Williams: How Long Can the Pirates Keep Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl in the Majors?

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.

Game Notes

**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.

  • I think the Pirates management have decided to choose the middle ground, because they don’t have better replacement options. If you remove Glasnow and Kuhl, who do we have that gives us a better chance to win today? Williams stays, but how much better is Williams than those 2, and who’s the other option. By keeping Tyler and Chad in, they get to let them work out the kinks and say that we don’t have better replacement options

  • DeGrom was 26 when he made his first start in 2014. He didn’t win in his first eight starts. Syndergaard is an exception. He started at age 22 in 2015 and already has a record 24 and 10. But I don’t think that it’s really fair to compare Glasnow in HIS age 23 rookie season to someone as precocious as Thor. Everyone develops differently, so you never know. Do you think that Toronto would have TRADED him to the Mets (with all of their pitching woes) if they knew how good he would turn out? They obviously didn’t see what they were giving up. Heck, Toronto kept Drew Hutchinson over him. I remember Randy Johnson’s first start at age 24 against the Pirates. He was ok. He beat a bad Pirates team. He won 3 games that year. The next year, he went 7 and 13 with an ERA of 6.67 and was subsequently traded, obviously…in retrospect, too soon. You just have to have patience with these guys. The Pirates moribund offense means that they’re not going to win this year anyhow. I would just keep playing the kid

  • BucsStopHere
    June 4, 2017 7:30 pm

    Glasnow’s body language is a problem. He looks as though he has no care in the world or competitive spirit which is the opposite of most pitchers.

  • I have a hard time lumping Kuhl and Glasnow together, the former was a DRA of 4.26, and the later 8.16. I know they have some similar other numbers, strip away prospect ranking and Kuhl looks the more encouraging going forward.

  • Hey, this division is so mediocre this year, they are still in it. I wouldn’t mind seeing some payback karma as the Central winner gets a nice little bye while 2 of the Dodgers, Rockies or D Backs plays the one game elimination. Payback for two years ago when the Mets and Dodgers, who would have been a distant fourth watched the Bucs and Cubs. As long no one pulls away in the next month, they should go for it. And for that put me in the send them down school of thought, when Taillon gets back

  • Cole and his 28 hits allowed last 14 innings is so disappointing. He’ll figure it all out right after he leaves the Pirates in a year or two. It’s embarrassing how hittable he is. The Pirates are unfortunate that arguably their 4 best players have all let them down this season. Taillon, Kingham, Brault, and Sadler all look close to ready to be back in the rotation. No sense waiting around on Kuhl and Glasnow and watching them either lose control, or throw the ball right down the middle.

    • Same hittability issue he faced at UCLA. His stuff is good, but not good enough if he locates it over the plate. When he moves the ball around the corners of the plate, mixing speeds he can be very effective. But some games he can’t/won’t do that. MLB just has too many hitters who will put a center cut 98 MPH fastball over the fence. Cole has to pitch, not try to overpower.

      • Scott Kliesen
        June 4, 2017 2:14 pm

        Speed is no substitute for command. Unless your Nolan Ryan that is.

      • I still say his problem is relying too much on that fastball. Good hitting teams can wait him out and tattoo it Needs more breaking stuff for strikes early in the count

  • I am a big Glasnow supporter. But they should both be out of the rotation. Glasnow to AAA. Kuhl could either go to bullpen or AAA. Taillon should bump one of them. Brault the other. Williams stays in the rotation for now. If you want to win this year, this is an EASY call.

  • Where is the velocity for TG? He’s a low to mid 90s fastball pitcher. I thought he was an upper 90s guy. Is he taking something off to maintain control or was I just misrembering what he could do?

  • Glasnow should stay. So he gets sent back down to “work things out”. What will happen is that he will strike out a bunch of AAA hitters. Then what? Will that prove he can now locate his pitches better? Or that AAA hitters are in AAA because they’re not as disciplined as ML hitters and are chasing pitches out of the zone? My guess would be the latter. I would like to see him stay in Pittsburgh even though it can be frustrating. With his potential upside I think you have a to weather the storm and hope he learns and eventually becomes the pitcher we all hope he can be.

  • when is glasnow going to throw a gem?

  • If Trevor has another good start today i dont think you send him down. Unless Cole is hurt one of TG or CK would need to go down when Jamo comes back. If Brault keeps pitching well the lure of a lefty has to start the discussions on a promotion.

  • As long as it takes for them to become quality ML starters.

    A silly question.

