Each week we run our “Top Performers” series, looking at the best pitchers and hitters from the previous week. We also recap each month in order to award the Pitcher and Player of the month. Below are the average pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the month of May. The rankings include every pitcher who made at least four starts for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, with no limitations on whether the starting pitcher has prospect eligibility. The Game Score listed is the average of all of their Game Scores for the month.
*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.
Pitcher of the Month
Last year, Adrian Sampson entered his first full season of pro ball with a lot of potential. He was taken in the 5th round of the 2012 draft, and featured a fastball that frequently touched 94 MPH, along with a nice curveball. The Pirates gave him an aggressive push to Bradenton, skipping him over the West Virginia stop that most college pitchers in the system will take for half a season. He struggled in Bradenton, putting up a 5.14 ERA in 140 innings, with an 85:22 K/BB ratio. Despite the struggles, Sampson was once again given an aggressive promotion, going to Altoona to start this season.
Sampson has been outstanding so far in Altoona. He was our Pitcher of the Month at the level in April. In the month of May he was good enough to not only be the Pitcher of the Month in Altoona, but the Pitcher of the Month in the entire minor league system.
Sampson put up a 2.08 ERA in 39 innings of work, along with a 25:8 K/BB ratio. On the season he has a 1.98 ERA in 63.2 innings, with a 48:16 K/BB ratio. He edged out A.J. Morris in Altoona for the honor. Morris had a better ERA, but his performance came in fewer innings, and the fact that Sampson is five years younger than Morris, with no Double-A experience, makes his numbers more impressive.
The big difference this year for Sampson has been the addition of a changeup. He spent the entire 2013 season in Bradenton developing the pitch. The numbers were bad as a result of continued focus on the changeup, but by the end of the year he had gone from a guy who could barely throw a changeup, to a guy who had a nice three pitch mix. Sampson is dominating right-handers this year, with a .165 BAA and a .411 OPS.
He still has some improvements to make against lefties, but has a .280 BAA and a .754 OPS, which is much better than his .348/.927 last year. Even more impressive is the fact that he’s faced more left-handers than right-handers this year, and still has managed his dominant numbers. In fact, Sampson has seen 140 plate appearances versus lefties in two months, compared to 219 plate appearances against lefties all season last year in Bradenton.
We wrote about Sampson twice this month. John Kokales wrote about how he is finding consistency this season, while I questioned whether he is in the process of being a breakout prospect. Sampson has the upside to be a middle of the order starter, and should at least make it as a back of the rotation starter with his new changeup.
Minor League Affiliates
Here were the Pitchers of the Month for each minor league affiliate.
Indianapolis Indians (AAA) – Jake Brigham, RHP (2.31 ERA, 28:9 K/BB, 35 IP)
Altoona Curve (AA) – Adrian Sampson, RHP (2.08 ERA, 25:8 K/BB, 39 IP)
Bradenton Marauders (A+) – Orlando Castro, LHP (2.36 ERA, 24:4 K/BB, 34.1 IP)
West Virginia Power (A) – Shane Carle, RHP (2.72 ERA, 14:3 K/BB, 36.1 IP)