First Pitch: The Ten Best Game Scores for the 2019 Altoona Curve

Yesterday we started a new series that will be nine parts, looking at the top Game Scores from minor league starting pitchers for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The first article looked at the best from the Indianapolis Indians.

Bill James developed the Game Score for pitchers, which you will see in the boxscores on MiLB. It starts with a base of 50 points and awards points for good pitching (strikeouts, recording outs and pitching late in games), while subtracting points for things such as walks, hits, earned runs and unearned runs.

Below you will find the ten best Game Scores for starters on the 2019 Altoona Curve, with a brief description of each game. With tie scores, I just listed them alphabetical, and if it was a tie between multiple starts for the same pitcher, I went in chronological order.

  1. Domingo Robles (81) – He only appears here once, but Robles had Altoona’s best start of the season. He threw a complete game shutout on August 26th, needing 95 pitches to get through nine innings. Robles allowed five hits, walked one and picked up five strikeouts.
  2. Dario Agrazal (79) – Agrazal lasted just four starts in Altoona before being promoted. His final start was seven shutout innings on three hits, no walks and eight strikeouts. He would match that 79 Game Score during his third start in Indianapolis.
  3. James Marvel (79) – Marvel appeared three times on the Indianapolis list and three times here, including a tie for the second spot. His best start of the season was his first start of the season. On April 4th he tossed six shutout innings on one hit, with no walks and nine strikeouts.
  4. Pedro Vasquez (79) – One of three players tied for the second best score. Vasquez appears four times on this list and once on the Indianapolis list. His best start of the season came on August 17th when he threw eight shutout innings on three hits and a walk, with four strikeouts.
  5. Sean Brady (78) – Brady put up consistent solid starts for Altoona all year, but he only had one standout performance. In late August he threw a complete game nine inning shutout. He allowed one walk and struck out six batters, but didn’t get the top spot here due to seven hits.
  6. Pedro Vasquez (78) – Just one point behind his best start, though the only thing they had in common was shutout ball. Vasquez allowed one hit over six innings on June 9th, with no walks and a season high eight strikeouts.
  7. James Marvel (76) – The first of two 76’s for Marvel occurred on April 20th during the first game of a doubleheader. The second game that day also made this list below. Marvel tossed seven shutout innings on one hit and one walk, but didn’t make it higher on this list due to only two strikeouts.
  8. James Marvel (76) – The second 76 is the rare game here where a pitcher allowed a run. Marvel went 7.2 innings on June 19th, with four hits, no walks and he matched his season high of nine strikeouts, which he would match again during his best start in Indianapolis.
  9. Pedro Vasquez (74) – The first of two 74’s put up by Vasquez came back on April 20th during the second game of a doubleheader. He tossed six shutout innings on one hit and one walk, with five strikeouts.
  10. Pedro Vasquez (74) –  The second 74 came during his next to last start of the season on August 27th. Vasquez went seven innings in this contest, with three hits, one walk and four strikeouts.
  11. Brandon Waddell (74) – With a three-way tie for the final spot, we have 11 games listed here. Waddell was demoted mid-season to Altoona and returned to a starting role. He had a few good outings before being promoted back to Indianapolis. The best one was six shutout innings on two hits, one walk and seven strikeouts. He had two other six shutout inning performances.


Dad’s choice again



I know this isn’t a Pirates highlight, but this is one of my favorite videos to watch


By John Dreker

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date and one game of note.

Chris Leroux, pitcher for the 2010-13 Pirates. The Pirates picked him up on waivers after he posted an 8.03 ERA in 22 relief appearances between 2009-10 for the Marlins. After making six appearances for Pittsburgh in 2010, Leroux began the 2011 season in Triple-A. He was recalled in July, appearing in 23 games for the Pirates with a 2.88 ERA in 25 innings. He was placed on the 60-day DL with a strained right pectoral muscle in 2012 and ended up pitching just ten games in the majors, followed by two big league games in 2013. He finished his MLB time with two games for the 2014 New York Yankees. He pitched in the minors for another two seasons. With the Pirates, he had a 4.20 ERA in 45 innings over 41 appearances.

John Van Benschoten, pitcher for the Pirates from 2004 until 2008. He was a first round draft pick of the Pirates in 2001, the eighth overall pick in the draft. Van Benschoten hit 31 homers his last season of college, the most in the country, but he was drafted as a pitcher. He spent his first full season at low-A ball, playing for Hickory, where he went 11-4, 2.80 in 27 starts, striking out 145 batters in 148 innings. JVB split the 2003 season between High-A and Double-A, going 13-6, 3.17 in 26 starts, striking out 127 in 139 innings. After 23 Triple-A starts in 2004, he was called up to the majors for the first time that August. He made five starts for the Pirates and one relief appearance. He went 1-3, 6.91 in 28.2 innings. Against the Astros on September 10th, he allowed just one run in eight innings, picking up his first career win.

