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How can Kyle Crick bounce back in 2020?

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates-Media Day Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Pittsburgh Pirates had the sixth-worst bullpen in baseball in terms of fWAR (0.6). The unit also had the eighth-highest ERA (4.91).

The ineffectiveness of Kyle Crick played a huge part in the Pirates’ bullpen woes. After a solid 2018, Crick was awful last season. In 49 innings pitched, the 27-year-old righty produced an ERA of 4.96 (FIP 5.95) and fWAR of -0.7.

Why was he so bad?

The answer is simple really. Crick walked way too many hitters. His walk rate of 15.5 percent was the sixth-highest in baseball (minimum 40 innings pitched). Crick has always had command issues. He’s never had a walk rate lower than the league average. Having said that, he was able to better limit the free passes given up in 2018. In 60.1 innings pitched that year, Crick had a walk rate of nine percent. His ERA was 2.39 (FIP 3.14).

Crick’s other alarming problem in 2019 was the 10 home runs given up. In the two seasons before 2019, Crick had only given up five home runs total. The high total last season can probably be attributed to the frequency of which Crick fell behind hitters in the count.

The is no doubt that Crick has great stuff. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and his slider is one of the nastiest pitches in the sport. Opponents hit .130/.253/.299 off of the slider last season. If Crick can limit the walks given up, he will return to being a solid back end of the bullpen guy. If not, he will return to his 2019 self.