Should The Pittsburgh Pirates Be Worried About Kyle Crick?


Should the Pittsburgh Pirates be concerned about one of their main relief pitchers?

Last season, Kyle Crick burst onto the scene in his first season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After acquiring the former first round pick from the San Francisco Giants in the Andrew McCutchen trade, the Pirates watched Crick become one of their best relief pitchers.

In 60 1/3 innings of work, Crick posted a 2.39 ERA and a 3.14 FIP in 2018. This included a career low 9.0% walk rate, a strong 25.5% strikeout rate, and he allowed just three home runs (0.45 HR/9). By the end of the season, Crick was firmly entrenched in the back end of the Pirate bullpen along with Felipe Vazquez and Keone Kela.

Well, for two thirds of that seemingly dominant trio the 2019 season has not gone according to plan. While Felipe Vazquez is preparing for his second consecutive All-Star Game appearance, Kela has been on the injured list since May 5th and Crick has struggled mightily. This leads to the question – should the Pirates be worried about Crick?

Crick’s 3.23 ERA this season is fine. However, when you look deeper, it paints an ugly picture for the hard throwing righty.

In 30 2/3 innings pitched Crick has already allowed four home runs, which is more than he allowed all of last season. His 27.5% strikeout rate is a career high, but so is his 18.1% walk rate. Crick has walked at least one batter in 19 of his 32 outings this season, this includes issuing at least one walk in 12 of his last 14 outings.

Control issues were Crick’s biggest issue throughout his minor league career. These issues continued with the Giants in 2017 when he walked 12.7% of batters faced. It appeared he was turning a corner with his control in 2018, but in 2019 his control has gone off a cliff.

Despite his struggles, Crick got off to a dominant start this season. He was unscored upon in 20 of his first 21 outings. In these 21 outings he owned a 1.83 ERA, 3.05 FIP, he did not allow a home run, his walk rate was 12.8%, and his strikeout rate was 26.9% in 19 2/3 innings pitched.

Starting with his outing on June 4th against the Braves, the wheels have come off for Crick.

In his last 11 games Crick has logged 11 innings. He has allowed four home runs, 11 hits, and his walk rate has climbed to an alarming 25.0%. As a result, he owns a 5.73 ERA and a 9.20 FIP since June 4th.

All of this comes after Crick allowed 10 hits and zero home runs in his first 19 2/3 innings pitched this season. Crick has gone form, literally, the hardest reliever in baseball to hit to having not thrown a clean inning in over a month.

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If Crick does not get things figured out soon, he will need to lose his job as Vazquez’s primary set up man. Especially with Francisco Liriano having a stellar season, Richard Rodriguez getting back on track, and Michael Feliz emerging as a legitimate option to pitch high-leverage situations.

The Pirates may not be worried about Crick, at least not yet, but they should be. Control issues can be the undoing of any relief pitcher. Control issues combined with a home run problem is an even worse combination. For the last month, Crick has had this combination.