By Jason Shetler
Now that the regular season has come to an end, here are the Top 10 Pirates of 2015.
10. J.A. Happ: It says a lot whenever a trade deadline acquisition can crack the Top 10, but that’s how much J.A. Happ made an impact with the Pirates. While in a Bucs uniform, Happ posted a 1.85 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP and a 9.8 K/9 in 11 starts.
9. Tony Watson: 2015 marked yet another stellar season from Tony Watson. The 30-year-old lefty made 77 appearances where he posted a 1.91 ERA along with a 0.96 WHIP. Watson was very difficult to hit, as he put up a 6.6 H/9.
8. A.J. Burnett: This year marks A.J. Burnett’s final season, and he certainly did not disappoint. Despite being on the DL for a month with elbow inflammation, Burnett had a 3.18 ERA with a 121 ERA+ and a 2.8 WAR in 26 starts while being named an All-Star for the first time.
7. Mark Melancon: Although Mark Melancon had a rough month of April, he still wound up being one of the best closers in baseball in 2015. Melancon pitched in 78 games this season, posting a 2.23 ERA with a WHIP of 0.93 and was the Major League saves leader with 51.
6. Francisco Cervelli: One of the biggest questions heading into this season was how the Pirates would be able to replace Russell Martin. Francisco Cervelli answered that question in a big way. The 29-year-old backstop hit .295 including a .742 OPS and a 3.9 WAR in 130 games. Cervelli’s .370 on base percentage was second among NL catchers behind only Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants.
5. Francisco Liriano: Francisco Liriano continues to be one of the better southpaw starters in baseball, and this season was no different for him. He made 31 starts for the Bucs where he posted a 3.38 ERA with a K/9 of 9.9 and a 3.6 WAR. Liriano joined Bob Veale and Oliver Perez as the only left-handed pitchers in Pirates history to strikeout 200 batters in a season.
4. Jung-Ho Kang: After a subpar Spring Training showing in which some fans wanted him to begin 2015 in AAA, Jung-Ho Kang put together a fantastic rookie campaign for the Pirates. In 126 games played, he batted .287 along with an .816 OPS and a 123 OPS+. Kang’s 4.0 WAR is the best mark of any Pirates rookie since the Expansion Era in 1961.
3. Starling Marte: You could make a valid argument that Starling Marte is now the best all-around left fielder in baseball. The 26-year-old compiled a .287 average with a .781 OPS in 153 games played. He had 30 stolen bases becoming the first Pirate to steal at least 30 in back-to-back seasons since Tony Womack in 1997 and 1998. Marte’s defense helped preserve the Pirates plenty of wins with his 16 outfield assists, and there’s no doubt he should be the 2015 NL Gold Glove winner for left field.
2. Gerrit Cole: Prior to the 2015 season, Gerrit Cole was considered by many to be the Pirates breakout player. To suggest that he had a breakout season is quite the understatement. Cole put up an outstanding 2.60 ERA with a 148 ERA+ and a 5.5 WAR in 32 starts. His 19 wins are the most by a Pirates pitcher since John Smiley in 1991.
1. Andrew McCutchen: The Pirates top player for 2015 is once again Andrew McCutchen. Even with a slow start in April, McCutchen still put up phenomenal numbers this season. The five-time All-Star hit .292 with an OPS of .889, a 144 OPS+ and a 5.7 WAR in 157 games.