Whether it be for four games or a dozen, the postseason will put the Rays unique strategy of pitching management, turned to the highest degree, on the national stage. With a bullpen of versatile relievers and an cadre of starters with filthy arsenals, the Rays will do their best to put up a fight against a vaunted Astros lineup, and will have their hands full.
Out of all this, perhaps the most interesting pitcher in this plan will be the recently returned Tyler Glasnow. Glasnow, who started the season looking like he was on a trek to a Cy Young award, was sidelined for three-plus months with a forearm injury. All in all, the lanky right-hander was fantastic when he pitched, owning a 1.78 ERA and 2.26 FIP in 60 2⁄3 innings.
But when Glasnow returned from injury, there was a change in how the Rays were utilizing him, as he wasn’t being used like a typical starting pitcher. Whether this was due to preserve his arm or whether it was to start molding him into his postseason role remains unclear, but the results were eye-popping either way. In his first eight starts of the season, he was averaging roughly 87 pitches per start, pitching a total of 48 1⁄3 innings. This September, he’s averaged roughly 53 pitches per start, pitching only 12 1⁄3 innings across four starts.
Predictably so, this is what happened to his fastball velocity…
Working in shorter stints has added a little bit of juice to his fastball. Unsurprisingly, the offering has made substantial strides in avoiding contact. In the first two months of the season, Glasnow ended 107 plate appearances with his fastball, striking out only 18 (16.8 percent rate). This month, he’s ended 36 plate appearances with his fastball, striking out 13, good for an absurd 36.1 percent rate.
For the months of April and May, despite the success, the 16.8 percent strikeout-rate on Glasnow’s fastball was below-average, ranking 77th out of 128 pitchers (minimum 100 batters faced). For the month of September, the 36.1 percent strikeout-rate on his fastball ranked 21st out of 281 pitchers (minimum 25 batters faced).
Working in shorter stints allowed Glasnow to instill even more fear in opponents. Among 287 pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched in the month of September, he ranked…
- 28th in ERA
- 29th in FIP
- 32nd in xFIP
- 8th in K%
Having Glasnow work anywhere from two to four innings in a start and then piggybacking him with an impressive collection of relievers in Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, Colin Poche, Oliver Drake, and Emilio Pagan is more than ideal. What won’t be ideal is the lineup that they’ll be facing.
The Rays are obviously overmatched by the Astros in this series in most facets and the expectations are deservedly low for them. With a very good and unique pitching staff, their blueprint to victory is at least somewhat intriguing and could very well give the Astros fits. Getting the ball to the back end of their bullpen swiftly and smoothly will be key and Tyler Glasnow will play a big role in that effort.