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Early Look At Projected Pittsburgh Pirates Starting Rotation

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Pittsburgh Pirates Projected Starting Rotation

Pittsburgh Pirates Projected Starting Rotation
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitching staff carried them in 2013. Their starting rotation and bullpen were both ranked very highly among MLB pitching staffs. Led by Cy Young candidate Francisco Liriano, the Pirates’ rotation had a nice combination of ground ball pitchers and strikeout pitchers. Liriano had a bounce-back campaign, looking much like he did when he was young with the Minnesota Twins.

A.J. Burnett led all National League starting pitchers in K/9 and ground ball percentage. Unfortunately for the Pirates, Burnett is a free agent and is unsure if he wants to continue his career or retire. For this slideshow, we will assume Burnett won’t return. The Pirates didn’t only have great seasons from Liriano and Burnett, though. A great rookie season from Gerrit Cole provided a nice boost to the starting rotation in June after a few injuries forced the Pirates to promote their top prospect to the majors.

Charlie Morton returned from Tommy John Surgery and looked better than he had before his surgery. His fastball was faster and his curveball was nasty. Jeff Locke had an All-Star first half, but completely fell apart in the second half and was eventually bumped out of the rotation in September.

For a rotation that had a lot of question marks before the season started, everything seemed to fall into place for the Bucs by the time the season was finished. The Pirates are lucky everything worked out, especially since the rotation included the likes of James McDonald and Jonathan Sanchez early in the year. Next year’s rotation should be just as good, if not better, than the 2013 rotation.

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Francisco Liriano

Francisco Liriano
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Francisco Liriano is the obvious choice to be the Opening Day starter for the Pirates. He went 16-8 with the Bucs in 2013 with a 3.02 ERA. His 3.52 BB/9 was the lowest he has had since 2010, his most recent sub-4.00 ERA season. The key to Liriano’s success is limiting walks and getting ground balls.

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Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Gerrit Cole had a fantastic rookie season for the Pirates. In 19 starts, Cole went 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA and a 2.91 FIP. He had a tough time getting strikeouts in his first month, but by the time September came around, he was striking just as many batters out as the best pitchers in the game; he came up big in the postseason as well. He has the composure of a 15-year veteran.

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Wandy Rodriguez

Wandy Rodriguez
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Wandy Rodriguez is a huge question mark heading into the 2014 season, but in order to keep the lefty-righty-lefty combination going, I’m slotting him third, behind Cole and in front of Charlie Morton. If he is healthy, he will be a huge addition to the Pirates’ rotation next season. He only pitched 62.2 innings in 2013, going 6-4 with a 3.59 ERA and just 1.72 BB/9.

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Charlie Morton

Charlie Morton
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

If you like ground balls, Charlie Morton is your kind of pitcher. In 2013, 62.9 percent of all balls put in play against Morton were on the ground. “Ground Chuck” went 7-4 with a 3.26 ERA in 20 starts with the Pirates in 2013.

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Jeff Locke

Jeff Locke
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

I really hope the Pirates find a better option than Jeff Locke for next season, but for now, he seems like the favorite to win the fifth starter job. His overall numbers in 2013 look okay, but he was awful in the second half. Overall, he was 10-7 with a 3.52 ERA and 4.55 BB/9, but he almost doubled his ERA and BB/9 in the second half. His lack of command and lack of strikeouts are a terrible combination, and he won’t be a successful pitcher until he is able to limit his walks.