Sunday Notes: Tyler Glasnow Once Threw a Three-Finger Fastball

Tyler Glasnow deliverers his high-octane fastball with a standard four-seam grip. That hasn’t always been the case. Back in his Little League days, the Tampa Bay Rays right-hander relied on an extra digit when throwing a baseball.

“I used to throw my heater with three fingers on top,” explained Glasnow, who at 6-foot-8 has grown exponentially since those formative years. “One time I was throwing to one of the coaches with my three-finger grip, and he was, ‘Whoa. That’s weird. Try throwing with two fingers.’ I did, and I think the movement got a little better, and I threw it a bit harder, but I couldn’t throw it for strikes. So I stayed with that three-finger approach for a little bit — a four-seam grip with three fingers — and then as my hands got bigger, I went to two fingers.”

His curveball is another story. Glasnow told me that he first began throwing a breaker around his sophomore year of high school… or maybe it was prior to that? He’s not entirely sure. When I suggested that age-12 isn’t uncommon, the So. Cal native said that may well have been the case.

“Dude, there’s a possibility I learned it when I was 12, too,” Glasnow admitted. “I really don’t remember. The only thing I do remember is that the curveball grip I started using — I don’t recall if anyone showed it to me — is how I throw it today. There have been times in between — I messed around with a spike a little bit; I’ve messed around with small stuff — but for the most part, how I throw it is the exact same way.”

Pressed for more specifics, Glasnow allowed that “exact” isn’t completely accurate. At age 28, he’s not only far more developed physically, he’s pitching professionally for the Tampa Bay Rays. The level of tutelage he’s receiving extends far beyond “Try throwing with two fingers.”

“I used to have the seam running on the inside of my middle finger, and now I turn the ball a bit to leverage the seam,” Glasnow told me. “I have huge hands and can kind of grab the end of it.”

Those huge hands grip both a curveball and a slider, the latter of which Baseball Savant had him throwing 32.2% of the time this season. Since debuting with the Pirates in 2016, his curveball usage has ranged from 34.8% to this year’s career-low 13.8%.

“I used to throw kind of a slider with Pittsburgh,” said Glasnow, whom the Rays acquired from the N.L. Central club at the July 2018 trade deadline. “It was a curveball, but a little bit of a slider. They were basically the same pitch, but one was harder. When I got to the Rays, they were like, ‘A harder curveball will always be better,’ so we kind of meshed them into two. I used to hold my slider leveraging the seam, and I started doing that with my curveball. The data shows that my curveball is way better when it’s harder, so that’s what I throw now.”

The velocity of Glasnow’s high-spin curveball — 97th percentile, per Statcast — has climbed from 80.0 mph with the Pirates to 83.5 mph with the Rays. His slider, meanwhile, has averaged 87.6 mph, 15th-hardest among pitchers to throw at least 80 innings this year. Glasnow was limited to 88 innings, his season cut short by an elbow injury that saw him go under the knife in early August.

As for his slider grip, it’s both traditional and, in his own words, ‘random.’ (Grip photos of Glasnow’s breaking balls are included in an interview published here at FanGraphs three years ago).

“The depth on my curveball is the same (with the leveraged seam), and a harder curveball is better than a slower curveball, so it made sense to do that,” said Glasnow. “And then I went and got a slider grip — a random one — and now I throw both pitches.”

As is the case with his fastball, neither is thrown with three fingers on top.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Jamey Carroll went 5 for 11 against CC Sabathia.

Babe Ruth went 17 for 35 against Ownie Carroll.

Ernie Banks went 11 for 24 against Clay Carroll.

Carroll Hardy went 8 for 18 against Joe Nuxhall.

Carroll (Chris) Chambliss went 18 for 45 against Dennis Eckersley.

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Andrew Miller was a guest on Friday’s episode of FanGraphs Audio, and one of the subjects I broached with the 36-year-old southpaw was the start times of most ALCS and World Series games. As the father of a baseball-loving son, Miller has his concerns.

“Shoot, for me personally they end too late,“ Miller said of the 8pm ET starts. “I’m sure MLB and the networks…have their reasons, but yeah, I have a seven year old — he turns eight next week — and baseball is his No.1 thing; he’s obsessed with it, and we send him to bed in the early innings of most of these games. I’d love for him to be able to watch, because I remember watching playoff games in my formative years — watching the Braves in the early 90s — and really growing attached to those teams, and to the game because of that… He gets up at 7 o’clock in the morning and the first thing he does is turn on the MLB app to look at the recap, so they’ve still kind of roped him in, but as far as being able to sit up and watch a whole game… unfortunately he misses a lot of them, I don’t think that’s great as far as building a future fan base, because if anybody is going to [a fan], it’s a kid like my son. I hope we find a way to get [young fans] more exposure. I think MLB would do good by doing that.”

