5 more bold predictions for the 2024 Pittsburgh Pirates

Keep an eye out for these five things going right for the Pirates in 2024

Mar 3, 2024; North Port, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Henry Davis (32) celebrates
Mar 3, 2024; North Port, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Henry Davis (32) celebrates / Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
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1. Pirates throw a combined no-hitter

The Pirates' bullpen figures to be one of the primary strengths of the team in 2024, as it was with the Shark Tank during the era of the mid-2010s playoff teams. The extent to which this strength fully manifests itself remains to be seen, but it sure would be fun if the Pirates accomplished a feat they haven't pulled off since 1997.

Ben Cherington entered the offseason with an obvious need in the starting rotation, and conceded that multiple additions were necessary. He accomplished that goal by trading for Marco Gonzales and signing Martin Perez to a one-year deal, but when attempts to further add to the rotation didn't materialize, Cherington pivoted and signed Aroldis Chapman.

The logic there is that beefing up the bullpen shortens games and takes pressure off of a primarily young starting staff, and adding a player with Chapman's talent and pedigree does that. At age 35, he posted a 3.09 ERA, struck out over 41 percent of opposing hitters, and still managed to average 99.6 MPH on his fastball. Slotting him as the primary set-up guy ahead of two-time All-Star closer David Bednar puts the Pirates in excellent position late in games.

This bullpen is well stocked with other weapons who, on the right day, are very tough to hit. Colin Holderman, the primary set-up option last season, throws a sinker that averages 97.9 MPH with over 15 inches of tail, as well as a devastating sweeper that induced a .185 opponent's batting average and a whiff rate over 37 percent.

Lefty Ryan Borucki flew under the radar as an in-season minor league free agent signing, but went on to lead all MLB pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched in 2024 with a 0.74 WHIP. He was particularly tough against left-handed hitters, who batted just .149 against him.

The aforementioned Carmen Mlodzinski was probably a bit luckier than his 2.25 ERA would indicate, but he throws a hard fastball and two plus secondary pitches, and didn't allow a batting average higher than .229 or a slugging percentage higher than .316 against any of those pitches. Had he thrown enough innings to qualify, his four percent barrel rate would have finished in the 94th percentile.

Neither Roansy Contreras nor Luis Ortiz were able to secure a spot in the starting rotation, but both pitchers found themselves in the bullpen, at least to start the season. They each suffered a dip in fastball velocity in 2023 but tinkered with their approach and mechanics throughout the winter and spring. Pitching shorter outings should allow their fastballs to ramp back up to their original velocity, and with each pitcher also throwing a plus slider, they could thrive in relief roles.

Manager Derek Shelton has plenty of weapons at his disposal when he needs to make the call to the bullpen. In the event that a starter - perhaps a young starter like Jared Jones or Paul Skenes - gets through only four or five innings, but does so without allowing a hit, this bullpen is more than capable of putting up more zeroes and placing themselves in the history books.