Tyler Glasnow pitched to impress on Friday night in Altoona, going six innings while striking out seven and only allowing one hit. Glasnow was still on a pitch limit after returning from the ankle injury that forced him to miss one and a half months of pitching. It was reminiscent of his performance on May 1st against Erie where the stat line was exactly the same; however, he pounded the strike zone even better this last outing.
The only hit that Bowie was able to produce against him was a left-handed batter that got in front of a changeup (most likely waiting on a fastball) and pulled it down the right field line just to the left of first baseman Josh Bell. Pitching Coach Justin Meccage even acknowledged that the pitch that was hit against him was a very good changeup that simply got pulled down the line.
The command of Glasnow’s fastball set the table for anything he wanted to do on Friday night, including the delivery of his dynamic curveball with two strikes that produced strikeout after strikeout. He was able to move the fastball both in and around the strike zone. He only threw four changeups tonight, but they performed well when thrown. The changeup sat in the low 90s, but the Pirates would rather it sit around 88 MPH, which is something Glasnow and Meccage continue to work on. The curveball slowed down to mid-to-high 70s and was essentially unhittable when it followed a 98 or 99 MPH fastball.
The curveball being thrown with two strikes has always been a pitch that Glasnow feels confident in.
“It can be really effective,” Glasnow said talking about his curveball. “I know when I can throw it in for strikes or when I can throw it in the dirt to have batters chase pitches. It is definitely an advantage.”
The next step for the development of his breaking pitches is throwing it when he is behind in the count. Meccage and Manager Tom Prince both agreed that they would like to see him be able to throw the pitch for a strike when necessary earlier in the count.
Prince described that he will sometimes need to throw it when he has some 1-0 or 2-1 counts.
Prince said that “in a situation where a left-handed hitter may be hitting and a right-handed hitter is behind him and first base is open,” he may need to throw the curve earlier.
Meccage talked about the breaking pitches in a similar fashion.
“The breaking ball punch-out pitch was pretty good,” Meccage said. “The one thing that we can build off of is the early count breaking ball — it was not very good. He needs to throw it for a strike. That was one of the goals going in, but he put together some good fastballs and put some guys away with the good breaking ball on two strike counts.”
As Glasnow continues his development and goes to different levels, he will need to show the early-count breaking ball to batters to get them off of his fastball. More importantly, he will need to be consistent with the pitch as he pairs it with the dynamic fastball.
Even with the few picky things that can be looked at over his last few outings, Glasnow really feels that he is beginning to get back on track from the injury.
“I think getting into a routine and getting back in again [is important],” Glasnow said. “It is sort like going from bullpen speed to game speed. I’m definitely back to my routine, so I’m starting to get back to the rhythm of things – instead of thinking about mechanics. It’s really just going out there and competing.”
So if we can look at Glasnow’s year so far minus the injury, just how good has it actually been? Many people have said that he isn’t having a good year, but the numbers disagree.
When looking at all of Glasnow’s outings, except for the one right before he went on disabled list when trying to battle through the ankle injury (which did not go well at all for him), his numbers are fantastic. I feel that excluding this outing from his numbers, from an evaluation standpoint, is fair because of the injury that he was battling.
In 40.1 innings for Altoona (every start minus the May 17th outing), this is what his season looks like:
- 1.56 ERA
- 2.01 BB/9
- 11.16 K/9
- 0.82 WHIP
He continues to improve, as well. He has four games this year so far where he has not walked a single batter. Last year, he only had two outings all season without walking anyone, and he averaged 4.1 BB/9. In 2013, he had one outing without issuing a walk, and he averaged 4.9 BB/9. Even with the outing on May 17th, Glasnow is only walking batters at a 2.7 BB/9 rate.
In his last two outings, Glasnow has a 73% strike rate, so he is living around the strike zone with his fastball and changeup, then he is inducing strikeouts with the curveball.
He has not made a mechanical adjustment to his delivery; rather, Glasnow notes a more consistent mindset when asked what has attributed to the control success.
“My biggest thing was trying to go in with a consistent mindset and really work on my mental game this past off-season and going into this season. My focus has led to not throwing so many balls — just throwing more quality pictures.”
“When I would struggle before, I would start thinking about mechanics or about what I needed to do. [Pitching Coach Justin] Meccage has talked about it a lot, and the Pirates philosophy is to just go out and compete, so I needed to get stronger mentally if I was going to do that. It’s a lot more fun going out there and just pitching and competing, rather than sitting and thinking about stuff.”
Glasnow has around two months left in the Double-A season to refine all of these skills that made him the top player in the Pirates organization. He is at the point in his development where they are not necessarily working to improve upon his physical pitching ability; rather, they are refining his mental ability. This includes learning when to throw breaking balls and throw them for strikes, how to approach specific batters, and when to attack with his fastball. With Glasnow back to full health, let’s see if he can continue to dominate at this level.