Below are the top ten pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The rankings include every pitcher who made a start for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, not including DSL teams, and 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.
|Nick Kingham||West Virginia||8/3||6.0||4||0||0||0||5||69|
|Adrian Sampson||State College||8/4||5.0||3||1||0||1||5||63|
|Zack Dodson||West Virginia||7/30||6.0||4||1||1||2||4||62|
Jeff Locke had the best outing of the week, going up against a Scranton/WB team that has the third best OPS in the International League. The lefty struck out double digits for the second time this year. In his last two starts he has thrown 14.1 shutout innings, with a 14:5 K/BB ratio and seven hits allowed.
Jameson Taillon looks to be getting back on track this week. In his two starts he combined for 12 shutout innings, allowing four hits and posting an 8:3 K/BB ratio. In his start prior to this pair of outings, Taillon gave up four runs on eight hits in six innings, while striking out six and walking one. Despite the poor results, Taillon made some big strides with his confidence and decision making on the mound, and that looks to have carried over to his two starts this week. Taillon had a shortened outing on Saturday, as the Pirates start to narrow his innings for the year in an attempt to avoid a big increased workload. He’s at 115 innings this year, after throwing 92.2 last year.
After giving up 14 earned runs in 26 innings over his first six starts in Altoona, Gerrit Cole finally put up the type of outing you’d expect from the top prospect in the system. On Sunday he followed up with three no-hit innings, but didn’t fare as well after a rain delay. Cole also got off to a slow start in Bradenton.
Nick Kingham has been on a roll lately. In his last four starts he has given up one earned run in 22 innings, with a 21:3 K/BB ratio. He hasn’t given up a home run in those four starts, which is a positive sign. The long ball has been an issue for him this year. He gave up 14 homers in his first 18 starts of the year.
The players in the short-season leagues are usually limited. Pitchers in the GCL usually don’t go beyond three innings, while pitchers in State College are usually between four and five innings. Because of the limited innings, these players don’t post as high of Game Scores as players in the upper levels who can pitch beyond the fifth inning. Here were the top five from the short-season leagues over the last week.
|Adrian Sampson||State College||8/4||5.0||3||1||0||1||5||63|
|Joely Rodriguez||State College||8/3||5.0||3||0||0||0||0||61|
|Clay Holmes||State College||8/1||4.2||2||1||1||5||4||56.35|
|Luis Heredia||State College||7/30||4.1||3||1||1||2||3||54.65|
For the second start in a row, Adrian Sampson went five innings without giving up an earned run. In those two starts he has posted a 9:2 K/BB ratio. The 2012 fifth round pick has a 2.81 ERA in 25.2 innings this year, along with an impressive 26:7 K/BB ratio. He’s the only starter in State College who is averaging a strikeout per inning. 2012 third round pick Jon Sandfort pitched three perfect innings. He followed that up later in the week with 2.2 shutout innings, allowing one hit and walking two. Sandfort only has three strikeouts in nine innings, with none in his 5.2 innings this week. In two starts this week, Luis Heredia combined to give up four earned runs in 9.1 innings, with a 6:3 K/BB ratio. He’s pitched in to the fifth inning for eight straight starts. Clay Holmes struggled with his control, but keeping up with his season trend, was hard to hit. He’s give up 18 hits in 38.1 innings this year. This outing was only the second time in eight starts that he’s given up an earned run. Joely Rodriguez hasn’t been getting a lot of strikeouts, but also hasn’t been issuing many walks. He has a 16:10 K/BB ratio in 43 innings, and a 2.72 ERA in that span.
The Bottom Five
The following were the worst game scores by a starter in the Pirates’ minor league system over the last week.
|Zack Von Rosenberg||West Virginia||8/2||2.2||7||7||5||2||1||16.35|
|Mike Jefferson||West Virginia||8/1||5.0||8||6||6||1||4||32|
It wasn’t a good outing for Zack Von Rosenberg, who was bounced after 2.2 innings. Prior to this start, Von Rosenberg had six strong outings, giving up six runs in 32.1 innings over that stretch. Brandon Cumpton has a 3.65 ERA in 120.2 innings on the season, and this was one of his worst starts of the year. Casey Sadler has now been roughed up in two of his last three starts, so he could be seeing some signs of fatigue from not only being a starter, but pitching six and seven innings so frequently. Bradenton turned to Kenn Kasparek with Colton Cain traded away to Houston. Mike Jefferson hadn’t allowed an earned run in 13 innings over three starts prior to this outing. He’s been bouncing back and forth between the rotation and bullpen this year. His control and his strikeout rates have been better in the rotation.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.