BRADENTON, Fla. – One of the most impressive things about Tyler Glasnow’s pitching ability, and one of the most difficult things for opposing hitters, is his stride length. I’ve heard opposing hitter comments over the years describing his stride length by saying the ball seems like it is already at the plate when he releases it. I’ve also heard that it seems like the ball is falling from the sky, due to his high overhand arm slot.
The stride length was recently put into numbers by Daren Willman, who yesterday tweeted out the handy chart below.
Tyler Glasnow had crazy extension last year on his fastball that helped him gain 3 MPH. Here he is compared to other pitches with 250+ FBs pic.twitter.com/R2UpJHlKA8
— Daren Willman (@darenw) January 16, 2017
Glasnow’s stride length gets up to about 7.7 feet, and gives him a perceived 3 MPH extra in velocity. When his game is on, he sits in the 92-96 MPH range, touching as high as 99-100. So the perceived velocity for the opposing hitters would be around 95-99, touching as high as 102-103, if that stayed consistent with all of his pitches.
That is very impressive. At the same time, the long stride length was causing problems for Glasnow.
I talked with him last week about some changes he was working on, and the biggest one came with his stride length. Glasnow realized that the length was too long, and that he was landing on his heel first. This led to him not getting his front foot down, and threw off his delivery, while losing power and velocity. The latter point can be shown in the numbers, with Glasnow sitting around 92-93 at times last year, and not getting up to the mid-90s as frequently as before. The solution was simple.
“I just started bringing it in a little bit more,” Glasnow said. “Not really shortening the stride length a ton, but bringing my foot under and planting. It sounds small, but it was a huge difference.”
Glasnow said that he “felt kind of weird all year”, and decided to make the change in the last start. Part of the change came from talking with Gerrit Cole, who has a long stride, and does the same thing to shorten it a bit so he can land properly. Glasnow put those changes into effect in his final start of the year, where he gave up one run on one hit in five innings, with four walks and four strikeouts.
“It felt good, and so the first day I started throwing in the offseason, I did it, and it started to feel good,” Glasnow said of the change. “Everyday I practiced it, it was feeling good. Right now, throwing-wise, is the best I’ve ever felt. So I’m really excited to come into the season this year.”
This approach isn’t brand new to Glasnow. It’s something he was doing in High-A, although he said that adjustments and bad habits got him out of the routine. The goal with the change is more command, and easier velocity.
“I don’t have to throw as hard as I can to throw 92-96 now,” Glasnow said. “I can know what velo is coming out, rather than just guessing. The problem was I would throw with the same effort in every pitch, and it would vary with velo.”
One thing that seemed off last year with Glasnow was his curveball. He has always had issues with his fastball command, but the curveball struggled last year. This switch is also aimed to help the command of the curveball, adding more consistency.
“I was under everything,” Glasnow said. “My curveball, the bite of it was really bad. This is the biggest difference [with the new stride], just shape and spin. It’s just more consistent.”
The lack of curveball command, plus the continued lack of fastball command made it so that Glasnow had zero reliable pitches at times last year. This was due to his hesitancy in throwing the changeup. Glasnow said that he plans on throwing the changeup more this year, and that wouldn’t be hard to do, since he went a few starts without even throwing it at all. But he has already started that process in his flat ground work.
“I feel good with it now,” Glasnow said. “I’ve been throwing it a ton in throwing programs. Pretty much 50% of the time in the throwing program is throwing the changeup. I’m getting a better feel for it now, and I’m just excited to use it during the season.”
Throwing the pitch a lot in flat ground work is a lot different than throwing it at all in actual games. Time will tell if Glasnow gets comfortable enough to throw that pitch in a game, especially when his fastball or curveball aren’t working. However, he will have another pitch to rely on in 2017, and it’s not exactly a new offering. The Pirates are giving him a two-seam fastball this year, which is a pitch he threw in high school, but which was taken away so he could focus on four seam fastball command. The pitch isn’t something that he will rely on like Jameson Taillon did when he jumped to the majors, but will be a good situational offering for him.
“It’s a ton more movement,” Glasnow said of the two-seamer. “I think I just want to have a two-seam if I need a double play. I’m not exactly a ground ball pitcher, so to have a pitch that is a pretty common ground ball pitch, I’m glad to have it now.”
There aren’t any plans to add additional pitches, which means Glasnow will mostly attack with the four seam and curveball, with the changeup and two-seamer there to bail him out. That’s a good improvement over last year, when he only had one pitch to bail him out, and didn’t use it. Time will tell if that’s the case again with the changeup this year, but the addition of the two-seamer makes it more likely that he’ll have a third pitch he can trust when the other two aren’t working.
As for the command of the other two pitches, the hope is that the mechanical changes with the shortened stride will help fix those problems, or at least reduce the issues for Glasnow. He did walk four batters in five innings in the only start with the changes, although that’s only the first start. We’ll get a better idea of his progress when he starts throwing in games this year. Until then, all we can rely on are the signs from his throwing program. So far, Glasnow has been encouraged by the progress.
“In the season I’d have a good day of throwing, then bad. It was all over the place,” Glasnow said. “Now, everything feels consistent. It’s still early, but I’m just excited for the mound work during the season.”