By Jason Shetler
Perhaps the most important stat that is emphasized in baseball now more than ever is on base percentage. The ability to get guys on consistently has certainly become the model for teams to be more successful over the course of a season, as opposed to other clubs that may hit for more power, but don’t get on base much collectively. So which players in Pirates history have gotten on base the most position by position? – Here now is the Pirates all-time on base team.
Catcher – Jason Kendall: Arguably the greatest catcher in Pirates history is Jason Kendall. The three-time All-Star was quite the on base threat for a backstop. During his nine seasons in Pittsburgh from 1996 to 2004, Kendall put up a .387 OBP. His best on base season was a .428 mark in 1999.
First base – Elbie Fletcher: One name that certainly gets lost in the long and storied history of the Pirates is Elbie Fletcher. He played seven seasons while with the Bucs where he posted a .403 OBP. Fletcher’s ability to get on base was so impressive that he led the National League in that category for three consecutive years from 1940 to 1942.
Second base – George Grantham: Prior to 1925, the Pirates acquired George Grantham from the Chicago Cubs in a trade for Wilbur Cooper. Grantham had himself a .410 OBP during his seven years with the Pirates. His highest on base mark was in 1929 at .454.
Shortstop – Arky Vaughan: Although Honus Wagner is the greatest hitting shortstop in franchise history, it’s fellow Hall of Famer Arky Vaughan who actually has the best on base total among Pirates shortstops. Vaughan played ten seasons in Pittsburgh from 1932 to 1941 where he had an OBP of .415. In 1935, he almost posted a .500 OBP, finishing that season at .491.
Third base – Don Hoak: Prior to the 1959 season, the Pirates made one of their better trades of all-time by acquiring Don Hoak along with Harvey Haddix and Smoky Burgess from the Cincinnati Reds in a deal for Frank Thomas. Hoak spent just four seasons with the Pirates, but was an on base presence, posting a .364 OBP.
Left field – Brian Giles: Speaking of top trades in Pirates history, the Bucs acquired Brian Giles from the Cleveland Indians before the 1999 season in a swap for Ricardo Rincon. While most view Giles as someone who displayed plenty of power, he also was an on base machine, which helped him post an OPS over 1.000 three times. Giles’ best OBP total was a .450 clip in 2002.
Center field – Andrew McCutchen: From 2012 to 2014, Andrew McCutchen has been able to put himself in the NL MVP discussion, and the biggest reason is very high on base figures. In 2014, McCutchen posted a .410 OBP, which was tops in all of baseball. He put up an OBP of .404 during his MVP season in 2013.
Right field – Paul Waner: While Roberto Clemente is the best all-around right fielder in Pirates history, Paul Waner has the edge when it comes to on base percentage. The man known as “Big Poison” played 15 seasons in Pittsburgh from 1926 to 1940, compiling a .407 OBP. Waner’s highest on base total was at .446, which he did twice in 1928 and again in 1936. His induction into Cooperstown was in 1952 by the BBWAA.