  • Just for some historical perspective, from my antique copy of The Baseball Encyclopedia:
    1950 V. Law 7-9, 4.92. No B. Friend
    1951 V. Law 6-9, 4.50. B Friend 6-10, 4.27
    1952 No Law. B.Friend 7-17, 4.18
    1953 No Law. B. Friend 8-11, 4.90. R. Face (starter) 6-8, 6.58
    1954 No Law. B. Friend 7-12, 5.07. R. Purkey (later traded) 3-8, 5.07
    1955 V. Law 10-10, 3.81. B. Friend 14-9, 2.83 (league leader era)
    Except for Kiner from 1950-52, the rest of the team was terrible. The club let their young pitchers learn to pitch in the majors (Friend) or minors (Law) until 1955 when they blossomed. Even so, it took another five years and some astute trading (Burgess, Haddix, Hoak, Mizell later) to pay off with a championship.

  • “How Long Can the Pirates Keep Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl in the Majors?”…

    Hopefully not much longer.

  • Teams with $100m payrolls are wise to focus on the future when they start like this and have setbacks/injuries. Don’t let our weak division give false hope. Let’s get Cutch juiced up with Marte’s “doctor” so he will be tradable at the deadline. Nats and Yankees are always ready to give up the farm for a rental. 2018 or bust!

  • I don’t think lumping Kuhl and TG together is the right way to approach this matter. CK definitely needs to stay in rotation to see if his newly implemented curve will allow him to get lefties out w regularity.

    As for TG, much tougher call. I think Pirates will continue to give him opportunities to prove he has what it takes to be successful. I just don’t think there’s a happy ending to this story. Hopefully I’m wrong.

  • Excellent article….Pirates have a decision to make, if they want to win games. I would anticipate seeing Brault and Jamo replacing Kuhl and Glasnow in the very near future.

  • I think it boils down to whether there is anyone else ready to come up and be in position to contribute as an MLB pitcher. You can see the potential with Glasnow, but he needs to work on consistency. Taillon should be back soon. Kingham appears like he is close to being ready. Recently, Williams has done well and appears to be improving.

  • I have been saying it all year. Glasnow is over rated

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    June 4, 2017 12:40 am

    I’ve been a big supporter of both Glasnow and Kuhl, and although they are both young and inexperienced, I expected more from both of them this year. With that being said, our “ace” Cole has pitched even worse than Glasnow and Kuhl over his past 2-3 starts. Only Taillon and Nova have been consistently good as starters. Although they are taking their lumps, I don’t see anyone at Indy who could be better than Glasnow and Kuhl. The Pirates gave guys like Niese and Locke a lot more starts, before finally moving on…given their inexperience and upside, I think Glasnow and Kuhl deserve a few more starts. This team isn’t going anywhere this year anyway, might as well find out what these guys can do over a longer trial…
    If one or both do need replaced for a time, Holmes is a possibility, while Kingham needs more work before he’s ready. Brault is another option, but I don’t see him as a long term answer. I do think he could be a very good LH arm out of the bullpen however. Williams is good for 1-2 turns through a lineup, and then he tends to get hit around. Hutchison? Please, no!
    Guys like Polanco and McCutchen have also been very disappointing, although Cutch has shown signs of late of turning things around. Jaso had to get hot recently just to get his average into the low .200s. Hudson has been awful, while Watson has been very spotty of late.
    You combine the above, with the suspensions of Kang and Marte, its a small miracle that the team is as close to .500 as it is…Its been a team effort and lots of blame to go around – including the FO and coaching staff. Only Harrison has performed at a consistently high level as a position player. Bell, Frazier, and Mercer have been their next best players – everyone has been mediocre to bad.

    • Simple not enough talent, not enough impact players. Not enough return in high draft choices. Glasgow plainly not ready for majors and looking like he was overrated. I bet Syndegard and deGrom were far better in their 11 starts than Glasnow has been.

      • I agree 100%. No enough talent or they bet wrong on the type of talent (slap hitters, making everyone a utility player). A clear intention in the off season to treat this season as one for development of their young starters. Kang was a predictable situation, Marte not so much. That all said, just like last season it was evident that the team did not do enough to bolster the lineup before the season to give the team a legit chance to win. No one could have predicted the weak performance of the Central. This management team set this team up to struggle. They are lucky beyond words to still be this close in the division. Do they do something to take advantage of their fortunes in that regard? Nope. Stay the course. For them to win, they’ll have to 1) get lucky with a great overall team performance in a year or 2) the division as a whole will have to slump down to their performance level. The division is doing its part this year. The front office is not.

