in seven games.
For his career, Wagner is eighth in hits (3,420), 10th in doubles (643), third in triples (252), and 10th in SBs (723). In his first 13 years with Pittsburgh, the shortstop had a .434 wOBA and 163 wRC+. The Pennsylvania native was one of the first five players elected to the Hall of Fame in 1936.
Barry Bonds, LF
We go from one of the best infielders of all time to one of the best outfielders. Before Bonds went to San Francisco, he was a two-time MVP with the Bucs and should have won three in a row as he inexplicably lost out to Terry Pendleton in 1991. During his seven years with Pittsburgh, the man who would become the All-Time HR king averaged 25 bombs and 36 swipes per year. He also walked more than he struck out (611-590) while slashing .275/.380/.503.
Roberto Clemente, CF
I’m taking a little bit of a liberty here by putting Clemente in centerfield. He did play 63 games there in his career, and he needs to be in the starting lineup. The 12-time Gold Glove winner, along with Mazeroski, were the only two Pirates to play on both the 1960 and 1971 championship teams. During those 12 seasons, Clemente slashed .330/.376/.504 while leading the NL in batting four times. He also finished in the top five of MVP voting four times, winning the award in 1966.
The Puerto Rico native performed his best on the biggest stage. In two World Series, Clemente hit .362 and had a hit in all 14 games he played in. He hit a solo HR to put the Pirates on the board in Game Seven of the 1971 series. It was a game the Pirates would win 2-1 over the Orioles. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973 after the five-year waiting period was waived as Clemente died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve in 1972 delivering relief to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
Paul Waner, RF
Waner spent 20 years in the big leagues, 15 of them with the Pirates. He made his mark immediately, winning the NL MVP award in his second season in 1927. He batted .380 that year and led the league with 131 RBIs and 18 triples to go along with 237 hits. Big Poison finished in the top 5 of MVP voting three more times. In his Pittsburgh career from 1926-1940, Waner slashed .340/.407/.490. He is second in franchise history in batting (.340), second in runs (1,493), third in hits (2,868) and third in WAR (70.1). He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1952.
Ralph Kiner, DH
Kiner was one of the most dominant power-hitters ever. In his seven full seasons with the Pirates, he led the league in homers each year. Over that time he averaged 42 bombs, 110 RBIs, and 110 walks while sporting a .440 wOBA and 155 wRC+. Unfortunately, Kiner’s career was cut short because of back issues and he retired at just 32. Nevertheless, he played 10 seasons and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975.
Babe Adams, RHP
Aside from one awful start with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1906, Adams played the rest of his 19-year career with the Pirates. From 1909-1921, the righty won 162 games and had an excellent 2.40 ERA with a 1.036 WHIP. He was dominant in the 1909 World Series. Adams was 3-0 while only allowing four earned runs over three complete games. He leads the franchise in pitching WAR with 50.6 and is tied for second in wins with 194.
Sam Leever, RHP
Here is the guy who is tied with Adams for second place in franchise wins. In 1899, Leever led the league in IP with 379 while surrendering seven home runs and sporting a 3.18 ERA. Over the next 11 seasons, he wouldn’t have an ERA above 2.90 and wouldn’t give up more than three bombs in a season despite tossing over 200 innings six times. The right-hander led the NL in ERA in 1903 at 2.06. His 2.47 career ERA is fourth-best in franchise history.
John Candelaria, LHP
Candelaria started his career with the Pirates in 1975. In 1977, the big lefty led the NL in ERA with a 2.34 mark and finished fifth in CYA voting. He maintained a 3.10 ERA over the first 10 years with Pittsburgh and won 122 games. Candelaria had very good control as well issuing just over two walks per nine innings during that span. In 1979 he pitched six shutout innings in Game Six of the World Series to help the Pirates come back against the Orioles.
Deacon Phillippe, RHP
The right-hander came to the Pirates in 1900. From that year until 1907, Phillippe was one of the best pitchers in the NL. He had nearly a three-to-one K/BB rate which was excellent for that era and led the league in that category four times. In those eight years, he had a 2.46 ERA while averaging 252 innings. He also won 146 games during that time. In 1903 he won the first World Series game ever by defeating Cy Young himself. His career 1.25 walks per nine innings is still a modern-day record for any pitcher above 1,000 innings.
Doug Drabek, RHP
Drabek spent six years with the Pirates from 1987-1992. In that time he had a 3.02 ERA and won 92 games. His best year came in 1990 when he won the CYA finishing 22-6 with a 2.76 ERA and 1.063 WHIP. He finished fifth in CYA voting in 1992 and for his Pirates career, he averaged 227 innings per year. Despite Pittsburgh’s lack of success in the postseason from 1990-1992, Drabek pitched well with a 2.05 ERA in seven starts. He also allowed just one home run in 48.1 playoff innings.
