Each week we run our “Top Performers” series, looking at the best pitchers and hitters from the previous week. We also recap 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 April. 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
Casey Sadler is currently in the majors, thanks in part to a short-term need for bullpen arms, but also because of his strong performance in the month of April. Sadler put up a 1.67 ERA in 27 innings, with a 16:6 K/BB ratio. It’s because of that same performance that Sadler has been named the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month for the month of April.
Sadler had four outstanding starts this month, going at least six innings each time, and going seven innings in his last three starts. He allowed two or fewer runs in each of those starts, and allowed five or fewer hits each time, only giving up five hits once. Sadler limited the walks, which combined with the hits meant he never had more than an average of one base runner per inning each game.
Like a lot of pitchers in the Pirates’ system, Sadler is a sinkerball guy. He had a 1.44 GO/AO ratio, as a result of a 51.3% ground ball ratio. He doesn’t strike out a lot of batters, focusing instead on getting early contact and going deeper into games. Ryan Palencer talked with Sadler, noting how the sinker-heavy approach has been effective.
Sadler was a 25th round draft pick in the 2010 draft, and spent the first two years of his career as a long-reliever. He displayed a promising 91-93 MPH fastball in the lower levels, and was eventually moved to the rotation during the second half of the 2012 season in Bradenton. The move came after Gerrit Cole was promoted to Altoona, causing a rotation spot to open. Sadler pitched well in his time as a starter, and never looked back. Last year with Altoona, he had a 3.31 ERA in 130.1 innings during his first full season as a starter, along with a 1.74 GO/AO ratio.
The competition throughout the system was strong this month. Sadler’s teammate, Brandon Cumpton, had a 1.42 ERA in 19 innings, with an 11:3 K/BB ratio in his time with Indianapolis. He also had a nice start in the majors. However, only the minor league time was considered, which eliminated Cumpton from consideration. Adrian Sampson dominated down in Altoona, with a 1.82 ERA in 24.2 innings, along with a 23:8 K/BB ratio. Pat Ludwig moved back and forth between being a starter and throwing in a piggyback role, but put up an impressive 1.80 ERA in 20 innings of work, along with a 19:5 K/BB ratio. Buddy Borden, a 2013 draft pick, had a great start in West Virginia, with a 1.37 ERA in 19.2 innings, along with a 19:9 K/BB ratio.
Minor League Affiliates
Here were the Pitchers of the Month for each minor league affiliate.
Indianapolis Indians (AAA) - Casey Sadler, RHP (1.67 ERA, 16:6 K/BB, 27 IP)
Altoona Curve (AA) - Adrian Sampson, RHP (1.82 ERA, 23:8 K/BB, 24.2 IP)
Bradenton Marauders (A+) - Pat Ludwig, RHP (1.80 ERA, 19:5 K/BB, 20 IP)
West Virginia Power (A) - Buddy Borden (1.37 ERA, 19:9 K/BB, 19.2 IP)