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The inning-ending strike-‘em-out-throw-‘em-out double play in Friday night’s ALCS Game 6 elicited numerous social-media mentions of the play having been a failed “hit-and-run.” That raised my eyebrows a bit. Definitionally, I’ve always viewed a hit-and-run as a stratagem where the batter tries to hit a ground ball in the space vacated by the second baseman (or shortstop) covering the bag. Moreover, the batter is expected to swing at anything close, in order to “protect the runner.”Traditionally, a manager is most likely to call for a hit-and-run on a 2-1 count, with a good-bat-control, contact-hitter at the plate.

Friday’s play featured a 3-2 count and a high-K-rate batter who, given the game situation, was clearly not looking to hit a ground ball. In my opinion, “run-and-hit” would be by far the more-accurate description.

Wanting to get a better idea of how fans viewed this, I ran a Twitter poll yesterday afternoon. The wording was: “A runner on first base takes off for second on a 3-2 pitch. Do you consider this a hit-and-run?” Only 16.1% voted “Yes.” A definitive 83.9% voted “No.”

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A quiz:

The first home run in World Series history was hit by Pittsburgh’s Jimmy Sebring on October 1, 1903. Who was the pitcher who gave it up?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS ITEMS

As reported by MLB.com’s Thomas Harding, Mark Wiley will retire at the end of the calendar year after five-plus decades in the game. A big-league pitcher from 1975-1978, the 73-year-old Wiley went on to become a coach and front office executive, most recently serving as director of pitching operations for the Colorado Rockies.

Jim Paciorek was inducted into the University of Michigan Athletics Hall of Honor on Friday. The 61-year-old Detroit native played both baseball and football as a Wolverine before going to appear in 48 games for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1987. Jim Abbott, Casey Close, Barry Larkin, and Rick Leach are the only other U of M baseball alums to be so honored.

Rich Barry, an outfielder who played in 20 games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969, died on October 9 at age 81. The Berkeley native had six big-league hits, two of them off of Mike Torrez.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame is accepting applications for its 2022 internship program. To be considered, students must be enrolled in a bachelor’s or master’s degree program at a college or university, having completed at least their sophomore year of studies, or must have just graduated in May of the year of their internship. More information can be found here.

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The answer to the quiz is Cy Young, The Boston Americans right-hander surrendered Sebring’s gopher in the seventh inning of a 7-3 Pirates win.

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Asked about Yuli Gurriel in an ALCS media session, Alex Cora shared how the Astros first baseman initially struggled defensively when transitioning to his new position after coming to MLB from Cuba. Cora was Houston’s bench coach at the time, and A.J. Hinch entrusted him to do some early-work with the erstwhile shortstop. Gurriel didn’t like it. As the now-Boston manager explained, Gurriel may have been new to MLB in 2017, but he was also a 33-year-old veteran with a stellar track record.

In an attempt to appease the Sancti Spiritus native, Cora would have Gurriel take ground balls at first base, then move him over to his old position in order that he could “feel great again.” One day, Carlos Correa — then just 22 years old — was taking ground balls alongside the Cuban legend at short.

“He was making fun of Yuli,” recalled Cora. “When we finished, I pulled Carlos aside and said, ‘Hey, listen. I know you’re good, I know you’re talented, but when Yuli was your age he was a lot better than you. The whole industry wanted him, so don’t. I get it, but this guy was amazing.”

Gurriel defected from Cuba in 2016 and signed a five-year, $47.5 M deal with Houston midway through that summer. Now 37 years old, he won the American League batting title while slashing .319/.383/.462. Gurriel went 10-for-22 with a home run in the just-completed ALCS.

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The Australian Baseball League is canceling its 2021-2022 season due to the ongoing challenges presented by the country’s COVID-19 restrictions. ABL CEO Glenn Williams made the announcement on Wednesday.

Kodai Senga reportedly plans to take his talents to MLB next year. The 28-year-old Softbank Hawks right-hander is 9-3, 2.52 in the current campaign and has a 2.67 ERA over 10 NPB seasons.

Nick Martinez is 9-4 with a 1.60 ERA for Softbank. The 31-year-old former Texas Rangers right-hander is in his fourth NPB season, his second with the Hawks.

