Dodgers @ Pirates June 8, 2021: Buehler vs. Brubaker

After losing two out of three against the Atlanta Braves (28-29) this weekend, the Dodgers (34-25) will now face the Pittsburgh Pirates (23-35) three times before heading home to face the Texas Rangers (23-38) and Philadelphia Phillies (28-30). The Pirates have the second worst record in the National League, ahead of only the Arizona Diamondbacks (20-41), and they also have a better record than the Rangers who the team faces this coming weekend. Realistically, the Dodgers should be trying to sweep both of those teams as they’re amongst the worst in the game.

The first game of this series starts with Walker Buehler on the mound for the Dodgers, up against the right-handed JT Brubaker for the Pirates.

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4:05 PM Pittsburgh
RF Betts 2B Frazier (L)
1B Muncy (L) 3B Hayes
3B Turner CF Reynolds (S)
CF Bellinger (L) 1B Moran (L)
C Smith C Stallings
2B Taylor RF Polanco (L)
SS Lux (L) LF Evans
LF Pollock SS Newman
P Buehler (R) P Brubaker (R)

Outside of Corey Seager, this looks like the best lineup the team could’ve fielded going into the season. Most importantly, the best hitter on the team thus far in Max Muncy, is back in the lineup after some ankle discomfort during the series in Atlanta. Overall this is a great matchup for the Dodgers. Against right-handed pitching, they have the highest ranked offense by wRC+ at 115, and the fourth highest OPS at .759. The right-handed Brubaker has allowed a .781 OPS against right-handed batters compared to .690 against left-handed batters.

As a team, the Pirates have had one of the worst offenses in the league, featuring the second lowest wRC+ in baseball at 82, and the lowest OPS at .649. Still, they do have a few guys who’ve managed to piece together very solid seasons thus far. The switch-hitting center fielder Bryan Reynolds has an .880 OPS and a 143 wRC+, and Adam Frazier has a 141 wRC+ while hitting .332, the fourth highest average in the game. They also just reactivated the 24 year-old top prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes from the IL. In his 95 plate appearances last season he had a 1.124 OPS with seemingly elite defense at third base.

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Here’s how Buehler and Brubaker matchup.

Buehler earned his fourth win of the season last time out against the Cardinals, pitching six innings and allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out eight. Buehler still hasn’t pieced together a stretch where he’s looked like the dominant starter he is, but his 2.82 ERA shows his ability to limit runs without always being as sharp as he has been in the past. He currently features the lowest strikeout rate of his career at just 25.7%, barely above league average of 24.1%, which is the highest rate of all time, increasing from 23.4% last season and for the fourteenth consecutive season. He’s also paired that with the lowest walk rate of his career thus far at 4.8%, the eleventh lowest amongst qualified starters. During the upcoming stretch, he has a good chance to put together a few solid starts against some of the easiest matchups he’ll get all year.

The 27 year-old Brubaker is in just his second season after throwing 47.1 innings in 2020. He last started on 5/29, going six innings allowing no runs on four hits with five strikeouts. That was his first start without giving up any runs, and he was coming off of his two worst starts of the year, giving up twelve runs over those two starts and eleven innings. In his shortened rookie season he had a passable year, with a 4.94 ERA, 4.08 FIP, and a 1.37 WHIP. It’s tough to judge anyone with just fifty innings, it’s likely he could’ve dropped his ERA lower with more starts. Additionally, he has lowered his ERA and his walk rate this year, down to a very respectable 5.5%. He sits 93-94 MPH with both his fastball and sinker, usually using them both equally, with a slider in the upper 80’s as his main off speed offering.

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Among 111 pitchers last season that logged at least 40 innings, Tony Gonsolin was fifth in FIP at 2.29, trailing Corbin Burnes, Shane Bieber, Yu Darvish, and Jacob deGrom. His 2.31 ERA was eleventh, and his 0.84 WHIP was fourth. Obviously, the expectations aren’t that he repeats that, but he was great last year in the short season, and getting him back should be a big boost.

As expected.

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First pitch is at 4:05 PM PDT on SNLA.

About Allan Yamashige

Just a guy living in Southern California, having a good time writing about baseball. Hated baseball practice as a kid, but writing about it rules. Thanks for reading!