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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Top Performers: International Left-Handers Dominate the Pitcher Ranks This Week

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

Orlando Castro was the top pitcher in the system this week.
Orlando Castro was the top pitcher in the system this week.

This wasn’t a big week for upper level pitchers, with West Virginia taking five of the top ten spots, and Bradenton pitchers taking three more. At the top of the list was Orlando Castro, who threw six shutout innings in his first start of the week. The second start didn’t go as well, with three runs, two earned, on nine hits in five innings. This is the second time this month that Castro has ended up as the top pitcher of the week. He joins Nick Kingham, Andy Oliver, and Stolmy Pimentel as the only pitchers to be at the top of the list twice this season. Castro has a 2.10 ERA in 55.2 innings on the season, with a 49:5 K/BB ratio.

Tyler Glasnow was also up near the top this week after a 12 strikeout performance over five innings. Glasnow’s game ended up third this week, and it was the fifth start this month that has ended up in a weekly top ten. He has been limited this year to 4-5 inning outings, and since game scores give credit for going beyond four innings, it’s tough for him to make it to the top. There’s little room for error when he throws, but he’s been staying at the top due to low hit totals and high strikeouts, plus the obvious limited runs.

Joely Rodriguez has been no stranger to the top ten list this year, and ended up there twice this week. His first start of the week was the fourth best on this list, with six shutout innings. His second start was the eighth best of the week, with one run in six innings. Rodriguez has a 2.62 ERA in 55 innings over his ten starts this year, with a 44:14 K/BB ratio. He also has a 2.11 GO/AO ratio. A lot of focus in West Virginia goes to Glasnow, Stetson Allie, or Dilson Herrera, but Rodriguez has been having a nice breakout season himself.

The other West Virginia starter to make the list was John Kuchno. He didn’t start, but piggybacked with Jake Burnette, which seems to be his new role after the addition of Burnette to the rotation. Kuchno threw 4.2 shutout innings to close out the game, allowing three hits. In the month of May he has a 3.86 ERA in 21 innings, with a 14:6 K/BB ratio.

The top ten was dominated by international lefties this week. Castro had the top game score, and Rodriguez had two of the top ten scores. Eliecer Navarro also had two top scores this week in Bradenton. In his first start he gave up two runs in six innings with six strikeouts for the seventh best score of the week. His second start was better, with one run in 6.2 innings for the fifth best score of the week. Navarro has a 3.48 ERA in 54.1 innings with a 48:11 K/BB ratio.

The upper levels didn’t have many good starts this week, but David Bromberg did have the second best start. Bromberg went 7.1 innings, allowing four unearned runs and striking out eight. He has stepped up for a depleted Altoona rotation, with a 3.18 ERA in 28.1 innings over five starts, along with a 25:9 K/BB ratio.

Gerrit Cole ended up in the top ten for the fifth week in a row, which is a positive sign. A lot of those appearances have been at the back of the list, which is the same story this week. Cole had the ninth best game score, throwing six innings and giving up two runs on Saturday. In the month of May he has a 4.70 ERA in 30.2 innings, with a 20:11 K/BB ratio. He’s cut down on the walk problems that he had in April, but he’s not dominating hitters yet. He’s only had one start this year where he’s struck out a batter an inning, and that was his second start where he only lasted two innings and threw over 60 pitches due to going deep in counts.

Nick Kingham rounded out the top ten after giving up one run in six innings with a rare 3:4 K/BB ratio. On the season Kingham has a 3.21 ERA in 53.1 innings, with a 61:13 K/BB ratio.


The Bottom Five

Luis Sanz had one of the worst starts of the year, giving up six runs on four hits and two walks without recording an out. Sanz isn’t a prospect, and has only been filling in for Altoona since Tyler Waldron went on the disabled list and Brandon Cumpton went to Indianapolis early in the year.

Stolmy Pimentel was consistently in the top three each week throughout April. This marks the third week in a row that he ended up in the bottom five. Pimentel has been working on his command, and working on pitching off his fastball. The walks have been decent, with 12 walks in 28 innings this year. He’s been hit hard this month, with seven homers and a .305 BAA.

Clay Holmes had a good start last week, but went back to the bottom of the list after giving up five runs in four innings this week. Holmes has struggled this year in West Virginia, dealing with a lot of control problems. That was one positive with this start — he only walked two batters. The downside was that he gave up eight hits.

Brooks Brown has been filling in for Indianapolis and made two starts this week. One of those starts ended up near the bottom with five runs on nine hits in five innings.

Robby Rowland had the fifth worst game score, giving up five runs, four earned, on five hits. Most of the damage came in the first when he threw 31 pitches and gave up four of his five runs.

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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.


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