Photo Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Glasnow has been bad. He has a 12.15 ERA in 6.2 innings so far this season, to go along with 7 walks and 8 strikeouts. This is not good.
Just using raw walk and strikeout numbers, you can pretty clearly see that Glasnow is a pitcher that has excellent stuff with no clue where it’s going. But, using raw numbers isn’t ideal in baseball. If you want to get a more accurate look at how a player is doing, you need to look at their rate statistics instead. So, lets talk a look at Glasnow’s walk percentage (BB%) and strikeout percentage (K%) instead.
After two starts, Glasnow is walking 17.5% of the hitters he faces, and striking out 20.0%. Only three pitchers have walked batters as often as Glasnow has. Two of those pitchers the Pirates haev recently played, and lost to. Those pitchers are Brandon Finnegan and Rookie Davis. The third pitcher is, probably unsurprising to you, Francisco Liriano who has walked 17.7% of batters he’s faced this season.
People haev been saying that Glasnow has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. Well, that is a load of shit. Last year in AAA, Glasnow walked 14.2% of the batter hes faced. Last year, the starters with the worst walk rates (min 80 innings) were Lance McCullers, Blake Snell, and… Francisco Liriano. Their walk rates were 12.8%, 12.7%, and 11.8% respectively.
Glasnow had a worse walks rate against worse competition. He had a lot still left to prove in the minors. His stuff is clearly phenomenal. Minor leaguers can’t hit it. That is documented at this point, after posting a 1.87 ERA last year in AAA. He proved he could dominate the league, while still walking a ridiculous amount of batters. But, he never proved he could avoid walking batters. The last player to come out of AAA walking over 14.0% of hitters, and still have success in the major leagues, is Edinson Volquez. That was all the way back in 2006, and he only posted one sub 4 ERA in his first 6 years in the league.
In the spring, Ray Searage tried to fix him. And then he had a dreadful season debut. So then, Ray Searage tried to fix him again, and he only walked 2 batters. Of course, he gave up 6 runs, 4 of which were earned.
In Glasnow’s first game, he had only thrown 64 pitches. However, 3 of those 64 pitches that were thrown in the strike zone were called balls.
Umpires make mistake, and in the first game of the season for Glasnow, those mistakes proved to be detrimental.
There are some close calls in here that could go either way, but lets just focus on the three clear missed calls in the upper right hand area of of the strike zone.
The dot closest to the middle was on a 2-1 count to Eugenio Suarez that eventually resulted in a walk. Instead of a 2-2 count, Glasnow had walked in a run.
The two dots clustered together, are both on 3-2 counts. One was again against Eugenio Suarez, and the other against Scott Schebler.
All of these missed calls were in the same inning. These missed calls should have resulted in at least two outs. The pitch to Eugenio Suarez on a 2-1 count that resulted in a ball turned what should have been a pitchers count into a hitters count. Last year, when the count was 3-1, hitters had a .582 OBP to go along with a .475 wOBA. When the count was 2-2, hitters had just a .293 OBP and a .273 wOBA. Maybe Glasnow would not have gotten Suarez out. But the missed call certainly handicapped his chances to do so.
Then, in his second game, he only walked 7.7% of the batters he faced. That is a drastic improvement over his 35.7% performance just a few days earlier.
But once again, his night was made much more difficult thanks to the umpire.
These are the pitches that were called balls in his second game of the season. I count 10 balls that could have been called strikes. At the very least, 7 of those were clearly within the zone and should have been called strikes.
Umpires make mistakes all the time. It’s something that over the course of the season should even out, especially since Cervelli is such a good pitch framer. Last year, Francisco Cervelli’s pitch framing was ranked 7th out of 104 catchers by Baseball Prospectus. This season, he has been ranked 61st out of 66 catchers. It’s pretty unlikely that Cervelli has gotten worse as a pitch framer, so this is likely just noise.
Nonetheless, out of 118 pitchers this season (min 150 total pitches), Glasnow has been the 4th most affected by wrong calls by umpires.
It is concerning to think that Glasnow might walk 15% of the batters he faces this season. But, we should also remain optimistic that he is a unique pitcher who could succeed while doing so. He strikes out a ton of hitters. In AAA last year, if you take his K% minus his BB%, it would be 16.2%. His 16.2% ranked 5th in the International League last year, and 3 out of the 4 above him were at least 3 years older than him.
Another reason to be optimistic, is that he gives up very weak contact. This season he has given up the 8th weakest contact out of 139 pitchers. This should result in a lot of easy double plays which will certainly come in handy when he starts walking guys.
So far, Glasnow has not done well limiting his walks. His first start was horrendous. In the last two years, only 4 pitchers were able to do what he had done. That is, walk 5 batters in less than 14 batters faced.
Steamer has Glasnow projected to walk 12.5% of batters he faces this season. That’s still an issue. If he had a 12.5 BB% last year, he would have been the worst in the league. At the same time, projections are rarely correct. And even a deviation of just 2% either way could have a huge impact on Glasnow’s final numbers.
But so far Glasnow hasn’t gotten much help either. If calls start going his way, games should go smoother. Glasnow needs to focus on what he can control… his control. The umpires will start giving him the calls that he hasn’t yet been getting. And if we are lucky, there might even be robot umpires by the time he’s developed into a superstar.