Morning Report: Steven Brault Highlights the Real Problem With the Pirates

Yesterday, after Steven Brault’s line for the day was complete, I threw out a tweet highlighting how good he has been over the last month and a half.

I sent out a similar tweet prior to his previous outing. In both cases, there were no opinions. There were no pre-conceived notions to support. There was just information.

My favorite thing in those types of situations is seeing how people react to the information. For some, it can be eye opening, and change their view. For others, it doesn’t make a difference on their view.

In this case, you might think that Brault actually has been a good depth option over the last month. You’d see that he’s got numbers that are not only above the league average, but better than almost everyone on the team, and better than any active starter right now.

Or you might look past the ERA and look at the walks he’s allowed. Or the high strand rate. Or the xFIP that is much higher than the ERA, taking everything into account and predicting that future outings won’t be as successful with the same trends that we’ve seen in the last six weeks.

You might think that Brault has been good. Or you might think that Brault won’t be this good going forward. Or you might think both. Because either way, you could be right.

I’ve been pointing out Brault’s numbers for two reasons. Number one is to shine light on how good of a depth option he has been. Chris Archer went down on April 27th, and that started the need for rotation depth. Jameson Taillon went down a week later. Trevor Williams went down not long after that.

In all of that time, Brault has been good more often than he’s been bad. He’s had bad outings, and he’s had one horrible outing. But overall he’s been good — as good as you could expect a sixth starter to be, and probably better than you should expect a sixth starter to be.

At the same time, Brault probably won’t continue this. The xFIP during this time is the big indicator here. He walks too many people and he doesn’t strike enough guys out. This leads to more balls being put in play, which leads to more hits and home runs, which combined with the walks is not a good combo. This also drives his pitch count up, meaning he doesn’t go deep into games, which adds work to a bullpen that has also dealt with injuries and shaky performances.

Still, the xFIP isn’t bad for a sixth starter. It’s not great, but it’s about what you’d expect from a guy who starts the year outside of the rotation as a backup plan.

I’ve largely gone without opinion to this point, but I’ll add that in here to show why I’m focusing on Brault so much: He’s been used way too often over the last six weeks of an example of what is wrong with the Pirates right now. And when you look at what is wrong with the Pirates right now, you see that Brault is far from the problem.

So what’s the perceived problem? It’s that the Pirates have horrible depth. They don’t have anyone who can step up to boost the rotation, which is their biggest strength, and the part of the team that was expected to carry them.

And what’s the real problem? It’s right there in that tweet from yesterday.

It’s Chris Archer getting hurt, then returning to look worse than Brault’s xFIP.

It’s Joe Musgrove looking way worse than Brault’s xFIP.

It’s Jordan Lyles coming back to Earth a bit, after being the lone rotation member who was doing well a few weeks ago.

It’s Jameson Taillon being out for a long period of time, and Trevor Williams joining him for a slightly shorter absence.

When you have that much going wrong in the rotation in such a short time span, you enter emergency mode. You need a savior who can come in and shut down the opposition every time out. That should be the job of someone from the 1-5 group. It shouldn’t be the job of the number six starter.

So when that number six starter does well, it’s seen as good, but also downplayed a bit because it was needed, rather than being a bonus. And when that number six starter struggles, it’s seen as much worse than it is, because it’s a reminder that literally nothing is working with this rotation right now.

The real problem here though is that the best starter on the team right now is the number six option, and he looks like a regression candidate. That regression will happen, unless we see some drastic change to reduce walks or increase strikeouts.

The Pirates don’t need improvement on their depth options right now. They need improvement from three of their top five starters. Their offense has ranked 10th in the majors in wOBA and wRC+ during the time frame mentioned above. Imagine where this team would be right now with Archer, Musgrove, and Lyles performing similar to, or better than Brault during this time.

Then flip that around. Imagine what happens if this offense isn’t actually a top ten offense. Imagine what happens if, or when, Brault regresses. In that scenario, the Pirates will need their other starters to rebound, or things could get very ugly, very fast.

This isn’t a situation that one starter can fix. This is a situation where the Pirates need the majority of their rotation to rebound and/or get healthy. And that’s not usually a position in June that results in the playoffs in October.


Altoona is in fourth place in their division, seven games back with nine games remaining in the first half.

Bradenton is in second place in their division, one game back with seven games remaining in the first half.

Greensboro is in second place in their division, 6.5 games back with seven games remaining in the schedule.


