When the Pittsburgh Pirates were playing well last in 2012, it was no secret that James McDonald was a huge part of their success. In the second half of the season, when the Pirates entered their second “collapse” in two years, McDonald also entered a collapse of his own. It was a collapse that basically sent him from ace to bullpen.
The entire Pirates rotation is built with players that have questions surrounding them. A.J. Burnett is 36 this season, will he be able to pitch as well as he did in 2012? Jonathan Sanchez was a very good pitcher a few seasons ago, but in recent years, he has had trouble finding the strike zone. When will Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton and Francisco Liriano be able to join the rotation? Is Jeff Locke finally going to prove that he can be a serviceable fifth starter? The only starting pitcher for the Pirates that I can’t find any legitimate questions or concerns about is Wandy Rodriguez.
McDonald’s first half stats from 2012 (when the Pirates were winning): 9-3, 2.37 ERA, 100 K/31 BB
McDonald’s second half stats from 2012 (when the Pirates were losing): 3-5, 7.52 ERA, 51 K/38 BB
McDonald was so bad in the second half of the 2012 season that Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was forced to demote him to the bullpen. McDonald didn’t do very well in the bullpen, he only faced four batters and didn’t record an out. He was eventually just shut down for the season.
These are all reasons that I was extremely puzzled and disappointed when the Pirates management basically guaranteed McDonald a rotation spot heading into Spring Training in 2013. They pretty much penciled him in as the third starter. To me, the guy with the most question marks in your rotation shouldn’t be guaranteed anything.