STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Don't look now, but Steven Brault has turned into the starting pitching depth option the Pirates had hoped he would be.
While not without warts, Brault's performance since May 18 has been markedly improved. In his five games since that date, three of which were starts (although another should be considered a de facto start as he relieved opener Michael Feliz after just just one out in the first), Brault has pitched to a 2.55 ERA. His .225/.343/.337 triple-slash line is solid enough, aided by a .264 BABIP.
And now, the warts. Over that time frame, Brault struck out only 15.1 percent of his batters faced while walking 14.2 percent. Those numbers benefit slightly when adding in his other appearances, to 18.5 and 13 percent rates, respectively. During this stretch, Brault has given up hard contact 43.2 percent of the time, while inducing soft contact at just a 13.5 percent clip.
Still, that 2.55 ERA is tough to ignore, even if a 4.32 FIP tells us that it is a bit unearned.
What has changed for the left-hander? Turns out, quite a few things. Some larger in scope, some minuscule, but all adding up to a pitcher who is putting his best foot forward, no matter how steady that foot may ultimately be.