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 Glasnow – For the first time this season, Glasnow looked like the 2013 version that dominated the South Atlantic League. He struck out 12 batters in 5.2 innings, doubling his previous season high of six, which he has achieved three times. The impressive thing here is that Glasnow did this while focusing heavily on the fastball. He hasn’t been using his curveball much this season, putting a huge focus on his fastball command, along with a focus on improving the changeup. The results in this game were due to getting ahead in the count, thanks to strong fastball command. This was the best start of the season so far for a Pirates’ minor leaguer.
2. John Kuchno – Kuchno hasn’t had the greatest year, giving up too many walks, and not getting enough strikeouts. He had a big week this week, as did all of the other Bradenton starters. Kuchno threw seven shutout innings, giving up just two hits, one walk, and striking out four. One thing he is doing well is getting ground balls. He has a 62.5% ground ball rate, leading to a 2.96 GO/AO ratio on the season. Kuchno profiles best as a reliever in the long-term. He’s going to need to improve his strikeout rate and decrease the walks to be effective in any role.
3t. Vance Worley – Worley has been a big surprise for the Pirates this year. In five starts, he has a 3.82 ERA in 33 innings, with a 27:2 K/BB ratio. This week he threw eight innings, giving up two runs on four hits, with a walk and ten strikeouts. The move to promote Casey Sadler to the majors might be a sign that the Pirates are viewing Worley as an option for rotation depth. With Sadler no longer a starter with Indianapolis, the Pirates are left with Jeff Locke and Worley as the top starting options out of Triple-A.
3t. Adrian Sampson – Sampson had the top game score last week. He also was our Pitcher of the Month for the month of May, and was our Altoona Pitcher of the Month, two months in a row. He’s having a breakout season, and that continued this past week. He threw eight shutout innings, with six hits, no walks, and five strikeouts. A big reason for the success this year has been the changeup. He has a .280 BAA and a .754 OPS against lefties this year, compared to a .348/.927 last year. He’s also dominating right-handers, with a .411 OPS against on the season.
5. Jason Creasy - Creasy is the third Bradenton starter on this list. He had a strong finish to the week, pitching six shutout innings, with two hits, one walk, and seven strikeouts. That was a big turnaround from his earlier start, where he gave up four runs on eight hits in 4.1 innings of work. Creasy has a 3.79 ERA on the season in 54.2 innings, with a 41:12 K/BB ratio. The surprising thing is that he has a 0.89 GO/AO ratio, after a 1.20 ratio last year. He doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts, so the easy ground ball outs are needed to elevate his game.
6. Chad Kuhl – Kuhl is the fourth Bradenton starter on this list. He threw six shutout innings, allowing four hits, one walk, and striking out three. He is following up a nice week last week, where he gave up one earned run on four hits in 6.1 innings. Kuhl is a sinkerball pitcher who has struggled at times this year due to giving up too many hits. A lot of the hits allowed aren’t hard hit balls. He has struggled against left-handers, with a .291 BAA. That’s going to be a big focus for him this year as he works on his extension fastball and changeup to lefties.
7. Orlando Castro – Castro is the final Bradenton starter on the list. He was also our Pitcher of the Month for the month of May. He has spent about a full year in Bradenton, and has a 2.77 ERA in 61.2 innings this year, with a 45:8 K/BB ratio. Castro should be in line for a promotion to Altoona by the end of this month, which will provide a true challenge. He’s a lefty who has good secondary stuff and great control. That usually leads to strong results in A-ball, but those types of pitchers usually level off in Double-A.
8. Nick Kingham – One of the strengths of Kingham’s game in the past has been his control, and the ability to limit walks. He has struggled with that this year, although the recent results might be showing that he’s getting back to normal. Kingham has given up just four walks in 21 innings over his last three starts. He got on the list this week for giving up two runs in seven innings, with a walk and four strikeouts. If Kingham keeps pitching the way he has been pitching the last few starts, he could be in line for a promotion to Indianapolis by the end of June.
9. A.J. Morris - Morris has been outstanding for Altoona, although it has come with the disclaimer that he is 27 years old, which is too old to be considered a prospect at the level. He gave up one run this week on six hits in six innings, with a walk and six strikeouts. On the season, he has a 1.64 ERA in 55 innings, with a 38:17 K/BB ratio. I’d be surprised if he moves up to Indianapolis this year. Instead, he’d probably remain in Altoona as a rotation filler.
10. Jay Jackson - Jackson was a late addition to the Indianapolis rotation this week, taking over for Casey Sadler, who was called up to the majors after the Bryan Morris trade. Jackson threw four shutout innings, allowing two hits, three walks, and striking out five. He could have a chance to remain in the rotation now that Sadler is in the majors.