Van Benschoten had to have surgery on his throwing shoulder and then his left shoulder in 2005 and missed the entire season. He had to have left shoulder surgery again in 2006 and didn’t make his debut until August in the minors. He began 2007 in Triple-A, going 10-7, 2.56 in 19 starts. JVB made nine starts and two relief appearances for the Pirates with extremely poor results. He went 0-7, 10.15 in 39 innings with a 2.15 WHIP. He began 2008 in the minors, getting recalled for the first time in late April. After one start and three relief appearances, he was sent back to Triple-A. The Pirates called him up for a second time in late June, giving him four starts before sending him down again. Pittsburgh let him go after the season and he signed with the White Sox, spending the 2009 season in the minors. He spent 2010 in the minors with the Yankees and 2011 at Triple-A with the Padres. Van Benschoten was released by the Padres during the end of Spring Training in 2012. He was 2-13, 9.20 in 90 innings with the Pirates.

Bill Luhrsen, pitcher for the 1913 Pirates. He was a spitball pitcher who began his career in the minors in 1908. He was picked up by the Pirates from Albany of the South Atlantic League in August of 1913 after going 17-8 between two teams. He made his major league debut during the second game of a doubleheader on August 23, 1913, coming in during the second inning after the starter Wilbur Cooper allowed four runs in the first. Luhrsen would pick up the victory that day when the Pirates ended up scoring 13 runs. He pitched eight innings, allowing four runs. He got his first start ten days later, winning 5-2 over the Reds. Four days later he beat the Cardinals for his third straight win, before picking up a loss a week later against the Giants with Christy Mathewson on the mound. He lasted just two innings that game due to wildness, in what would be his last Major League game. Just days later, his contract was sold to Columbus of the American Association. Luhrsen played two more years in the minors before retiring.

George Merritt, outfielder/Pitcher for the 1901-03 Pirates. He had a 15-year career in the minors, splitting his time between the outfield and pitching. The Pirates brought him to the majors for the first time when they purchased his contract from the Utica Pentups of the New York State League in early September of 1906. He made his debut on September 6th during the second game of a doubleheader and won 13-4 over the Giants, getting two hits of his own, including a triple. Despite making a strong impression on the mound (after a shaky first inning) Merritt did not make another start for 18 days. His first appearance was the last game of three straight doubleheaders the Pirates played and the team was in a pennant race at the time. When he next started on the 24th, the Pirates had a nine-game lead with 11 to go in the season. Merritt would throw a complete game over the Giants in his second start, winning 14-9, although he didn’t pitch as bad as nine runs would sound. The fielding behind him was described as “sloppy once the Pirates had a big lead.” His third start of the year came in the final game of the season against the Chicago Orphans (Cubs), exactly one month after his debut. Merritt improved his record to 3-0 thanks to nine runs by the Pirates and nine errors by the Orphans.

Merritt would spend the 1902 season in the minors, rejoining the Pirates with just five games left in the schedule. He started in left field on September 27th and collected three hits. He only got into the game because the regular left fielder/manager Fred Clarke, was visiting his sister, who was ill. When Tommy Leach couldn’t play due to his own illness and regular first baseman Kitty Bransfield got injured before the game, the Pirates had to empty the bench just to play the game, which they still ended up winning 13-6. The next day the Pirates were also without regular second baseman Claude Ritchey, so they went even further down the bench, this time losing 3-2 to the Reds. Merritt went 0-for-4 and then didn’t play the last three games of the year. The next year he was with the Pirates as a backup outfielder early in the year. He would hit just .148 in nine games and he made one appearance on the mound in relief, allowing one earned run in four innings. He was returned to the minors in late May and never returned to the majors. Despite the fact he played just 15 Major League games, he was a member of three NL pennant winners. His minor league career ended 12 years after his last Major League game.

Finally, on this date in 1925, the Pirates opened up their season in Chicago with an 8-2 loss. Emil Yde, who went 16-3 in 1924, made the start for the Pirates while 38-year-old future Hall of Famer Grover Alexander made the start for the Cubs. For Alexander, it was the 301st win of his career. Pittsburgh would go on to win the NL pennant and the World Series that 1925 season. The Pirates lineup that day featured three Hall of Famers:

LF Carson Bigbee

CF Max Carey

2B Eddie Moore

3B Pie Traynor

RF Kiki Cuyler

1B George Grantham

SS Glenn Wright

C Earl Smith

P Emil Yde

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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