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 – Roberto Clemente #21 of the Pittsburgh Pirates talks to the media after getting his 3000th hit against the New York Mets at Three Rivers Stadium on September 30, 1972 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by: Morris Berman/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH – Roberto Clemente #21 of the Pittsburgh Pirates talks to the media after getting his 3000th hit against the New York Mets at Three Rivers Stadium on September 30, 1972 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by: Morris Berman/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Right Field – Roberto Clemente

No surprises here. Roberto Clemente might be one of the best defenders regardless of position not just in Pirate history, but in MLB history as a whole. The legendary Pirates’ right fielder had +204 total zone runs above average. Only four players have at least 200 total zone runs above average, and it’s some pretty notable names like Ozzie Smith, Mark Belanger, and Brooks Robinson. Clemente’s the fourth name. Clemente’s cannon of an arm in the outfield is highlighted by 266 outfield assists. That’s the 17th most in baseball history.

Age didn’t slow down the all time great either. Clemente’s final four seasons saw him have +46 total zone runs above average and throw out 54 runners, including a career high 27 in 1969. It seems that teams finally got the message not to run on Clemente in 1970 to 1972 as it was the first time in his career he didn’t reach at least 12 assists in back to back seasons. Overall, Clemente has 12.0 defensive WAR in his career, and reached at least 2.0 dWAR three separate times.

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During his 17 year MLB career, Clemente took home a whopping 12 Gold Glove Awards. These awards came in each of the final 12 seasons of his MLB career from 1961 – 1972. If not for his untimely death, he likely would have won a few more Gold Glove Awards before his career was all said and done.

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