Pittsburgh Pirates: Two Pitcher Bounce Back/Break Outs Vital to Team's 2024 Success

These two pitchers breaking out will be huge in the Pirates' 2024 success.
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Luis Ortiz

Luis Ortiz looked great in his brief MLB call-up in September of 2022. Through his first 15.1 MLB innings, Ortiz only allowed two earned runs, struck out 17 (albeit walked seven), and held batters to a minuscule 85.3 MPH exit velocity. Ortiz was another pitcher with high hopes in 2023, but he had a mediocre 4.78 ERA, 5.57 FIP, and 1.70 WHIP. Ortiz gave up a lot more hard contact as his exit velo skyrocketed to 92.4 MPH. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate nosedived to just 14.8%.

The first thing everyone points out is the dip in fastball quality. Ortiz lost 2.2 MPH and about 100 RPM off his fastball. He also lost about 4% of active spin. Like Contreras, Ortiz also lost his fastball's spark. It also gained 1.7 inches of drop and lost 2.3 inches of break. Stuff+ had Ortiz's fastball dropping in quality even more than Contreras's, going from 113 to just 93. 113 would sandwich him between Shohei Ohtani (114) and Zack Wheeler (112) in terms of fastball quality. 93 puts him on par with Nick Martinez and just 1% above Lance Lynn.

Like Contreras, many blamed Ortiz's loss in velocity to Pirate coaching. But in the same paragraph, Alex Stumpf mentioned Contreras' loss in velocity, he also mentioned Ortiz. Ortiz also reportedly wasn't directed by Pirates coaching to throw less hard, but other issues caused the loss in velocity, and he was trending back upward.

I think Ortiz just needs to grip it and rip it. Upper-90s are harder to hit than mid-90s, and in Ortiz's case, he needs the velocity. He doesn't need Greg Maddux-like command. He showed that he's good enough to throw the fastball at 98-100 MPH without walking a ton of batters. Let him be our Spencer Strider.

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