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 pick the series back up today with the short-season teams, starting with Morgantown.
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 Morgantown last year, 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.
- Domingo Gonzalez (73) – Gonzalez (pictured above) made one start for Morgantown and it was their best pitched game of the season. What’s even more impressive is that he began the season in the Dominican Summer League, three levels lower. In that August 31st start, he tossed six shutout innings on three hits, one walk and eight strikeouts.
- Noe Toribio (72) – He put together some impressive starts before being promoted to Greensboro. Among them was this 72 point gem in which he allowed one base runner (a hit) over five shutout innings. Toribio struck out seven batters, a season high he reached four times.
- Austin Roberts (68) – Roberts began the season as a reliever and made just five starts at the end of the year. Despite the limited pitch counts, he had two of the ten best starts for Morgantown. In his best outing on August 30th (his final start of the season), he allowed one run on two hits and a walk, while striking out five batters over six innings.
- Noe Toribio (67) – Toribio had two of the ten best starts in his short time with Greensboro late in the season. He made a total of 11 starts all season and also has two appearances here on the Morgantown list. This game was his last start with the Black Bears and he threw five shutout innings on one hit, one walk and three strikeouts.
- Bear Bellomy (66) – Bellomy made ten relief appearances before getting stretched out to start. He also began the year with Bristol. In his second start he tossed five shutout innings on two hits, one walk and four strikeouts. Out of five starts it was his only positive (50 or above) Game Score.
- Austin Roberts (66) – Exactly two weeks before he best start, Roberts put together a solid performance on August 16th. He gave up one run on two hits in five innings, with no walks and seven strikeouts.
- Michael Burrows (65) – The best start for Burrows was his first outing. He racked up points here by throwing five shutout innings, while striking out five batters. He lost points due to two hits and three walks, keeping him from finishing higher.
- Michael Burrows (64) – Burrows had a similar start weeks later. He showed solid control throughout the season, but he walked three batters during each of his best two games. In this contest, he went 4.2 shutout innings with seven strikeouts and just two hits allowed. I should point out here that short-season scores in general will be lower because they work on a limited pitch count compared to full season players.
- Will Kobos (64) – Kobos also had the ninth best Game Score for Greensboro, though that one was eight points higher. In his last start with Morgantown he tossed five shutout innings on three hits, one walk, and four strikeouts.
- Jesus Valles (63) – Valles led the team with 12 starts. He had three 60+ point starts, but just one made the top ten. That was back on August 8th when he went 5.1 innings, allowing one run on three hits and a walk, with a season-best six strikeouts. Valles was used once in long relief and that game would have had a 66 Game Score if relief appearances counted for the stat.
SONG OF THE DAY
RANDOM STUFF OF THE DAY
Kip Wells was the most frustrating pitcher for me to watch (stop walking guys after you go up 0-2 in the count!), but I like him as a hitter
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
By John Dreker
One Pittsburgh Pirates trade of note, followed by four former players born on this date.
On this date in 1985, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded longtime reliever Kent Tekulve, to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for pitcher Al Holland and minor league pitcher Frankie Griffin. Tekulve was 38 years old and had pitched just three games for the Pirates in 1985, allowing seven runs in 3.1 innings. He had pitched well in 1984, posting a 2.66 ERA in 72 games. Holland was originally signed by the Pirates and pitched two games for the team during the 1977 season. He was 32 years old and had pitched 68 games for the Phillies in 1984, compiling 29 saves and a 5-10 record in 98.1 innings. Griffin was a 25-year-old minor league reliever who had a 1.60 ERA in 38 games at Double-A.
Holland would end up pitching a total of 58.1 innings for the Pirates over 38 relief appearances. He went 1-3 with four saves and a 3.38 ERA. He would be traded to the Angels in a six-player deal on August 2, 1985 that also sent George Hendrick and John Candelaria to California. Griffin never made it above Double-A in his only season with the Pirates, which was also the final year of his career. Tekulve would end up pitching four seasons for the Phillies, appearing in 291 games with a 3.01 ERA. He won 24 games, saved 25 and twice pitched over 100 innings in a season. In 1987 he led the NL with 90 games pitched.
