After logging plenty of high-leverage innings in 2022, it appears the Pittsburgh Pirates are now trying to avoid using Wil Crowe in those situations
While there was not very much known about the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen entering the season, one thing that did appear to be known is that Wil Crowe would be pitching in high-leverage situations. However, the question must now be asked if this will still be the case.
So far this season Crowe has pitched just 2.0 innings. While he has not allowed a run in these innings, he has allowed two hits, walked a batter, thrown a wild pitch, and he did not strike a batter out. Also, both of these innings came with the Pirates trailing in Sunday's loss agaisnt the Cincinnati Reds. Far from a high-leverage situation.
On Opening Day, as well as in the first two games of the Red Sox series the Pirates took a 3 run or less lead into the 8th inning. In each of these games Colin Holderman got the ball in the 8th inning ahead of David Bednar going out for the save in the 9th. This started to point toward manager Derek Shelton not wanting to use Crowe in high-leverage situations.
Wednesday afternoon, it once again appeared that Shelton did not want to use Crowe in high-levergae situations. With the Pirates leading 4-1 in the 7th inning and Moreta, Holderman, and Bednar all unavailable, Shelton handed the ball to Rob Zastryzny.
After Zastryzny fired a 1-2-3 8th inning you had to wonder if maybe Shelton was trying to save Crowe for the 9th inning. Well, this was not the case as Duane Underwood Jr. got the ball in the 9th and slammed the door shut on the Red Sox.
While he pitched extremely well in the first two months last season, Crowe struggled mightily in the season's final four months. From June 1st through the end of the season, Crowe pitched 45.1 innings, posting a 5.76 ERA and a 4.88 FIP. Most of his innings, both in the first two months and the last four, came in high-leverage situations.
During this four months long struggle Crowe allowed 50 hits, six home runs (1.19 HR/9), a 30% hard hit rate, walked batters at an 11.9% rate, and struck out just 18.1% of opposing batters. This was much closer to Crowe's career numbers than the first two months of his season were.
In 203.0 career innings pitched Crowe has posted a 5.28 ERA and a 5.43 FIP. He's walked 11.4% of batters faced, struck out 20.5% of opponents, and has surrendered home runs at a rate of 1.68 HR/9. He has allowed a 35.6% hard hit rate and 8.2% barrel rate in his MLB career, both of which are worse than league average.
Moving forward it will be interesting to see how the Pirates use Crowe. Agaisnt the Red Sox the Pirate bullpen had to cover 10.2 innings and Crowe was not used a single time, despite pitchers such as Rule 5 Draft addition Jose Hernandez getting the ball in a 4-1 lead in the 7th inning of a game.
Early signs seem to be pointed toward Shelton not wanting to use Crowe in high-leverage situations. As time goes by and the season goes on this question will be answered further. If Crowe is not used in high-leverage situations, it will be interesting to see how his role changes this season.