After ups and downs through the first four years of his MLB career, lefty Steven Brault has finally started to find consistency with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2020
Fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates have come to know left-handed pitcher Steven Brault very well the past four seasons. From 2016 through 2019 Brault pitched in 89 games for the Pirates, 35 of them being starts.
During these 89 appearances with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Brault struggled. He posted a 4.86 ERA in 2017, 4.87 ERA in 2017, 4.61 ERA in 2018, and then a 5.16 ERA in 2019. 2020, however, has been a different story for Brault.
Brault has pitched in 10 games this season with nine of them being starts. Brault owns a 4.04 ERA, 3.97 FIP and he’s allowed just two home runs in 35.2 innings of work.
While it is a resepctable 4.04, Brault’s ERA is misleading. In his lone appearances that was not a start, Brault allowed 4 earned runs without recording an out. If you take that appearance out of the equation, Brault’s ERA drops to 3.07.
Control has been a major bugaboo for Brault during his MLB career. In 2020 he has continued to battle control issues, especially to the glove side, leading to a 12.5% walk. However, he also has a career-high 21.1% strikeout rate. Additionally, his 0.50 HR/9 is the lowest of his career. So while Brault has battled with control, he has limtied the long ball and has expereinced an uptick in strikeouts.
Brault has alos limited quality contact at the best rate of his career. Opposing batters own a 85.2 MPH exit velocity against Brault this season. In addition to being a career-best for Brault, this average exite velocity is 3 MPH lower than the MLB average and in the 92nd percentile in baseball. He is also allowing hard contact just 30.6% of the time, which is a career-best.
Another area where Brault has improved this season is keeping the ball on the ground. His 51.0% ground ball rate is a the highest of his career. This is not exactly rocket science, but if a pitcher is generarting more ground balls while also limited hard contact, they are going to allow fewer home runs and find more success.
Dating back to late May of 2019, Brault has started to look like a new pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Across 132.2 innings pitched in his last 29 games, 26 of which were starts, he owns a 4.41 ERA and a 4.27 FIP. Numbers any team would gladly take out of their number five starting pitcher. And, again, if you takeaway that one disaster outing this season, his ERA during this stretch drops to 4.15.
With the success he has had this season, as well as dating back to May 2019, Brault has pitched himself into the starting rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021. While it remains to be seen what the Pirate starting rotation will look like in 2021, it is clear that Brault has pitched his way into the equation.