Below are the pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The top ten scores are highlighted in the write-up below. 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.
1. Tyler Sample – Sample has been a big surprise in Altoona this year. The minor league Rule 5 pick has pitched in four games, combining for a 1.00 ERA in 18 innings, with an 18:16 K/BB ratio. The ERA makes him the Eastern League leader, although the alarming walk rate suggests that won’t continue. Sample was much better this week, throwing six shutout innings, while allowing two walks, two hits, and striking out eight. If he can limit the walks, then he might have a shot at continuing his success going forward.
2. Casey Sadler – The Pirates needed some extra bullpen options this week, and Sadler was called up on Sunday to provide an emergency pitcher. That caused him to miss Sunday’s start with Indianapolis. He wasn’t needed in Pittsburgh, and will probably go back down after the day off. Prior to the call-up, Sadler had an impressive start, going seven shutout innings, with four hits, two walks, and six strikeouts. On the season in Indianapolis, he has a 1.67 ERA in 27 innings, with a 16:6 K/BB ratio. The sinkerballer focuses on pitching to contact, which has led to a 1.44 GO/AO ratio. He’ll be a top depth option for the rotation as the year goes on, especially if he continues pitching the way he has been pitching so far.
3. Adrian Sampson – This is the second week in a row that Sampson has finished in the top three, and he’s been in the top ten every week of the season. The right-hander threw six shutout innings, allowing four hits, one walk, and striking out seven. His second start of the week wasn’t as good, lasting only 1.2 innings due to a single inning pitch limit in the second inning. On the season he has a 1.82 ERA in 24.2 innings, with a 23:8 K/BB ratio. He currently ranks top five in the Eastern League in ERA.
4t. Tyler Glasnow – Glasnow’s season debut was delayed due to a tight lower back during Spring Training. He made his debut in Bradenton this week, and picked up right where he left off in 2013. Glasnow was dominant, with five shutout innings, striking out six, giving up two hits, and walking three batters. I wrote about Glasnow prior to the start last week, noting that he will be focusing on the fastball/changeup combo this year.
4t. Pat Ludwig - Ludwig has been excellent in the Bradenton rotation this year, and did great this week. He threw six innings, giving up just an unearned run on four hits, with one walk and five strikeouts. However, Glasnow’s return at the end of the week pushed Ludwig back to the long-relief role as a piggyback starter. On the season he has an 0.86 ERA in 21 innings, with a 19:6 K/BB ratio. Last year in Bradenton he had a 3.90 ERA in 55.1 innings, with a 41:14 K/BB ratio. Ludwig also gets a ton of ground balls, with a 2:1 GO/AO ratio this year. He could be a candidate to move up to Altoona at some point early in the season, although everyone in the Altoona rotation is currently pitching well.
6. Jay Jackson – He stepped into the Indianapolis rotation after Brandon Cumpton was promoted to the majors. Jackson had a good start, giving up one run on one hit, with two walks and five strikeouts. As long as Cumpton is in the majors, Jackson has a chance to remain in the rotation. That will also largely depend on his performance. Jackson gave up 11 earned runs in eight innings in his first three outings of the season, including one start.
7t. Brandon Mann – Zack Dodson went on the disabled list this week, and taking his place was Mann, who had a strong outing. Mann gave up one unearned run in five innings, with three hits, two walks, and six strikeouts. Later in the week he pitched in long-relief, with the next guy picking up Dodson’s start.
7t. A.J. Morris – Morris made the second start in Dodson’s place this week, and coincidentally, tied Mann’s game score from earlier in the week. Morris threw five shutout innings, giving up three hits, one walk, and striking out three. This spot in the rotation should go to Dodson when he returns from his injury, although it’s also a prime spot for someone from Bradenton to take over in a promotion.
9. Buddy Borden – Borden has been lights out this year, but has dealt with some control issues. He has a 1.98 ERA in 13.2 innings, with a 16:9 K/BB ratio. This week he threw four shutout innings, giving up one hit, walking four, and striking out five. He’s going to have to place a big focus on the control this year. Fortunately, a lot of pitchers in West Virginia over the last few years have had control problems in the first half, and have fixed those issues in the second half. If Borden can do the same, he could emerge as a top prospect by the end of the year.
10. Tyler Waldron – Waldron had a busy week. He started off with a save in Bradenton on Monday. He was then promoted to Altoona, where he pitched a perfect inning, striking out the side on Thursday. When Casey Sadler was promoted to the majors on Sunday, Waldron was promoted to Indianapolis, where he made the start. He gave up one earned run in four innings, with two hits, one walk, and five strikeouts. Not many pitchers start their week with a save in A-ball, and finish with a strong start in Triple-A.