Pittsburgh Pirates: All-Time Award Winning Team
By Noah Wright
Starting Pitcher – Rick Rhoden
This one probably isn’t what you’d guess. But right-hander Rick Rhoden has the most awards of any Pirates pitcher. Ironically, it isn’t his pitching prowess. Instead, it was for his hitting as he took home three Silver Slugger awards.
Now that’s not to say that Rhoden wasn’t a good pitcher for the Pirates. He was one of the Pirates’ primary starting pitchers from 1979 to 1986. Throughout 1448 innings, Rhoden pitched to the tune of a 3.51 ERA, 3.31 FIP, and 1.313 WHIP. Rhoden wasn’t a big strikeout or major command pitcher with just a 14.3% strikeout and 7.3% walk rate. Though his .56 HR/9 was still above average, even back then.
Rhoden also went to the all-star game in 1986 (his final season with the Pirates) while finishing 5th in Cy Young voting. That wasn’t even his best year as he posted better numbers three years prior in 1983. As a pitcher, Rhoden had a 24.1 fWAR.
But Rhoden won his awards for his bat. So was he deserving of those 3 Silver Sluggers? He won all three from 1984 through 1986. For a pitcher, he he had really good numbers. He batted .270/.288/.355 with a .286 wOBA, and 77 wRC+. Heck, in 2021, there were 63 batters with a lower wRC+ in at least 200 PA’s. He only struck out 11.1% of the time as well. This was over 271 plate appearances. Among pitchers with at least 100 trips to the plate across these 3 campaigns, Rhoden ranked 2nd in wRC+, OPS, and wOBA. Montreal Expos’ swingman Dan Schatzeder was a better hitter than Rhoden in those 3 stats but had 165 fewer plate appearances.
Batting average is the furthest thing from perfect. When you are looking at how good/bad a position player is batting, other stats like OBP, slugging, wOBA, and wRC+ are much more telling stats. But in any case, when your pitcher is batting .270, he’s not an automatic out every single time. Most of the time, you’d be lucky for your pitcher to crack .150.