Will Tyler Glasnow’s Nerves Keep Him From Reaching His Upside?

BRADENTON, Fl. – I don’t like talking about the mental side of the game when it comes to individual players. A lot of that talk is usually speculation, and always seems based on the perception of how a player reacts to certain circumstances, or his body language. And that’s a really bad way to evaluate what’s going on inside a player’s head.

I’ll make an exception for Tyler Glasnow. I’ll make that exception because for the last three years, he’s told me repeatedly about how nerves have impacted him during the game.

Take this article from mid-June 2014, when Glasnow was in Bradenton. He just threw a nice game where he avoided things falling apart on him in the fourth inning, despite issuing two straight walks at the start of the frame. Here was Glasnow on his mental game:

“Today the first two innings felt really good, and then the third inning, not like it was bad. Fastball command got up in the zone. I got, in the fourth inning, a little mental,” Glasnow said of his outing. “Instead of going up there and thinking nothing, I kind of wanted to revert back to ‘what am I doing wrong?’ And then after that just kind of realizing that I had to let it go, and then everything just fell into place better.”

Glasnow had shown a tendency that year to let things spiral out of control after hitting a rough patch. He would over think all of his pitches and at-bats, and would end up shortening what looked to be a great outing up to that point. Here was his pitching coach, Justin Meccage, on that same night:

“I think you’re starting to see that,” Meccage said of the results of Glasnow’s work on routines. “You’re starting to see things not snowball a little bit like it used to. He just shuts it down. In the fourth, I thought some things were going to start speeding up. He walked the first two guys, and then he got it together and finished on a good note. That’s where we feel he needs to go is that mentality, and consistency. It’s exciting to see him grow.”

And here was Jacob Stallings on his development, and a comparison from Spring Training:

“I remember catching him the first time in Spring Training, and he was kind of all over the place,” Stallings said. “Just how much he’s grown mentally. He just has so much better control of his emotions now. The stuff has always been there, but now he can locate a little better because his mind is a little clearer. Just to see how much he’s grown is pretty impressive.”

The thing about those comments is that they come across like Glasnow was making progress and was to the point where his mental game was no longer going to be an issue. But it was an issue during his playoff start that September. It was also an issue that crept up during the AFL that off-season, and which returned in Altoona in 2015. The issue wasn’t as big in Altoona as it was in Bradenton, with Glasnow showing improvements in the frequency of breakdowns. Here is a section of an article from this past summer from Sean McCool, where Glasnow once again discussed his mental game improving:

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.”

The nerves settled after some time in Altoona, then came up with Indianapolis towards the end of the year. They’ve shown up so far this Spring in his first two outings. He struggled in the first inning of the Black and Gold game, with Clint Hurdle ending the inning early. He came back out for the second and calmed down, looking much better. Then, in his first start of Spring Training yesterday he threw 29 pitches in the first inning, and was pulled in the second inning after two outs, with 45 pitches total on the day.

Glasnow has some things to work on. He needs to get better at dropping his curveball in for strikes earlier in the count. It’s a plus pitch and effective when he’s got two strikes, but he needs something to keep hitters off the fastball early. His changeup has also been something he’s worked on developing the last few years. He’s made strides in getting velocity separation from his fastball, and getting good movement on the pitch. But the pitch is still a work in progress.

It’s natural for a pitcher to work on improving his pitches before he’s in the majors. Gerrit Cole was working on his stuff even after arriving in the majors, and really hit his stride last year after adjusting the usage of his slider. It’s also natural for a pitcher with a plus fastball and a plus curveball to not have much of a changeup. Those are issues for Glasnow to improve upon, but the nerves are the big issue, as they amplify every other issue in his game.

“He still needs more development,” Ray Searage told me about what Glasnow needs to work on. “There’s the emotional part, there’s the physical part. The kid is blessed with some really, really good talent. We’ve just got to let the process take hold, and let him grow. He’ll let us know when he’s ready to pitch in the Major Leagues, but I think this year in Triple-A will help him out tremendously.”

The question is, how quickly can Glasnow develop and get rid of the nerves? And how soon can he improve the curve and the change? He seems to settle down with the nerves after a few months at each level once he gets comfortable, so that could help him out in Triple-A. It could also create a few rough outings in his early days in the majors.

“It’s going to be a process, because of the emotional part that’s involved in it,” Searage said. “He’s young, he wants to get going. I think as he matures and gets more reps and more innings, he’s going to be able to control those emotions, and then he’s going to be able to do what he wants to do with the baseball. That’s going to be really exciting when that happens.”

