Pittsburgh Pirates: JT Brubaker Bounces Back after Rough Pair of May Outings

Photo Credit: MLB.com

 It was a back-to-back set of starts that raised some concerns for Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher J.T. Brubaker. He has quickly quieted them with his play over his last four starts.

It was a rough two-game stretch for Brubaker against the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves on May 18th and 23rd. The 27-year old righty from Akron University allowed 12 earned runs (four home runs) in just 11 innings pitched.

The beating he took was so severe that it almost raised his ERA by two points (2.58 to 4.20). 

Since then Brubaker has found his rhythm again, finding his stuff again and putting the Pirates in position to win each time he was has played. In the four starts since playing Atlanta, Brubaker has posted an 2.82 ERA, with just three walks in 22 1/3 innings pitched. He has also held batters to an .537 OPS in those starts and his WPA (win probability added) has been positive (0.406) despite posting a 1-2 record in that span.

The wins have been hard to come by, with just one in that span, but he has kept the Pirates in games while the offense has struggled to capitalize on having a healthy lineup.

Really, this is an opportunity to appreciate what Brubaker has done this season for the Pirates, and how effective he's been. Despite those two starts, Brubaker ranks at the top in a lot of ball in ball metrics, as well as other numbers.

Brubaker ranks in the 30s in each of Barrels-per-plate appearance (5.0%, 34th), hard hit (36.9%, 31st), and sweet spot (31.1%) percentages, as well as average exit velocity (88.1 MPH). That's top end #2 production when it comes to limiting solid contact. 

How has he been doing it? With a deadly slider that ranks among one of the best pitches in the game.

According to Baseball Savant, Brubaker's slider has produced the ninth highest whiff rate (minimum 100 PA) with a 38.5%. His putaway percentage stands at 30.7%, good for tenth in all of baseball. Basically, when there are two strikes and Brubaker throws his slider, he gets a strikeout 30.7% of the time.

In a year where Tyler Anderson was supposed to eat innings (which he's done), and Mitch Keller was finally supposed to emerge as the team's top pitcher, Brubaker has stolen the spotlight. 

He's given the team stability in a rotation that has been all over the place at times. Now if his own manager would give him a chance to really take the next step in his development.

What has been your impressions of Brubaker this season? What are your realistic expectations for him the rest of the season? Let us know in the comment section below, subscribe to the site with the link at the top of the page and follow us on Twitter @SportBlogMurphy.

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