Pittsburgh Pirates: Recapping Colin Holderman's 2023, Looking Ahead to 2024

Let's take a look at Colin Holderman's 2023 breakout campaign
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Colin Holderman was a key cog in the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen in 2023, what could 2024 have in store for the righty?

Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Colin Holderman had an excellent breakout campaign last year. He took over the setup role behind David Bednar and handled it well. So, let’s go through and look at Holderman’s season and what the future could potentially hold for the setup man next year.

Holderman tossed 56 innings last year, working to a 3.86 ERA, 3.29 FIP, and 1.34 WHIP. He struck out just under a quarter of the batters he faced with a 24.2% strikeout rate while also carrying a respectable 8.3% walk rate. Holderman was great at limiting home runs with a 0.64 HR/9 rate, and he has his great batted-ball profile to thank for that.

Holderman had the 26th-best ground ball rate among pitchers with 50+ innings, clocking in at 52.8%. His 89.1 MPH exit velocity and 43.1% hard-hit rate both were below average, but he made up for it with a 5% barrel rate, which ranked in the 88th percentile of pitchers last year. This helped him hold batters to a sub-.300 wOBA.

His overall stuff looked improved from the 2022 season. Holderman focused on using his sinker, curveball, and cutter last season. His sinker gained nearly two MPH from 2022, going from 96 MPH to 97.9 MPH on average.

Holderman swapped out his slider for a sweeper and gained 3.6 inches of horizontal break on his primary breaking pitch. His cutter also gained a significant amount of velocity, going from just 90 MPH to 92.4 MPH. He also added about two inches of horizontal break to it as well. Stuff+ is a good way to visualize just how better he looked in 2023. Last year, he sat at 114. In 2022, he sat at just 106.

While his ERA and WHIP do not look great for a reliever on paper, some injuries inflated it. He missed the final two weeks of June, but before landing on the injured list, he allowed 3 earned runs in just two-thirds of an inning. Then, in his final game of the year on September 21st, he allowed 3 more earned runs in two-thirds of an inning once again and was placed on the injured list soon after.

These two outings amounted to just 1.1 innings, which made up for just under 2% of his total innings pitched this year, but they made up for a quarter of his total earned runs allowed. Outside of these two games, Holderman had a 2.96 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.

Holderman will re-assume his role as the Pirates’ setup man, but the Pirates do have a lot of decent relievers behind him. Carmen Mlodzinski had a quality rookie season, Dauri Moreta also had a strong season in 2023, and Ryan Borucki was a nice surprise on a minor league deal. Relief pitching prospect Kyle Nicolas also showed good stuff on the mound in his brief major league appearance in late 2023. They could all put Holderman on a hot seat, though that’s more of a compliment to them than it is an insult to Holderman.

As of right now, I am still expecting Holderman to keep his role as the team’s setup man from here on out. He pitched well and earned the role. Aside from a couple of rough outings that just so happened to be days before landing on the injured list, he had an ERA under 3.00 for a better portion of the season. He made major improvements to his game and I don’t see any reason for him not to be as good as he was in 2023 next season.

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