Ranking the Pittsburgh Pirates' five World Series winning teams

The Pirates have won five World Series in their long history, but which is the best among the five?

Philadelphia Phillies v Pittsburgh Pirates
Philadelphia Phillies v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages
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Roberto Clemente
Roberto Clemente Posing / Transcendental Graphics/GettyImages

Number One
1971

Unlike the 1960 team, this was a squad with star talent all the way around. Willie Stargell was in his prime, Roberto Clemente was still one of baseball’s best outfielders, even as he was approaching his late 30s, and Manny Sanguillen was also one of the top players at his position. Plus they got major contributions from Al Oliver and Richie Hebner.

The 1960 team didn’t have a regular who exceeded a wRC+ of 130. Four Pirates players did that in ‘71. Stargell was by far the best, as he hit .295/.398/.628 with 48 home runs. Stargell had a 186 wRC+ and a +8.2 fWAR. Even though he wasn’t known for his defensive prowess, he was actually above average this season with +3 TZR in left field. He truly deserved the MVP award this year, but Joe Torre of the St. Louis Cardinals stole it.

Besides Stargell, Clemente, despite being 36, had a 148 wRC+, .388 wOBA, and .871 OPS, all of which ranked top 15 in the league in what ended up tragically being his next to last season. Bob Robertson also had a 140 wRC+ in 536 plate appearances. Sanguillen (117), Hebner (131), and Oliver (116), each were at least 16% better than league average in the eyes of wRC+. Gene Alley was the only batter who was significantly below average with a 77 wRC+.

While hitting was the major carrying point of this team, the Pirates still had four starters with 90+ IP and an ERA+ of 100 or greater. Steve Blass ended up having the best year, with a 2.85 ERA, 3.06 FIP, and 1.23 WHIP in 33 starts/240 IP. But Dock Ellis made his one and only all-star game in ‘71, and finished out the year with a 3.06 ERA, 2.96 FIP, and 1.19 WHIP. Bob Johnson (100 ERA+/174.2 IP) and then-rookie Bruce Kinson (102 ERA+/95.1 IP) were also productive members of the staff.

Dave Giusti was the team’s closer, and he saved 30 games en route to a 2.93 ERA, 3.04 FIP, and 1.28 WHIP. He had support from swingman Nelson Briles (3.04 ERA/3.32 FIP in 37 games/14 starts), Mudcat Grant, and Jim Nelson.