Daisuke Matsuzaka has called it a career after 23 seasons and 2,560 professional innings. The 41-year-old Seibu Lions legend logged a 3.04 ERA in NPB, and went 56-43, 4.45 over eight MLB seasons.

Lotte Marines right-hander Roki Sasaki recorded his first double-digit strikeout game this week. The 19-year-old wunderkind averaged 96.3 mph on his heater while fanning 11 Nippon Ham Fighters batters over six innings.

The KT Wiz and Samsung Lions went into the weekend neck-and-neck atop the KBO standings, with the LG Twins nipping at their heels. The Wiz were 73-56 with eight ties, the Lions 74-57 with eight ties, and the Twins 69-56 with 10 ties. The regular season concludes at the end of the month.

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Mitch Haniger, Trey Mancini, and Cedric Mullins are the finalists for this year’s MLBPA American League Comeback Player of the Year Award. The last of those names is a head-scratcher.

Mancini missed last season while battling colon cancer. Haniger missed last season after undergoing multiple surgeries. Each returned to put up strong numbers for their respective teams. As for Mullins, while his 5.3 WAR was impressive, what he came back from was… well, that’s a question without a good answer. Mullins was mostly healthy in 2020, a season in which he put up a then-career-best 0.6 WAR. Coming into this year, the Orioles outfielder had played in all of 115 big-league games.

No disrespect to Mullins, but the idea that he could be considered a Comeback Player of the Year is ludicrous. While he clearly broke out, that isn’t — or at least shouldn’t be — what the award is for. Carlos Rodón (returning from Tommy John surgery) and Eduardo Rodriguez (from COVID and myocarditis) would have been far better choices as the third finalist.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At The Athletic, Levi Weaver wrote about how the Texas Rangers’ persistent refusal to acknowledge LGBTQ+ fans and community is unacceptable.

BallNine’s Kevin Kernan told us about the Greater New York Sandlot Athletic Alliance, an organization the Mets ceased supporting six years ago after a decades-long relationship.

The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee addressed the Padres’ managerial search.

The Score’s Travis Sawchik explored the slow pace of postseason games, many of which are lasting late into the night.

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper addressed how an MLB lockout would impact the 2022 minor-league season.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Chicago White Sox batters had a .310 BABIP this year, the highest in MLB. Seattle Mariners batters had a .273 BABIP this year, the lowest in MLB.

Boston Red Sox pitchers had a .323 BABIP-against this year, the highest in MLB. Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers had a .260 BABIP-against this year, the lowest in MLB.

Houston’s Yordan Alvarez has played in two League Championship Series. In 2019, he went 1 for 22 with 12 strikeouts and a .170 OPS. This year he went 12 for 23 with five extra-base hits and a 1.408 OPS.

The Orioles used a total of four pitchers when they swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1966 World Series. Dave McNally started two of the four games for Baltimore.

Robin Roberts went 286-245 with a 3.41 ERA, a 3.50 FIP, and 74.7 WAR,
Jim Kaat went 283-237 with a a 3.41 FIP, a 3.45 ERA, and 70.9 WAR.

Eddie Mathews homered for the Boston Braves, the Milwaukee Braves, and the Atlanta Braves. He also homered for the Houston Astros and the Detroit Tigers.

The Houston Astros purchased the contract of Jose Cruz from the St. Louis Cardinals on today’s date in 1975. Cruz went on to log a 124 wRC+ and amass 47.8 WAR with the Astros through the 1987 season.

On today’s date in 1992, the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Atlanta Braves 4-3 in eleven innings to capture their first-ever World Series title. Dave Winfield doubled home two runs to provide the margin of victory.

Players born on today’s date include Hugh High, an outfielder for the Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees from 1913-1918. One of three brothers to play in the big leagues — Andy and Charlie were the others — High was nicknamed “Bunny.”

Also born on today’s date was Cuckoo Christensen, an outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds in 1926 and 1927. A .315/.392/.383 hitter over 595 big-league plate appearances, Christensen counted Chicken Hawks and Kettle Wirts among his Calgary Bronchos teammates when he broke into pro ball in 1920.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Voxx
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Voxx

I think pretty much every little leaguer starts throwing with 3 fingers on fastball. I did when I was 10-11, then graduated to 2 fingers as my hands got bigger and I got more comfortable throwing strikes.

Deacon Drake
Member
Member

Yep, I played 3rd base and got my first opportunity to pitch when I was 10… didn’t want to walk anyone so just drove my 3 finger grip a little more over the top. Caused the ball to drop right at the plate, and was difficult to square up. Wasn’t till I was 12 and grew 8 inches that I started throwing with 2 fingers and the velocity started climbing.