How Tyler Glasnow’s Injury Impacts the Rays’ Projected Wins, Playoff Odds, World Series Odds & More
Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images. Pictured: Tyler Glasnow
Tyler Glasnow will finish with a career-high innings pitched (88) as a starter this season, even if he doesn’t throw another inning.
Glasnow sustained a partial UCL tear this week — and blames MLB’s crackdown on foreign substances for causing his injury. But no matter the causation, Glasnow will likely be out for an extended period of time, and his absence presents a crushing blow to the Rays’ chances of making the World Series for a second consecutive season.
The flame-throwing righty — whose average fastball velocity (97 mph) ranks sixth among starting pitchers in 2021 — has only surpassed the 100+ inning threshold in 2018, when he made 34 appearances out of the Pirates’ bullpen before being dealt to Tampa Bay in a package for Chris Archer.
Let’s take a look at possible injury timelines for Glasnow, the pitchers who might replace his innings, and how his absence impacts both the Rays’ chances of contending and the AL Cy Young race for this season.
The Rays are hopeful that Glasnow might return this season, but based on prior timelines for similar injuries — and the history of UCL tears, which lead to Tommy John surgery more often than not — I’m not overly optimistic.
I would expect Glasnow to miss 11-to-12 weeks at a minimum, which puts his earliest return date around mid-September:
Every UCL injury is different, and some pitchers can pitch through a minor tear without ever requiring surgery. Famously, Masahiro Tanaka was diagnosed with a torn UCL in 2014, in the midst of a dominant rookie season for the Yankees; Tanaka still pitched to a sub-3.60 FIP for five consecutive seasons and made two All-Star appearances, including one in 2019, following that diagnosis.
If Glasnow does require surgery he may not rejoin the Rays rotation until the midpoint of the 2022 season, so whether he has the surgery now or later, it will still impact next season regardless. Therefore, it’s probably better for him to wait to see if he can contribute again this year.
The Rays are one of the most creative organizations in baseball in terms of managing playing time for their various players.
They let go of both Charlie Morton and Blake Snell over the offseason, two starters responsible for 16.8% of their team innings pitched in 2020.
They have only used three true starting pitchers consistently this season in Glasnow (14 starts, 88 IP), Rich Hill (13 starts, 66 2/3 IP) and rookie Shane McClanahan (nine starts, 38 2/3 IP) while mixing in Ryan Yarbrough (13 appearances, nine starts, 72 IP), Josh Fleming (11 appearances, five starts, 56 1/3 IP), Michael Wacha (11 appearances, seven starts, 39 2/3 IP), Andrew Kittredge (24 appearances, two starts, 32 1/3 IP), and Collin McHugh (15 appearances, three starts, 23 1/3 IP) between the opener and piggyback roles.
I would expect to see the Rays use more of these swingman types — in addition to Brent Honeywell Jr., Luis Patiño, Chris Archer, Shane Baz and Brendan McKay — in shorter 3-4 inning stints in an attempt to amalgamate Glasnow’s innings.
It will be a difficult task for Kevin Cash to manage, but the Rays certainly have the arm talent to pull it off. Here’s how those pitchers compare to Glasnow over a relatively similar allotment of innings.
McKay (No. 3), Baz (No. 5), Ryan (No. 11) and Honeywell (No. 17) are all situated in Triple-A and rank among the top prospects in what is the top farm system in baseball.
Baz (49:2 strikeout to walk ratio in 32 2/3 IP in Double-A) is a hard-throwing righty who seems like the most archetypal replacement for Glasnow. Ryan (36:7 strikeout to walk ratio in 25 2/3 IP in Triple-A) might be the most underrated arm in the organization, McKay is currently rehabbing at extended spring training, and Honeywell — who has ranked as a top-100 prospect every year since 2016 — is refining his command in the minors after a cup of coffee in the big leagues earlier this season.
Overall, the Rays are as capable of replacing an All-Star caliber pitcher as any organization in baseball. They might not replace that player in a 1:1 manner, but will use multiple pitchers in optimal ways to approximate Glasnow’s performance.
Expected Wins and Divisional Projections
Before the season, I projected the Rays for 86.5 wins; ATC called for 85 wins, Davenport 88, FanGraphs 83, and PECOTA 86.5.
After the Glasnow injury, I still project the Rays right around an 86-win team over a full season (they upgraded their bullpen with Drew Rasmussen and JP Feyereisen since the offseason) would prorate their projected record to 92.5 wins.
Ultimately, I don’t think that this injury costs the Rays more than 1-2 wins the rest of the way. The AL East race is extremely competitive, and two wins could ultimately be the difference between winning the division and missing the playoffs entirely.
