Pittsburgh Pirates: Who Are The Franchise Four Pitchers?


One of the highlights during the 86th All-Star Game in Cincinnati was that the Franchise Four was announced for all 30 Major League Baseball teams. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, their fans selected Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell, and Honus Wagner.

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I am in agreement with the Pirates faithful on their selections of the Franchise Four. But, it does beg at least one question. Just who are the Franchise Four when it comes to pitching in Pittsburgh?

In the present, we can see what outstanding pitching can do for the crew of the Jolly Roger in the standings. Where would this team be if they did not have A.J. Burnett, Gerrit Cole, and Francisco Liriano in the starting rotation? How effective would the bullpen if it were minus Jared Hughes, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon?

Time to go into the library, dust off the books, and look at some of the arms who could qualify as the Pirates Franchise Four in pitching. I have two starters and two relievers that I would like to nominate.

Honorable Mention: Sam Leever is tied with Charles “Babe” Adams for second-place on the Pirates all-time wins list with 194 apiece. From 1898-1910, the “Goshen Schoolmaster” went 194-100 with a 2.47 career ERA and a 1.141 WHIP. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound righthander recorded 847 strikeouts and issued 587 walks over 13 seasons. He is rated fourth on the team in career pitching WAR with a mark of 41.8.

4) That leaves us with Adams in the No. 4 slot. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound right-handed pitcher put up a 194-139 record over 18 years from 1907-1926. The Tipton, Indiana native registered 1,036 strikeouts and 428 walks in his time with the crew of the Jolly Roger. Adams owns the No. 1 spot on the team in career pitching WAR at 49.9. He finished 27th in the National League Most Valuable Player voting in 1911 and 22nd in 1913. He began his career in 1906 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

3) My choice at No. 3 is a familiar face if you watch the Pirates Post-Game show on ROOT Sports. Kent Tekulve played 12 seasons in Pittsburgh before wrapping up his career with the Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds. The 6-foot-4, 180-pound right-handed closer assembled a record of 70-61 with 158 saves. He is second all-time on the career saves list of the Pirates.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Pittsburgh Pirates /

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Cincinnati native struck out 552 and walked 367 during his time in the Steel City. The man known as Teke had a 2.68 ERA and a 1.245 WHIP to go along with all his “Stargell Stars” on his cap. He finished fifth in the N.L. Cy Young Award voting in 1978 and 1979.

2) Elroy Face comes in at No. 2 on our countdown. Starting in 1953 and continuing from 1955 to 1968, Face spent 15 seasons in a Pirates uniform before concluding his career with the Detroit Tigers and Montreal Expos. The Stephentown, New York native struck out 842 and walked 346. The 5-foot-8, 155-pound righty put together a 3.46 ERA to go along with a 1.239 WHIP.

His 186 saves places him at first on the all-time career saves list in the ‘Burgh. Face contributed three saves in the 1960 World Series victory over the New York Yankees. Both Face and Tekulve have similar numbers when it comes to career pitching WAR at 20.6 and 19.8 respectively.

1) I have to give the nod to left-hander Wilber Cooper for No. 1 in our survey. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound southpaw is tied with Bob Friend for second on the team in career pitching WAR at 47.9. From 1912-1924, Cooper totaled 202 wins against 159 losses. The Bearsville, West Virginia native is first on the Pirates list for career victories. He compiled a 2.74 ERA and a 1.199 WHIP. Cooper struck out 1,191 and walked 762 over his 13 seasons.

Just as you would want Clemente, Stargell, Wagner, and Mazeroski in the field for the Pirates, I think you would want one of these four pitchers on the mound to take care of business. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Next: Pirates: Is No. 1 Possible In MLB Power Rankings?

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