Something is different about Wil Crowe in 2022.
It may be his confidence or comfort level beginning his second season in Pittsburgh, but one glaring change has triggered added attention to the Bucs righty.
Primarily a starter throughout his entire career, opening 25 of 26 games in 2021, Crowe broke spring with a lead role out of the Pirates bullpen.
Crowe, 27, made his Major League debut with the Washington Nationals and started three games in 2020. His first small sample size out of the pen has produced positive results.
Crowe has allowed three hits, walked four, and struck out 10 batters in 9.2 scoreless innings.
He mixes up pitches well, throwing a fastball (36%), slider (32%), and changeup (28%) as his three primary offerings.
The 6’2” right-hander ranks in the top percentiles in numerous categories, according to Baseball Savant.
Wil Crowe and Dillon Peters have combined for 16.2 scoreless innings. Both are taking advantage of increased opportunities and thriving in a small sample size. Peters has not allowed a hit and Crowe moving to the bullpen has so far been successful. @BucsDugout pic.twitter.com/DT9YtT7rr6— Austin Bechtold (@AustinRBechtold) April 21, 2022
Crowe is in the 81st percentile in xERA, xBA, and xwOBA, 89th in HardHit%, and 90th in xSLG. His whiff and walk percentage are on the low end, but Crowe also ranks well in chase rate (75th) and strikeout percentage (69th). These numbers are a night and day improvement compared to the past two seasons.
Crowe’s hard-hit percentage is down 13.3 percent from 2021 and balls are being barreled up 9.6 percent less than last year in sweet-spot percentage. Primarily working with his slider (32.1%) and changeup (28%) the Pirates seem to be turning a corner on pitch usage.
The same turnaround has lifted Dillon Peters into a more dependable role in high leverage situations.
Peters, 29, began his sixth year in the majors and second with the Pirates as the primary lefty option out of the ‘pen with Sam Howard rehabbing from a back strain and optioned to Triple-A.
Like Crowe, Peters has not allowed an opponent to cross the plate, in addition to not allowing a single hit.
In seven innings pitched, Peters has punched out five but walked four batters in three appearances, leading the Bucs in wins (2-0).
Despite the high amount of walks and poor chase rate (26th percentile), Peters has been lights out in most categories. He ranks phenomenally in xSLG (97th), xBA (93rd), and high in xERA and xwOBA (84th) along with average exit velocity (83rd).
Peters is throwing his sinker 32 percent of the time and changeup 27 percent to fool hitters all over the zone. He is relying on his sinker more than ever and deploying his four-seam fastball (19.5%) at the lowest rate of his career.
Beginning the season with 28 members on the roster compared to 26 provides an additional spot in the bullpen for someone to prove themselves.
Instead of being optioned to Indianapolis and slotted into the starting rotation, Crowe may have found a permanent home as a multi-inning weapon the Pirates can deploy to secure critical outs.
The three-batter minimum rule displaced lefties whose main purpose was to retire one or two left-handed hitters, but Peters displays the ability to confidently take care of business and not back down from competition.
Two players who could have found themselves in a multitude of different scenarios provide Derek Shelton options alongside Chris Stratton and David Bednar.
Only two weeks have passed since Opening Day, and just 12 games are under the Pirates’ belt, but the initial signs of success from Wil Crowe and Dillon Peters make the bullpen better than originally expected for a team that could be up and down all season.