        • Who was available appreciably better than Freese to replace Kang? Everyone wants to blame the FO but when you look at the market the last few years not a lot of solutions and barely any recognition for the Nova deal because it wasn’t an overpay. This year is Zach Cozart 5yr @$18-$20m worth it? he might actually get a lot more than that. I guess not knowing what the Quintana deal involved will be shoved in the FO’s face forever too. The big problem is that a year ago the outfield looked unstoppable and a source of production now it looks to be on the edge of a cliff and 2/3 of it locked in for awhile. So Meadows and Bell are slap hitters. Osuna? You want to be mad that Frazier is productive even though no one in FO ever intended. Or that Jaso in being a placeholder for Bell fielded 1b competently and produced runs just as well as Cutch Polanco and many others.

          • Michael Fiffik, Esquire
            June 4, 2017 11:09 am

            I’m not a baseball professional but the front office full of them. If you expect me to be able to lay out the full analysis of all available options in order to hold his opinion that is pretty unfair. There is zero evidence that the front office is doing anything to improve this club from the outside at this point. It is possible to do that because the Braves of already made moves in order to shore up their team this year.

            • Exactly you have no idea. First base is child’s play the Cardinals were elated to find a taker for Adams. Just because you want a move doesn’t mean a trade for Manny Machado or Josh Donaldson is in realm of possibility. The likelihood that a team is willing to part with someone better than Freese is slim.

    • Wabbit_Season
      June 4, 2017 9:52 am

      BFSMD – I agree with much of your post.

      For me, this is a kind of rebuild from within year. And you’re right, it is a miracle that the division hasn’t run away from us.

      I hold out slim hope that the return of Marte will finally make this offense click. Wish we could get Kang back in the fold, drunk or not, and we’d be in a good place from a batting perspective.

      Also, gotta say the bright spots of Adam Frazier and Bell are fun to watch. And I’ve loved watching Elias Diaz behind the plate. I think Stewart’s days with the Bucs are over.

      The competition for starting slots next year could be very good and I would expect the rotation to be much more solid. I think it’s a quiet rebuild going into next year.

      Saying that, I think you just enjoy the roller coaster this season and look for those bright spots to build from.

      si

  • Bill Harvey
    June 4, 2017 12:21 am

    The answer to the question, Glasnow did not win a spot in the rotation, ever, and should have not made his MLB debut yet. However, since he has, and has proven himself to be bad, he needs to be sent down ASAP. There is no need for him to be in the majors, because it isn’t about development, he is not developing, he still has the same exact problems today that he had in Altoona. When Taillon comes back, Glasnow should be removed from the starting rotation.

    As for Kuhl, I’m not sure what to think. He is Charlie Morton 2.0. If he doesn’t have any consistent pitch outside of his 2 seamer, he is going to struggle because teams will load up with left handed hitters. However, he has also showed that if any other pitch at all is working, he can be an effective starter. However, when Kingham is ready, which is probably right now, I believe he is the better talent with the better potential of the two.

    Basically, IMO, by the end of next week, my rotation would be
    Taillon
    Nova
    Cole
    Kingham
    Williams

    NH said way back in 2010, when the Pirates could have thrown a few games and been able to select Bryce Harper…..the goal of any organization is to win games at the major league level, and we will win as many games as we can………or something to that effect. Glasnow and Kuhl are not giving the major league team the best chance to win.

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      June 4, 2017 12:45 am

      Cole isn’t giving the team a chance to win lately either – and he has been even worse than Glasnow and Kufl over his past 2-3 starts, if that is possible. Hudson has been horrific since the second week of the season, yet he’s still in Pittsburgh while Santana is in Indy.

      • Over the past few weeks, Santana’s era has went up over a full run.

  • Let them pitch here and learn from their mistakes. Pirates will not contend this year, so what’s to lose but a meaningless game. What happened to the great pitching coach who can fix pitchers? Why can’t he fix these two pitchers?

    • Bill Harvey
      June 4, 2017 12:07 am

      That great pitching coach is currently in Miami.

      • There wasn’t just one.

        • Bill Harvey
          June 4, 2017 12:28 am

          But everyone thinks it’s only Searage, and it obviously isn’t. He has the ability to notice small changes, and work to correct them, but I don’t believe he is the guru everyone else thinks he is.

          • It was always a widespread approach.

            -Scouting the numbers to identify potential bounce back guys.
            -Scouting the players to see if there’s something that can be changed, or a sign that the numbers are correct.
            -Signing a player who they believe is willing to make adjustments (the first two steps are pointless if the player isn’t willing to change)
            -Evaluating and making those adjustments, which is where the pitching coach comes in. However, this process involves a lot of video scouting to prep and show the mechanical adjustments that are needed.

