MLB Year in Review: Pittsburgh Pirates

How a 30-year story continues to stay the same.



PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, shines bright under the Pennsylvania sun.

Matty Hauth, Copy Editor

The Pittsburgh Pirates used to be a highly-revered franchise, dominating 1970s baseball. With the likes of seven-time All-Star and Hall of Famer Willie Stargell leading the team, it was safe to say the Pirates were a team many did not want to face.

Unfortunately for Pirates fans, there has been little to cheer about ever since.

From the 1980 season until the conclusion of 2021, the Pirates had posted a winning record 11 times. That’s slightly better than one out of every four seasons.

This continued lack of success is due primarily to a lack of beneficial trades or signings, a trend which continued into the 2020s.

Entering their 2022 season, the Pirates had yet another quiet free agency period, targeting veteran players who appeared past their prime. The Pirates did make one significant trade however, sending catcher Jacob Stallings to the Miami Marlins for right-handed pitchers Zach Thompson and Kyle Nicolas, as well as outfielder Connor Scott.

Stallings spent his 2021 season building quite a resumé, hitting 8 home runs and tallying 53 runs batted in (RBI). Not only this – Stallings slowly put together an impressive defensive season, earning Major League Baseball’s Gold Glove award for catchers, which is awarded to the best defensive player across each position within both the American and National leagues.

From this trade, it was clear the Pirates intended on using 2022 to rebuild their squad and focus on the years to come.

Based on ESPN’s preseason rankings, the Pirates were anticipated to win 66 games, while losing 96. This 66-96 record was good enough for the 29th-most competitive team entering the season, only one spot ahead of the Baltimore Orioles (who’ve played pretty well, so far).

This projection was definitely optimistic, to say the least.

Entering the month of August, the Pirates were playing to a 40-62 record, which put them on a roughly 64-win pace, which kept up with their preseason projection.

These hopes died, however, after going 9-19 in August, bumping their pace down to 61 wins and 101 losses.

Following a trade deadline which saw veteran pitchers Jose Quintana and Chris Stratton traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pirates completed a semi-successful sale, though held onto key trade chip Bryan Reynolds for the second consecutive year.

According to’s rankings of all 30 MLB farm systems prior to the season, the Pirates had the seventh-strongest minor league system. Following the deadline, this number did not change.

The Pirates have not been known contenders since the 2015 season, and it’s unlikely that next season will see any difference. It is reassuring for fans that the team’s top prospects address key infield and pitching needs, and three of their top-5 are due up in the 2023 season.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have quietly built up a strong minor league system that shows promise comparable to the White Sox: silent, but deadly. While the impact has yet to be seen, it’s unlikely that the Pirates will continue to under-perform across the coming few years.