Pittsburgh Pirates: Potential Opener for Wil Crowe

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MAY 08: Wil Crowe #29 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a pitch during the third inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 08, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MAY 08: Wil Crowe #29 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a pitch during the third inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 08, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /
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Wil Crowe has shown some promise with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but hasn’t shown the ability to go deep into games. Could they experiment with an opener on his starts?

Starting pitcher Wil Crowe has shown flashes of being a good MLB pitcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. However, he has an inability to go deep into games. So far this season he’s been much better earlier into the game before falling off a cliff late into the game. So, this raises the question, could the team use an opener on days he starts?

After his most recent start against the red hot San Francisco Giants the right-hander has a 4.35 ERA, 4.46 FIP and 1.35 WHIP through 20.2 innings with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. Crowe has struggled to get strikeouts with a 19.1% strikeout rate but has also had some difficulties with walks with an 11.2% walk rate. However, he’s been great at limiting home runs. His 0.87 HR/9 is well above the league average mark of 1.2.

Crowe has gotten a handful of ground balls with a 43.3% ground ball rate and has an above-average 28.3% fly ball rate, but he’s given up his fair share of line drives (28.3%). He’s been slightly above average in the hard-hit rate department, ranking in the 61st percentile with a 36.7% rate. However, he’s below average in exit velocity (89.4 MPH, bottom 42nd percentile), and many of the expected stats measured on Baseball Savant. All told, Crowe has a 4.86 SIERA, 4.61 xFIP, 5.36 xERA and 5.38 DRA.

Now Crowe’s biggest issue is going deep into games. Through the first 4 innings of the game, he has a 3.38 ERA, 4.16 FIP and 1.25 WHIP. However, in innings 5-6, Crowe has a 6.75 ERA, 5.66 FIP and 1.25 WHIP, albeit in only 4 innings.

The Pittsburgh Pirates using an opener on days Crowe would usually start, getting him in the game during the 2nd or 3rd inning, would alleviate the problem of him not being able to go deep into games. This could also relieve some pressure on Crowe to go deep into games and potentially build up his workload to be able to reach the 6th inning or later in normal starts.

But who could the Pittsburgh Pirates use in this opener role? One idea could be to put Rule 5 acquisition, Luis Oviedo, in this role. Oviedo was a top pitching prospect in the Cleveland Indians’ system before being picked by the New York Mets in the Rule 5 Draft. The team could place Duane Underwood Jr. in this role as well. Like Oviedo, Underwood Jr. was once a top pitching prospect, but in the Chicago Cubs organization. Both Clay Holmes and Chris Stratton have experience starting games in the major leagues.

Though it’s something the Pittsburgh Pirates should think about, pitching hasn’t been the issue recently. Crowe has been solid enough to remain in the rotation, even if he can only go 5 or so innings before starting to show signs of fatigue. The issue has been more of the offense not supporting solid starts.

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Still, building up Crowe’s workload should be on the team’s mind. After all, he only pitched 8.1 innings in 2020 and didn’t get a full season’s worth of work in. Not every pitching prospect is going to come out of the gates like some have.

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