Pirates' rotation is a value menu
Not only has the Pirates' rotation been one of the best in baseball — it has produced the fourth-best ERA among starters (3.45), entering Saturday — but the staff also has been among the best values.
The Pirates are paying their five pitchers with the most games started this season — A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, Jeff Locke and Jeanmar Gomez — $20.5 million, fewer dollars than any of the three starting staffs in baseball with lower ERAs. Among the staffs with the top-10 ERAs in baseball, the Pirates trail only the Rangers ($14.4 million) and Braves ($19.1 million) in fewest dollars spent on their five most commonly used starters.
The Yankees and Astros are paying $13.5 of the $30 million owed to Burnett and Rodriguez. Locke and Gomez are making near the league minimum.
Francisco Liriano, who has replaced the injured McDonald in the rotation, has looked like a free-agent bargain, posting a career-best strikeout rate and a lowered walk rate, all while pitching on a incentive-laden deal that guaranteed him $1 million in 2013. Liriano can make up to $11.75 million during the deal with his option and incentives.
Pirates GM Neal Huntington is pleased with the production and value.
“It's been very good to date. We still have long ways to go,” Huntington said. “We've done some good things to get where we are. A.J. has pitched so well. Wandy has been solid and steady. Jeff Locke and Gomez have been very good, and Liriano has stepped in and given us quality starts.”
And there's reason to believe the Pirates' starting staff should continue to be productive. It ranks sixth in the NL in strikeouts (272) and sixth in WHIP (1.23).
The Pirates are paying their staff less than or roughly equal to what the Phillies are paying individual starters Cliff Lee ($25 million), Cole Hamels ($20.5 million) and Roy Halladay ($20 million) this season.
The Pirates are paying their starters less than what the Cardinals are paying injured pitchers Chris Carpenter and Jake Westbrook ($21.5 million combined).
The small-market Pirates must develop their own pitching or find bargains via trade and free agency, as the cost for above-average pitching has skyrocketed.
“(An average) major league producer costs you between $7 million to $11 million,” Huntington said. “Elite production costs you $20-25 (million). ... We have to be fairly efficient with our dollars.”
Huntington said improving depth in the system has allowed the club to be more selective when signing free agents.
“When we have the opportunity to pick and choose, we become a lot more efficient,” Huntington said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates bolster bullpen by trading for former closer Soria
- Pirates’ Burnett endures another poor start in blowout loss to Reds
- Pirates notebook: Blanton introduced; Worley designated for assignment
- Gameday: Pirates at Reds, July 31, 2015
- Pirates acquire pitcher Blanton from Royals for cash
- Pirates notebook: Melancon bails out Watson with extended outing
- Gameday: Pirates at Reds, July 30, 2015
- Nationals pound Burnett, Pirates
- Pirates third baseman Ramirez’s last ride is about winning a ring