Pittsburgh Pirates: Colin Holderman Needs a More Aggressive Approach

Los Angeles Dodgers v Pittsburgh Pirates
Los Angeles Dodgers v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages

Colin Holderman has pitched with a somewhat passive approach on the mound but needs to start attacking hitters more often

The Pittsburgh Pirates currently have Colin Holderman in their 8th-inning role, and so far, he’s been pretty solid. He’s only had one bad outing, that coming in the loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although the Dodgers are always a tough opponent, there was one thing that was made apparent in his meltdown: Holderman needs to be more aggressive when pitching.

This flaw was exploited by the Dodgers. Holderman worked around Michael Busch, who was making his debut. Sure, Busch is a highly regarded prospect but is a batter Holderman needs to pound the zone against. Walking Busch ended up as one of the major factors in Holderman’s blow-up, as Chris Taylor hit a 3-run bomb. But going into the game, his somewhat passive approach led to a mediocre 1.36 WHIP, which is a tad high for what the Pirates are considering one of their highest-leverage relievers.

Holderman’s sinker has the potential to be an elite pitch. Its average velocity is up 1.4 MPH from last season, up to 97.4 MPH. But he hasn’t traded velocity for movement, as he still is sitting with about the same amount of horizontal and vertical break. But based on his heat map, he throws it in the zone about as often as he tries to work the left-side edge of the strike zone. 

Overall, Holderman has an in-zone rate of just 50.6%. That is slightly above the league average rate of 48.5%, and much better than the 43.8% in-zone rate the right-hander had last season, but it may serve him better to throw more good strikes. Holderman has an edge rate of 43.3%, which is a tad higher than the league average rate of 43.3%.

With the kind of power Holderman has behind his sinker, he should be attacking hitters. Take Jose Alvarado for example. While Holderman and Alvarado may not be a one-for-one match, they both have power-sinkers. Alvarado has cut his edge rate down to just 39.6% after sitting at 42-43% just a few years ago. He also has a 56.5% in-zone rate, which would be for the lefty by nearly 10%. His out-of-zone rate is just 43.5%. So far in the early stages of 2023, Alvarado has been one of baseball’s most effective relievers. He pounds the zone with his upper-90s sinker.

Again, Holderman and Alvarado aren’t a one-for-one match, but the point remains that Holderman needs to be aggressive like Alvarado.  The guy has a mid-to-upper-90s sinker with about 20 inches of drop and 16 inches of horizontal movement. This is the kind of pitch Holderman should be attacking hitters with, not nibbling the edges and corners. It came back and bit him in his most recent outing, so maybe this could be some sort of wake-up call for the talented reliever.

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