First Pitch: The Ten Best Starting Pitching Performances for the 2019 Pittsburgh Pirates

Yesterday we finished up ten articles covering the best minor league starting pitching performances for the Pittsburgh Pirates last year. We had a few requests for the Major League club, so here are the top ten Game Scores for the 2019 Pittsburgh Pirates.

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 Pittsburgh 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. Joe Musgrove (78) – Get used to seeing him here. He has the two best scores, both 78’s, with the first one occurring in his first start of the season. He went seven shutout innings on three hits, one walk and eight strikeouts.
  2. Joe Musgrove (78) – The second 78 came in mid-May and it too was seven shutout innings. In this one he allowed just one hit, with two walks and five strikeouts.
  3. Steven Brault (76) – On August 17th, Brault allowed one run over seven innings. He gave up two hits, one walk, and he struck out eight batters. His second best score was a 65.
  4. Jordan Lyles (74) – Before he was traded to Milwaukee, Lyles put up two of the ten best scores. His best came on May 17th against the Padres when he picked up 12 strikeouts. He went seven innings, allowing one run on five hits and one walk.
  5. Chris Archer (72) – The best game for Archer came during his third start of the season. On April 13th he allowed one run on four hits, two walks and nine strikeouts, while throwing seven innings. This was his only top ten score.
  6. Joe Musgrove (72) – Musgrove had three of the top five scores. This one was back on July 20th against the Phillies. He went six innings and gave up an unearned run. Musgrove allowed two hits, two walks, and he struck out eight batters.
  7. Jameson Taillon (72) – Before he got hurt, Taillon put up one of the ten best scores. In his second start, he went seven innings, allowing one run on three hits, no walks and five strikeouts. His second best game was a 57.
  8. Jordan Lyles (71) – In his second start with the Pirates, Lyles made quite an impression with one run over six innings. He allowed three hits and a walk, while picking up ten strikeouts.
  9. Joe Musgrove (71) – On June 21st, he went seven innings on one run, five hits, no walks and eight strikeouts. Two months later…
  10. Joe Musgrove (71) – I told you to get used to seeing him here. Five of the top 11 scores (or top eight if you just count them as all tied for eighth). This game on August 16th actually included two earned runs, which is rare for a top ten game. He got there by going 7.1 innings with no walks and nine strikeouts.
  11. Trevor Williams (71) – The only appearance here by Williams was his start on March 31st in the second game of the season for the Pirates. He went six shutout innings on three hits, a walk, and six strikeouts. He had nearly an identical start later in the season, which missed by three points due to collecting just three strikeouts.


My dad wanted a Yes weekend so we get them for the second day in a row. Any Yes fans here? Say the band name in the comments.


Not enough time on this quiz, but I like the added clues. It was posted a while ago, so it was probably easier to remember names back then. Some were easy to forget.


Want to see some 2012 Pirates highlights?


By John Dreker

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and an Opening Day of note.

Sean Rodriguez, utility player for the 2015-18 Pirates. Despite playing four consecutive seasons for the Pirates, he wasn’t with the team during the middle of that run. The Pirates acquired Rodriguez in a trade with Tampa Bay during the 2014-15 off-season. He left via free agency following the 2016 season, but returned in an August trade with the Atlanta Braves. With the Pirates, he hit .230/.304/.399 in 384 games. Rodriguez played every position with the Pirates except pitcher and catcher. In 12 big league seaons, he is a .226/.302/.380 hitter over 1,099 games.

Francisco Cordova, pitcher for the 1996-2000 Pirates. He signed with the Pirates in January of 1996 after spending four seasons pitching in Mexico. Cordova pitched mostly out of the bullpen in 1996, making 59 total appearances (six starts) and posting a 4-7, 4.09 record in 99 innings. He moved to the starting role in 1997 and had a memorable season that year. He went 11-8, 3.63 in 29 starts, and on July 12th he threw nine hitless innings against the Astros. The game was tied after nine and Ricardo Rincon finished off the no-hitter in the tenth, as the Pirates won the game on a three-run homer from Mark Smith. Cordova had his best season in 1998, going 13-14, 3.31 in 33 starts, with 220.1 innings pitched and 157 strikeouts. He couldn’t match those numbers in either of his next two seasons and he saw his pitching time decrease as his ERA increased. After spending all of 2001 in the minors for Pittsburgh, he pitched back in Mexico until 2011. During his five years in Pittsburgh, he went 42-47, 3.96 in 166 games, 112 as a starter.

Curt Wilkerson, infielder for the 1991 Pirates. He spent six seasons with the Rangers and another two with the Cubs before signing with the Pirates as a free agent on January 9, 1991. The Cubs acquired him from Texas in a nine-player deal that included Jamie Moyer, Rafael Palmeiro and Mitch Williams. In 1990, Wilkerson played 77 games for the Cubs, with most of his games coming as a third baseman, though he also played four other positions. He hit .220 with 16 RBIs in 196 at-bats. For the Pirates, Wilkerson was the backup at three infield positions (2B/SS/3B). He hit .188 with 18 RBIs in 85 games. He homered twice that year, tying a career high. In 972 Major League games he hit just eight home runs. The home run he hit on September 19th was a special one. With the score tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth, he hit a walk-off grand slam against Lee Smith. In the post-season that year, he batted four times in the NLCS, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Following the season, Wilkerson left via free agency. He played two years in Kansas City and another two seasons in the minors before ending his playing career. He has since managed for six seasons in the minors and Independent ball.

Amos Otis, outfielder for the 1984 Pirates. He was originally a fifth round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 1965. Amos was taken by the Mets in the 1966 minor league draft and made his Major League debut with New York the next season. After spending all of 1968 in the minors, Otis played 48 games for the 1969 Mets, hitting .151 in 93 at-bats. New York traded him in December 1969, along with Bob Johnson, to the Royals for third baseman Joe Foy. The trade turned out to be a disaster for the Mets as Foy played one season in New York and Otis established himself as a star in Kansas City, spending 14 seasons in a Royals uniform. He played in five All-Star games and won three Gold Glove awards in center field. He played the third most games in Royals history and ranks in the franchise’s top four in hits, runs, doubles, triples, home runs, walks, RBIs and stolen bases. In 1983, Otis hit .261 with 41 RBIs in 98 games for Kansas City. After the season he was granted free agency and signed with the Pirates on December 19, 1983. He was the Pirates starting left fielder in April, but saw his playing time decrease, and he spent time on the disabled list twice before being released on August 5th, ending his playing career. Otis played 40 games for Pittsburgh, hitting .165 with ten RBIs in 109 plate appearances.

Season Opener

On this date in 1995, the Pirates played their first game since August 11, 1994, due to the strike that canceled the end of the season and the entire postseason. The April 26th opening date, was the latest the Pirates began their season since 1893, when they opened on April 27th. The Pirates lost this game 6-2 at home against the Montreal Expos, with starter Jon Lieber allowing all six runs in his 4.2 innings of work. Jay Bell had the Pirates only extra base hit that day, a fourth inning solo home run. The Pirates lineup that day was as follows:

Jacob Brumfield, CF
Carlos Garcia, 2B
Al Martin, LF
Jeff King, 3B
Jay Bell, SS
Orlando Merced, RF
Rich Aude, 1B
Mark Parent, C
Jon Lieber, 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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