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 5-2 to the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday afternoon. The Pirates now travel to Atlanta for a four-game series against the Braves. Joe Musgrove will be on the mound tonight, making his 13th start. He allowed three runs over eight innings in his start against the Braves five days ago. In his previous two starts combined, Musgrove surrendered 11 runs on 21 hits in 11 innings. The Braves will counter with right-hander Kevin Gausman, who has a 6.15 ERA in 60 innings, with 60 strikeouts and a 1.47 WHIP. He opposed Musgrove five days ago and allowed seven runs on 12 hits in five innings. His previous start was eight runs in just one inning of work against the Washington Nationals.

The minor league schedule includes Greensboro’s Osvaldo Bido, who is coming off of an outstanding outing last time he pitched. Bido went six shutout innings, with one hit, one walk and a career high ten strikeouts. However, last time he faced today’s opponent (Hickory), he had his worst outing, giving up seven runs in four innings. Bradenton doesn’t have a starter listed, but it should be Aaron Shortridge. He went a career high 7.2 innings in his last start, giving up three runs on five hits and two walks. Shortridge allowed one run over six innings last time he faced Charlotte (today’s opponent). Both Indianapolis and Altoona have off today.

MLB: Pittsburgh (30-34) @ Braves (36-29) 7:20 PM
Probable starter: Joe Musgrove (4.44 ERA, 57:20 SO/BB, 73.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (35-26) vs Buffalo (27-34) 7:05 PM 6/11 (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Escobar (2.33 ERA, 19:9 SO/BB, 19.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (30-30) vs Portland (21-38) 6:30 PM 6/11 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

High-A: Bradenton (35-27) @ Charlotte (32-30) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Aaron Shortridge (3.72 ERA, 53:11 SO/BB, 67.2 IP)

Low-A: Greensboro (40-23) vs Hickory (38-22) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Osvaldo Bido (3.39 ERA, 57:15 SO/BB, 66.1 IP)

DSL: Pirates1 (4-3) vs Rangers1 10:30 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (6-1) vs Colorado 10:30 AM  (season preview)


From Altoona, enjoy the drop on this pitch from James Marvel to pick up a strikeout

In game one of Saturday’s doubleheader, Domingo Robles gets the 5-4-3 double play to end his shutout

RBI singles by Jared Oliva and Mitchell Tolman give the Curve all the runs they need in a 2-1 victory in game two (Marvel started)


6/9: Shea Murray assigned to Bradenton. Hunter Stratton assigned to Extended Spring Training

6/8: Pirates recall Corey Dickerson, Jung Ho Kang and Michael Feliz. Nick Kingham designated for assignment. Cole Tucker optioned to Indianapolis. Rookie Davis placed on injured list.

6/8: Brad Case assigned to Bradenton. Luis Nova assigned to Greensboro.

6/7: Matt Morrow and Dean Lockery added to Bradenton roster. Robbie Glendinning and Jesse Medrano suspended (by league).

6/5: Jesus Liranzo sent outright to Indianapolis. Trayvon Robinson placed on injured list.

6/4: Deon Stafford and Hunter Stratton suspended (by league). Shea Murray assigned to Extended Spring Training. John Bormann and Luis Nova added to Bradenton roster.

6/3: Cody Bolton placed on injured list

6/2: Pirates release Randolph Gassaway

5/31: Pedro Vasquez and Alfredo Reyes assigned to Altoona. Adrian Valerio and Ryan Valdes assigned to Bradenton.

5/31: Jack Herman assigned to Greensboro. Brett Kinneman assigned to Extended Spring Training

5/31: Allen Montgomery added to Bradenton roster

5/30: Connor Kaiser activated from Greenboro injured list.


Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note. On this date in 1969, the Pirates traded pitcher Ron Kline to the San Francisco Giants to reacquire pitcher Joe Gibbon. The Pirates got the best of this exchange of bullpen arms, getting 1 1/2 years from Gibbon, including a solid 1969 season. Kline pitched just seven games for the Giants.

Here’s a rundown of the former players born on this date:

Carlos Rivera, first baseman for the 2003-04 Pirates. He played pro ball for 20 season, last appearing in the Mexican League in 2015.

Pokey Reese, second baseman during the 2002-03 season. Won two Gold Gloves with Reds before joining Pirates. Hit .254 in 156 games in Pittsburgh.

Hank Foiles, catcher from 1956 until 1959. Came to the Pirates from the Cubs in the Ralph Kiner deal.

Johnny Podgajny pitcher during the 1943 season. He was traded to the Cardinals for pitcher Preacher Roe.

Danny MacFayden, 1940 pitcher. Went 132-159 over a 17-year career in the majors.

Jap Barbeau, 1909 third baseman, who was dealt during the season, missing out on the first World Series title in franchise history.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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