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. Jason Creasy – Creasy ended up on the top ten list twice this week. His best start came on Sunday, when he threw 5.2 shutout innings, with two hits, no walks, and six strikeouts. He was part of the 2011 draft class, which has really looked good from a pitching perspective. Gerrit Cole was obviously a top guy from that group, and Tyler Glasnow has broken out. Clay Holmes is also a top prospect from that group, but is out for the year with Tommy John surgery. Creasy is stepping up this year, with a 2.59 ERA in 31.1 innings, along with a 19:8 K/BB ratio and a 1.12 GO/AO ratio.
2. Jake Brigham – He’s been doing well with Indianapolis this year, even remaining in the rotation over Phil Irwin when Jeff Locke returned. Brigham has a 3.81 ERA in 28.1 innings, along with a 29:11 K/BB ratio. This week he gave up one run on two hits in seven innings, with two walks and five strikeouts. Brigham doesn’t profile as a starting pitcher in the majors, but could help the Pirates throughout the year if they need bullpen depth.
3. Buddy Borden – Borden had two good starts this week. His first start of the week saw him throw six shutout innings, allowing two hits, no walks, and striking out three. The second start just missed the top ten, with three runs on six hits in six innings, along with no walks and five strikeouts. The encouraging thing here was that he didn’t walk anyone in 12 innings. Borden has some great stuff, but has dealt with control problems. Last week he walked four batters in four innings of work. He’s hard to hit, with a .196 BAA, and if he can limit the walks, he could be a special pitching prospect.
4. Tyler Waldron – It’s hard to know what to make of Waldron’s success so far this year. He threw five shutout innings this week in his second start with Indianapolis, allowing two hits, no walks, and striking out six. In his two starts, he has given up one run on four hits in nine innings, with one walk and 11 strikeouts. The Pirates have been very high on him in the past, drafting him in the fifth round in 2010, and keeping him as a starter, despite poor results in A-ball for a college pitcher. He’s a sinkerball guy, getting a 2.00 GO/AO ratio this season. He’s going to need more time with Indianapolis before he can be considered a starting prospect. I’ve always had him as a potential reliever in the majors, and I think it’s more likely that he ends up going that route.
5. Phil Irwin – He was removed from the rotation after two starts this year, and has been pitching multiple innings out of the bullpen ever since. Jeff Locke was removed from his start early on Thursday, in preparation for his spot start on Monday. Irwin came on in relief and had his best outing of the year, throwing four shutout innings, with two hits, no walks, and five strikeouts. He’ll probably remain in the bullpen in long relief. In his last three outings he has given up one run on seven hits in 9.1 innings, with two walks and eight strikeouts.
6. Jason Creasy – Creasy’s other start this week saw him give up one run on four hits in five innings, with no walks and four strikeouts. Overall this week, he combined for one run in 10.2 innings on seven hits, with no walks and ten strikeouts.
7. Henry Hirsch – West Virginia had two double-headers this week, leading to a start from Hirsch. He threw four shutout innings, allowing three hits, one walk, and striking out three. Hirsch is an interesting relief prospect, due to the fact that he can hit 96 MPH with his fastball. He has a 2.57 ERA in 21 innings this year, along with a 13:10 K/BB ratio.
8. Felipe Gonzalez – Gonzalez also got a start due to the double-headers in West Virginia. His start saw one run on three hits in five innings, with two walks and one strikeout. He has a 2.38 ERA in 22.2 innings this year, along with a 19:8 K/BB ratio.
9. Adam Wilk – Wilk, like Jake Brigham, has remained in the Indianapolis rotation from the start, and has been doing well. He has a 4.03 ERA in 29 innings, with a 24:9 K/BB ratio. His starts have all been of the “quality start” variety, usually around six innings and three runs. He’s got more of a chance to help the Pirates as a lefty out of the bullpen later in the year.
10. Jay Jackson – Indianapolis has already had to deal with a mess in their rotation. Jameson Taillon went down for the year with Tommy John surgery. Brandon Cumpton and Casey Sadler were both called up to the majors. Phil Irwin struggled and was removed. Jeff Locke started late, and now will get a spot start in the majors. That’s the entire expected Opening Day rotation, and as of this week, only one of those guys was starting in Triple-A (Locke, who was removed early for his MLB start). Indianapolis has seen some good pitching from the minor league free agents, with Jackson, Wilk, and Brigham making the top ten this week. Tyler Waldron and Phil Irwin also stepped up, also making the top ten. Most of these guys project as bullpen depth in the majors.