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Saturday, December 10, 2022

Top Performers: Brandon Cumpton Heating Up as Wandy Rodriguez Shuts Down

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.

In terms of pitching game scores, anything that scores a 65 or better is considered a “gem”. The Pirates farm system had four “gems” this week. The top ten starters all had game scores of 60 or higher. That’s a pretty impressive week, especially when you consider that rain limited the farm system to only 20 starts this week. Here are the top performers.

1. Chad Kuhl – Chad Kuhl had a big week with Bradenton. In two starts, he combined for one earned run over 10.2 innings, allowing eight hits, one walks, and striking out 12. His best start was also the best start in the system this week. Kuhl pitched six shutout innings, allowing three hits, no walks, and striking out seven. Not only was his game score of 73 the best score of the week, but it has been the best score of the season so far. On the season, Kuhl has a 3.12 ERA in 17.1 innings, with a 16:2 K/BB ratio and a 1.83 GO/AO ratio.

2. Brandon Cumpton – Wandy Rodriguez just went on the disabled list today with a knee injury. Brandon Cumpton’s next scheduled start is one day before the next scheduled start for Rodriguez. That would make him a prime candidate to take that start. It certainly helps that he is coming off an outing where he threw seven shutout innings, allowing five hits, no walks, and striking out five. In three starts, Cumpton has a 1.42 ERA in 19 innings, with an 11:3 K/BB ratio.

The other candidates for the start would be Jeff Locke or Stolmy Pimentel. Locke is scheduled to start in tonight’s game for Indianapolis. The start on Thursday is eight days after the last start from Locke, so it might not match up well for him. That leaves Pimentel and Cumpton as the likely candidates for Thursday’s start.

3. Adrian Sampson – Sampson was seen as a sleeper heading into the 2013 season. He was a fifth round pick in the 2012 draft, and has the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter in the majors. However, his numbers struggled in his time with Bradenton. So far this year he is living up to that hype, with a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings, along with a 16:5 K/BB ratio. Sampson threw six shutout innings this week, with three hits, three walks, and six strikeouts.

4. John Kuchno – Kuchno rebounded from a poor outing last week to put up one of the best starts this week. He threw six shutout innings, allowing two hits, three walks, and striking out one. He has pitched well in the rotation so far this year, with a pretty impressive 5.00 GO/AO ratio. Long-term, he profiles better as a power reliever, but he’ll get a shot as a starter for now.

5. Pat Ludwig – He moved to the Bradenton rotation last year, and had success in a limited time at the end of the season. So far, Ludwig has been dominant this season, with an 0.75 ERA in 12 innings. That included five shutout innings last week, with three hits, one walk, and four strikeouts. He was a tenth round pick in the 2012 draft, signed as a college senior and given a $5,000 bonus in order to save money for Mark Appel. Coincidentally, part of that saved money ended up going to his rotation-mate in Bradenton, Kuchno.

6. Jason Creasy – Creasy became a starter last year in West Virginia, and hasn’t looked back since. He threw five shutout innings this past week, giving him 11 shutout innings over his last two starts. On the season, he has a 1.83 ERA in 19.2 innings, with an 8:6 K/BB ratio and a 1.37 GO/AO ratio. Creasy, Ludwig, Kuchno, and Kuhl combined for 22 shutout innings in their four starts profiled here. Kuhl allowed one run in 4.2 innings in his other start, and we’ll discuss the final starter, Orlando Castro, in a bit.

7. Casey Sadler – If the Pirates eventually have a need for additional rotation depth behind Brandon Cumpton, Jeff Locke, and Stolmy Pimentel, then Sadler is emerging as a top option. So far he has a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings, with a 10:4 K/BB ratio and a 1.47 GO/AO ratio. This week he gave up two runs in seven innings of work.

8. Tyler Sample – He was taken from the Royals in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft over the off-season, and has a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings so far in Altoona. That includes five shutout innings this past week in his second start of the year. Sample has had some serious control problems, with 14 walks in those 12 innings. He won’t continue this success if those control problems continue.

9. Zack Dodson – Dodson is the only member of the 2009 draft prep pitchers who could still be considered a prospect. He threw 5.2 shutout innings this past week for Altoona, and now has a 2.53 ERA in 10.2 innings, with a 6:6 K/BB ratio. He is giving up too many hits, with a .368 BAA, and that will catch up to him if that continues. Dodson has shown good stuff in the past, with a nice curveball and a fastball that can touch low 90s. He will continue to get an opportunity to try and make it as a starter.

10. Orlando Castro – Castro continued the strong pitching in Bradenton, giving up one run in six innings of work. Overall, the Marauders’ starters combined for an 0.55 ERA in 32.2 innings over six starts this week.

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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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It’s a shame, but I don’t believe Hurdle and Huntington will share the obvious that Cumpton deserves the shot for Wandy’s turn. I’m not 100% sure that Stolmy doesn’t deserve it either.

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