Pittsburgh Pirates: Potential Outlook for JT Brubaker

May 17, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher JT Brubaker (34) delivers against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
May 17, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher JT Brubaker (34) delivers against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports /
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Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander JT Brubaker has been a solid starter for the Bucs this year, but is he part of the team’s long term outlook?

Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander JT Brubaker has had a solid season so far. The overall numbers might not reflect it, but he’s recently strung together a handful of decent starts. Plus, there are plenty of underlying metrics that suggest some bad defense has gotten in the way of better performance. Regardless of that, is he part of the team’s long-term outlook?

Brubaker has a 5.50 ERA, 4.17 FIP, and 1.42 WHIP on the year. He’s improved his strikeout rate to 26.5%, and his HR/9 sits at a solid 1.15. But this has come at the cost of an 11.7% walk rate. But these numbers undermine what he has done across his last six starts.

His last 28.2 innings of work have yielded a much better looking 4.40 ERA, 3.75 FIP, and 1.22 WHIP. Brubaker’s K-rate has approached 30%, sitting at 29.3%, while his walk rate is a touch below 10% at 9.8%. Home runs have been a slight issue given his 1.25 HR/9 rate, but it is still a massive improvement over last season. Brubaker likely would have an ERA under four across these six outings had it not been for his previous start against the Cubs. If you watched that game, you’d know that two errors extended what should have been a pretty short fifth inning.

Brubaker also has a 4.00 xFIP, 3.86 SIERA, and 3.97 DRA. He’s kept line drives to just a 15.2% rate, which was a big issue last season. Brubaker has run into some bad luck with a 55.6% left on base rate, compared to the 71.4% rate he had between 2020 and 2021. If he keeps pitching like he has, his LOB% will go back closer to the norm, and he’ll pitch more like the 3.80-4.00 ERA pitcher many stats project him to be.

But that raises the question: is Brubaker part of the Pittsburgh Pirates long-term?

By the summer of 2023 the Pittsburgh Pirates should have an unestablished but very talented 1-4 with Roansy Contreras, Quinn Priester, Michael Burrows, and Carmen Mlodzinski starting things off. If Brubaker wants a role as a starting pitcher, he has much more competition past just these four. There’s Miguel Yajure, Zach Thompson, Max Kranick, Dillon Peters, J.C. Flowers, Omar Cruz, Trey McGough, Ricky DeVito, and Cody Bolton. There are probably more names I am forgetting.

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Brubaker indeed has a lot of competition, but many guys are going to end up in the bullpen eventually. There’s definitely a solid pitcher within Brubaker. This year will be an important season for the right-hander. If he can continue to pitch the way he has his past six starts, he’ll definitely reinforce the idea he could be part of this rotation long-term. That’s something I believe he can do and become.

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