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Bucs Breakdown: How Steven Brault silenced Derek Dietrich

Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Reds Derek Dietrich was on a roll coming into yesterday’s final game of the series against the Pirates. Game one of the double header on Monday saw him go 0-for-3 (one strikeout), then he went 1-3 with a solo home run and two strikeouts in game two.

In game three on Tuesday, Dietrich went 3-for-4 with three home runs and six RBIs.

It was clear that starter Steven Brault would need to neutralize him to keep Pittsburgh in the game for the final match-up of the four-game series.

Brault did just that, striking Dietrich out twice (he ended up going 2-4 with one RBI for a .429/4 HR/8 RBIs series slash line).

How did he do it? Let’s take a look at how Brault kept Dietrich in check despite being one of the least likely Pirates starter to do so in this series.

Below is the first at-bat 3D pitch plot from Baseball Savant. Brault threw two sliders (brown, actually labeled cutters on Savant) and a two-seam fastball (orange) for a three pitch strikeout.

From 2016 to the current season, Dietrich hasn’t fared well against sliders (.186) but will eat up two-seam fastballs (.350). Though its debatable what Brault actually threw here (as mentioned, MLB considers the two brown pitches cutters), I’d lean more towards them being sliders based on their behaviors or (what I’ll call it) a ‘slutter’.

Pitch one has Brault starting Dietrich off with a two-seam fastball that was attacked a bit early and swung over.

Despite thriving on two-seamers, the zone that Brault threw to is an area that Dietrich has his lowest batting average on. Middle-away is where he unloads and Brault must have been somewhat aware of that.

The next pitch is the ‘slutter’ (cutter/slider) because its much too slow for any variety of fastball (82 MPH). This broke a bit below Dietrich’s bat and probably drove him nuts because with a inch or so difference in swing path, we might have witnessed home run number five.

The next pitch, Brault throws what is definitely a slider and Dietrich just flails at the pitch.

I’m not sure what he saw or expected here but Brault had his number during this at-bat. A hitter as hot as Dietrich doesn’t typically made a mistake that bad.

The next plate appearance was a bit more taxing, yet yielded the same result. Below is the 3D plot chart.

Again, we see what is labeled as a cutter (brown) but were more likely sliders (or ‘slutters’) as well as a four-seam (red) and two-seam fastball (orange).

Brault opens up with a two-seam fastball that had good glove-side run which caught the far edge of the zone.

Something interesting to observe here. Notice how catcher Elias Diaz starts his positioning for up and in, then adjusts for the away pitch? It’s possible that Brault missed his spot or the two got their signals crossed, but I’m thinking it was a tactical decision to throw Dietrich off.

Next, Brault again goes with another fastball, this time up and away. Dietrich wasn’t fooled here but it was a good ‘waste’ pitch to keep him on his toes.

Pitch three was a filthy slider down and away, much like the one Brault threw for the swinging strikeout in the previous plate appearance. Again, a flailing swing which shows how hard a time Dietrich has with sliders.

Next is another ‘waste’ pitch from Brault, probably to see if he could get him to chase the slider again. No dice this time.

Now Brault has Dietrich at 2-2 and can go with anything right here. He’s kept his pitches away both times he faced him, so Dietrich may be thinking Brault is due to come inside this time.

Well, not exactly.

Dietrich proved he can’t hit his ‘slutter’ (or slider), so Brault and Diaz got him on it again. A great pitch in the perfect location for another strikeout.

Outside of these two at-bats, Brault pitched a great game and gave the Pirates a much-needed win to create some momentum as they head back home to face the Milwaukee Brewers.