Top Performers: Great Pirates Debuts by Andy Oliver and Stolmy Pimentel
Below are the pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. Normally he top ten scores would be the only ones included, with the bottom five also listed below. Since this was a shortened week, all 16 starts are in the chart below. The top five starts are broken down below the chart. The rankings include every pitcher who made a start for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, with no limitations on whether the starting pitcher has prospect eligibility.
*Game Score is a stat created by Bill James used to determine how good a pitcher’s outing really was. The formula for game score is simple: Start with 50 points, add one point for every out recorded, add two for each inning completed after the fourth, add one point for each strikeout. Subtract two points for each hit, four points for each earned run, two points for each unearned run and one point for each walk. There tends to be an advantage for pitchers who can go longer in the game, as they have more time to pile up strikeouts, while getting bonus points for extra innings beyond the fourth frame.
Andy Oliver and Stolmy Pimentel were the top starters this week, each recording a game score of 71. Both players were acquired over the off-season in separate trades.
The Pirates added Oliver in a one-for-one swap with Detroit, sending catching prospect Ramon Cabrera the other way. Oliver was once one of the top 100 prospects in the game, but has struggled with his control at the top levels. That could be a result of being rushed through Detroit’s system. That seems to be a common problem with Detroit starting pitching prospects. Oliver had a great start for Indianapolis on opening night. The control problems did show up in his final inning, and he ended up with three walks in six innings, but he limited the hits and struck out a batter per inning.
Pimentel was added as part of the Joel Hanrahan trade to Boston. He looked great all Spring, and the key to his success could be his slider. Pimentel added the pitch last season, changing from a curveball. His strikeout numbers and ERA jumped in the second half, and he followed that up with some dominating performances this Spring in minor league camp. All of that could be due to getting comfortable with the slider, which is a pitch that looked great in camp. He started his season with six shutout innings, allowing just two hits and one walk. Pimentel has one option remaining, so he will need to make it to Indianapolis at some point this year, and ideally the majors by the end of the season. Despite his struggles in recent years at the Double-A level, he now looks to be in a place where he could make it as a starting pitcher.
Last year Jameson Taillon had an up and down season with Bradenton. His first seven starts were phenomenal. He struggled for two months after that. Then, in late July, he turned things around, putting up some strong starts to end his season. That included three starts with Altoona, where he lived up to the billing as one of the top pitching prospects in the game. Taillon picked up where he left off, throwing five shutout innings in his season debut. He allowed four hits and one walk, while striking out four.
The Pirates have had a lot of small lefties with good breaking stuff who have success in the lower levels but don’t make it past A-ball. Orlando Castro fits that description, as he’s a small lefty with a great curveball and a good changeup. Unlike a lot of the other lefties, Castro has hit the low-90s with his fastball, rather than consistently sitting in the mid-to-upper 80s. He’s beginning the 2013 season in the West Virginia rotation, and got off to a good start this week with six strikeouts and two earned runs in 6.1 innings.
Kris Johnson had a great off-season in the Dominican Winter League. The Pirates decided to stretch him out as a starter with Indianapolis, and view him as a guy who could help the major league club this year. The left-hander had a great start for Indianapolis in his season debut, throwing five shutout innings. I don’t think he’s going to jump past all of the other starting options in the system, but Johnson could definitely make it to the majors by the end of the year as a left-handed relief option.