?Bullpenning ? is a word that gets thrown around a lot more frequently every year among the baseball community. There ?s been debate on whether a bullpen is better served having relief pitchers work in a certain role they can feel comfortable in or to deploy the best pitchers in the biggest moments of the game, even if it is in an earlier inning. Old school fans can argue against the merits of bullpenning, but it ?s bringing back a vintage 70 ?s throwback: the fireman. He ?s the guy you turn to to put out the fire. He is also the bridge between old school and new school thinking.
Right now there are only two true ?fireman ? relievers: Andrew Miller of the Indians and Josh Hader of the Brewers. Miller was a failed starter who got a second chance as a reliever, but Hader is an interesting case. He ?s only 24 and the Brewers are still open to making him a starter, but an opportunity presented itself this year to make him a multi-inning reliever, give him experience against major league batters and have him continue to develop his secondary pitches. It ?s gone pretty well considering he leads all relievers in fWAR and Win Probability Added and currently has the best strikeout percentage and K/9 rate in baseball history. Pretty good, I guess.
With the Pirates ? bullpen currently on fire, it sure would be nice if they had a 20-something, multi-inning reliever that they could turn into a fireman, too.
Wait a minute. *Checks the headline to this post.* What about Tyler Glasnow?
Let ?s start the argument for why he could be elite in the bullpen with a bang. Here are the league leaders for perceived fastball velocity this year.
Three pitchers in all of baseball have a perceived fastball velocity of over 99 MPH. One is the new Aroldis Chapman: Jordan Hicks. The second is the old Aroldis Chapman: Aroldis Chapman. Then there ?s new and improved Tyler Glasnow. Having a long extension does have its advantages.
Glasnow ?s perceived fastball velocity has jumped up 2.2 MPH from last year. He has made plenty of adjustments and improvements in his game, including (but not limited to):
- Ditching the changeup and two-seamer and adding a slider.
- He ?s no longer tipping pitches. That ?s where his glove flutter stems from. He did that on certain pitches last year. Now he masks that tip by doing it before every pitch.
- And yeah, he does look a lot more confident on the mound.
…but it ?s the fastball that has been the heart of the turnaround this season. He ?s embracing the natural cut on his heater rather than fighting against it like he did last year, leading to an uptick in velocity and a heck a lot more movement. Here he is striking out Adam Duvall with a 100.4 MPH fastball. It moved so much that the Reds ? broadcast team thought it was a slider.
That is flat out disgusting. Most of his stuff has been disgusting as of late. He may have a ho-hum 4.50 ERA on the season, but that mostly stems from a rough first month in the new role. Since May 2nd, he ?s been one of the most consistent arms out of the bullpen:
13 appearances (10 scoreless), 21.2 innings pitched, 2.08 ERA, 23 K, 7 BB, 1.06 WHIP, 58.2 ground ball percentage
While you can make a case that he should go back to the rotation, between how long it would take to stretch him out and Nick Kingham ?s AAA purgatory, he might be better suited as a fireman. With his ability to miss bats and go multiple innings, he could be the next Miller or Hader. At the very least, with the bullpen ?s struggles, surely it ?s time to give him some higher leverage looks.
That hasn ?t been the case. In fact, few pitchers on this team have seen as consistently low leverage innings as Glasnow. In fact, in this stretch since May 2nd, he has only entered a game twice when the Pirates were not losing.
In case you were wondering, Glasnow did get the hold in both of the outings when the Pirates were winning. One of them came this past Friday, but that was mostly because he had not pitched in a week and needed to see game action. He then pitched two scoreless innings Sunday, but they wound up being inconsequential since the Pirates were down five runs when he entered. It begs the question: what is the plan with him?
It ?s understandable that the Pirates gave him low leverage situations to pitch in earlier in the year, but he ?s shown that he can come out of the bullpen and strike batters out. The season is almost half over, and he ?s been a garbage time inning eater more often than not. What a terrible waste of a former top prospect who has produced an ERA just a hair over 2 over the last month and a half.
Back in 2016, I made a trip out to Indianapolis to watch Glasnow pitch. It wasn ?t his best outing, walking a few too many batters. During the postgame interview, then manager Dean Treanor was asked what Glasnow needs to do to be a major league pitcher. His answer was perfect: ?He needs to attack like a (very bad word). ? Glasnow didn ?t attack like that in 2017, but he is now. Let him attack like that when you need a (very bad word) to come out of the bullpen.
Even with an eight series losing streak fresh in everyone ?s minds, the season is not over yet. The Bucs are .500 and only three games out of a wild card spot. That ?s not ideal, but it ?s not time to throw in the towel. They would be in a much better place if the bullpen wasn ?t costing them so many games. Utilizing Glasnow better could change that.