    • Locke- finally off the disabled list. 5 2/3 innings, 1 earned run, 7 strikeouts. In Miami. His next outing is Tuesday.

    • GreenWeenie
      June 4, 2017 7:07 am

      I don’t think Glasnow is making mistakes. He’s just pitching the same way he pitched in the minors.

    • I believe that what Miami saw to give us Trevor Williams was right on. Our magic in getting pitchers back to their success was traded to them.

      • How do you explain Nova? How do you explain Marlin pitchers struggles?

    • It is hard to fix mental issues, which seem to be Cole and Glasnows major problems. Compare them to the healthy mental approach to the game that Taillon has. Cole is a great competitor but gets mentally derailed when he makes his inevitable early mistake. Glasgow seems like a bucket full of doubt. JT simply believes in himself and knows to refocus after making a mistake.

  • I think they should Rotate at least one of those guys and give Brault a chance, but I’m with Tim in that we don’t have a lot to lose by getting over the young pitchers growing pains as early as possible. With the way the division is going if these guys can catch fire second half , we might make a run. I keep thinking when this team gets healthier, gets a
    Or b back , then they’ll be good and it doesn’t seem to happen. It’s sobering to think that with everyone back healthy but Marte and Kang, this team might be .500. They need young guys to take root and trAde at deadline for more young talent. May sound crazy , but Rivera may actually fetch a huge return.

  • Not sure what is worse Kuhl and Glasnow’s struggles or 46% of runners at 3b scoring with less than 2 outs.

    • Completely agree – using Glasnow’s struggles to cover up and overlook the offense scoring, yet again, 3 or fewer runs is a Clint Hurdle mode of thinking. Thankfully, Hurdle doesn’t get 100% say of who is in the rotation because he would be calling up and signing 35-year-old FA pitchers to fill in behind Cole and Nova…his comments about Bell’s defense also have me a bit miffed – you can’t just applaud the kid for improving dramatically? No, you have to say there are two guys (with experience, aka Hurdle’s man crush) who have “definitively” better defense, give me a break…

  • They just got done saying how the last two players on the bench needed to be replaced since they weren’t producing – but if two of the five starters are letting up over 4 runs every 6 innings, that is fine.

    What was it Hurdle said? “Hanson hasn’t demonstrated consistency in the 7 MLB at bats we’ve grudgingly allowed him to take as a pinch hitter.” (I might be paraphrasing there.)

    • We already have one of the AAA SP’s (Williams) doing spot starts at the MLB level, and there are no openings in the Rotation at AAA with Holmes, Brault, Kingham, Hutchison, Eppler, and now Taillon. With offers on the near horizon coming on Cole, the Pirates need to stand pat with Cole, Taillon, Nova, Kuhl, and Glasnow.

      Kuhl is only 24 and proved he belonged at the MLB level in his 14 starts for the Pirates in 2016 where he went 5-4, 4.20 ERA. His BABIP in 2016 was .304; in 2017 his BABIP is .342 which is extraordinarily high and should be trending down as the season progresses. One cause could be the increase in FB velocity up to 94.7 from 93.2 last year – he may have gained velocity but is he giving up movement on the pitch? The bottom line though is his WAR in 2016 was +0.9 and in 2017 it is already at +0.6. He is earning the right to stay, and being able to reach back and get 97 has opened a lot of eyes.

      • He’s reached back and hit 100…

      • You seem to be distinguishing Williams as a AAA pitcher and implying that Kuhl, and Glasnow are not. Williams, Kuhl, Glasnow, Brault, and Hutchison are all basically at the same level of development. (Hutch does have more MLB experience but seems to be in the same state of “learning” as the other four.)

        My point is that the philosophy should be give them a chance and if they are not grabbing it, give someone else a shot. Right now Brault is pitching well (like Moroff was hitting well). Give him a shot and send the message that you have to produce to stay in the majors.

        To your second point, Kuhl proved that he was good enough to put up a 4.20 era in 2016. He is currently proving that he is good enough to put a 6+ era in 2017. He is also proving that he can not get lefties out and that he consistently rears back for more speed instead of more movement. There is nothing wrong with taking a step back and working some things without hurting the major league club. I personally would demote both Glasnow and Kuhl and bring up Taillon and Brault.

        • I agree completely! MLB isn’t a finishing school. AAA is. Glasnow needs better command. That can be worked on in AAA. Kuhl needs a broader pitch selection. That can be developed in AAA. Taillon, Brault and then Kingham should be brought up as GLas now and Kuhl go back to work developing their games.

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