This is one in a series of stories breaking down members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster.
Colin Holderman was one of the biggest surprises of the Pirates’ 2023 season.
Pittsburgh acquired the 28-year-old relief pitcher from the Mets at the 2022 trade deadline in return for Daniel Vogelbach. Following the swap, Holderman struggled to a 6.75 ERA across 10.2 innings before right shoulder soreness brought his rookie season to an early end.
The 6-foot-4, 230 pound right-hander didn’t waste any time making an impact in his sophomore campaign, though, staking his claim as the eighth inning setup man—the best one can manage on a club where All-Star David Bednar occupies the closer’s role—out of spring training. Holderman posted a 3.86 ERA in a career-high 56 innings in 2023, striking out 58 batters in the process.
He also pitched the 113th immaculate inning in MLB history, striking out three Tampa Bay Rays’ batters on nine pitches on May 4.
A Closer Look at the Numbers
Even so, it was a far from perfect campaign, as Holderman dealt with two injured list stints. As is often the case with relievers, a few rough outings—around the same time he got hurt, no less—weighed down his final numbers. The right-hander managed a 2.87 ERA through his first 55 appearances of the year, before four and three-run outings in two of his last three games ballooned his stats by an extra run.
Holderman throws his sinker more than 50 percent of the time—often early in counts or while trailing—averaging nearly 98 miles per hour. To put batters away, he mixes in a mid-80s sweeper and a low-90s cutter. While sinkerballers often rely on groundballs to get through innings, Holderman’s ability to rack up strikeouts and limit hard contact made his FIP (3.29) more than half a run better than his actual ERA.
Relievers’ performances are notoriously fickle from year to year, but the Pirates’ bullpen could end up a real strength in 2024 if Holderman can compile another strong season.