Pittsburgh Pirates: Constructing the Franchise’s All-Time Defensive Team

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Outfielder Roberto Clemente' #21of Pittsburgh Pirates warms up playing catch prior to the start of a Major League Baseball game circa 1970. Clemente' Played for the Pirates from 1955-72. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Outfielder Roberto Clemente' #21of Pittsburgh Pirates warms up playing catch prior to the start of a Major League Baseball game circa 1970. Clemente' Played for the Pirates from 1955-72. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
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PITTSBURGH, PA – CIRCA 1982: Catcher Tony Pena of the Pittsburgh Pirates looks on from the field before a Major League Baseball game at Three Rivers Stadium circa 1982 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA – CIRCA 1982: Catcher Tony Pena of the Pittsburgh Pirates looks on from the field before a Major League Baseball game at Three Rivers Stadium circa 1982 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /

Catcher – Tony Pena

Tony Pena was the primary catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates throughout a big chunk of the 1980s. Although he was actually a pretty good batter for a catcher, Pena was mostly known for his defensive prowess. Pena took home three straight National League Gold Glove Awards from 1983 to 1985, and unlike some Gold Glove Award winners, the ones Pena won were well deserved.

Throughout his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pena had +45 total zone runs above average. That’s the highest mark of any Pirates catcher, including DRS leaders. According to FanGraphs’ positional adjustments, Pena’s defense had a +91 rating in his time with Pittsburgh. Pena was great at keeping runners at bay, catching just under 40% of them at 39.5%. All told, he has a fantastic 10.6 dWAR in the seven total seasons he appeared in with the Pirates, and averaged 1.5 dWAR a season.

Pena would then go on to be involved in one of the biggest trades in franchise history. In April 1, 1987, the Pirates traded Pena to the St. Louis Cardinals. In return, the team received Andy Van Slyke and Mike LaValliere. Van Slyke became one of the best center fielders in the NL, while LaValliere became a mainstay behind the dish for the Bucs. Both players went on to play a big role in the team winning three consecutive division championships from 1990 – 1992.

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