Left Field – 1980 Mike Easler
Left field is where some of the best offensive seasons in Pirates history have been recorded at. From Ralph Kiner to Willie Stargell to Barry Bonds, Jason Bay, Starling Marte, and today with Bryan Reynolds (at least in 2019), there’s been no shortage of talent in left field for the Pirates. It was hard to pinpoint a certain one-year-wonder, but if you had to pick a player with one season-defining career, it would be Mike Easler.
In 1980, Easler batted .338/.396/.583 with 21 dingers in just 445 plate appearances. Easler had a 167 wRC+, the third-best mark in Major League Baseball in 1980. Only Hall of Famers George Brett, Mike Schmidt, and Reggie Jackson were better hitters in 1980 than Easler. He wasn’t a terrible defender, but -2 total zone runs are nothing to brag about.
This breakout for Easler was utterly unprecedented. From 1973 through 1979, Easler only appeared in 112 games, and 55 of those came in 1979. He had just a 76 wRC+ in that small sample size and -.4 fWAR. Easler essentially went from an unknown Quad-A player to a top 3 hitter in baseball in just one year.
As stated earlier, it’s hard to call Easler a one-year-wonder, but he is probably the closest thing to one among the Pittsburgh Pirates left field seasons. He had some decent seasons after 1980. Heck, he had a 142 wRC+ in 1984 with the Boston Red Sox. However, none of those seasons even come close to his 1980 campaign. From 1981 through the last year of his career in 1987, Easler batted .290/.345/.443 with a .348 wOBA and 115 wRC+.