Chris Duffy, outfielder for the 2005-07 Pirates. He was an eighth round draft pick of the Pirates in 2001. Duffy hit .317 in short-season ball that first year, then jumped to high-A ball for 2002, where he hit .301 with ten homers and 22 stolen bases. Chris spent the next two seasons at Altoona, scoring 84 runs in each season while stealing a total of 64 bases. In 2004, he batted .309 in 113 games. He made the Pirates out of Spring Training in 2005 but was quickly sent down to Triple-A. He was hitting .308 with 55 runs scored, 27 extra base hits and 17 steals through 77 games with Indianapolis when he was recalled in mid-July. Duffy had his average up to .341 with 22 runs scored through 39 games, when he got injured in late August. The next season he started off really slow, but the Pirates stuck with him through mid-May before sending him down. He was briefly suspended by the team for not reporting to Triple-A, but he eventually did and hit great with Indianapolis, earning a recall on August 1st. Duffy finished the season strong and was 26-of-27 in stolen base attempts with the Pirates. He was the starting center fielder through the end of June in 2007, batting .249 with 13 steals in 70 games before injuries and surgery ended his season. After playing just 30 games over the 2008 season in the minors, Duffy was released. He played 19 games for the 2009 Brewers and last played pro ball in 2010.
Mike Mowrey, third baseman for the 1914 Pirates. He already had nine seasons in the majors when the Pirates traded for him on December 12, 1913. It was an eight-player deal made with the St Louis Cardinals that sent Dots Miller and Chief Wilson to St Louis and provided very little return for the Pirates. Mowrey was Pittsburgh’s regular third baseman for half of the 1914 season, hitting .254 with 25 RBIs in 79 games. Injuries kept him out of the lineup the other half of the year. His strength was defense, where he led all NL third basemen in fielding percentage that season. Prior to the start of 1915, Mowrey jumped from the Pirates to the Pittsburgh representative in the Federal League, the Rebels. After the league folded, he returned to the NL with the Brooklyn Robins for two seasons. He went on to be a player-manager for four seasons in the minors from 1920-23, then one more year of only managing, before ending his baseball career. Mowrey was a career .256 hitter in 1,276 major league games.
Steamer Flanagan, outfielder for the 1905 Pirates. The day before his Major League debut (9/25/1905) Flanagan started an exhibition game for the Pirates in right field and did well, collecting two hits and scoring two runs against Columbus of the American Association. He was used as a pinch-hitter in his first big league game, batting for Deacon Phillippe and against Christy Mathewson, who retired him on a line drive. He sat the next few games as the Pirates had a slim chance to get back into the pennant race, but once they were eliminated with a week left in the season he began to start in center field. The newspapers were impressed with his play in the field and said he ran the bases awkward, but he was very quick. Flanagan hit .280 with seven runs scored in seven games (five as a starter) and he was flawless in the field in his 19 chances. That wasn’t enough to keep him around on a strong Pirates team for the next season. He ended up playing a total of ten seasons in the minors, never returning to the majors again.
Sam Nicholl, outfielder for the 1888 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He hit .331 in 92 games as an 18-year-old for Wheeling of the Ohio State League in 1887. He played for Wheeling again the next season as the team moved to the Tri-State League. His manager that season was Al Buckenberger, the Pirates manager from 1892-1894. The Alleghenys signed Nicholl and teammate Henry Yaik on September 26, 1888. They were able to do so without any added cost because Wheeling had disbanded. Nicholl made his debut on October 5th, while Yaik played each of the two previous days, then never played in the majors again. Nicholl would have debuted earlier, but he dislocated a finger while playing catch with Doggie Miller before a game on September 29th. The Alleghenys had five players out with injuries late in the season and only a 16-man roster, forcing Nicholl into full-time duty the last week of the season. He hit just .045 in eight games as the center fielder. During the next April he was still with Pittsburgh and they said they expected better things from him because he was slowed by his hand injury and had trouble batting during his 1888 trial. It never worked out though. He made the team out of Spring Training, but didn’t get into a game before being released on May 1st, just over a week into the season. That was five days after manager Horace Phillips said that no other man besides John Coleman (who was released on April 26th) would be released for at least two months. Nicholl returned to the minors, playing another ten seasons before he retired, with his only other Major League experience coming during the 1890 season when he played 14 games for the Columbus Solons of the American Association, who were managed by Al Buckenberger. While with Pittsburgh, he went by the last name “Nichols” in the papers. Nicholl was among a group of old local players invited by the Pirates to the opening of Forbes Field in 1909.
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.