Pittsburgh Pirates: Previewing Potential Rotation Battle
The Pirates have used JT Brubaker as a starting pitcher since 2020. Originally a sixth-round draft pick in 2015, Brubaker took a step forward from 2022. But while there were a handful of positives, there were also a handful of negatives. Overall on the season, Brubaker had a 4.69 ERA, 3.92 FIP, and 1.47 WHIP. His strikeout rate went from 24% to just 22.8%, while his walk rate rose from 7.1% to 8.4%.
But the biggest improvement was home runs. Last year, he had a 2.03 HR/9 but cut that down to just 1.06 this year. Although his ground ball rate increased slightly by 1.2%, most of it was better flyball luck. Brubaker's HR/FB ratio of 22.4% was one of the highest marks since batted ball rates started to be tracked. This year, it normalized to an 11.7% rate, which is almost identical to the league-average rate.
But Brubaker's season can be broken down into three pieces. Brubaker stumbled out of the gate, allowing eight earned runs in his first two starts of the year. Then, Brubaker found himself a groove, working to a 3.50 ERA, 3.67 FIP, and 1.37 WHIP for the next 92.2 frames. But the home stretch of the season did not treat him well. He pitched 44 innings, allowing 31 earned runs. Some bad luck, like a .371 BAbip, didn't help him out either, and he still had a workable 4.11 FIP during this stretch, but his season ended on a sour note regardless.
Despite Brubaker's decreased strikeout rate, he increased his chase rate to 30.6% (62nd percentile) while his whiff rate remained at 27.3% (also in the 62nd percentile). Brubaker has the highest curveball spin rate among Oviedo and Velasquez, coming in at 2813 RPM and in the top 88th percentile. Batters only managed a .250 wOBA against his curve. Though his sinker was also considered above average per run value.