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Pirates All 40: Will Pirates Use Wil Crowe More Effectively?

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Wil Crowe, Pittsburgh Pirates

This is the one in a series of stories looking at members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster:

The 2022 season for the Pittsburgh Pirates was yet another rebuilding year. We saw some guys in new roles and how they reacted. One of those test subjects was Wil Crowe.

For those of you that need a refresher course on Crowe, the Pirates received the right-hander on Christmas Eve of 2020 from the Washington Nationals. In return, the Nationals received Josh Bell.

Crowe was then inserted into the Pirates’ starting rotation during the 2021 season; to put it lightly, he wasn’t all that good. With a 5.67 FIP and an ERA+ of 78, there was still some hope left for Crowe.

Looking at specific pitch stats, one could see that Crowe had the makings of a very solid bullpen arm when used right. His slider had good placement, his changeup had good movement, and Crowe’s four-seam could be effective when used right.

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Heading into the ’22 season, Pirates fans and reporters alike waited to see just how useful the so far disappointing Crowe would be.

Crowe’s looked unbeatable March-May. In March and April, Crowe held opponents to a .175/.254/.193 average with a pitiful OPS of .447.

In May, Crowe held the competition to a .163/.293/.306 slash line with an OPS of .599. Crowe kept the scoring to a minimum with just ten earned runs during that time frame.

Crowe dominated the competition left and right in the first half of the season. His slider and changeup usage went up, and he finally learned to use his four-seam.

To finish the first half, Crowe held the opposition to a .202/.298/.271 average, a 3.31 ERA, and held teams to just a .569 OPS.

Through the first half of the season, Crowe was extremely solid and provided a reliable arm in high-leverage situations. Like most Pirates’ tales, things started to go south for the Kingston Tennesee native.

Thanks to an injured bullpen and poor upper management skills, Crowe was forced into extra work and situations that didn’t suit his abilities. Although, if you ask Crowe, he’ll put all the blame on himself.

Crowe had already seen 51.2 innings through 38 appearances, so to expect Crowe to keep up that pace is unreasonable and, quite frankly, ridiculous.

Nonetheless, Crowe trotted back out there as a pseudo closer, and the results spoke for themselves in the final half or 24.1 innings of Crowe’s season.

Crowe finished the season with a bloated ERA of 4.38, a FIP of 4.31, and an ERA+ of 95. Despite a “bad” season, Crowe offered some encouraging data during the ’22 season that should bring forth some optimism.

Crowe’s changeup usage went up to 28.1% (+9.9%) and as a result, opposing batting averages went down from a .258 to .229.

Crowe’s slider usage went up to 31.3% (+6.6%), and just like the changeup, opposing batting averages went down from .233 to .213.

One of the biggest changes from ’21 Crowe to ’22 is the four-seam usage. In ’21, Crowe used it 34.9% of the time, and it got hammered to a tune of a .328 average.

Flash forward to ’22, and Crowe cut the usage down to 16%, and as a result, batting averages went down to .178. Say what you want about the Pirates pitching coach, Oscar Marin, but he has actually done a lot of good with this staff, Crowe included.

The biggest question for Crowe going into the 2023 season is how he will be used and how many times he will be used. If the Pirates bolster the bullpen and take some of the burdens off guys like Crowe and even Bednar, we could be seeing a much more effective Crowe.

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