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October 3, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) delivers a pitch against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Grading the Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Pitching Staff

I continue with my postseason grades for the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates and that leads me right to Clint Hurdle’s pitching staff.

Similar to yesterday when I graded the team’s overall performance with the bats, I’m just examining team numbers today. I will break own and grade each individual Pirate beginning next week.

September 8, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher James McDonald (53) pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

While this year’s pitching staff didn’t resemble the one of 2011 in terms of faces, the end results certainly did.

The Pirates ultimately stayed in the playoff race for most of the season because of this pitching staff. We saw A.J. Burnett and James McDonald turn in All-Star worthy performances in the first half, along with a bullpen that led the majors in ERA for most of the season.

Because of that, along with having some veterans such as Burnett and Erik Bedard gave away the feeling that there would be no way this staff would fall apart the way it did only one year prior.

General manager Neal Huntington even went out and added another arm in Wandy Rodriguez, who ended up pitching very well in a Pirates’ uniform, but despite adding another quality arm, it couldn’t prevent this staff from imploding.

Manager Clint Hurdle tinkered with his staff way too much the final two months, removing Kevin Correia  from the rotation, which backfired in a big way as Correia proved to be the Bucs most consistent pitcher the final two months of the season.

However despite having a talented enough staff to win, the Bucs starters couldn’t turn in enough quality outings to halt losing streaks.

Then there was the implosions from James McDonald and most of the Bucs’ bullpen arms which ultimately started the downward spiral.

With that being said, let’s take a looks at where the Pirates ranked in most statistical pitching categories.

ERA- 3.86 (8th in National League)

Hits- 1,357 (11th)

Runs- 674  (10th)

Earned Runs- 615 (10th)

Home Runs- 153 (9th)

Walks- 490 (9th)

Strike Outs- 1,192 (12th)

Batting Average Against- .249 (7th)

WHIP- 1.29 (8th)

OBP Allowed- .314 (8th)

OPS Allowed- .703 (6th)

Saves- 45 (5th)

Save Opportunities- 59 (11th)

The overall stats of the Pirates pitchers aren’t nearly as bad of the hitters, but they still aren’t good.

With all of the ups and downs during the season, this staff looks like nothing more than an average one on the stat sheet, but for the most part it was much better than that.

They still had a respectable 3.86 on the season as a team, which is a huge upgrade from the 4.04 ERA they posted in 2011 and the 5.00 ERA as a team in 2010. That marks the first time since 1998 that the Pirates have finished a season with an ERA under 4, which is saying something about how much better the pitching staff has gotten the past couple of seasons.

That alone should offer hope for the future.

But at the end of the day, this team did not win games when it had to and the pitching staff is a big part of that. However it wasn’t a bad season for the guys toeing the rubber as there were plenty of bright spots to look at.

Grade: C+

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Tags: Pittsburgh Pirates

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