NEW YORK – After 11 starts this year, Tyler Glasnow has a 6.97 ERA in 50.1 innings, and things aren’t exactly improving. Glasnow gave up four runs on five hits in five innings tonight, getting hurt by the long ball with three homers. He was also hurt by a lack of control, walking three batters, and throwing 49 strikes in 89 pitches. It makes you wonder how long the Pirates can keep giving him starts in the majors.
Glasnow did show some good signs tonight, but it was largely mixed in with inconsistent command, along with falling behind in the count on a regular basis.
“The stuff was alright,” Glasnow said. “Some good signs, some good pitches. But it just comes down to pitch execution. When I needed it, I didn’t have it, and kind of falling behind the guys and throwing it right there where they could hit it. I just ran into trouble.”
He was getting behind hitters from the start, walking the leadoff batter of the game, and then giving up a two run homer in the first inning. He added two more solo homers for his next two runs allowed.
“The command was inconsistent,” Hurdle said. “The fact that he had seven three-ball counts and only four guys retired on three pitches or less pretty much tell the story for me.”
There has been a way of reacting to Glasnow’s starts that is almost like evaluating a prospect. The results have been bad more often than not, but the analysis of the starts looks for positives you can take away. For example, he settled down tonight in the final two innings, looking much more efficient than he did in the first few frames.
The idea of looking for the positives makes sense. You’re looking for signs that Glasnow can pitch in the big leagues, and maybe one day can pitch with success more often, without the innings like he had in the first. The high ERA and the struggles through his first 11 starts are an issue for the current season, showing only that he isn’t fully ready right now. Looking for signs of hope is a way to check and see if he will be ready going forward.
The weird dynamic leads to a discrepancy in the way Glasnow is viewed versus the way other pitchers are viewed. Chad Kuhl, for example, has also struggled, showing that he has things to work on before he reaches his upside in the majors. Kuhl has a 6.02 ERA and a 4.97 xFIP, with the latter being similar to Glasnow. Yet the line of thinking after Kuhl’s starts is to question whether he can be a starter, or whether he should be in the majors right now. Glasnow probably gets a pass here because he has more upside, but they’re both in the same situation of working through development issues in the majors.
But when we talk about upside, there’s Gerrit Cole, who has top of the rotation upside. If Cole has a start like tonight, we hear that he’s #NotAnAce, and the overall view is disappointment. This makes sense, as Cole has shown himself to be a very good pitcher, and now comes with that expectation. There is no learning with Cole. He’s expected to be there by now.
So at what point do we move on from looking for positives in Glasnow’s bad outings, and start evaluating him as a guy who is expected to get MLB hitters out? At what point does it make sense to send him down to Triple-A and let him work on his command, ignoring the inevitable strong ERA he will put up, and only focusing on the stuff? The same questions, by the way, can be asked about Chad Kuhl.
My answer to those questions come in the form of another question: Does it matter?
The Pirates now fall to 25-31. They have seen so much go wrong this year, and it’s hard to imagine them climbing out of this and contending. That’s especially true with 40% of their rotation working through issues at the MLB level. If Glasnow and Kuhl are still developing in the big leagues, then you’re essentially not playing for this year. You’re using it as a year to let these guys get ready for future years when they can contribute on a consistent basis. And even if you replace them and try to go for it this year, the hole the Pirates are in might be too deep right now.
The Pirates meed to make a choice. Do they want to win this year, or do they want to let Glasnow and Kuhl develop in the big leagues to increase their chances for next year and future years? I don’t buy that there’s nothing for either player to work on in the minors, although they can certainly work on the same thing in the majors. We’re just seeing right now what that process looks like.
Now I don’t want to put words in the mouth of the organization and say that the Pirates are actively choosing to focus on future years if they do stick with Glasnow and Kuhl. But the reality of that situation is that they are giving themselves a low probability to contend this year (with the probability based on the odds of those two quickly turning things around), all while letting players develop at the big league level.
If this continues, then we’ll keep looking for the positive signs from each start for the future, because the present isn’t really going to matter much.
**The Pirates went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, leading to this hockey-themed quote from Clint Hurdle: “Tonight we felt like we were on a power play the whole night. We couldn’t put a goal in the net.”
**Josh Bell hit a home run in his first at-bat tonight, making that his second homer since switching his swing in the early innings of yesterday’s game. For more on that, check out my recap from last night.
**Francisco Cervelli was out of the lineup again today with a sinus issue. Elias Diaz went 2-for-3 with a walk, while throwing out Neil Walker with a laser throw in the only stolen base attempt of the night.