Each week we run our “Top Performers” series, looking at the best pitchers and hitters from the previous week. This year we will also be recapping each month in order to award the Pitcher and Player of the month. Below are the average pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the month of May. The rankings include every pitcher who made at least four starts for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, with no limitations on whether the starting pitcher has prospect eligibility. The Game Score listed is the average of all of their Game Scores for the month.
*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.
Pitcher of the Month
The Pirates have a lot of top pitching prospects in their system, and most of those pitching prospects have been putting up good numbers this year. However, in the month of June, Kris Johnson out-performed all of those guys. Johnson isn’t considered a prospect. Technically he has prospect eligibility since he has never pitched in the majors. However, he’s 28 years old and has been in Triple-A since 2009. That said, he has emerged as a good major league depth option in the last year, and could make an appearance in the majors at some point this season.
In the month of June, Johnson had an impressive 1.64 ERA in 33 innings of work, with a 21:7 K/BB ratio. He made four starts, and averaged a 60.25 game score in those starts. He went at least six innings in every start, stepping up for the Indianapolis rotation after they saw Gerrit Cole and Brandon Cumpton promoted to the majors this month. Johnson is the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month for the month of June due to his strong numbers at the Triple-A level.
Like Cole and Cumpton, Johnson could find himself in the majors at some point this year. Currently he would be the seventh best starting pitching option on the depth charts, if you don’t count injured players like A.J. Burnett or Wandy Rodriguez. Even if he doesn’t make it as a starter, he could be an option as a reliever later in the year. The Pirates have two good lefty relievers in the bullpen, but Johnson could provide a third when rosters expand, as his numbers make him a better option than Andy Oliver, who is the only other lefty relief candidate on the 40-man roster.
The Other Candidates
Ethan Hollingsworth stepped up for the Altoona pitching staff this month, making three starts, including two starts in game two of a double-header. He also made a few extended relief appearances. On the month he had an 0.71 ERA in 25.1 innings, with a 14:4 K/BB ratio. Hollingsworth drew strong consideration for the monthly award, but Johnson had a few more innings, pitched at a higher level, and spent most of his time as a starter going 6-7 innings per appearance. That was enough to give him the edge.
Tyler Glasnow always ends up on this list, but never makes it to the top. This month he had a 1.53 ERA in 23.2 innings, with a 34:9 K/BB ratio. Those are impressive numbers, but Glasnow fell short due to the fact that he had a similar ERA to Johnson, only with fewer innings and at a level that was three levels below where Johnson was pitching.
David Bromberg had a good month, with a 2.43 ERA in 29.2 innings in Altoona, along with a 36:15 K/BB ratio. Nick Kingham had a 2.83 ERA in 28.2 innings between Altoona and Bradenton, with a 25:6 K/BB ratio. Stolmy Pimentel had a 2.90 ERA in 31 innings between Indianapolis and Altoona, with a 31:16 K/BB ratio.