This is one in a series of stories breaking down members of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 40-man roster.
The Pirates’ bullpen became one of the team’s sneaky strengths in 2023, and left-hander Ryan Borucki helped make that happen.
Borucki didn’t receive the same level of fanfare as David Bednar, the team’s lone All-Star, or exciting young prospects like Carmen Mlodzinski, but he still deserves mentioning in the same breath.
The 29-year-old logged a 2.45 ERA in 40.1 innings, the best statistical mark of his career. He did so despite his highest usage since 2018, when the Toronto Blue Jays tested his hand as a starter. As such, the Pirates rewarded him with a one-year, $1.6 million contract to avoid arbitration.
Ryan Borucki’s Arsenal
Borucki utilized a four-pitch arsenal in 2023, centered around a slider that he threw 54.7 percent of the time. He also mixed in a sinker (20.3 percent) that served as his go-to pitch earlier in his career, along with a sweeper (13.8 percent) and changeup (11.2 percent).
Borucki’s slider and sweeper were his two putaway pitches, helping him induce swinging strikes and chases at better than league average marks. To round things out, his 2.6 percent walk rate was one of the best in the league, as was his 29.7 percent hard-hit rate. He wasn’t super flashy, striking out 33 batters on the season, but he got the job done, limiting opponents to a .183 batting average against him.
Relievers can have notoriously mercurial statistics from year to year, but if Ryan Borucki can repeat his 2023 performance, his development as a player is a win for the Pirates in more ways than one. If he keeps up his improved play, the team has a trusty reliever at their disposal.
More than that, though, their ability to identify and maximize his talent by favoring his slider over his sinker is something for pitching coach Oscar Marin and the rest of the Pirates’ staff to hang their hats on. It’s one thing to draft talent, but something else entirely to develop those players into their potential.