JT Brubaker made his MLB debut in 2020 and burst onto the scene for the Pittsburgh Pirates by racking up strikeouts. Let’s examine his 2020 season.
Multiple pitchers made their MLB debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2020. One of these pitchers was righty, and former Pirate Minor League Pitcher of the Year, JT Brubaker. In his debut season, Brubaker impressed.
Entering the 2019 season Brubaker appeared poised to make his MLB debut. Unfortunately, a variety of injuries limited him to just six minor league starts. Due to this, he missed the majority of hte 2019 season. However, this did not deter him from making his MLB debut and impressing in 2020.
Brubaker made nine starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates and pitched in 11 games. Brubaker pitched 47.1 innings in these 11 outings. He posted a 4.94 ERA, 4.08 FIP and a DRA of 4.51. While that ERA is a bit high, his FIP and DRA both painted a rosier picture.
In his first MLB season Brubaker recorded plenty of strikeouts with a healthy 23.4% strikeout rate. This was paired with a solid 8.3% walk rate, and a home run rate of 1.14 HR/9. All in all, it was a successful season for Brubaker.
Outside of one poor start, Brubaker was consistent throughout the season. His ERA drops to 4.07 on the season if you take away a start against the Chicago White Sox in which he allowed 7 earned runs.
Now, of course, you can not tak this start out of the equation. However, this was an area where you saw the short season bite Brubaker. In a normal season, Brubaker would have had more outings to lower his ERA. Due to the shortened 60-game season, his ERA was unable to recover from this one poor start.
Brubaker’s best pitches in 2020 were his slider and curveball. Opposing batters hit .204 off of his slider with a .352 slugging percentage to go with a 37.2% whiff rate. Brubaker’s curveball was in the 87th percentile of curveball spin rate, and limited opposing batters to a .182 batting average and a .318 slugging percentage. His curveball had a whiff rate of 38.1%.
Brubaker threw his slider 32.3% of the time and his curveball 13.7% of the time. He also mixed in a sinker (35.1% usage rate) and a four-seamed fastball (13.9% usage rate). Opposing batters slugged .439 off of his sinker and .650 off of his four-seamer.
Moving forward, it appears it could benefit Brubaker to ramp up his curveball usage. Additionally, it would likely benefit him to cut down on the usage of his fastballs, especially his four-seamer. Making these changes could improve Brubaker’s results in the future.
As for 2021, what Brubaker’s role will be is unknown. Odds are, he will enter spring training with an opportunity to pitch his way into a earning a spot in the team’s starting rotation. If this does not happen, there is a good shot he will start the season in the Pirate bullpen.
Now, yes, there is an argument to be made for Brubaker to go to Triple-A and pitch out of the rotation to remained stretched out. That said, there is also a question about if Brubaker has anything to gain from pitching at Triple-A. He would likely be better suited pitching out of a MLB bullpen, which is where his long term home may be anyway.