Roy Face, RHP (Closer)
The man who is first for the Pirates franchise in saves with 186 is Face. The right-hander became a full-time reliever in 1956 leading the league in appearances with 68. In 1958 he led the NL with 20 saves and in 1959 put together an 18-1 record out of the bullpen to earn him seventh place in MVP voting. He went on to lead the league two more times in saves including a career-high 28 in 1962.
Kent Tekulve, RHP
To coincide with Candelaria’s career, Tekulve pitched his best during the 10-year span from 1975-1984. During that stretch, he was a workhorse out of the pen averaging 100 innings per year. He racked up 158 saves (second in franchise history) and pitched to a 2.61 ERA. The submarine pitcher was adept at keeping the ball on the ground, and more importantly, out of the seats. He allowed just 39 HRs in over 1,000 innings with Pittsburgh.
Tony Watson, LHP
Watson came out of the Pirates bullpen for six and a half years. From 2013-2015, the lefty was particularly dominant going 17-4 with a 1.97 ERA. He also pitched in 222 games during that span and had a 0.954 WHIP. In his lone All-Star season of 2014, he led the league in appearances with 78 and pitched to a 1.63 ERA while going 10-2. Overall, he had a 2.68 ERA for Pittsburgh with better than a three-to-one K/BB rate.
Dave Giusti, RHP
Giusti started his career as a starter but when he got to Pittsburgh in 1970, manager Danny Murtaugh had the right-hander closing games. He would save 20+ for four consecutive seasons including a league-leading 30 in 1971. That same year he pitched magnificently in the postseason helping the Pirates capture the championship. Giusti appeared in seven of the 11 games played and allowed only four hits and four walks with no runs in 10.2 innings.
Mark Melancon, RHP
Melancon only pitched for the Pirates for three and a half years but he was nearly unhittable. He had a 1.80 ERA with 130 saves in that short time. In 2015, he led the league with 51 saves. In his Pirates career, he also had a ridiculous 241/42 K/BB rate and gave up a paltry nine home runs in 260 innings. While his time was short with Pittsburgh, Melancon was about as good of a reliever as there was in baseball.
Wilbur Cooper, LHP
Cooper is the Pirates franchise leader in wins at 202 and had a 2.74 ERA over 13 seasons. He was a workhorse for Pittsburgh and from 1917-1924 he led the league in complete games twice while throwing over 250 innings each season. Despite the workload, Cooper was able to maintain a 2.85 ERA over that stretch.
Arky Vaughan, SS
If it wasn’t for Wagner, Vaughan would’ve easily been the starting shortstop. He would likely be in the lineup for about half of the franchises in baseball. Alas, he has to have a bench role. In his 10 years with the Pirates Vaughan slashed an impressive .324/.415/.472. He led the league in triples and walks three times apiece. He also finished third in MVP voting twice and should have won it in 1935 when he led the league in OPS and had a 9.8 rWAR. Vaughan was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985 by the Veteran’s Committee.
Dave Parker, OF
The Cobra was a big part of Pittsburgh’s success in the late ’70s especially from 1975-1979. During that stretch, Parker slashed .321/.377/.532 and averaged 23 HRs, 98 RBIs, and 95 runs. He led the league in batting twice and won the NL MVP award in 1978. Parker also took home three Gold Gloves in that time. He also batted .345 in the 1979 World Series helping the Pirates secure their last title.
Brian Giles, OF
An underrated player during his career, Giles’s best seasons were in Pittsburgh. Although he only played for a short time there, from 1999-2002 he was impressive. The lefty slashed .309/.426/.604 with a 430 wOBA and a 158 wRC+. He also averaged over 100 runs, RBIs, and walks while blasting 37 homers a year.
Andrew McCutchen, OF
Cutch played for nine seasons with the Pirates and had the fans hoping for a resurgence in the 2010s. He won the 2013 NL MVP and finished in the top five three other times. In the middle of his stay in Pittsburgh from 2011-2015, he averaged 5.6 rWAR while making the All-Star Team each year.
Al Oliver, OF/1B
Oliver had a cup of coffee in 1968 for the Pirates and then had a wonderful next nine years with the team. He slashed .297/.335/.455 averaging 15 homers a year while playing both first base and the outfield. He was very consistent during his time with Pittsburgh, only once batting below .280 and hitting at least 11 homers each year.
Andy Van Slyke, OF
Van Slyke had a very good eight-year career with the Bucs. In his first six years with them from 1987-1992, the lefty slashed .284/.354/.470 and added 103 homers and 116 swipes. Van Slyke could do it with the glove as well, winning the Gold Glove in five of those seasons.
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