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Pirates All 40: JT Brubaker’s Potential Breakout Halted by Lost Season

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JT Brubaker, Pittsburgh Pirates

This is one in a series of stories breaking down members of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 40-man roster.

JT Brubaker looked poised for a potential breakout season on the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2023.

The right-hander’s 2022 numbers on the surface level weren’t all that impressive. Brubaker, finished the season 5-12 with a 4.69 ERA across a career-high 28 starts.

Digging deeper, the underlying metrics indicated that Brubaker could be a better pitcher moving forward as compared to what he showed. Brubaker’s 3.92 FIP was a stark contrast to an ERA that was nearly 80 points higher. Additionally, he recorded more strikeouts (147) than innings pitched (144).

Brubaker added some fuel to the fire in regards to an emergence during spring training when he struck out an eye-opening 26 batters in only 17.1 innings pitched. He did this while only issuing three free passes.

The Pirates were counting on Brubaker to be a key member of their rotation in 2023 and did feel like a breakout was coming. Alas, Brubaker’s season was over before it began.

At the end of March, the Pirates placed him on the 15-day injured list with right elbow discomfort. Shortly thereafter, Brubaker, who turned 30 years old earlier this month, underwent the dreaded Tommy John surgery. He was sidelined for the entire year and won’t be back on the mound for the Pirates until midseason 2024 at best.

When he does return, it will certainly be a welcomed one for the Pirates. General manager Ben Cherington will acquire multiple starting pitchers this winter, but the current state of the Pirates’ rotation is bare.

Like Brubaker, Johan Oviedo will have Tommy John. From the 2023 starting rotation, Mitch Keller is the only one remaining who compiled a significant workload throughout the season in Pittsburgh.

As last season marched on, the Pirates could have used Brubaker’s services as the rotation became even more problematic towards the end of the year. Though his career numbers are largely mediocre, he could have been a needed innings-eater.

In his three years with the Pirates, Brubaker owns a 4.99 ERA with a 4.43 FIP. In 315.2 innings pitched, he’s compiled 324 strikeouts, 109 walks and 328 hits allowed. His record of 9-28 is unpleasant, but certainly has a lot to do with the quality of the teams he’s been a part of.

At some point next season, the Pirates will again be counting on Brubaker every fifth day. Maybe his breakout will come after a lengthy hiatus. Or maybe, it will simply be more status quo from what we’ve seen out of him.

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