By: Noah Wright
During 2018, Kyle Crick was one of the Pirates best relief pitchers. He overtook the set-up role early in the season, and rolled with it. Through 60 and a third innings, the hard throwing right hander pitched to a 2.39 ERA, 3.14 FIP, and 1.127 WHIP. Crick induced many strikeouts with a 9.7 K/9, and fixed his walk issue from his debut season with the SF Giants (4.7 BB/9 to 3.4 BB/9). All while giving up just 3 long balls all year. Overall, he held opponents to a .202/.285/.274 batting line. So given his breakout 2018, Crick entered 2019 with high expectations.
Well 2019 so far has been a down year for the 26 year old. Through 32 and a third innings, Crick has a 3.90 ERA, awful 5.72 FIP, and 1.1608 WHIP. His walks have become more of an issue than ever. Currently, he has a 7.8 BB/9. He has almost given up double the amount of home runs compared to last season as well (5). Crick’s groundball rate may have went up from 39.9% to 49.3%, but his hard hit rate has gone up from 22.5% to 27.3%. Sure you could chalk it up to bad luck since his opponent BABIP has stayed fairly similar to 2019. But that doesn’t excuse the large amount of walks.
Taking a deeper look, you can kind of see where Crick’s struggles have come from. Well for one, Crick has used his fastball a good amount less from 2018. His fastball % has dropped 57% in ‘18 to just 47.5% in ‘19. He has also started to incorporate his slider much more into his repertoire. Its seen an increase of usage by nearly 10% compared to ‘18. However its his sinker that I want to bring attention to. Crick is using his sinker 17.2% this year. Last year he used it by 15.9%. But out of all his pitches, it has seen the largest drop in velocity. During the 2018 season, he averaged nearly 97 MPH on the sinker (96.8 MPH), but this year, he doesn’t even average 95 MPH (94.8 MPH). Plus since it’s horizontal movement has only improved from -.1 to just .6, the decrease in velocity might make it easier to square up. Plus it’s evident in the stats. Batters had a .227 BA and .341 sluging % against the pitch in 2018. This year, they’re crushing the same pitch at a .333 BA and .619 slugging %. He is getting a lot less strikeouts with it (10.6 K% to 4.8%), and putting away a lot less batters (20.8% to 10%). Another thing of note is that after using his change up 1.3% of the time in 2018 (almost exclusively to lefty batters), he has completely dropped the pitch in 2019.
Needless to say, the sinker has been one of the biggest problems for Crick this year. The increase in movement hasn’t made up for the 2 MPH he has lost off the pitch. Something has to be done about it. Either he needs to ramp up the velocity on the pitch again, or increase the usage on one of his other pitches. The fastball and slider were his 2 most effective pitches last season. Their still very effective pitches in 2019 as well, but both have seen a decrease in usage, while his sinker usage has risen by a considerable amount.