This is the one in a series of stories looking at members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster.
Other than Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker has got to be one of the most polarizing starting pitchers on the Pittsburgh Pirates staff. You either really like the Akron native, or you want to yank him out of the rotation or even off the team altogether.
Brubaker has had quite an interesting major-league career with the Pirates. Over his three-year span with the Pirates, Brubaker has amassed a career ERA of 4.96, but he does have some good qualities, as shown by his career xFIP of 3.96.
Overall, Brubaker has proven to be, if anything, a solid middle of the rotation starter and should get the ball every five days. Brubaker’s career WAR should speak to this at a 3.1 over his three years with the Pirates, most of which came in the 2022 season, where he accrued a 1.9.
Brubaker’s 1.9 WAR in ’22 isn’t an amazing statistic or anything of the sort, but it should earn him a starting spot in the Pirates’ rotation.
It’s fairly easy to say that ’22 was Brubaker’s best year as a major leaguer. Based on the basic stats alone, Brubaker’s ERA went from 5.36 in 2021 to 4.69 in ’22. Home run numbers went down significantly as well, from 28 to 17.
An underrated stat was the number of innings he pitched at 144.0, which is a shade under 20 more innings than his previous year.
On a rebuilding team, you need an innings eater and other than Keller’s 159 innings, Brubaker would’ve held the top spot in innings pitched.
Looking at the more advanced stats for the 29-year-old, he posted a 3.87 xFIP, 3.97 SIERA and dropped his HR/9 from 2.03 to 1.06. For all of you that know Brubaker’s biggest issues, the home run numbers are the biggest ones.
One of the biggest changes to Brubaker’s game was using his sinker a lot more. In ’21, Brubaker used the sinker 24.6% of the time. In ’22, Brubaker boosted those numbers to 41.9%, which would explain the slight increase in ground balls from ’21 to ’22.
In order to improve in 2023, the righty will have to improve upon his opponent’s batting average on his sinker (.283) and slider (.255).
If the Akron native can master his sinker/slider combination and continue to use his curveball effectively (opponents hit .216 on the curveball), we should see a slightly better year from Brubaker.
The Pirates most likely won’t compete in 2023, but if they can potentially boost Brubaker’s value, it would give them a plethora of options when the time comes to compete for division titles.