Watching Tyler Glasnow’s start yesterday and seeing a lot of the reactions to his outing gave me a familiar feeling. My takeaway with Glasnow’s outing was similar to everyone else who made their thoughts public on Twitter during the game: it was a very encouraging start, and Glasnow looked good throughout the outing. That familiar feeling though? It reminded me of a minor league write-up.

If Glasnow was making that start in Indianapolis, my evaluation would be along the lines of: “Ignore the runs allowed, because Glasnow pitched much better than that. Some of the runs were due to defense, although three of them were legitimately his fault. He did rebound well, and showed a lot of promise with his changeup, which has been a big focus for his development. He continued to work on the mechanics, which will hopefully lead to better control of the fastball, which he didn’t have in this game. It was a good step for Glasnow, but development you’d rather see happening in Triple-A than the majors. If his changeup continues looking like this, and bailing out his poor fastball control, he could be in the majors quickly.”

The key difference here is that Glasnow obviously made this start in the majors. The Pirates decided to call Glasnow up at the start of the season, letting him finish his development at the big league level. This was following a spring where he was working on a new changeup grip and working on some new things with his delivery. He is still making adjustments in that area — the pause in his windup from Spring Training is now gone and he’s still working to get quicker to the plate to avoid stolen bases.

The problem with letting Glasnow develop in the majors is that we see the growing pains taking place in the majors. In terms of Glasnow’s development, yesterday’s start was a great one. It was encouraging on many levels, with the biggest one being the changeup usage.

According to Brooks Baseball, Glasnow used his changeup just 11 times in 23.1 innings over seven appearances in the majors last year. So far this year, he has used the pitch 29 times in 6.2 innings over two starts. He’s used his curveball the same amount of times.

I’ve talked to Glasnow every year of his development in the minors about the changeup. He’s always been working on the pitch, but has never been comfortable with the grip. He found a new grip this spring and the difference in comfort was easily noticed. In the past, he talked about the changeup as a pitch he needed to throw, almost like eating his vegetables. But this year, he was actually excited about the pitch.

I never thought we’d see a day where Glasnow would be throwing his changeup the same amount of times as his curveball. Yesterday, he threw the changeup more times than the curveball, with 26 changeups and 20 curves. And what was even better is that the pitch was extremely effective.

Glasnow’s four seam fastball was off yesterday, leading to a ball 45.83% of the time. Hitters weren’t getting fooled by it, and the pitch didn’t get a single whiff. The changeup, however, was thrown for a strike 42.3% of the time, and led to a whiff 26.92% of the time. Let’s put that in perspective for a second. Felipe Rivero’s changeup is not only one of the best changeups in the game, it’s the best swing and miss pitch in the game. He had a 29.67% whiff rate on the pitch in 2016.

Not only has Glasnow found a changeup that he is finally comfortable with, he may have found an extremely good pitch. For more perspective on how good the pitch has been this season, here is Glasnow’s changeup compared to the pitches with the best career whiff rates from the rest of the Pirates’ rotation.

1. Tyler Glasnow Changeup (2017) – 24.14%

2. Ivan Nova Slider (Career) – 21.63%

3. Gerrit Cole Slider (Career) – 19.30%

4. Chad Kuhl Slider (Career) – 19.14%

5. Tyler Glasnow Curveball (2017) – 17.24%

Granted, it has only been two starts, and only one start where Glasnow showed a great changeup. But if yesterday was a sign of things to come, then Glasnow’s changeup could easily be the best swing and miss pitch in the Pirates’ rotation.

That has got to do something to boost Glasnow’s confidence in the pitch, and that confidence already was high to begin with. Glasnow has always needed a pitch that can bail out his fastball when the control isn’t there. The control of the fastball wasn’t there yesterday, and the changeup bailed him out in a big way.

Going forward, you still want to see better fastball control from Glasnow. The changeup is this important for him because it helps to lessen that bigger problem. But that doesn’t mean the problem of his control can be ignored. The Pirates will continue making small adjustments to his delivery, hoping to finally get him to a point where his control is passable and he has a quicker time to the plate. If that fastball can eventually improve, and set up the curveball and changeup, then we could finally see the top of the rotation upside from Glasnow that we’ve all been waiting for.

I felt that Glasnow should have been working on all of this in the minors to start the year. The common argument against that was that he had nothing left to prove in the minors. That’s a horrible argument because it assumes the only goal of the minor leagues is to put up good results. The goal of the minors is to develop a player for the big leagues. Glasnow showed that he can put up good numbers in the minors without focusing on the necessary development in his game. He still needed to improve his control and improve the changeup.