FanGraphs still projects Tampa Bay for 91.9 wins as of Wednesday morning, but they have the Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays each finishing between 87-91 wins.
PECOTA forecasts the Rays for 94.3 wins. They are also higher on their divisional (51.4%) and World Series (9.7%) chances, relative to FanGraphs’ odds (41.2% and 6.1%, respectively).
Depending on the projection you prefer, either the Red Sox (33% divisional per FanGraphs, 9.9% per PECOTA) or the Yankees (34.7% per PECOTA, 14.9% per FanGraphs) offer value in the divisional betting market (listed as high as +350 and +300, respectively).
I laid out the argument for buying Yankees’ futures last week — and now seems like a good opportunity to act — even if the value on their World Series price is still lacking.
However, I certainly get the argument for backing Boston. Chris Sale could be a difference-maker down the stretch run.
Still, either bet is justifiable at +260 or better.
Playoff and World Series Impact
The Rays have already built themselves a two-game divisional lead at the time of publication, and Glasnow’s 2.5 WAR has been a big contribution to those efforts.
However, that cushion doesn’t help them win in the playoffs — it only helps get them to the dance itself.
Let’s take a projected seven-game ALCS against the White Sox, for example. With Glasnow, I would project the Rays between 47.3% to 48%, depending on home-field advantage. Without Glasnow, I would project their chances between 45% and 46%, depending on the home field.
That’s a difference of roughly two percent to win each playoff series with or without Glasnow, but it would obviously have an even more dramatic impact in a one-game wild card scenario.
To extrapolate this further, let’s assume that the Rays make the divisional round 70% of the time from this point forward.
If you assume that they have a 45% chance to win each playoff series (without Glasnow) after making the divisional round 70% of the time, their fair odds to win the World Series would be 6.37%, implied odds of +1470.
However, if Glasnow returns and you gave the Rays a 47% chance of winning each playoff series, their odds improve to 7.26%, implied odds of +1277.
As the Rays’ World Series futures continue to climb, they could be worth betting at some point this summer.
AL Cy Young Contenders
I had a Cy Young ticket on Glasnow (+1500), and a strikeout leader ticket on Shane Bieber (+900) both blow up within the past week.
Those two pitchers ranked second and third in the AL Cy Young race before their injuries, and Gerrit Cole now looks like the prohibitive favorite in the field.
However, Cole all but admitted what many have suspected for years — that he’s used “sticky stuff” to enhance his arsenal — leaving some doubt about his projections moving forward without the aid of his desired aids.
It could be worth hopping on the bandwagon of one of the White Sox pitchers. I’m still as high on Lucas Giolito (+5000) as I was in the preseason, and his current pricing makes no sense.
Carlos Rodón (2.51 xERA, 2.81 xFIP, 2.60 SIERA) is the only pitcher aside from Cole, Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom to post a K-BB% north of 30% this season. Still, he’s never pitched more than 165 innings in one season and has dealt with a litany of injuries throughout his career. I hope that he makes it through a full season — because he’s incredibly fun — but it’s hard to trust Rodón’s durability.
Another White Sox hurler, Lance Lynn (2.82 xERA, 3.88 xFIP, 3.63 SIERA) has benefitted from a .222 BABIP and a 91.5% strand rate this season. There’s nothing to suggest that he has truly outperformed Giolito (3.25 xERA, 3.45 xFIP, 3.38 SIERA), whose numbers — outside of his home run rate (1.78 HR/9, 19.2% HR/FB rate) — are virtually identical to last season.
I recommended Giolito at +900 in the preseason, but he was already bet down to around +550 at most books by that point. So I have to love him here at +5000, even though he’s currently the third-best candidate on his own team.
Giolito is projected to finish fourth in the AL in WAR (behind Cole, and yet-to-be-updated projections for Bieber and Glasnow) in ZIPS’ updated projections, and seventh per Steamer’s updated projections (behind the same trio, his two teammates, and Nate Eovaldi).
Giolito still has a significant portion of the season left to work with. I think +5000 is outstanding value on the pitcher who projects to accumulate the second-most pitching WAR in his league over that time.
Eovaldi (+4000) and Chris Bassitt (+8000) could also be worth fliers. Still, Cole and Gioltio ranked among the top 3 in projected AL pitching WAR in virtually every offseason projection. Nine of the last 10 Cy Young winners have finished in the top three in their respective leagues pitching WAR.
- Red Sox or Yankees (+260 or better) to win the AL East
- Lucas Giolito (+5000) to win the AL Cy Young
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