Major League Team
I will preface this by saying that Cherington’s focus was likely more on the development of players throughout the minor leagues and certain ones at the major leagues, though the performance of the major league team probably wasn’t at the forefront of his focus. That is something I will take into consideration when giving his final grade.
The Pirates finished with the 4th worst record in all of baseball, coming in with an abysmal 61-101 record. The likes of Kevin Newman, Gregory Polanco, Chad Kuhl, and Wil Crowe were all in starting roles. Both Colin Moran and Ke’Bryan Hayes missed a good chunk of the season because of hand injuries, likely contributing to their underperformance this year. Many starting pitchers failed to go deep into games and the bullpen was overtaxed multiple times this year.
I could sit here all day and point out the negatives about the major league roster, but there were a few positives. For one, Bryan Reynolds bounced back in a big way. He ended the season with .385 wOBA, 142 wRC+, and tied with Aaron Judge and Brandon Crawford for the 9th best fWAR at 5.5. David Bednar became a high-quality reliever, posting a 2.23 ERA, 2.69 FIP, and .973 WHIP in 60.2 innings of work. He was one of 25 qualified relievers with a WHIP below 1. Ben Gamel proved to be a solid waiver claim, and Tyler Anderson provided the Pirates 5 solid innings every 5th day up until his trade. During the home stretch of the campaign, the Pirates picked up Yoshi Tsutsugo, which turned out to be an outstanding depth pick-up. Even Anthony Alford and Cole Tucker. Plus we got a glimmer of the future with both Roansy Contreras and Oneil Cruz making their debuts in the final week of the season.
Still, 101 losses speak for themselves. Depending on who you ask, this could be a good thing as it gives the Pirates another very high draft slot or a bad thing as it felt the season was on a continuous downward spiral. Even if the team has improvement on the horizon and started to show some glimmers of hope at the end of the season, overall it was a poorly put-together major league 26-man roster.
If you want a slightly more positive outlook on the Pittsburgh Pirates final record, they finished the second half (27-45) with a very similar record to both the New York Mets (29-45), San Diego Padres (26-43), and an identical record to division rival the Chicago Cubs.
Sure, the major league team may not have been the primary focus for Cherington, but the final results, even for a rebuilding team, were poor.
Overall And Final Thoughts
Ben Cherington had quite an active year between October 2020 and October 2021. He traded a handful of players, had a very impressive draft, an active trade deadline, and saw many of his organization’s best prospects take steps forward.
There’s still work to be done, and there have been some rough patches. But overall, Cherington has provided the Pittsburgh Pirates with a positive outlook on the future. He’s vastly improved the farm system through trades and drafting. What happens next remains to be seen, but I’m looking forward to it based on what he’s done so far.