The Pirates decided to work on that in the big leagues, which leads to starts like the first two outings from Glasnow. The first one was a disaster, while the second one wasn’t great (even if you take away the defense, he gave up three legitimate runs in five innings), but had a lot of very encouraging signs. That’s what happens when you develop a guy in the majors. It’s not always a seamless transition, and can lead to some bumps along the road.

That said, I think the best approach at this point is to keep Glasnow in the majors and carry out this plan. If the team sends him down after a bad start or two, it creates a mindset where he’s always worried about getting sent down for a bad outing while in the big leagues. Ivan Nova has talked about how that same mindset in New York — worrying that each start could be his last — and the lack of that fear in Pittsburgh was a big reason for his turnaround last year.

Glasnow needs to feel comfortable to work on his development in the majors, much like he did yesterday with the increased usage of the changeup and the delivery tweaks. The hope is that he continues showing improvements in the same manner we saw with the changeup yesterday. If that happens, there will be fewer bumps in the road in the future, and Glasnow will move closer to reaching his upside as a top of the rotation starter.

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    • Michael Fulmer is an excellent reference for young guys who think they can get by with only two pitches in MLB. And, starting to incorporate the Change-up was a positive factor in Fulmer’s success.

  1. I’m late to this post but I thought he looked real good after the first inning HR to Bryant. 2 errors and the shift cost 3 runs. If 92 was his fastball before the HR, he ramped it up pretty quickly to 95-98 after. Once batters saw that, the change up was dominant. His curve moves so much he needs to almost start it behind a right hander to throw it for a strike. He should start every game here’s 97 hit it if you can, and work off that. The umpiring was also horrendous, forgot to mention that….all weekend.

  2. I agree about keeping him up at this point. Management had to expect this type of performance when they chose him as the 5th starter so really what has changed. Maybe if he has shown no improvement over a month and he is wearing out the pen…
    Also your chart made me think, should we be separating all of the Slider guys and the curve ball guys – as in not having Glasnow and Taillon pitch back to back?

  3. We swept the Cubs. Period.
    I’m enjoying, maybe more than in a long time, watching the games. Particularly to watch this very interesting pitching staff. Starters and Relievers.
    The only move that I disagree with has been Bastardo over the Rule 5 pick. It really wasn’t even close. Bastardo should be gone and one of Neverauskus or the the other flamethrowing reliever should be up. Forget the cash and put the better man in the pen thank you.
    PS: We swept the Cubs.

    • Not only did Pirates sweep the Cubs, but they swept them starting Cole, Glasnow and Taillon. The first time the stud Pitching prospects of recent times for Bucs to pull that feat. Hopefully, we get to see those 3 sweep away a rival in an NLDS this October, too!

  4. As an aside Greg Brown asked NH during his radio show today about players moving around different positions. He of course mentioned Harrison and Frazier and said Jaso could play RF to “get his bat in the lineup.” Why would you want to do that? Jaso is 0-16 and his only hope seems to be drawing a walk. They should give him the take sign on every pitch.

  5. I think there’s good info in the article.. And I believe there’s improvements in the numbers and in the eye test for Glasnow; however, I just think this is an article to write up a month from now when we can make a more fair comparison with others in the rotation. The only thing I took out of this article is the self improvement he’s made.

  6. Tim, couldn’t agree with you more about Glasnow starting the season in AAA to work on fastball command and the changeup. The Big leagues are not a developmental league. Losses in April count the same as losses in September. But the Pirates chose a path and they should stick to it unless Glasnow collapses under pressure. And if that happens then you have a mess. I am hoping for the best.

    • I agree that the “nothing left to prove at AAA” comments are silly — because he still needs to prove he has a 3rd pitch and can cut his walks — but I also think statements like that are clumsy. What I think they mean is that what he needs to learn he needs to learn in MLB. That he needs an environment where he gets lit up if he doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do.

      I thought he should have been in AAA too, but his last start has made me more optimistic about him than I’ve been in about two years. Some of those change-ups were breathtaking.

  7. I think he really does need to take his licks in the Majors. Sure, there are things you can look for to see if he’s doing what he needs to do in the minors, but the only way for him to truly evaluate in real time what works and what doesn’t and what he needs to improve is to have him do it against Major League hitters.

    I think Glasnow is a unique case in that respect, though, because of the nature of his talent. It’s too easy for him to hide his deficiencies–not just in the box score, but from himself–against minor league hitters. Starting him in the Majors was the right move for his development.

    I also think it was the right move for the team. He’s a fifth starter, and they have Williams and LeBlanc in the bullpen to piggyback off him. We can suffer his inconsistencies in that role, and the promise of his upside is significant.

    • 42,
      I really appreciate your comment here. I really think you’ve got it exactly right, especially vis-a-vis Williams and LeBlanc to piggy-back.

