NOTE: I began working on this after the Spikes had played 26 games, but they now have 28 in the books. My apologies for not updating the analysis to include games 27 and 28, but I would like to think that the information presented here will still be of some interest to those who follow developments at State College.The State College Spikes have played 26 games so far and are sporting a 14-12 record. As an offense they are hitting .238 with a .609 OPS, so clearly they haven't gotten to this point by hitting the cover off the ball. So far the start of the reason is reminiscent of how the Pirates began: although they have gotten some timely hitting when needed, their winning record is based more upon solid pitching. The entire staff (starters and relievers) boasted a combined 2.93 ERA with an average against of .236 and a 2.95 FIP.
The starters in particular have been good. As a group have a 2.62 ERA and a .213 batting average against, so I thought it might be interesting to examine how they've done so far.
First of all, I should point out that haven't seen any of these players in person, whereas I know that several of our regular contributors have had that opportunity. I listen to the radio broadcasts when I can and check out the box scores and write-ups on blogs. So I'm afraid that I can't add first hand observations, but I would encourage those who can to provide comments. Having said that, let's take a look at the starters.
So, who are they? During the first 26 games, Jake Burnette, Jason Creasy, Luis Heredia, Clay Holmes and Joely Rodriguez each started 5 times. Adrian Sampson started once, but I'm leaving him out of this discussion precisely because one start isn't enough for a meaningful analysis.
Burnette, Creasy and Holmes were all overslot signings from the 2011 draft; most contributors to BD are familiar with 17 year old Mexican phenom Heredia; and Rodriguez -- the only lefty of the group -- was a 2009 DSL signing.
None of the starters have gone deeper into a game that 5.0 innings, so clearly the Organization has a hard-stop for the State College starters, no matter how many pitches are thrown. Heredia's experience to date is illustrative in this regard. While it's not always possible to get pitch count every time, I've been able to follow Heredia's games closely enough to either keep track personally or at least get the count from a trustworthy on-line or Twitter source with the info, such as Guy Cipriano or the contributors to Pirates Prospects.
Heredia went only 4.0 innings during his first appearance but since then he has gone exactly 5.0 innings every time he has been on the mound. During his 3rd and 4th starts, he threw 72 and 73 pitches, respectively. During his 5th start, he only threw 63 pitches, including a 7 pitch 4th inning. I realize that the Pirates are hardly the only team to restrict the innings of their young prospects, but I just point this out to show that they seem to be more interested in limiting innings vs. pitches -- assuming, of course, that there isn't a meltdown in which a pitcher throws an excessive number of pitches in one particular inning. What I mean by that is that if the Organization was more interested in Luis getting up to 75 pitches, he could have gone into the 6th inning against the Yankees on 13 July. But instead they pulled the plug at 63 / 5.0.
The following table presents a summary of basic data and performance indicators for the 25 starts under analysis. I have painted the cells green to indicate where a particular pitcher has the best indicator.
I probably don't have to convince any regular readers of this site that Luis Heredia is a very exciting prospect. You all know that. But ladies and gentlemen, the young man has posted the best performance in 7 of the 15 indicators / ratios that I calculated (from "Avg. Against" on down).
They are a very young group (the oldest is Rodriguez, born in 1990) and obviously not all of them will pan out. There will be surprises and disappointments on the way, but so far they have been a solid group and it will be interesting to see how the rest of the season goes.
I'll have to end it here. Hopefully others will be able to share their insights.