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Former Yankees Key in Pirates Success

One of the great stories of the 2011 baseball season is the Pittsburgh Pirates rise to the top of the NL Central division. The Pirates had been sort of a joke since their last playoff appearance in 1992, as they had not finished a season above .500 going into this season. One part of the joke Yankees fans enjoyed was that the Pirates employed various Yankees cast-offs.

This season, the Pirates are the ones laughing. Former Yankees have been key in the Pirates return to relevance in the NL Central.

July 26, 2008: New York Yankees traded Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, Jose Tabata, and Daniel McCutchen to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte.

Jeff Karstens has been nothing short of spectacular for the buccos this season. Karstens' ERA stands at 2.28, and his WHIP is a low 1.04. The former Yankee has pitched 6.2+ innings in each of his last nine starts. This season Karstens was named the NL player of the week for July 11-17, and won five consecutive decisions.

Ross Ohlendorf has not been able to help the Pirates this season due to a season ending shoulder injury. Still, Ohlendorf looks to have a promising future with the Pirates.

More after the jump

Jose Tabata has not become the top outfielder the Pirates thought they were getting when they acquired him in the Nady deal, but he has still been helpful. Tabata, who is currently on the DL, is hitting .265/.351/.354 with thirty nine runs scored and fourteen stolen bases.

Daniel McCutchen could be the most surprising member of the bunch. Originally a starter, McCutchen was switched to a reliever going into this season by the Pirates. Out of the pen this season McCutchen has appeared in forty two games, allowing only twelve runs in 49.1 innings pitched. McCutchen pitched fifteen shutout innings to start off the season.

Remember Jose Veras? The former Yankee reliever turned into a journeyman, and eventually landed with the Pirates. Veras joined McCutchen in the Pirates pen this season, and has shut down hitters. Opponents are hitting just .183 against Veras, and Veras has recorded a hold in nineteen games.

No one knows if these players would have been successful with the Yankees, but they certainly have helped the Pirates this season. I'm rooting for the players, and the Pirates overall, to go far this season.

For more about the Pirates visit the SB Nation Pirates site, Bucs Dugout.