While the Pittsburgh Pirates didn't have any success to show for a brutal period between 2000-2009, they did showcase several standout players who notched numerous individual seasons worthy of praise.
For this piece, the lineup will be composed by the best season had by a Pirate at each of the nine positions on the diamond. While none of these guys played on anything close to a playoff squad, they might have been formidable had they played at their peaks with each other.
1. CF Nate McLouth (2008) 113 Runs, 46 Doubles, 26 Home Runs, 94 RBI, 23 SB, .853 OPS
McLouth broke onto the scene in 2008 after playing a part-time role for the first few seasons of his career. Although he would be traded to Atlanta in the middle of the 2009 season, McLouth would earn his only career All-Star berth as well as a Gold Glove. Mclouth fueled a powerful Pirates offense that featured Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Doumit. While the Pirates did pack punch at the plate, they had one of the worst pitching staff's in the NL.
2. C Jason Kendall (2000) 112 Runs, 33 Doubles, 14 Home Runs, 58 RBI, 22 SB, .320 Average, .882 OPS
Kendall's 2000 season wasn't just the best season by a Pirates catcher over this time frame, but one of the greatest of all-time. The man who caught the most games in Pirates history would then earn a contract that paid the majority of the $83 million-plus he earned in the big leagues, a contract that eventually led to Kendall being traded to Oakland.
3. LF Brian Giles (2002) 95 Runs, 37 Doubles, 38 Home Runs, 103 RBI, 15 SB, 1.072 OPS
One of the finest season's in Pirates' history, Giles was second to Barry Bonds in OPS during the 2002 campaign. He would then be traded the following season to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Jason Bay, Oliver Perez and Corey Stewart.
4. 3B Aramis Ramirez (2001) 83 Runs, 40 Doubles, 34 Home Runs, 112 RBI, .300 Average, .885 OPS
Ramirez was rushed through the minor leagues early in his career, and his first few seasons left much to be desired. In 2001, he silenced all of the critics by hitting 34 homers and by knocking in 112 runs. Ramirez would get injured the following season in a bench clearing brawl with Ben Sheets and the Milwaukee Brewers, but would rebound to post a productive half-season in 2003 before being dumped by the Pirates to the Chicago Cubs in one of the worst trades in franchise history.
5. 1B Adam LaRoche (2008) 66 Runs, 32 Doubles, 25 Home Runs, 85 RBI, .841 OPS
Acquired in a trade that would define General Manager Dave Littlefield's career, LaRoche never quite produced at the level Pirates fans were hoping for. The lanky first baseman would start seasons off ice cold, only to show up in mid-May. However, his summer surge in 2008 more than made up for his early season swoon. LaRoche would produce his most productive season, and the most productive season by a Pirates first baseman in the decade, in 2008.
6. RF Reggie Sanders (2003) 74 Runs, 27 Doubles, 31 Home Runs, 87 RBI, 15 SB, .913 OPS
Signed later in the offseason along with Kenny Lofton, Sanders was supposed to help the Pirates core of Brian Giles, Aramis Ramirez and Jason Kendall make a run at October. While the team never quite materialized before being dismantled, Sanders produced one of his best seasons in the majors. He wouldn't suit up in another season with the team, but many will remember his 2003 campaign fondly on the North Shore.
7 2B Freddy Sanchez (2007) 77 Runs, 42 Doubles, 11 Home Runs, 81 RBI, .304 Average
Coming off of a NL batting championship, Sanchez made the transition to second base for the 2007 season. He saw an increase in power from the previous year while maintaining an average over .300 and making his second consecutive All-Star game.
8 SS Jack Wilson (2004) 82 Runs, 41 Doubles, 12 Triples, 11 Home Runs, 59 RBI, .308 Average
Wilson manned shortstop for the Pirates all but one of the seasons that spanned the decade, and he saw his most productive year in 2004. An NL All-Star, Wilson led the league in triples and had an average over .300 for the only time in his career.
9 P Oliver Perez (2004) 12-10, 2.98 ERA, 196 Innings, 239 Strikeouts, 1.15 WHIP, 11.0 K/9
Although Perez never returned anywhere near his 2004 form in the years to come, the 11.0 K/9 rate is absurd, and the sub-3 ERA doesn't hurt either. This is the best statistical season by a Pirates pitcher in the decade, and it isn't even close.Tags: Adam LaRoche, Aramis Ramirez, Baseball, Brian Giles, Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Jason Kendall, MLB, Nate McLouth, Oliver Perez, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Pirates, Reggie Sanders