I don’t view his nerves as a long-term issue. I think they will be something he has to work through in Triple-A, and he’ll also have the issues when he first arrives in the majors. But once he gets settled down and gets used to pitching to upper level and MLB guys, he will learn to settle down, and the stuff will take over, just as it has done at every level in his development.

  • Check my profile picture
    March 7, 2016 7:24 pm
  • Allot of ifs involved with this issue. This can side track him for years. If he is nervous out there then he can not make his pitchers. He first has to understand that he needs to throw strikes and that major league hitters are going to get hits off of him. Once he understands that they put on their pants one leg at a time like he does, then maybe he can settle into an outstanding pitcher. Maybe he should go to a hypnotist?

  • Not to be the contrarian here, but this sounds an awful lot like a young kid learning to be a pitcher, not a thrower.

    Tyler Glasnow is the epitome of a power pitcher, both in repertoire and mentality. Blessed with a double-plus fastball and a hammer of a curve, he’s been able to dominate in the vast majority of situations without having to adjust. He’s never been forced to adapt in the manner that failure requires, and has been resistant to development without that push. Remember a couple years ago when the changeup was supposed to be a focus in the AFL? Pretty sure Dreker counted exactly one thrown the entire time.

    I think the “nerves” often simply coincide with adversity, and his lack of ability to adjust. When the curveball isn’t sharp or the fastball is missing a few mph or he’s facing higher level competition for the first few times, he’s unable to positively channel that into leaning on a two-seamer for ground balls or a changeup as his secondary out pitch, etc. Instead he tries to throw the ball through a wall, and that only exacerbates the struggles.

    His head’s fine, and he’ll be fine. It’s just time he learns to pitch.

  • I think the nerves and his mechanics are in essence the same issue. I mean look at that stride in the above picture. I can’t imagine how he maintains his mechanics as it would be very hard to balance. If his confidence is up, he probable doesn’t think. If it isn’t, he probably senses balance and release point issues…

  • Just watched Ground Chuck throw 3 ground ball outs in top 1st inning vs Yankees.

    • Minor leaguers just started throwing live BP this weekend.

    • bucs: Glad for Charlie and wish him well in Philly. I think the Pirates did the right thing by taking the offer presented by Philly. It may have come earlier than they expected, but it was the right move. It opened the auditions for a No. 5, and Vogelsong, Taillon, Kuhl, Nicasio, and Williams all looked pretty good this week.

  • In the book Moneyball, the author relayed a story involving a young Lenny Dykstra and Billy Beane discussing facing Steve Carlton. The exchange began with Billy Beane telling Dykstra how great of a Pitcher Steve Carlton was, basically saying there’s no way a couple of no name guys like us have a chance vs the great Steve Carlton. And Dykstra basically saying I don’t give a shit who’s on the mound, I’m going to knock the cover off the ball.

    I’m concerned Glasnow may be a little too much Beane and not enough Dykstra. Needs to stop worrying about who he’s facing and more about letting his God given talent shine.

  • Here is my first attempt at a Survey Monkey Questionaire.

    Pirate Prospects-centric, but also some MLB Bucco questions.


  • Watching he and Taillon in the bullpen yesterday getting ready, one was very loose and the other seemed to be mechanical, sort of like everything had to be done at just the right time and in the right order. Now, Taillon was not going to pitch until later in the game and maybe that is why he was loose.

    Glasnow did loosen up the more he threw, throwing some very nice FB’s, CB’s, and even pitching from the stretch incorporating a slide step on about 5 pitches. Brault sat right behind him on the wall to the left and Ray Searage was just off to his right and the atmosphere was loose. Then at 1:00 p.m. he went to the dugout and did not get up again until about 1:15. The guy who went to the mound in the bottom of the first did not resemble the guy who had warmed up earlier. He missed on the first pitch, I think he missed on the second too, and when that leadoff batter hit a GB that went into RF, although many of us in Row G thought it should have been caught by the 2B (Rodriguez), we all wondered how it would go from that point. It did not get much better from there.

    What all that means is that in the BP throwing loose before the game, he was very impressive, but then when the lights went on and the pitches were live, he seemed to get tight and possibly trying to be too fine. The kid is still only 22 and intelligent, so I think he may have heard a few times or more how much the Pirates are hoping for this year. He will get it back together again, and failures like yesterday will make him a lot stronger down the road.

