Top Performers: Gerrit Cole Is Finally the Top Weekly Performer

Below are the pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The top ten and the bottom five starts are broken down below the chart. 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.

The Top Ten

Gerrit Cole was tied for the top game score in the system this week after seven shutout innings. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Gerrit Cole was tied for the top game score in the system this week after seven shutout innings. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

It took nine weeks, but Gerrit Cole finally put up the top weekly game score in the Pirates’ farm system. Cole was dominant in his start last week, throwing seven shutout innings and giving up a walk and two hits. He only struck out five, and you’d like to see more strikeouts from the top prospect, but all things considered this year, that was a good outing to see. Cole’s previous game score high this year was 68, which he reached twice. He still has some work to do before he’s ready for the majors. It was only two starts ago that he was shelled for eight runs in 5.2 innings of work. But this is the type of start he can build on, and if he does build on this start, he could be an option for the Pirates in July.

Sharing the top spot with Cole is Eliecer Navarro, who also threw seven shutout innings. Navarro gave up one more hit than Cole, and struck out two more batters. This type of performance hasn’t been unusual for the small lefty. On the season he has a 3.08 ERA in 61.1 innings, with a 55:12 K/BB ratio. He’s recorded at least a strikeout per inning in four of his last six starts. Navarro doesn’t have overpowering stuff, and is more of a finesse pitcher. That usually plays well in A-ball, so the big test will be the jump to Double-A.

Clay Holmes has had a rough season, and usually finishes in the bottom five. This week he had two starts, and both ended up in the top five in the system. In his first start he threw five innings, giving up one earned run and striking out four. In the next start he threw five shutout innings, allowing one hit, five walks, and striking out five. John Dreker covered that start and had a report on Holmes.

Robby Rowland was the other starter in the top five this week. Rowland had one of his best starts of the year on Sunday, throwing five shutout innings. The last time Rowland had a game score north of 50 was on May 4th, when he had a score of 52 after giving up two runs in six innings.

Rowland’s teammate, Nick Kingham, also had a strong start this week, giving up three runs in six innings, but striking out seven and walking none. Kingham walked four in six innings in his last start, but has been strong with the K/BB ratios on the season. In 59.1 innings he has a 68:13 K/BB ratio, and only 49 hits allowed.

Aside from the two starts from Clay Holmes, West Virginia had two more pitchers in the top ten. Orlando Castro gave up one run on eight hits in six innings, with five strikeouts. John Dreker had a recap of that start here. Tyler Glasnow gave up three runs in five innings, but struck out eight. A recap of that start can be found here.

I wrote about the Pirates’ bullpen depth last night, and one of the options could eventually be Kris Johnson. The lefty has been working out of the Indianapolis rotation this year, with a 3.62 ERA in 54.2 innings. He threw seven innings this week, giving up two runs on seven hits. Johnson could be an emergency rotation option if needed, but he’s probably better as a lefty relief option.

Rounding out the top ten was Ethan Hollingsworth, who came on to throw four innings after James McDonald pitched on Saturday. Hollingsworth gave up one run on three hits for a 52 game score. It wasn’t the best week overall for pitchers in the system when a 52 game score cracks the top ten.

The Bottom Five

Jake Burnette lasted less than an inning in his second start this year, and gave up five runs on five hits. The five runs were in large part due to a grand slam. The outing went for the worst score this week, and Burnette moved to the bullpen later in the week.

Zack Dodson had been putting up some impressive starts in Bradenton, but his last outing wasn’t so good. He gave up eight runs, seven earned, in three innings, tying for the second worst score. That outing will inflate his numbers on the season. He’s looked good when I’ve seen him, although there have been a few things to work on. He’s better than his inflated numbers indicate right now.

Brooks Brown has struggled recently in the Indianapolis rotation, and it doesn’t seem like the depleted Indianapolis pitching staff is going to get any relief with Ryan Reid and Jared Hughes heading to the Pirates. Therefore, expect Brown to remain in the rotation.

Brandon Cumpton has had a good season in the Indianapolis rotation this year, but his last start wasn’t as good. He gave up six runs, five earned, on nine hits in five innings, ending up in the bottom five.

Tyler Glasnow was in the top ten for his second start of the week, but his first start of the week was the fifth worst in the system. Glasnow gave up seven runs, four earned, in 3.2 innings. He struggled with control, walking seven and only striking out two in the outing.

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