Pittsburgh Pirates 2023 Season Recap: Colin Holderman Struggles in High-Leverage Situations

Colin Holderman should be used differently in 2024

May 30, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Colin Holderman (35)
May 30, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Colin Holderman (35) / D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
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While Colin Holderman pitched well for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2023, he is best suited to be used out of the bullpen in situations that are not high-leverage situations

After being acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates in July 2022, right-handed reliever Colin Holderman pretty quickly became a key cog in the team's bullpen. Unfortunately for Holderman, this first impression with the Pirates would be short lived. After pitching just 10.2 innings with the Pirates, he was shut down for the season due to injury.

When the 2023 season began, Holderman was already the team's main setup man for closer David Bednar. Holderman spent some time on the injured list with a wrist issue, but still pitched 56 innings in 58 appearances.

On the surface, Holderman's numbers looked strong. He posted a 3.86 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 8.3% walk rate, and a 24.2% strikeout rate. Holderman had a very strong 52.8% ground ball rate and allowed just 4 home runs (0.64 HR/9), while hitting a pair of batters.

This issue with Holderman fell more on how he was used, which is no fault of his own. Holderman is a very solid middle reliever to have in a bullpen, but should not be relied upon to consistently be used in high-leverage situations.

In what FanGraphs classified as high-leverage situations, Holderman pitched 18.1 innings last season. In these 18.1 innings pitched Holderman posted a 6.46 ERA, 4.40 FIP, allowed 2 of his 4 home runs, and had a .250 opponent batting average against. His walk rate rose to 11.8% and his strikeout rate dropped 21.1%.

Holderman allowed more earned runs in high-leverage situations (13) than he did in medium and low-leverage situations (11) combined. While he issued just 11 walks in medium and low-leverage situations, he issued 9 in high-leverage situations to go with both of his hit batters.

Again, this is not to say that Holderman should not be in the bullpen next season or that he can not be a quality MLB reliever. He has already proven he can be a quality MLB reliever, however, he is not a high-leverage bullpen arm.

Looking ahead to 2024, it would improve the Pirate bullpen as a whole for Holderman to transition to more of a middle relief role. To best do this, the Pirates would need to add another reliever this offseason who can help Bednar, Dauri Moreta, and Carmen Mlodzinski in high-leverage situations.

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