Forgotten Pittsburgh Pirates: Pitcher Ross Ohlendorf
By Noah Wright
Despite having some interesting moments in his professional career, former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf has become forgotten to time
Pitcher Ross Ohlendorf was an interesting pitcher. He had a few solid seasons in the bigs, but in one of them he somehow went 1-11 to no real fault of his own. And he did it all with a wind up that was from about 50-70 years ago. But despite having an interesting few seasons, Ohlendorf has now become a pretty forgotten member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Ohlendorf was a former Diamondback and Yankee farmhand. He was never a very notable prospect, but was your typical soft tossing control artist who was a durable arm. Ohlendorf was part of the trade that sent Randy Johnson to the New York Yankees.
He did make his debut with the Yankees, but only played in 31 games all as a relief pitcher for the Yanks in 2007 and half way through 2008. Ohlendorf was then sent to the Pittsburgh Pirates right before the July trade deadline in 2008 with Daniel McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Jeff Karstens for outfielder Xavier Nady and relief pitcher Damaso Marte.
Ohlendorf only pitched 22.2 innings with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008, but was inserted into the team’s rotation as a full time starter in 2009. Overall, he had a solid season for a back end starter. In 176.2 innings, Ohlendorf had a 3.92 ERA, but overall weak peripherals including a 4.72 FIP, 4.56 xFIP and 4.61 SIERA. Ohlendorf allowed 25 home runs, and struck out 15% of the batters he faced. Although he wasn’t any sort of control master, Ohlendorf still registered a solid 7.3% walk rate.
The following year, Ohlendorf pitched in 108 innings, but missed a good chunk of time because of back issues. Ohlendorf pitched a bit better having a 4.07 ERA, but better peripherals with a 4.45 FIP, 16.6% strikeout rate, and 1.0 HR/9. However, he walked a lot more batters as his walk rate rose to 9.3%.
What was interesting about Ohlendorf’s 2010 season was his team record. Now by no means was Ohlendorf some Jacob deGrom, where he allowed three or fewer runs in 90% of his starts. But to say Ohlendorf got a bit unlucky is true, and shows the massive flaws pitching record has. Ohlendorf had a 1-11 record. Of the 108 innings he pitched, 36 of them came with three or more runs of support for the right hander, or one-third of his innings came with at least three runs of support. Ross had little to no room for error in most of his starts, causing the awful looking 1-11 record despite overall league average results.
Ohlendorf was set up to enter 2011 as one of the Pirates’ back end starters again, but spent most of the year on the disabled list. Ohlendorf only pitched in 8.2 innings where he surrendered seven earned runs before being placed on the DL. He wouldn’t return until August. His final seven starts saw Ohlendorf pitch just 30 innings where he gave up 28 earned runs, only struck out 21 batters, walked 10, and gave up seven home runs.
After 2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates let Ohlendorf hit free agency, where he bounced around with a handful of teams. He spent the 2012 season with the San Diego Padres where he only pitched in 38.2 innings and gave up 42 earned runs with a 4.90 FIP. He actually served as a solid swing man for the Washington Nationals in 2013. In 60.1 innings, Ohlendorf had a 3.28 ERA and 4.08 FIP. Home runs were still an issue, but he did have a 3.1 K/BB ratio.
Ohlendorf didn’t appear in a MLB game in 2014, but reappeared in the Majors again in 2015. Although he had a 3.72 ERA through 19.2 innings of work, all coming out of the Texas Rangers’ bullpen, the right-hander had a 4.94 FIP, and 1.9 HR/9. Ohlendorf last appeared in the MLB in 2016 as a bullpen pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds where he had a 4.66 ERA, 5.58 FIP and 1.38 WHIP in 65.2 innings. Ohlendorf’s last professional actually wasn’t in the United States, but instead in Japan with the Yakult Swallows.
Although he was never great, Ohlendorf definitely had a few interesting moments, like his 1-11 record, and ending his professional career overseas.