Steven Brault Finding Success For The Pittsburgh Pirates
By Jeffrey Cupp
This season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have faced a lot of questions about their starting pitching due to injuries and struggles. As the team is getting back its starters, Steven Brault must stay in the starting rotation.
Wait! Before you close out this tab, here me out. With the return of Jordan Lyles nearing and Trevor Williams already returned, the Pittsburgh Pirates will have to make a decision about their starting rotation. As it stands, with the returns of Lyles and Williams, the Pirates will have four other pitchers competing for those five spots: Chris Archer, Mitch Keller, Joe Musgrove, and Steven Brault.
As it stands, both Lyles and Williams will retain their spots without doubt. Lyles’ 3.64 ERA and Williams’ 3.36 FIP top the team in those categories.. Lyles also provides a punch, sporting 9.2 K/9, which is second on the team.
As for Musgrove, despite his high 4.57 ERA, having a respectable 3.73 FIP gives Joe a strong argument for staying in the rotation.
The final two spots in the rotation will come down between Brault, Archer, and Keller. As it stands, Brault has by far the best case to stay in the rotation.
This season has been a total disaster for the hyped-up Archer, who is in his first full season with the Pirates. A 5.85 ERA along with a 6.04 FIP show that Archer just does not have it this year. Despite whiffing batters at a solid 23.9%, Archer has walked 11.4% of batters, up from 7.7% last season. He is also giving up more fly balls, up 7 points from last season, and his HR/FB is also up 9 points.
While some of those trends may subside, it is certainly hard to justify leaving Archer in the rotation. Keller has failed to provide a fair case, posting 10.50 ERA through three starts. He has been sent back to triple-A once more. Meanwhile, Brault has stepped up in a big way.
Despite early season struggles, Brault holds a 95 ERA+ and a 7.62 K/9. As a starter this season, he has a 3.67 ERA and 4.61 FIP, both which are a lot better than Archer’s. Plus, over the past month (dating back to May 24th), Brault has posted just a 2.23 ERA and a 3.59 FIP. While his 5.46 xFIP during that stretch points to regression, Brault did this while facing some of the best lineups in baseball.
On May 24th, against Cody Bellinger and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Brault gave up only 2 runs on 3 hits in 5 and 2/3 innings. He followed that by blanking Derek Dietrich and the Cincinatti Reds on just 3 hits over 5 and 1/3.
In his first start of June, Brault held Ronald Acuna Jr. and the Atlanta Braves to just 1 earned run over four innings. After that he held Christian Yelich and the Milwaukee Brewers to just 2 runs over 6 and 1/3 innings. He then went 6 again facing his worst lineup, the Miami Marlins, and gave up no runs and most importantly no walks. He then held to the NL home run leading San Diego Padres to 3 runs in 5 innings on work.
Each start Brault has showed progress. His 46.4% GB rate is the most notable. So far in the month of June, that rate sits at a whopping 50.7%. Brault has also dropped his walk rate to 9.4% for the month, and as mentioned, did not walk a single Marlin over 6 innings.
All these improvements give the feeling that Brault is beginning to settle in. While he may not be turning heads, Brault certainly is providing the Pirates with above average play, worthy of a spot in the rotation.
While Archer may retain the final spot in the rotation for the time-being, if his struggles continue into July it should be him that moves to the bullpen for returning Jameson Taillon, who has yet to begin rehab.
Going forward, Brault deserves to continue to receive starts over Keller and even Archer if the Pirates plan to regroup their pitching staff for the second half of the season.