The Pittsburgh Pirates need to shake up their starting rotation
So far this season the Pirate starting rotation has been better than was expected. Entering Sunday night’s game with the New York Mets the Pirate rotation ranked seventh in the National League in FIP (4.14), eighth in ERA (4.45), and tenth in innings pitched (275 1/3) and xFIP (4.16).
While these numbers are not great, they are better than most expected before the season began. But it is time for the Pirates to shake up their rotation some because Steven Brault should be in the Major League rotation.
Entering Spring Training, Steven Brault was in the competition for the final rotations spot. This spot, however, went to Tyler Glasnow. This sent Brault to Triple-A where he has been in the Indianapolis rotation all season.
In 10 starts so far this season Steven Brault has pitched 54 1/3 innings for the Indy Indians. He owns a 2.48 ERA, 3.90 FIP, and a 3.98 xFIP. While his 4.14 BB/9 is too high, he helps offset this by averaging 8.28 K/9 and generating a 54.8 percent ground ball rate.
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Steven Brault has also been allowing less hard contact this season. His 14.4 percent line drive rate is the second lowest of his professional career and is the lowest since he was at Double-A during the 2015 season.
Additionally, Brault is also keeping the ball in the yard this season. He has allowed just 4 home runs in 54 1/3 innings pitched. This comes out to a very strong average of 0.66 HR/9.
While it is only at Triple-A, these results are much better than what Steven Brault did in limited Major League time last season.
During the 2016 season, Brault pitched in 8 games for the Pirates, 7 of which were starts, and he logged 33 1/3 innings. In these 33 1/3 innings pitched he averaged 7.83 K/9, 4.59 BB/9, and 1.35 HR/9. This led to him owning a 4.86 ERA and a 5.07 FIP.
An argument could be made for Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, and Tyler Glasnow to be removed from the Pirate starting rotation. However, the pitcher who should go to make room for Steven Brault is Chad Kuhl.
In his past 3 starts Trevor Williams owns a 3.33 FIP and a 4.02 xFIP in 15 2/3 innings pitched. He has allowed 14 hits, walked 3 batters, and struck out 10. Due to these results, his rotation spot should be safe right now.
As for Tyler Glasnow, as expected, he has had his ups and downs this season. But he has continued to improve as the season has progressed. When you combine that with his insanely high upside, Glasnow needs to remain in the starting rotation.
2017 has been a disaster so far for Chad Kuhl. He has pitched 44 1/3 innings in his 10 starts and owns a 6.29 ERA, 4.14 FIP, and a 4.94 xFIP. He has allowed 55 hits, 5 home runs, and is averaging 3.45 BB/9.
In the minor leagues Chad Kuhl was a big ground ball pitcher, however, that has yet to translate to the Major Leagues. In 2016 he owned a ground ball rate of just 44.3 percent, and this season it has dropped to 36.8 percent.
Opposing hitters have been hitting rockets off of Kuhl this season. His 22.2 percent line drive rate and 34.7 percent hard contact rate are both up from last season. Additionally, his 15.0 percent soft contact rate is down from last season.
Chad Kuhl also struggles immensely against left-handed hitters. Left-handed hitters own a .660 slugging percentage, .437 wOBA, and a .406 on-base percentage against Kuhl this season. These struggles are nothing new as they haunted Kuhl last season, too.
The main cause behind this is his lack of an out pitch against left-handed hitters. Unless Chad Kuhl develops a third pitch he will never make it as a Major League starting pitcher, because he can not retire left-handed hitters without one.
It can not hurt for the Pittsburgh Pirates to go with Steven Brault over Chad Kuhl at this point. He allows a lot of hard contact, can not get left-handed hitters out, and only has two Major League quality pitches. The team has nothing to lose from giving Steven Brault another chance in the starting rotation.
Chad Kuhl has not been very good for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. Meanwhile, Steven Brault is having a great season at Triple-A. It is time for the Pirates to switch the two pitchers and put Brault in the Major League rotation.