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Ryan Borucki deserves another shot with the Pirates in 2024

Borucki went from zero to late-inning hero with the Pirates.

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

When the Pittsburgh Pirates selected the contract of reliever Ryan Borucki in June, several fans — myself included — let out a collective groan.

Now, we’re less than 16 games away from the end of the season and people are clamoring to bring him back next season, and rightfully so.

Let’s start with his past. Since debuting with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018, Borucki has had two successful years in MLB. That year, he went 4-6 with a 3.87 ERA in under 98 innings as a starter, but finished in the bottom one percent of the league as hitters averaged a max exit velocity of 120 miles per hour.

His next-best season came in 2020 where he allowed just five earned runs in 16 innings of work. Keep in mind, though, that these numbers could be skewed given the unusual nature of the COVID-affected season.

Then, after a few rough years with Toronto and Seattle, Borucki earned a chance with the Pirates this season and has been, for lack of a better term, lights out as a middle reliever and as an opener.

Due to his success, he was even granted an opportunity to close out a game for the first time

As of Sept. 14, Borucki is 2-0 with a 2.86 ERA and an ERA+ of 160 in just under 35 innings with the Pirates and has been used in a multitude of roles, such as an opener and a high-leverage guy.

So far, it’s panned out well for him.

One of the biggest factors towards his success was the incorporation of a “sweeper” into his pitch arsenal. While he’s only used it 12 percent of the time, opposing players have hit just .101 against it this season.

Borucki has also leaned on using his slider more often in games. In 2022, opposing hitters hit .242 against it but posted a mere .222 average this season. Consequently, he’s relied on his sinker less which, despite being his fastest option, has been hit around heavily this year.

Another interesting fact about Borucki this season: he’s cut his barrel percentage in half from last season, taking it from 10.4 to 5.3 percent.

Borucki seems like a Tony Watson-esque type of reliever, if he can sustain this success. Like Watson, he focuses on break rather than velocity. Contact rather than blowing pitches by opposing hitters. And while he may not be the primary setup option of the future, he’s surely earned at least another cup of coffee with the Pirates next season.