Editorial: The Pittsburgh Pirates lack a true quality left hander in their bullpen outside of their closer. Could recently cut lefty reliever Ian Krol be a fit for them this offseason?
The Atlanta Braves made a tough decision yesterday by cutting upside left-handed reliever Ian Krol. Krol was drafted by the Oakland Athletics back in 2009. He was then part of a three team trade in 2013 that sent him to the Washington Nationals, but he was then flipped a few months later in a December trade that sent him to the Detroit Tigers for Doug Fister. In 2015, he was dealt once more in a deal that sent him packing to the Atlanta Braves for Cameron Maybin. Krol has a fastball that sits in the 93-95 range, a cutter, a curveball, and a changeup. The cutter could really interest the Pittsburgh Pirates, as they have had multiple relievers in the past who use it out of the pen;.
So far, Krol’s career stats do not jump off the page at you. In 188 innings pitched, he has accumulated an earned run average of 4.55, has a FIP of 4.45, and a WHIP of 1.43. However, he has an outlier season that provides some evidence that he can be really effective. In 2016 Krol had by far the best season of his young career. The current 26 years old posted 51 innings in 63 games. He had a 3.18 earned run average, a FIP of 2.91, and a WHIP of1.34. All these numbers are the best of his career.
Also in 2016, Krol had a really good strikeout rate averaging 9.9 per nine innings pitched. A power lefty who can strikeout players is hard to come by for nothing but a contract. The Pittsburgh Pirates had success with Tony Watson back in his early years, Krol seems to have similar stuff to a younger Watson. Not only was he striking out batters, but he also was generating a ton of groundball outs. Krol posted a groundball percentage of 56 percent in 2016, one of the best rates out of any reliever in baseball. Another important thing that the Pittsburgh Pirates look for in a reliever.
Now, Krol did regress a lot this past season. He pitched 49 innings in 51 games and saw his earned run average increase up to 5.33. His FIP was not much better at 5.02, suggesting that he was really struggling. His strikeout rate also fell almost two full batters going from 9.9 to 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Like his strikeout rate, his groundball percentage also dramatically declined. He saw it go from 56 percent to 41.3 percent. All in all, Krol had his worst season of his career.
This is where the Pittsburgh Pirates have had so much success over the last few seasons. They find a player who has had a good season or two, but also many poor ones. They take “said” player, go over the film of what made him successful in those good seasons, and transition it into their pitching philosophy. Krol very well could be the next beneficiary of pitching coach Ray Searage. If Searage can get him to pitch anywhere near his 2016 numbers, then the Bucs very well need to invest in this young lefty to help bolster their bullpen.