Tyler Glasnow Has Been Settling in as a Relief Pitcher

PITTSBURGH – Pirates reliever Tyler Glasnow has put together quite an impressive string of appearances out of the bullpen over the last three weeks.

Over his last seven appearances, he’s thrown 11.2 innings and allowed just one run (0.77 ERA). Opponents are hitting just .209 off him, and he’s walked three batters while striking out 15.

It’s been impressive enough to wonder how much longer I’ll be referring to him as “Pirates reliever Tyler Glasnow,” but neither he nor the team seems to be in much of a rush when it comes to moving him from his current long relief role.

It starts with a need, and the Pirates don’t really have one in the rotation at the moment. Nick Kingham has shined in his limited opportunities in the majors. As impressive as Glasnow’s numbers in relief have been, Steven Brault’s have been even better, and it’s likely that if someone had to come out of the game to get a start, it would be him.

So the Pirates don’t really have any reason to push Glasnow back into a starting role, and there’s more to it than that. A lot of the things he’s had success doing in the bullpen might not necessarily translate to starting again.

For one, he hasn’t been particularly efficient. He’s thrown 188 pitches in those 11.2 innings, which works out to about 16 per frame. As a starter, that would project out at 97 pitches after six innings, but remember that the first couple innings of an appearance (the only ones Glasnow is getting right now) are typically the most efficient.

He’s also gone from a four-pitch mix a year ago as a starter to three pitches this season. Gone are his two-seamer (designed to help his efficiency) and his changeup (designed to help combat lefty-heavy lineups). Without the changeup, lefties are hitting .295/.367/.822 against him.

In place of the changeup, he’s added a slider that’s been a fantastic pitch as far as swing-and-miss rate goes, but he’s still mastering locating it for a strike at times, so he’s only using it about four percent of the time. What’s left has been a four-seam fastball and a curveball, both of which have done an excellent job of getting right-handers out, which is a perfectly fine state of affairs for a reliever.

Meanwhile, the Pirates back end of the bullpen has seen some tough times. Felipe Vazquez has blown three straight saves and left his outing on Sunday with forearm discomfort, before returning with 100 MPH velocity last night. Over his previous three appearances, he had a 16.21 ERA and a 5.399 WHIP. In front of him, it’s been no better as Michael Feliz has a 27.00 ERA and a 3.33 WHIP in his last four outings.

It’s unlikely that Glasnow would be asked to replicate the role of either Feliz or Vazquez, who are (mostly) one-inning relievers. But he could certainly be used in higher-leverage situations toward the back of the bullpen more frequently than he has.

It almost seems as if the Pirates’ deployment of Glasnow thus far has been as much about protecting his psyche than it has been about any kind of matchup concern. But in that regard, general manager Neal Huntington has positive things to say about Glasnow’s progress.

“Tyler has simplified some things,” Huntington said. “He’s attacked. He’s had conviction. What’s been great to see is that when he has given up hard contact, he’s come right back. In the past, he had a harder time slowing things down. He would speed things up.”

Manager Clint Hurdle, though, cautioned being in any kind of rush to push Glasnow out of a role that he’s been pretty comfortable and successful in.

“He’s shown a consistency to get outs for the first time in his major league career,” Hurdle said. “So let’s start there and I think that’s what’s important, because as a society, as soon as someone gets a little bit of something, we want more. And you know, the game doesn’t work that way. Fantasy baseball does.”

As far as Glasnow goes, he’s made a conscious effort not to think about any kind of bigger picture or worry about what he’s working toward. He’s just focusing on getting outs when he’s called upon and letting the rest of the chips fall where they may.

“I think once you start doing that, that’s when baseball kind of slaps you in the face,” he said. “I’m honestly — it’s cliché — but I’m trying to live in the moment right now. Pitch whenever I can, and I’ve been pitching a little bit more frequently, which I really like.”

Pitching more often is something a reliever would like, though, right?

“It’s been what, seven, eight weeks?” he said. “Yeah, I feel more like a reliever now.”

It seems like the combination of team needs and the way Glasnow has had his success are certainly pushing him in that direction.

  • I think TG will be in the bullpen for at least 2 more months, maybe the rest of the year. If he really progresses with the things he is working on, he might go to the rotation. Otherwise they can wait until next year.

  • jamminjoe66
    May 30, 2018 11:07 am

    Hurdle needs to go, he sounds as stupid as Maddon trying justify dirty plays from his players.
    Hurdle quote when asked why Meadows wasn’t in starting line-up:
    You know we’re 2 – 5 with him in starting line-up. Luke Meadows wasn’t doing his part.
    Glasnow has had the look of a deer caught in headlights in the past, he hasn’t had that look for awhile now, but Hurdle keeps running everyone else out there with a lead & watching it get blown. Shower it off & watch it again.
    He’s still running Serpico our there on a regular basis. It’s nauseating watching him play.
    Kids come up from minors hitting & when Hurdle gets his influence over them they stop. Bell, Polanco, Frazier…. he can’t seem to fix any of them.
    Get rid of Hurdle!!!
    Rant over

  • Wabbit_Season
    May 30, 2018 11:07 am

    I think you stretch out TG and when he comes in for long relief you let him pitch 4 innings or something like that.

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