With the major league season a little more than halfway over and the midsummer classic behind, the Pittsburgh Pirates have statistically the best pitching staff in the majors. Trust me, I can’t believe I just typed that myself. The Bucs have posted a major’s best 3.07 ERA and opposing hitters are batting just .225. I hope you’re sitting down, the Pirates have a league best 13 shutouts this season!
Earlier this season, the Bucs trotted out the next “savior” to the franchise’s pitching staff. Gerrit Cole came on strong, and despite signs of inconsistencies, the youngster has given a very opportunistic sign of what is to come. Hopefully Cole will prove to be a true savior and not a bust as the city of Pittsburgh has grown accustom to seeing. That’s why I’ve assembled a list of pitchers that made appearances in the Steel City in the last 20 years that made little to no impact despite immense promise and being the center of several bobble-head giveaways.
In the grand scheme of things, Benson wasn’t all that bad. But as a No. 1 overall pick, expectations called for a much better career.
After being drafted No. 1 in 1996, Benson had a career year in 2000 posting a career-best in ERA and set the club record for strikeouts by a right-hander. But after the 2000 campaign, every pitcher’s buddy Tommy John came a calling and Benson sat out the 2001 season. That basically brought his Bucs’ career to a halt, but don’t think I forgot about the lovely Anna Benson. The former Maxim cover girl claimed the couple once had sex in the Three Rivers Stadium parking lot and hoped to accomplish the feat in every major league ball park. As far as I’m concerned, you’re an All-Star in my book, Kris.
Zack Duke BURST onto the scene in 2005, finishing the season with an 8-2 record with an 1.81 ERA, the opposition batted just .253 against him. From there, he retired from being a major league pitcher and opted to be a professional batting practice pitcher, or at least statistically that’s how it appeared.
In 2006, Duke fell apart, dropping to 10-15 with a 4.47 ERA and opponents batted .302. He gave up 255 hits, most in the majors! Dukes Bucco career ended in 2010 after going 8-15 and his ERA topped out at 5.72.
Last week Duke was released by the Nationals and I think it’s safe to say no major league squad will be knocking at his door any time soon.
John Van Benschoten
What do you do with a player who led Division I batters with a league-best 31 home runs? Well, in Pittsburgh, you draft him eighth overall and turn him into a pitcher!
Van Benschoten made his major league debut in 2004 going 1-3 with a 6.91 ERA. He did hit his first career home run during that rookie campaign. Van Benschoten’s career ERA topped out at 6.90 and his last professional appearance came in 2011 in the San Diego Padres’ farm system.
For those of you lucky enough to suffer through the struggles of Pittsburgh baseball over the last 20 years, you’ll probably agree with me when I say that dealing Rajai Davis for Matt Morris and his $13.5 salary was GM Dave Littlefield’s “F you Pittsburgh, I’m out!” deadline deal. Nobody, I emphasize NOBODY wanted to deal for Morris and his monster contract, which coincidentally made him the highest paid player in franchise history. Morris finished out the 2007 season 3-4 with a 6.10 ERA and went 0-4 with a 9.67 ERA before being released by the Pirates and never again seen in a major league uniform.
Bullington was the first overall pick in the 2002 amateur draft, so before I go any further, I’ll rattle off a few other first round picks and please, try to hold your groans for the end. B.J. Upton, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder and Cole Hamels. Bullington was clearly signed because then GM Dave Littlefield knew that he would sign. Just another sign of the pathetic front-office and ownership present over the last two decades.
Bullington made his MLB debut on September of 2005 in a relief appearance and wouldn’t play in the majors again that season. His two-year professional career with the Pirates, which featured more arm surgeries than wins, went something like this: 0-3, 5.89 ERA in six games.
I’ll be honest here, the main reason I wanted to throw Jimmy Anderson on this list was so that I could make a crack about his inflated weight and ERA. Baseball-Reference had him listed at 6-1, 195 pounds, so that basically ruined any fun we can have with that.
Anderson, a 9th round pick in 1994, went 24-42 in the black and gold and posted a 5.17 ERA. The only thing I really remember about Anderson was when clubhouse divas Brian Giles and Kevin Young were irate when management cut several veteran pitchers and gave him the fifth spot in the rotation.
Moskos was the fourth overall pick in the 2007 draft, another signability player. Moskos was taken one pick before a potential franchise catcher in Matt Wieters. Moskos made his major league debut in 2011 replacing injured reliever Evan Meek, very suiting because his tenure in Pittsburgh was meek at best.
Moskos made 31 appearances in his Pirates career and posted a 2.96 ERA. He was released despite management’s desire to find another left hander for the bullpen.
Who were some of your favorite (or not so favorite) Pirates pitchers over the last 20 years. Holla at us in the comments. Also, if you missed Part 1 where I talked about the worst Pirates hitters over the last 20 years you can check it out here.
Don’t forget to follow Brian at @BoomerGraham
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