Tonight, left-handed pitcher Steven Brault will make his sixth career start for the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, is he best suited for the bullpen?
When the Pirates traded outfielder Travis Snider to the Baltimore Orioles following the 2014 season many fans were upset. Snider was coming off a career season in which he had appeared to finally turn the corner as a Major League hitter. Upsetting fans further was that the Pirates got a pair of unknown prospects in return.
In return for Snider the Pirates got two Minor League pitchers. The pitchers the Pirates acquired were left-handed starting pitchers Steven Brault and Stephen Tarpley. Brault is now in the Pirates’ rotation, while Tarpley was traded for Ivan Nova.
So while a lot of fans were upset with the Snider trade when it happened, it has already turned into a good trade for the Pirates. Especially due to the fact that Travis Snider’s 2014 season has proved to be a fluke and he has come nowhere close to repeating that success. But most importantly, Steven Brault has pitched well for the Pirates and Stephen Tarpley turned into Ivan Nova who has pitched even better.
Through his first five Major League starts Steven Brault has pitched 24 innings. In these 24 innings pitched he is averaging 7.13 K/9, 4.50 BB/9, 0.75 HR/9, and he has a WHIP of 1.54. Brault has a strong ERA of 3.38, however his 4.39 FIP and 5.34 xFIP both indicate his 3.38 ERA is not sustainable.
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Tonight, Steven Brault makes his sixth career start. It will come against a very poor hitting Philadelphia Phillies team. Due to this Brault should have a strong start tonight. Regardless of how Brault does tonight, I believe he is best suited for the bullpen moving forward.
Brault’s fastball averages 90.9 miles per hour, and it has topped out at 94.3 miles per hour this season. In a reliever role Brault’s fastball would, most likely, improve in velocity and sit in the mid-90s more consistently. Brault has also thrown a strong change up this season, holding opposing hitters to a .200 batting average and .176 wOBA off of it, which would also improve in a relief role.
Unfortunately for Brault, these are his only two Major League quality pitched. He also throws a slider, however, it has been crushed this season. Opposing batters are hitting .393 off of his slider, with a .454 wOBA and a slugging percentage of .643. Without a viable third pitch, no matter how good the other two pitches are, he will not make it as a starting pitcher. For a great example of this just look at Juan Nicasio.
The fact Brault does not feature a quality third pitch is the biggest reason why he is better suited for the bullpen. It is not, however, the only one. In my opinion, Steven Brault would be more valuable to the Pirates as a reliever than he would be as a starting pitcher.
Coming out of the bullpen, Steven Brault could play a similar role to Juan Nicasio. He would have the capability of giving the Pirates multiple innings, or being a one inning reliever. This is a great weapon to have out of the bullpen and a team can never have too many relievers who fit that mold.
Brault also owns reverse splits this season. Left-handed hitters are hitting .333 against him this season with a .368 wOBA. Meanwhile, right-handed hitters are hitting just .247 against him with a .337 wOBA. However, pitching out of the bullpen with more of a power fastball should help Brault improve against left-handed hitters.
Finally, the Pirates have plenty of starting pitching options for 2017. Pitchers such as Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, Tyler Glasnow, Trevor Williams, and Nick Kingham are all options that are better starting pitchers than Brault is. Furthermore, I expect the Pirates to add a starting pitcher or two this offseason.
Steven Brault has good stuff from the left-side. However, his stuff translate much better as a reliever than it does as a starting pitcher. Due to this I would like to see Brault be in the Pirates’ bullpen in 2017.