First Pitch: The Ten Best Game Scores for the 2019 GCL Pirates

Last week 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. That was followed by the Altoona Curve on Tuesday and the Bradenton Marauders on Wednesday. Thursday was the Greensboro Grasshoppers.

We picked the series back up on Monday with the short-season teams, starting with Morgantown. Next was a look at the Bristol Pirates, followed by the GCL Pirates today. The DSL teams will finish off the series, though I still haven’t decided if I’m going to do them individually yet or as one group.

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 the 2019 GCL Pirates, 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 Gonzalez (75) – Gonzalez (pictured above) crushed the second best Game Score for the 2019 GCL Pirates. His August 19th performance was seven points higher than the second best game. That’s a bigger difference than the six points that separates second place from 10th/11th place. In six innings during his 75-point start, Gonzalez allowed one unearned run on two hits, with one walk and a career best ten strikeouts. In case you forgot from two days ago, Gonzalez also had the best Game Score for Morgantown, which came 12 days after this game.
  2. Quinn Priester (68) – The third pro start for Priester was the best by far of his young career. He tossed five shutout innings on three hits, with no walks and a career best seven strikeouts, which will surely be broken quite a few times down the line. His second best score was 57 points.
  3. Domingo Gonzalez (67) – Not only did Gonzalez have the best start for the GCL Pirates, he also had the third best and the (tied for) fourth best. This contest was one hit and one walk over five shutout innings. The lack of strikeouts (three) kept this from scoring higher.
  4. Enmanuel De Los Santos (66) – His season debut was his best game. De Los Santos threw five shutout innings on two hits, one walk and four strikeouts.
  5. Domingo Gonzalez (66) – Now is a good time to remind people that Gonzalez began the 2019 season as a reliever in the DSL. This was similar to his 67 point game. Both were five shutout innings with three strikeouts and two base runners. The difference here is that he gave up two hits and no walks, and hits subtract two points each, accounting for the one point margin.
  6. Enmanuel De Los Santos (65) – De Los Santos made it here two times and he only made four starts before he was injured for the rest of the season. This start from July 6th came up just short of his best game, and they were very similar. Both were five shutout innings with no walks. He allowed three hits in this game, while striking out five batters.
  7. Arlinthon De Dios (64) – When De Dios was on, which was sporadic in 2019, he put together some strong starts. His best was 4.2 shutout innings on three hits, two walks and a season high eight strikeouts.
  8. Estalin Ortiz (64) – Ortiz struggled through most of 2019, but he had one start that really stood out from the rest. On August 21st, he allowed one unearned run on one hit over five innings. Ortiz walked three batters and had four strikeouts.
  9. Arlinthon De Dios (63) – The second best start for De Dios was his second game of the season. He tossed five shutout innings on four hits, one walk and five strikeouts.
  10. Arlinthon De Dios (62) – De Dios made in here three times, though his best start only ranked seventh overall. This game was in the middle of the season and it was held back a little by his control. He threw five shutout frames on three hits and three walks, picking up four strikeouts.
  11. Bryan Torres (62) – Two scores tied for the tenth best. Torres was released shortly after the season, despite the fact that he received a decent bonus and he just turned 19 years old a few days ago. In his lone top ten start, he went five innings, with one run on three hits, no walks, and five strikeouts.




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By John Dreker

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date and two season openers of note.

Mickey Vernon, pinch-hitter for the 1960 Pirates. He joined the Pirates as a first base coach for the 1960 season, but ended up being used as a pinch-hitter nine times in September as Pittsburgh fought for the NL pennant. He went 1-for-8 at the plate with a walk and an RBI. For Vernon, it was the end of his playing career that spanned four decades. It is possible that if he had not missed two years to military service, he would be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The year he returned from the service, he won the AL batting crown with a .353 average. In his career he had 2,495 hits, 1,311 RBIs, 1,196 runs scored, two batting titles, three times he led the league in doubles and he was elected to seven All-Star teams. Vernon was a Pirates coach for just that one season. The following year he took over the helm of the expansion Washington Senators

Jake Pitler, second baseman for the 1917-18 Pirates. He was a light-hitting second baseman in the minors for four seasons before breaking out in early 1917 when he hit .364 in 42 games for the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern Association. The Pirates called him to the majors for his big league debut on May 30, 1917 and it was a successful one in front of the home crowd. During a doubleheader, he went 2-for-7 and was twice robbed of hits, Pitler stole a base, laid down a successful sacrifice and handled all twelve balls hit his way without an error. The local press spoke highly of his play that day and also noted he had many friends in the stands. Playing alongside the great Honus Wagner all season, Pitler held his own in the field, finishing second among NL second baseman in fielding percentage. However, his batting reverted back to pre-1917 numbers, as he hit .233 with 23 RBIs in 106 games. He was with the team early in the next season, but was at the end of the bench and all but forgotten. On May 4, he played the second half of the game at second base, going 0-for-1 with a walk and an error. Then twenty days later he pinch-ran for Bill Hinchman in the ninth inning of a 6-1 game with the Pirates losing. Pitler stole second, stole third, then scored the Pirates final run that day on a double by George Cutshaw. He would return to the minors, playing until 1936 without ever making it back to the big leagues. He also managed for 17 seasons in the minors.

Season Openers

In 1891 Pittsburgh heard the name Pirates for the first time, though they were still locally known as the Alleghenys for the next few years. The “Pirates” opened their season coming off the worst year in franchise history. The team went 23-113 in 1890, when the roster was decimated by players leaving for the newly formed Player’s League. When that league folded after just one season, many of the players returned to their old teams, but Pittsburgh was also able to sign other star players such as Louis Bierbauer and Pete Browning. Those signings led to the “Pirates” name.

Pittsburgh opened the season at home against Cap Anson and the Chicago Colts. With Pud Galvin on the mound, they lost 7-6 in front of 5,500 fans. The lineup that day, which include four future Hall of Famers (should be five with Browning), was as follows:

Doggie Miller, SS
Jake Beckley, 1B
Fred Carroll, RF
Pete Browning, LF
Louis Bierbauer, 2B
Ned Hanlon, CF
Connie Mack, C
Charlie Reilly, 3B
Pud Galvin, P

In 1897 the Pirates opened their season against the St Louis Browns. It was an easy 4-1 win for Pittsburgh, with the only run they allowed coming off a double steal in the second inning. Frank Killen was on the mound for the Pirates, coming off a 30-win season in 1896. It was his second 30-win season while with the team. Killen allowed six hits, all singles, struck out four and threw a complete game. Steve Brodie made his Pirates debut in center field that day. He was a star defensive outfielder that Pittsburgh acquired in the off-season for Jake Stenzel, the franchises all-time leader in batting average with a .360 mark. Brodie hit two doubles while batting in the fifth spot and all four men ahead of him in the lineup scored one run apiece. The Pirates lineup that day was:

Mike Smith, LF
Bones Ely, SS
Patsy Donovan, RF
Jim Donnelly, 3B
Steve Brodie, CF
Denny Lyons, 1B
Dick Padden, 2B
Joe Sudgen, C
Frank Killen, P

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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