The Pirates' starting rotation, touted as perhaps the National League's finest entering 2019, has instead been a train wreck. The long-term health of 2018 ace Jameson Taillon is yet again in doubt. Big-ticket trade deadline acquisition Chris Archer is serving up more taters than Potato Patch at Kennywood. Trevor Williams and Joe Musgrove have been adequate, if somewhat underwhelming. The just-traded Jordan Lyles, after a dominant April, was rocked. Add it up, and you have a starting corps that has the worst park-and-league-adjusted ERA (20 percent worse than the MLB average) among NL teams.
That's the fifth-worst starting pitching performance in franchise history, besting only the rotations from 2010 (35 percent worse than average), 2008 (26 percent), 2001 (21 percent) and 1952 (21 percent).
Amid all the doom, gloom and crooked numbers, Dario Agrazal has shined.
A modestly rated Panamanian prospect, Agrazal has made six starts in his rookie year, and boasts an adjusted ERA that is 36 percent better than the league average. Agrazal has the fifth-best adjusted ERA among all rookie starters who have logged at least 30 innings pitched, and the sixth-best mark for a Pirates rookie starter meeting that criteria during the Expansion Era (1961-present). Only Zach Duke (193 percent above average in 2005), Paul Maholm (94 percent in 2005), Brandon Cumpton (75 percent in 2013), Tim Wakefield (62 percent in 1992) and Randy Tomlin (42 percent in 1990) kept runs off the board at a better clip.
Of course, that list of Pirates rookie starters demonstrates that tearing up the league early on isn't necessarily an indicator of long-term dominance. And with Agrazal, 24, there are some warning signs that his charmed season may hit choppy waters. The fundamental question with Agrazal is, can his superb command make up for his inability to make batters whiff?