Pittsburgh Pirates: Wil Crowe Facing Make or Break 2023 Season

ST LOUIS, MO - APRIL 10: Wil Crowe #29 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 10, 2022 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - APRIL 10: Wil Crowe #29 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 10, 2022 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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After struggling in the final two months of the 2022 season, Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Wil Crowe faces a make or break season in 2023

When the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Josh Bell to the Washington Nationals on Christmas Eve 2020 they received a pair of right-handed pitchers in return. One of these two pitchers was starting pitcher Wil Crowe.

During his first season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Crowe would lead the team in starts. While his first outing of the season came out of the bullpen, 25 of his 26 appearances came as a starting pitcher.

Crowe pitched 116.2 innings during his first season with the Pirates. He would struggle mightily during his first season in Black and Gold, posting a 5.67 ERA and a 4.90 FIP. Crowe walked 10.9% of batters faced, struck out batters at a 21.2% clip, and struggled with the long ball allowing home runs at a rate of 1.93 HR/9, which was one of the worst home run rates in all of baseball.

After Crowe struggled in 2021, he was moved to the bullpen for the 2022 season. At first, this looked like a great move for Crowe. Through the first four months of the season, Crowe was as good as any Pirate reliever not named David Bednar.

At the end of July Crowe owned a 3.21 ERA and a 3.36 FIP in 56 innings pitched. He had fixed his home run problem allowing the long ball at just a 0.48 HR/9 rate, while walking 10.2% of batters faced and striking batters out at a 22.6% clip.

Down the stretch Crowe would struggle. After being a reliable reliever for the first four months of the season, he looked like this 2021 self from August 1st through the end of the season.

Crowe pitched 20 innings during the final two months of the season. In these 20 innings, Crowe allowed 24 hits, five home runs (2.25 HR/9), walked 14.4% of batters faced, and struck batters out at just a 15.5% clip. All of this resulted in Crowe posting a 7.65 ERA and a 6.96 FIP during this stretch.

When the dust settled on Crowe’s season he had pitched 76 innings, which was 8th among all MLB relievers, posting a 4.38 ERA and a 4.31 FIP. He had an 11.4% walk rate, 20.5% strikeout rate, and allowed home runs at a rate of 0.95 HR/9.

The question now becomes, which Crowe will the Pirates get in 2023? The first four months or the final two?

It is worth saying that Crowe’s struggles down the stretch could very well have been due to arm fatigue and how much he was used. Until the Pirates started to limit his innings more down the stretch he spent most of the season leading all MLB relievers in innings pitched. Crowe’s late season struggles being due to a dead arm and over use is a real possibility.

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Who is the real Crowe? The pitcher who struggled mightily in 2021 and the final two months of the 2022 season? Or is the real Crowe the pitcher who was a very strong relief pitcher for the first four months of the season.

That question will ahem to be answered in 2023. Due to this, the 2023 season will be a vital make or break season for Crowe. Not just in terms of his future with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but potentially for his MLB future.

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