Pittsburgh Pirates: Best & Worst Average Pitching Seasons in Franchise History

Pittsburgh Pirates
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The Best Average Seasons

There are 16 instances of a Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher having an ERA- between 99 and 101 in at least 150 innings. Of these 16 seasons, Tommie Sisk had the best average season among them. In 1967, Sisk had a 3.34 ERA, 3.27 FIP, and 1.32 WHIP. Now you're probably seeing that 3.34 ERA and thinking, how can that be average? Keep in mind that in 1967, the league average ERA was 3.30; on average, only 3.8 runs were scored per game. 

There have been very few 'average' seasons from a relief pitcher in the team's history. Seven have been just three times a Pirate reliever has pitched 50+ innings with an ERA- in the 99-101 range. Nevertheless, among those three, Roy Face in 1963 takes the cake. In 69.2 innings, Face owned a 3.23 ERA, 3.37 FIP, and 1.35 WHIP. But between these seven, Face had the best ERA and FIP and the second-best WHIP.

In terms of fWAR, there are 25 times a Pirate starter had a mark between 1.8 and 2.2. It was a close toss-up between 1989 John Smiley and 1971 Luke Walker. In '89, Smiley had a 2.81 ERA, 3.73 FIP, and 1.09 WHIP across 205.1 frames. But in 1971, Walker owned a 3.55 ERA, 3.14 FIP, and 1.32 WHIP. While Walker had the much better FIP, Smiley had the better ERA and WHIP by a fair margin. 

Since FanGraphs WAR is based on FIP (Fielding independent pitching, which is based on the three true outcomes), it's also worth using this as one of our examination tools. By far, Steve Blass1968 season was the best among Pirates' starters, with 150+ IP and a FIP- between 99 and 101. Blass pitched a total of 220.1 innings, working to a 2.12 ERA, 2.78 FIP, and 1.40 WHIP. This was a very pitching-dominant era in baseball as the average ERA and FIP was 2.98. After adjusting for other park factors, Blass FIP was average at 100 on the dot.

While there were very few average seasons per ERA for Pirate relievers, there were many more for FIP, 14 to be exact. Ron Kline's 1968 season is easily the best here. During this season, Kline worked to a 1.68 ERA, 2.76 FIP, and 1.11 WHIP across 112.2 innings. Kline's ERA was well above the average as he registered a 173 ERA+ and 57 ERA-, though as we talked about with Blass in the same year, that's only about average once you adjust for the rest of the league and park factors.