Who is the best pitcher in Pirates history: Wilbur Cooper or Babe Adams?


When you think of the best pitchers in Pittsburgh Pirates history you have to travel back to the early 20th century to find Wilbur Cooper (pictured left) and Babe Adams (pictured right). The two spent twelve seasons together in Pittsburgh, but which of the two was better? Let’s find out. Wilbur Cooper is the Pirates all-time leader in wins with 216 with Babe Adams second on the list with 194. However Adams has the better winning % which is .583 compared to Cooper’s .560 winning %. Cooper had a 2.89 ERA for the Pirates while Adams had a 2.76 ERA. Cooper’s WHIP was 1.23 with Adams’ WHIP at 1.09. In fact, there were five seasons in which Adams had the lowest WHIP in the National League something Cooper never did once. Cooper had an 8.8 H/9 with Adams’ H/9 at 8.5. Cooper’s 2.2 BB/9 was higher than Adams’ 1.3 BB/9. Cooper did have the slightly better K/9 at 3.2 with Adams’ K/9 at 3.1. Let’s see how the two measure up from a sabermetric standpoint using Wins Above Replacement. Cooper averaged a 3.3 WAR while Adams averaged a 2.5 WAR during their time with the Pirates. So in conclusion, advanced metrics suggest that Wilbur Cooper was the more valuable pitcher, but looking at most of the other numbers it’s clear that Babe Adams was the better pitcher and as a result the best pitcher in Pirates history. Whether you agree or disagree, I hope you guys enjoyed that little debate.


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