2012 Pirates Rotation: The Best Since…


The A.J. Burnett deal isn’t done yet, but all signs point to it being completed at some point this week. That rounds out the 2012 Pirates Opening Day rotation, which looks like this:

1. Erik Bedard
2. Charlie Morton
3. James McDonald
4. Jeff Karstens
5. A.J. Burnett

When you compare that rotation to some of the other teams in the major leagues, you’re left vastly unimpressed. However, if you compare it to Pirates Opening Day rotations from the recent past, you get a little bit excited. Here are the Pirates Opening Day rotations since 2005:

1. Kevin Correia
2. Paul Maholm
3. Charlie Morton
4. Ross Ohlendorf
5. James McDonald

1. Paul Maholm
2. Zach Duke
3. Ross Ohlendorf
4. Charlie Morton
5. Daniel McCutchen

1. Paul Maholm
2. Ian Snell
3. Zach Duke
4. Ross Ohlendorf
5. Jeff Karstens

1. Ian Snell
2. Tom Gorzelanny
3. Zach Duke
4. Matt Morris
5. Paul Maholm

1. Ian Snell
2. Paul Maholm
3. Zach Duke
4. Tom Gorzelanny
5. Tony Armas

1. Oliver Perez
2. Victor Santos
3. Zach Duke
4. Ian Snell
5. Paul Maholm

1. Oliver Perez
2. Kip Wells
3. Mark Redman
4. Josh Fogg
5. David Williams

Now I could probably do some statistical work and prove to you that this years rotation looks a ton better than those past six seasons, but I don’t even feel it necessary. Oliver Perez was the only pitcher that anybody ever got excited to watch pitch on that list, and the rest is made up of basically Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, Ian Snell, and Tom Gorzelanny, a long with a couple losers mixed in.

Maholm and Duke were the best pitchers on the previous years staffs, and now you could argue that the Pirates have three or four pitchers (if not five) better than they ever have been in the rotation.

Obviously Burnett is up in the air, he could be terrible, that’s a real possibility. Also, Jeff Karstens is capable of going out and getting roughed up, as we saw some in the second half of last year, but his volume of work makes you think he’s a pretty good guy to have in the rotation. I mean the guy posted a 3.38 ERA last year; no matter how much I hate on him he’ll always have that.

This year’s rotation probably has the most injury risk on it, but it has five times the upside that we’ve seen in a long, long time. This could actually be a rotation that keeps the Pirates in contention, in everything goes right.

We also have some depth now, with Kevin Correia and Brad Lincoln being ready to step in and make some starts. Obviously those aren’t great pitchers, but at least they are somewhat competent at the big league level. Before you had guys like Daniel McCutchen, Tony Armas and Dave Williams making starts.

Despite all that positive talk, the offense is really going to have step up this year if the Pirates want to contend. The bats have a lot of upside, but they also have a lot of holes. Andrew McCutchen is the only real bat you can count on, but again there is big upside in guys like Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez, and even Alex Presley.

Nobody is picking the Pirates to win the N.L. Central, and rightly so, but the rotation is certainly in its best shape in a long, long time.