      I would add just one thing, perhaps. See what the Inmates of the Asylum think of it. Glasnow IS different. His 6’8″ frame makes it so. And he’s going to be long to the plate. I don’t think he should worry TOO much about that but instead concentrate on getting the batter out.

      In the long run, not enough batters will reach base.

      Remember A.J. Burnette? Couldn’t hold a runner to save his ass, but he was gonna take it out on the batter. If Glasnow could get to that kind of mindset, he’d be a M-Fin’ Monster. Just keep that WHIP at less than 2 and you’ve got no worries, kid. Because when he stops worrying about the fastball command and just weilds it like the badass pitch it is, nobody’s going to be guessing right against him and it won’t matter if they do.

      Imagine a STFD-type Glasnow. Go on. Close yer eyes and see it.

      Pleasant dreams, Cubbies!


  8. Tallion is so cool under pressure. Glasnow needs to experience having his stuff getting racked so he learns to pitch rather than throw. It takes years for some to develop that mindset. But as a fifth starter, he has such upside over the typical 5 man for the Pirates. I agree the minors was the move for him.

  9. I must not have watched the same game, I thought Glasnow was horrible yesterday. The biggest positive, outside of the effective change, was that he managed to get through 5 innings. His fastball was all over the place, when your fastball has no command, the umpire will never, ever give you a close pitch, no matter how good Cervelli is at framing. There are a lot of words to describe his start, but good is not a word I would use.

    • You’re right. Good isn’t the right word to describe the start. Encouraging would be the word I would use since his changeup was so effective.

    • I termed it his most courageous start that I have seen. Schwarber barely made contact and squibbed it past third, then the 93 mph middle/middle FB to Bryant was a huge mistake. But, instead of losing it, he struck out the next batter and then an easy GB to SS where Frazier blew the play. That hurt at a time when TG was about to turn the corner.

      Overall, I was thrilled for the kid to see him throw the number of change-ups he did, and the excellent command of the pitch.

  10. A rat just ran past the Pirate’s dugout. It saw Hurdle run us into a double play with slow Mercer attempting steal and high strikeout Marte whiffing. Marte should be the leadoff hitter. It makes no sense having Mercer leading off when he could be handling the bat in the two hole against lefties.

    • Marte had been a 5K for every Walk hitter and then brought that down to 4K/1W in 2016. I was expecting a drop to 3K/1W or even better this year, but he has gone backwards 17K/3W. He is striking out once every 3 AB’s and somebody who has been in the league as long as he has should have a better approach at the plate. When I see the K/W numbers from Marte and JHay at 4/1 or worse every year, I wonder about our Hitting Coach.

      Strike-em out/throw-em out – Lester was struggling and our strategy should have been to be patient, keep running up the pitch count, and hope to get to the BP as early as possible. Even with the DP, Lester still had 20 pitches in the first inning. Clint had a brain fart – like playing Frazier at SS and JHay in LF on Saturday. Frazier can hit, but where he can play on Defense is still a mystery, and should not include the infield.

      • Yeah, I would love for Frazier to find a defensive home but I think he will always be a tweener…but he can hit. I’ll take 300 or so quality ab all over the place every year. They have plenty of 2B in the high minors so I think Harrison is gone either way at some point this season or in the offseason.

  11. I was excited to see Glasnow get pissed off out there. He needs to pitch with an edge, and with no fear

      • Just my thoughts exactly. Taillon was excellent yesterday, and never gave in. I see he and Cole as 1 and 1a in this current Rotation, with Kuhl, Nova, and the Tyler Glasnow I watched Saturday, not far behind.

        Now, if the hitters start hitting then making the post-season is a realistic possibility. Marte has a few HR and is hitting .260, but 17 strikeouts in little more than 50 AB’s? ‘Cutch 10K/3W, Harrison 6K/1W? Our game is put the ball in play. Freese leading the club in hitting and has 4K/9W. Frazier 2nd leading hitter 6K/3W.

  12. I can only imagine the reaction of veterans in the trainwreck start vs reds unfortunately horrific ST performances setup the scenario. Hopefully this is a major turning point made with plenty of time in the season to make up for it especially if he has a 3rd plus pitch he’ll more than make up when all 3 are rolling and he’s throwing mid90s+. Also nice to see the offense back the pitcher in this one.

  13. His move to 1b was pretty strong as well. It was an encouraging start, let’s hope he builds on it.

    • I didn’t see what you saw. I still think it’s too long and slow. He might catch someone if they get caught leaning, but I wouldn’t expect a pickoff this year.

      • No one in the staff has a good enough move to catch anyone that wasn’t leaning, but enough to prevent the runner from taking a massive lead.

  14. I think he is finally getting it. If all the pitchers come together he will be somewhat unbeatable. Lets give the young man some time to make his adjustments. It might not be pretty but then this is baseball and pretty doesn’t count for much.

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