Has Steven Brault Turned A Corner As A Reliever?


The light might be starting to turn on for a young left-handed reliever in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bullpen

For much of the first four months of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ season few players caught as much flack from fans as left-handed pitcher Steven Brault. This criticism was understandable. Through his first 31 games this season, five of which were starts, Brault owned a 4.93 ERA, a 4.99 FIP, and he was pitching poorly.

These struggles led to Brault being demoted to Triple-A Indianapolis where he had one goal – throw more strikes. Since returning to the Majors on August 20th Brault has done just that, and it appears he may be turning a corner as a reliever.

Since returning to the Pirates Brault has allowed just one earned run in 13 2/3 innings pitched (0.66 ERA). A big reason for this is his improved control. Not only has Brault been throwing more strikes, he’s been throwing quality strikes which makes a world of difference.

Walk RateStrikeout Rate
Pre Demotion14.6%19.1%
Post Recall9.1%25.5%

While a 9.1% walk rate is still higher than you would like to see, it is a vast improvement over what Brault was doing in his first stint in the Majors this season. Additionally, the uptick in strikeouts helps to negate a slightly too high of a walk rate.

The increased quality in Brault’s pitches have also led to opposing batters having a lower quality of contact off of him. After allowing hard contact at a 38.4% rate before his demotion to Triple-A, this number has dropped all the way to 20.6% since his recall.

Another big difference for Brault has been his ability to generate more swings and misses. And, on top of allowing a lower quality of contact, he has allowed less contact in general.

 Contact RateO-Swing RateWhiff Rate
Pre Demotion77.9%27.0%9.7%
Post Recall73.6%33.6%12.3%

*- O-Swing Rate is the number of pitches outside of the strike zone that opposing batters are swinging at

If Brault has turned a corner then he can be a big boost to the Pirate bullpen the rest of this month, as well as next season. Brault can pitch multiple innings for Clint Hurdle if needed, and he also possesses the ability to be a weapon against left-handed hitters. Left-handed batters are slugging just .239 with a .273 wOBA against Brault this season, and for his career these numbers are just .277 and .295. So, success against lefty batters is nothing new.

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In 2019 the Pittsburgh Pirates should have one of the best bullpens in the National League. And if his results from the past three weeks are any indication, then Steven Brault may prove to be a big part of that ‘pen.