Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

The Necessity of Rookie Pitcher Contributions

It is no secret that the Pittsburgh Pirates are a low revenue MLB team. Even with significant gains in attendance at PNC Park coupled with three straight years of increases in the price of tickets, the Pirates still rank in the bottom third of the league in revenues. Lower revenue clubs like the Pirates try to save on payroll by using younger inexperienced players that make league minimum salaries. Often that means relying on rookies to plug holes in the back of the rotation and in the bullpen. The Pirates evolution as a contender has coincided with positive contributions from their rookie pitchers. The Pirates have gotten positive WAR production from rookie hurlers in each of the last 3 seasons. That followed 5 straight seasons from 2007-2011 in which the team got negative WAR value from rookie pitchers.


Year fWAR from Rookie Pirates Pitchers
2014 0.9
2013 2.6
2012 0.6
2011 -0.6
2010 -1.6
2009 -0.4
2008 -1.4
2007 -2.7


In recent seasons The Pirates have gotten valuable rookie contributions in the rotation from Gerrit Cole (2.3 fWAR in 2013) and Brandon Cumpton (1.6 fWAR 2013 and 2014 combined). Justin Wilson (0.4 fWAR in 2013), Tony Watson (0.4 fWAR in 2012), and John Holdzkom (0.2 fWAR in 2014) were solid contributors to the bullpen during their rookie seasons. If the Pirates are going to make the playoffs again this season they will likely need some of their rookie arms to contribute this year too. In recent history teams that have made the playoffs have needed help from rookie pitchers to get there. Of the 46 teams that have qualified for the playoffs in the last 5 seasons only the 2014 Dodgers, 2014 Athletics, and the 2012 Nationals have done so with 0 or negative WAR production. The average playoff team since 2010 has needed 2.24 fWAR from their rookie pitchers. The playoff team with the most productive rookie hurlers was the 2012 Oakland A’s with a whopping 11.6 fWAR. The 2015 Pirates should not need anywhere close to that much help from their rookies. But more than likely at some point this season Jameson Taillon or Nick Kingham will be called to Pittsburgh to make their MLB debuts. How they fare could go a long way to deciding the NL Central Division race.

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