Pittsburgh Pirates: What To Expect From Ryan Borucki In 2024

What could fans expect from lefty reliever Ryan Borucki next season?

Pittsburgh Pirates v Atlanta Braves
Pittsburgh Pirates v Atlanta Braves / Casey Sykes/GettyImages
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Following a surprising 2023 season, what can the Pittsburgh Pirates potentially expect from left-handed reliever Ryan Borucki in 2024?

Ryan Borucki was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates to a minor league deal last season. But he then went on to be not just one of the Pirates’ best relievers in 2023 but one of the best lefty relievers in all of baseball last year. But his breakout was out of nowhere. From 2019 through 2022, he only pitched 72.1 innings with a sub-par 5.23 ERA, 5.55 FIP, and 1.61 WHIP. But what can Pirates fans potentially expect from Borucki in 2024?

Borucki pitched 42.2 innings, mostly out of the Pirates’ bullpen. He made two starts, but they were more like ‘opens’ than traditional starts. Either way, the southpaw pitched to the tune of a 2.45 ERA, 3.50 FIP, and 0.74 WHIP. Among pitchers who made at least 95%. Among primary lefty relievers with fewer than three games started and 40+ IP, Borucki had the 9th-lowest ERA, the best WHIP, and 16th 16th-best FIP.

Borucki has never been a big strikeout pitcher, but his 21.7% strikeout rate in 2023 was the best of his career and only 1% worse than the league average. But while he had a so-so strikeout rate, he had an outstanding walk rate of just 2.6%. His walk rate is the 10th lowest by any Major League pitcher in a season where they pitched at least 40 innings dating back to 2019. This led to an 8.25 K:BB ratio, which was also among the best lefty relievers. It is also one of 16 seasons since ‘19 a pitcher had a K:BB ratio over 8.0 in 40+ frames as well. Borucki also had a quality 0.89 HR/9. By the end of the year, Borucki was working in high-leverage situations.

So, what could we see from Borucki next season? When you look at some of the expected numbers, they’re not nearly as good as the sub-2.50 ERA he had. His xFIP was 3.94 while his SIERA was 3.49, and DRC- was 87 while his ERA- was 55. Now, all of those numbers still paint him in a positive light, but his success was heavily backed by a .206 batting average on balls in play.

While Borucki typically has a lower BABIP, as in 2020-2022, he kept up a low .247 mark, that’s still extremely low and hard to replicate. But some things could help Borucki keep a low BABIP. The first is he’s a master at limiting hard contact. Among the 445 pitchers who induced at least 100 batted ball events, Borucki’s 85.7 MPH exit velocity was the 19th best. He was one of just 24 pitchers with a sub-30% hard-hit rate at 29.7%.

He also had a well-above-average barrel rate of 6.3%. Borucki was great at inducing grounders with a 46.8% ground ball rate. Borucki reeled off 16 straight scoreless innings to end the 2023 season where he had a GB% of 59.1%, 86.3 MPH exit velocity, and 6.8% barrel rate.

But that doesn’t mean to expect Borucki to keep up an ERA under 2.50. Not only are there very few MLB pitchers who you can consistently rely on for that low of an ERA, but it’s unlikely that Borucki will replicate that. However, his ability to limit walks and hard contact will make him play above his underlying expected numbers. I’d still expect an ERA in the low-3s, maybe high-2s if he can continue to post a much better-than-expected BABIP.

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