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2019 Arizona Diamondbacks reviews : #30, Stefan Crichton

Crichton emerged as a super-hero.

Stefan Crichton, D-back pitcher
Stefan Crichton, D-back pitcher
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
  • Rating: 5.06
  • Age: 27
  • 2019 stats: 30.1 IP, 3.56 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 1.022 WHIP, 0.4 bWAR
  • 2019 salary: league minimum, pre-arbitration
  • 2020 status: no options left

Introduction Part 1: Unremarkable describes his beginning in the Majors.

For Stefan Crichton, merely reaching spring training was a confidence booster.

“Then, obviously, throwing against big league and minor league guys in spring training helped. Just watching the swings they have off you. Again, confidence comes from success.” — Stefan Crichton, April 2017

In his first appearance in the Majors, he pitched 1.2 innings, allowing 5 hits and 2 earned runs. John Sickels wrote, “…stereotype middle reliever…but doesn’t have much of a change-up, precluding use as a starter.” That season, his ERA was 8.03.

Introduction Part 2: Remarkable describes how he became a Diamondback.

Memorable and most peculiar was how he became a D-back. To make room on the 40-man roster, the D-backs took a big-dollar player (currently the highest paid on the team) off the roster – a remarkable action. In April 2018, they obtained Crichton from the Orioles, without needing to trade any players. Instead, they sent the Orioles $100,000 (figuratively equivalent to two buckets-of-baseballs).

Hopefully Crichton can live up to his name

and write a hell of a book, because when a pitching needy team like the O’s are giving a pitcher away, it’s a pretty good sign he can’t pitch.

The future ain’t what it used to be

Posted by The Peanut Gallery on Apr 2, 2018 | 8:06 PM

Two months later, the D-backs released Crichton to add Shelby Miller, whose return to the roster was anticipated with excitement. Four days after his release, the D-backs re-signed Crichton. His path to success was bumpy!

“I’d forgotten Arizona actually released Crichton in June 2018, to make room for Shelby Miller. But he stuck around,…” — Jim McLennan.

Introduction Part 3: The D-backs let Crichton develop his potential to become a homegrown hero.

Next season in Reno, he remade his pitching. He started with two pitches – a slider (92-93 mph) and a curve (78-81 mph). He developed a third pitch, a splitter, with a velocity roughly halfway between his other pitches. Although he was a ground-ball pitcher (52.5% ground ball rate), his splitter is a fly-ball pitch – very useful depending on the game situation.

“His splitter (take this with a grain of salt because he’s only thrown 17 of them in 2019) is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers’ splitters, ...” — Books Baseball

“I think our bullpen will continue to be homegrown, ….” — Sawdaye

2019 Review : Crichton emerged as a super-hero.

In 2019, he was promoted to the Majors, where he had a career best year. His ERA+ doubled from 56 in 2017 to 126 in 2019. His strikeouts-per-9-innings was 9.8 – the highest of his career including the minors. But how does he compare to other pitchers?

Let’s look at two stats that tell his story. They are line-drive percent (LD%) and expected fielding independent pitching (xFIP).

Line drives are sparse (LD% is low). Stefan Crichton’s LD% of 16.3% ranked third best of the D-back relievers (behind Clarke and Duplantier). That’s awesome!

Looking at 458 relief pitchers with at least 10 innings in the Majors in 2019, Stefan Crichton’s LD% ranked 29th. That means that his LD% would rank in the best two relievers in most teams in the Majors. That’s awesome!

Ignoring fielding, he pitched well above average (xFIP is low). His xFIP of 3.67 ranks second best of D-back relievers (behind Chafin). Looking at 458 relief pitchers with at least 10 innings in the Majors in 2019, Stefan Crichton’s xFIP ranked 60th. That’s well above average!

He has upside potential to lower his ERA. The fly-in-the-ointment happened in June 2019. He gave up 5 earned runs in 1.2 innings against the Nationals. Excluding that unfortunate game, his ERA would drop to 2.20. That ERA reflects his upside!

2020 Commentary: Crichton would improve the bullpen.

The AZ Snake Pit fans voted Stefan Crichton as the 26th man on the roster, if Torey Lovullo uses the extra spot for a bullpen arm. The bullpen needs to challenge hitters in two ways:

The bullpen needs to challenge hitters with quality pitching.

The following table shows that Stefan Crichton would increase the quality (especially top 3 ranks in LD%, xFIP, and GB%) of the D-back bullpen. I excluded pitchers with less than 10 innings, Young because he is a starter, and Holland who is unlikely to return:

D-backs Bullpen Pitchers 2019

Player Innings LD% xFIP GB% HR/9 BB% K%
Player Innings LD% xFIP GB% HR/9 BB% K%
Primary 2 pitches: fastball and slider
Clarke 20.1 8.9 5.41 39.3 3.10 7.5 21.3
Koch 20.2 20.5 6.92 36.9 3.48 4.2 9.4
Ginkel 24.1 24.1 3.98 34.5 0.74 9.4 29.2
Lopez 60.2 26.5 4.47 43.8 1.63 6.9 17.1
Chafin 52.2 27.8 3.24 42.9 1.03 8.0 30.2
Sherfy 18.1 31.5 4.62 20.4 1.96 6.0 26.5
Primary 2 pitches: fastball and sinker
Duplantier 23.2 15.6 5.61 50.0 0.00 13.2 20.8
Bradley 70.1 23.5 4.02 45.8 0.64 11.1 27.8
Primary 2 pitches: other
Crichton 30.1 16.3 3.67 52.5 0.89 6.5 26.8
Hirano 53.0 20.1 4.24 44.4 1.19 9.4 26.2
Andriese 70.2 20.3 3.88 50.3 1.02 8.7 25.5
McFarland 56.0 20.5 4.33 61.1 0.96 8.0 14.0
Data from FanGraphs

The bullpen needs to challenge hitters with different types of pitching. The problem is most of the bullpen pitchers fall in two groups based on their two primary pitches.

  • 4-seam fastball and slider: Sherfy, Chafin, Lopez, Ginkel, Koch, Scott, Holland (now FA), and Clarke.
  • 4-seam fastball and sinker: Bradley, Duplantier, Payamps.

Which players could be added to the bullpen to challenge batters with different types of pitches?

  • Hirano. He is currently a free agent. Although he and the D-backs have had “initial conversations,” whether he returns is unclear.
  • Young. He is likely to be a starter instead of being in the bullpen in 2020.
  • McFarland. The D-backs declined their club option to bring him back. Although his 61.1% ground-ball rate was great, the D-backs have another pitcher in mind. He was selected off waivers by the Athletics.
  • Matt Andriese. None of his six stats (see table) are as good as Crichton’s. As Jim McLennan wrote, “…can Andriese continue his meteoric rise past replacement level, maybe reaching the stratospheric heights of mediocre?” Maybe. Is there a better choice for the bullpen?
  • Stefan Crichton. While it’s way too early to decide the bullpen, my view is that adding Stefan Crichton to the bullpen would improve the bullpen’s ability to challenge hitters with different types of pitches. In addition, his stats show he is a high quality pitcher.

“I never look back, darling. It distracts me from the now.” - Edna Mode, The Incredibles