Tyler Glasnow has put up some amazing numbers this season. He had a 1.74 ERA in 124.1 innings for the Bradenton Marauders, with a 157:57 K/BB ratio. Since the start of June, he’s put up a 1.47 ERA in 91.2 innings, with a 120:35 K/BB ratio. From a statistical standpoint, there was no reason to keep him in Bradenton during the month of August. Yet the opportunity to make a playoff start in Bradenton, as opposed to playing meaningless games in Altoona, kept him in A-ball.
Looking beyond the stats, and looking beyond the opportunity in the playoffs, there’s another concern with Glasnow. That concern was obvious in tonight’s playoff outing. He’s still capable of a disaster inning or two, fueled by a total lapse in control.
Tonight, Glasnow looked dominant in the first inning. He struck out the side, and it looked like he could be on pace for another strong outing like he’s seen throughout the month of August. But things fell apart in the second inning. Glasnow walked two and gave up two hits, resulting in three runs scored. He got help from the offense in the bottom half of the inning, with the Marauders scoring seven runs. But a four run lead didn’t result in improved control. Glasnow issued another walk in the third inning. He then walked the first three batters he saw in the fourth inning, including one right after a visit to the mound from pitching coach Justin Meccage.
This isn’t limited to this playoff outing. It was just more obvious tonight. I’ve seen Glasnow a lot down the stretch when he’s had great stat lines. Even in those outings, he’s seen a lapse in control for an inning or two. In some games he will quickly get back on track. There are a few games like tonight that turn into total disasters. Glasnow lets things snowball on him, and sometimes can’t calm himself down on the mound.
“I think an outing like tonight, you talk about that seven run inning, I think it just creates a little more pressure for him,” Marauders pitching coach Justin Meccage said after tonight’s game. “‘I’ve really got to perform here’ type deal. When it goes ball one, then ‘I can’t go ball two’ and then the negative thoughts start creeping back in. It’s just a matter of separating each pitch and each hitter in each inning. And understanding that every pitch is new every inning, every hitter is new, and every inning is new. And that will eliminate that stuff.”
The good news is that he has shown improvements. He had a 3.4 BB/9 from June to the end of the season, showing massive improvements in his control over his season totals last year, and his totals pre-June this year. The improvement continued in July (2.7 BB/9) and August (3.0 BB/9). As for calming down on the mound, and avoiding starts like tonight, Meccage thinks it will just take more experience pitching in more meaningful games like this.
“I think the more you pitch in these games, the more you learn from them,” Meccage said. “He didn’t get challenged a whole lot over the course of the season. They were ready to swing the bat tonight.”
It’s safe to confirm, based on the stats, that Glasnow didn’t get challenged much this year. You could also say the same thing about last year. And maybe it’s not a big coincidence that two years in a row, Glasnow has posted dominant numbers over the course of a season, only to struggle with his control and exit early in the playoffs.
This isn’t something Glasnow can’t fix. It’s the main thing he needs to fix. Top of the rotation starters don’t let a bad pitch become a bad inning, and don’t let a bad inning become more than just one bad inning. Glasnow has been capable of getting back on track quickly this year, but obviously that doesn’t happen all the time. His control, another thing that needs to show continued improvements, has shown improvements this year as a result of him limiting the damage in most outings. But that will be harder as he moves up in the minors, and will be something where he will have to learn from experience.
He’ll get more opportunities in the Arizona Fall League this off-season. He’ll get plenty of opportunities next year with Altoona. He might get a shot in Indianapolis by the end of the year, and should get a chance to test his skills at the Triple-A level in 2016. That will give him plenty of opportunities to play in more games like tonight, with more challenges than he has seen in A-ball. Hopefully the added experience will help eliminate problems like he’s seen tonight. If that is the case, then the sky is the limit for Glasnow’s future in the majors.
Links and Notes
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.