Pittsburgh Pirates: Five Best Relief Pitchers in Franchise History

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – CIRCA 1980: Kent Tekulve #27 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies during a Major League Baseball game circa 1980 at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Tekulve played for the Pirates from 1974-85. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA – CIRCA 1980: Kent Tekulve #27 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies during a Major League Baseball game circa 1980 at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Tekulve played for the Pirates from 1974-85. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Kent Tekulve

Kent “Teke” Tekulve spent 12 years in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform. During these 12 seasons, the unorthodox right-hander just might have solidifed himself as the best Pirates’ relief pitcher of all-time taking into account innings pitched. Teke pitched 100+ innings a season regularly. He reached that plateau five different times in his career, including 1978 when he pitched 135 and a third total innings. His ability to consistently log innings in mass earned him his other nickname – The Rubberband Man.

In comparison to 2019, the average number of innings pitched in 30 starts was 160. With a grand total of 1436.2 innings in his career out of the pen, he has the most innings pitched for any pitcher that never started a single game.

Kent Tekulve was not only durable, but extremely effective. He posted a 2.68 ERA, 3.25 FIP and 1.25 WHIP across 1017.1 innings pitched. Tekulve may not have been a big strikeout machine, only getting 552 batters on strike-three, but he was fairly good at preventing walks. Teke’s walk percentage with the Pirates was only 8.7%.

However, Tekulve’s strongest asset was limiting home runs. Throughout his Pirates’ tenure, the side-armer allowed just 41 home runs. He ties himself with the aforementioned Ramon Hernandez for the third lowest HR/9 rate in Pirates history among players with at least 200 innings out of the pen.

Tekulve wasn’t just great because of the era he played in. That’s reflected in his era adjusted stats. Teke had a 139 ERA+, 72 ERA- and 89 FIP-. To this day, Teke remains an active member of the Pirate community and a fan favorite.

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