Pittsburgh Pirates: Breaking Down JT Brubaker’s 2020 Season


During the 2020 season JT Brubaker made his MLB debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Let’s dive into what went well, and what did not, for the right-handed pitcher

In the third game of the 2020 season for the Pittsburgh Pirates, right-handed pitcher JT Brubaker made his MLB debut. Brubaker pitched 2 scoreless innings in this outing, striking out four batters while allowing three hits.

This outing quickly put Brubaker on the map for fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates. It also got a lot of fans excited about Brubaker’s future. It also started a bit of a wild ride for Brubaker during the 2020 season.

Brubaker pitched in 11 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2020, with nine of them being starts. Logging 47.1 innings in these 11 games, Brubaker posted a 4.94 ERA. However, his 4.08 FIP and 4.51 DRA paint a better picture.

What plagued Brubaker most in 2020 was the home run ball. He allowed six home runs in his 47.1 innings of work, which comes out to a 1.14 HR/9. While this is not a terrible home run rate, you would like to see it be closer to, if not below, 1.00 HR/9.

Brubaker walked 8.3% of batters faced, which, again, is not awful but you would like to see come down closer to 7.0%. He also struck out 23.8% of batters faced and flashed some plus stuff as a pitcher.

His best pitch in 2020 was his slider. Brubaker’s slider generated a 37.2% whiff rate while limiting  opposing batters to a .204 batting average and .352 slugging percentage. His curveball was also a plus pitch, limiting opposing batters to a .182 batting average and a .318 slugging percentage. Brubaker’s curveball also generated a whiff rate of 38.1%.

One thing Brubaker can do in 2021 to improve is to rely on these two pitches more. He threw his slider 32.3% of the time in 2020 which is plenty good enough. However, he threw his curveball just 13.7% of the itme. Ideally, you would like to see Brubaker throw these two pitches a combined 50-55% of the time in 2021.

As for what role Brubaker will play in 2021, that remains to be seen. Right now, he would likely start the season in the bullpen. However, Joe Musgrove seems like a slam dunk to be traded. Steven Brault could be traded as well, creating spots in the rotation for Brubaker.

If Brubaker ends up in the bullpen he could serve multiple relief roles as well. Brubaker could be a long reliever for the Pirates, as well as being an effective high leverage/late inning reliever for the Bucs. The pure, natural stuff that Brubaker has gives him great potential as a MLB pitcher.

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Entering the 2021 season it is uncertain what role Brubaker will play for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He could be in the starting rotation or pitch out of the bullpen. Even within the bullpen, he could play multiple different roles.

Regardless of the role Brubaker plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021, there are some things he will need to imrpove on. If he can improve his control and cut back on home runs allowed, he can find a lot of success in the Majors.