Welcome to episode 10 of the Pirates Playoff Projections series!
If you read my intro to the Bucs Dugout site back in July, you’ll remember that I’m a big fantasy baseball fan, which makes me a bit of a numbers/projections guy at times. I still use the eye test plenty to help me find players I like, and there’s nothing quite like enjoying a Pirates baseball game with the emotional interest of a lifelong fan, but I love the statisical, fantasy side of the game as well.
With that in mind, I thought it might be a worthwhile project to start projecting what key Pirates players will need to do in 2020 if the Bucs are going to shock the league and end up in the playoffs come October. I know, I know, it’s a stretch based on the season we all just witnessed. But with a new manager and staff coming together, I figured it’s a good time for some optimism.
Each week I’ll pick a player and go through what their 2020 season might look like under the assumption that they’re able to help lead the black and gold to their first playoff appearance since 2015. Let’s go Bucs!
While offseason transactions could surely change Steven Brault’s role for 2020, it appears at this point in time that he’ll start the year as the Pirates fourth or fifth arm in the starting rotation. Based on what he showed in spurts last season, I’m totally fine with that.
Once he began consistently starting games for the Pirates he took the ball 13 times from May 29th through September 1st. The left-handed starter allowed more than three runs just one time in that stretch. The finale to the season (four more September starts) wasn’t pretty, but when taking an optimistic approach to next season, those 13 starts are something we as Pirates fans and baseball analysts can really hang our hat on.
Five quality starts over that 13-game stretch is pretty encouraging, but four outings going less than five innings pitched is a bit of a flag too. The walks were the main culprit of those shorter outings, and Brault will have to be better than his 3.23 BB/9 during that time if he wants to be a permanent answer for Pittsburgh in the rotation. The strikeouts came and went throughout the year, so keeping his 34.1% hard hit rate and 6.1% home run rate will be important, and that could prove tough.
All in all, the skills are there for the lefty to be a fine back-of-the-rotation option for the Bucs. Especially considering Jameson Taillon’s injury and the lack of consistency the Pirates got from their supposedly reliable starters in 2019. It’s also a bonus that Brault is a stand-up guy in the clubouse with plus fielding skills and capability at the plate and on the base paths. If he can hone the strikeout skills and consistent delivery he showed in games like the Chicago Cubs matchup on August 17th, there could be good things in store for the 27-year-old from San Diego.
Steven Brault 2020:
27 games started
9-9 record (9 no-decisions)
151 innings pitched, 133 strikeouts (7.93 K/9)
4.45 ERA and 1.37 WHIP
What do YOU think? Give me some over, under, or just rights down in the comments below. I’m also always happy to hear your thoughts on more in-depth statistics like HR/FB, xFIP, BABIP, and more. Hope you’re all having a good offseason so far, and I’ll be back next week to tackle another Bucco stat line for 2020. Until then, Let’s go Bucs!