    • You are right. That’s my point . It’s taken him to adjust to each level mentally. Some talents can move quickly because the physical and mental makeup allows them to keep moving. But in Glasnow’s case he’s got tremendous physical stuff but needs to work on the mental part of it. The Pirates smartly won’t bring him up until he’s mentally ready. When he is, he’ll need time to figure it out there , obviously . But when he does…..could be another Nolan Ryan….

    • This is why I gave Taillon a 5 in Foo’s survey, while giving Glasnow a 3.

  • Yung-Han Chang
    March 6, 2016 5:31 pm

    I think it was mentioned on pirates prospects about how the Pirates are drafting smart players. There is a downside to smart players, they can overthink, which creates second guessing. I think charlie morton was a similar player in that way. He cared too much, and let things affect him. Its easy for the fans to say that player is not mentally strong, but the players have just an enormous amount of pressure, and pitching is a microcosm of that pressure

    • There once was a 19 year old rookie pitcher for the NY Mets. The year was 1969. He could throw flames but control was awful. They said it was nerves back then. A little experience and became a pretty good pitcher……Nolan Ryan….give this kid a chance. He’s got the stuff. He will be fine….

      • Then there was Sidd Finch…easily better than Ryan and never made it to the majors.

        • Hard to believe that Finch could throw 168 mph with pinpoint control….What ever happened to him?

        • I remember reading that article and thinking to myself why did the damn Mets have to get him?!!!!

          Then I removed the hook from my mouth…

      • I was raised in the NY area, and I still remember that Nolan Ryan was having problems with blisters so he would soak his pitching hand in pickle brine. Also saw the Bucs light him up in the first game of a Friday twi-night DH in September of 1969.

        • Bruce Kison used to be plagued by blister problems and I remember reading about all the home-made recipes like pickle juice and other things that people would send him. I don’t think any of it ever worked, but his blisters would go away eventually.

      • For every Nolan Ryan who figured it out, there are 20 Balor Moores, Ben MacDonalds and Billy Champions (and many, many more ‘future aces’ whose names I can’t think of) who never did.

        If you’re thinking Glasnow will be a HOFer you’re getting wayyyyyy ahead of things. I mean I hope he does, but we can cherry pick HOFers’ minor league stats and compare them to lots of prospects.

        It is unfair to prospects to do that.

        • Exactly foo

        • Never said he’d be a hof. Just stunned that people down on a 22 year old who has skyrocketed through the minors being virtually unhittable…and he’s not breaking camp going north right now? C’mon, just being realistic . Give him some time.

          • I’m not down on him but from people I talk to it seems 65-70 percent of them believe glasnow will be a number 2 starting pitcher at worst- sometime this year. A not insignificant percentage seem to think he will be better than cole who is a top 10 starting pitcher in baseball.

            I hope he does great. But the kid I’ve seen pitch in aaa looks to be a long way away from achieving such things.

            • Pitchers ranked 1-20 overall have a bust/success rate of 60/40, that is your bust rate, considering Glasnow is hard thrower with spotty command, and one pitch he can consistently throw for strikes, one could bump up the bust rate a little.

              No pitching prospects are sure things, and I agree with your reservations.

      • Ryan had an issue with recurring blisters that prevented him from applying pressure where he wanted to, thus leading to control issues. He famously found a cure in soaking his fingers in pickle brine.

      • Randy Johnson wasn’t great until 27-28 yrs old either.

    • Really great point, on my HS team we had a lefty who sat around 80 with amazing command but he could never put it together in the big games. I say this because he’s on an academic scholarship to Princeton right now and was one of the smartest kids I’ve ever met. I think not just smarts but emotional control is a really big factor for young players.

    • when we are drafting college players sure (we draft for smarts)….but when you are drafting high school players, it isn’t for their intelligence or maturity….because those things really aren’t there yet. In Glasnow’s case, he was a high school kid when we drafted him, there is a reason we got him as low as we did

  • He needs to call The Flower and get his head doctor’s number

  • I’m very concerned about glasnow reaching his ceiling or even the level many pirates fans seem to take for granted. I hope to be wrong but feel he is one of most overhyped prospects in mlb.

  • OT, but Brown and Wehner promoted your site and guide during the bottom of the 9th just now. Read some quotes about Garcia and commented on how neat it was how you took your idea and developed PP. Great PR in exchange for the guide you gave them.