Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander JT Brubaker struggled with consistency in 2022 but could be a solid pitcher in 2023 if he can find a groove
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher JT Brubaker started 28 games and pitched 144 innings. His surface numbers weren't anything to write home about, with a 4.69 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. But on the plus side, Brubaker had a 3.92 FIP, 3.97 SIERA, and 3.87 xFIP. While Brubaker has decent numbers under the hood, the most important thing Brubaker needs for 2023 is consistency.
Brubaker's first two starts saw him allow eight earned runs in just 7.1 innings. He struck out and walked seven batters, and allowed a home run. But then, Brubaker went on a great hot streak that lasted nearly 100 innings.
Across Brubaker's next 92.2 innings, the right-hander had a quality 3.50 ERA, 3.67 xFIP, and 1.37 WHIP. His 23.1% strikeout rate and 8.6% walk rate were slightly above average, but he was great at limiting home runs. Brubaker had a 0.87 HR/9 as he had an above-average 36.8% hard-hit rate and a 43% ground ball rate.
But the home stretch is where Brubaker struggled once again. His last nine starts and 44 innings saw him work to a 6.34 ERA, 4.11 FIP, and 1.55 WHIP. While Brubaker kept a 23% strikeout rate and lowered his walk rate to 6%, but his HR/9 skyrocketed to 1.43. While Brubaker's ground ball rate rose to 47.5%, his hard hit rate rose by over 10% to 49.6%. Now granted, some bad luck played a role in his struggles, given he had a .371 batting average on balls in play, 3.32 xFIP, and 3.54 SIERA. But it was clear that Brubaker was giving up a lot more hard contact, which was the main reason for his late-season struggles.
Brubaker can be a quality pitcher. He was for nearly 100 innings this past season. While Brubaker's underlying statistics point to better results, the most important thing the right-hander needs next year is just to be consistent. Brubaker has shown he can be a key part of a starting rotation, and if he pieces it all together next year, he could have a nice breakout season.