The Perplexing Case Of Tyler Glasnow

Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports /

Tyler Glasnow has been nearly un-hittable at Triple-A this season, but he is still not in the Major Leagues. Why is this? And why is Tyler Glasnow such a perplexing case?

Anyone who watches the Pittsburgh Pirates knows that their starting rotation is an utter mess right now. With Gerrit Cole on the disabled list and Francisco Liriano and Jon Niese having the worst seasons of their careers, the Pirates’ only reliable starting pitcher is Jameson Taillon. The Pirates have one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, Tyler Glasnow, at Triple-A where he is seemingly dominating.

Due to this, many Pirate fans want the team to call up Tyler Glasnow and put him in the starting rotation. However, it simply is not that simple. The case of Tyler Glasnow is a very perplexing one, and I will dive into that more with this article.

It is easy to see why Pirate fans want Tyler Glasnow promoted to the Major Leagues. The Pirate rotation currently ranks 20th in the Major Leagues in xFIP (4.42), 22nd in ERA (4.69), 25th in walks per nine innings pitched (3.52 BB/9), 26th in home runs allowed per nine innings pitched (1.44 HR/9), and 28th in FIP (4.86). Simply put, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting rotation sucks.

Another reason Pirate fans are clamoring for Tyler Glasnow is that many of them, myself included, fear the season is slipping away. As I sit here typing this, which is before the Pirates game against the Giants at 12:30 on Thursday afternoon, the Bucs are currently 34-38 overall. That 34-38 record has the Pirates all but dead in the National League Central, sitting 14 games in back of the Chicago Cubs. Their positioning in the National League Wild Card race looks rough as well, as they are five games back in that department.

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Now, obviously, five games is not much to overcome when it is only June 23rd. However, when you look at the Pirates’ schedule over the next two weeks and combine that with the current state of their pitching staff things look much more bleak. Especially due to a pitching staff that is among the worst in all of Major League Baseball.

Gerrit Cole should return from the disabled list soon giving the Pirates a strong top two of Cole and Jameson Taillon in their starting rotation. But, unfortunately, there is no reason to expect Francisco Liriano or Jon Niese to turn things around anytime soon. And Jeff Locke, Juan Nicasio, and Wilfredo Boscan are, well, Jeff Locke, Juan Nicasio, and Wiflredo Boscan.

The last two starts that Tyler Glasnow has made has also contributed to fans wanting him to be promoted to the Major Leagues. In those two starts Glasnow has thrown a combined 13 innings of no hit shutout ball. You read that correctly, Tyler Glasnow has thrown a combined 13 no hit innings in his last two starts. He has also struck out 14 batters in those 13 innings pitched.

While 13 no hit innings, obviously, sounds fantastic there was one major issue in these two starts. This issue is the same one that has plagued Tyler Glasnow throughout his Minor League career, control. In those 13 innings pitched, Glasnow walked 11 batters. That is why he was only able to go six innings in one start and seven in the other.

On the season at Triple-A Tyler Glasnow is averaging 4.91 BB/9. Despite this, he still has a 1.75 ERA and a 2.92 FIP thanks in large part due to averaging 10.75 K/9. In the Minor Leagues it is much easier to get away with poor control than it is in the Majors Leagues. Obviously, the hitters Glasnow is facing at Triple-A are nowhere near as talented as the ones he would be facing at the Major League level.

This topic has been of much debate on Twitter lately. Some fans say Tyler Glasnow should be called up regardless of how many strikes he is or is not throwing at Triple-A. While other fans say that if Glasnow is called up right now he would essentially be Francisco Lirianio and that is not worth potentially damaging his long term development.

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In my opinion, the Pirates are making the right move by leaving Tyler Glasnow in Triple-A for now. Do not get me wrong, I would love to see Glasnow pitching for the Pirates in Pittsburgh and I believe he could be better than Juan Nicasio, Jeff Locke, and Wilfredo Boscan have been. But ultimately, due to his inability to throw strikes consistently I believe he would be what Francisco Liriano has been this season.

Is getting another Francisco Liriano for the rest of the season worth potentially damaging Tyler Glasnow’s long term development? I, for one, say absolutely not. Players are called up too soon all the time, and then suffer due to it for the rest of their careers. I do not want to risk Tyler Glasnow becoming one of these players, especially in a season that is looking more and more like nothing more than a bridge to bigger and better things in 2017 and beyond anyway.

Feb 25, 2016; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow (51) poses for a photo at Pirate City. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 25, 2016; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow (51) poses for a photo at Pirate City. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

Also, as a small market team with an owner that does not like to spend a ton of money Neal Huntington and the Pirates need to try and pump as much value as possible out of players like Tyler Glasnow. And by calling Glasnow up now, they would not be getting much value out of him at all. The way for teams like the Pirates to maximize the value of players like Glasnow is to keep them in the Minor Leagues until they show they have nothing left to improve upon at Triple-A, much like Jameson Taillon did this season.

Now do not get me wrong, I totally understand the arguments of people who say Tyler Glasnow has shown un-hittable stuff at Triple-A. I mean, this was not an exaggeration his past two starts overall. However, if that un-hittable stuff does not one hundred percent translate to the Majors Leagues he will not survive walking batters at a 4.91 BB/9 clip like he has been able to survive at Triple-A.

If only Tyler Glasnow could simply say, “begone, control problems!” Unfortunately, things are not that simple and his control issues are something Glasnow will have to work through. And he is best suited to work through them at Triple-A than he is in the Majors.

A more Major League ready Tyler Glasnow that is capable of throwing strike more consistently would have much more value to the 2017 and beyond Pittsburgh Pirates, than a Tyler Glasnow that resembles 2016 Francisco Liriano would ever have to the 2016 Pittsburgh Pirates. The fact the Pirates postseason chances seem to fading, and fast, definitely factors in here. Yet, this remains such a perplexing situation because the Pirates so desperately need starting pitching help.

This is why the case of Tyler Glasnow is so perplexing. He’s a young, highly touted, starting pitcher with no hit stuff. The Pirates are in desperate need of starting pitching help, but I am not sure how much help Glasnow would give right now. Until Glasnow begins to throw strikes with more consistency, what to do with him this season will remain to be quite perplexing.