It’s only been 22.1 innings into the 2022 season for 24 year old Logan Gilbert, but the righty has already shown that he has the potential to become the ace this staff has needed since Felix Hernadez fell off a cliff in 2015. Even when he hasn’t had command, like Tuesday’s start against the Rays, he’s still been able to get through the fifth inning even with the early season pitch count.
Let’s take a look at that outing against the Rays.
Gilbert did not have the best command of either his curveball or slider in his last start. Despite that, he was able to nearly grit through six inning of work without allowing an earned run. It was a gutsy performance that I’m rapidly beginning to expect from the young starter; because that’s been his norm through his first four starts this season. Let’s take a look at those game logs.
Outside of the one dinger that he’s given up against Minnesota, Gilbert has been remarkably good — thanks to an uptick in his soft contact rate — at keeping fly balls in the yard throughout the early part of 2022. Now the first of those three starts are in cold weather environments — Minnesota, Chicago, and Seattle — that are notorious for suppressing homeruns early in the season…but it’s not like he’s been giving up a ton of fly balls so far either.
Through 22.1 innings, he’s given up the second lowest fly ball rate of his professional career (including his stint in MiLB) at 37.9%. If he’s able to keep that fly ball rate down, and there’s no reason to think he won’t, then it should combine with his low hard hit rate to reduce the number of home runs he give sup.
Now how has Gilbert been so good at inducing weaker contact and more ground balls? He’s been ridiculously good at getting batters to swing at setting batters up by and then generating swings on pitches on the opposite side of the plate. For example, the righty has consistently pitched right handed batters inside this year; but the majority of swings have been at pitches on the outer half of the plate; don’t believe me, let’s take a look.
As for left handed batters, he’s constantly pitched them away but has generated a metric shitton of swings on pitches inside.
It’s this ability to keep hitters guessing that has led Gilbert to a slash line of 0.40/2.36/3.06 over his first four starts. The 24 year old has already been worth 0.7 wins this season and he only pitches every five games; for comparison’s sake first baseman Ty France has already racked up an incredible 1.1 fWAR through the first 17 games.
But what I keep coming around to is the fact that even when he hasn’t had command in his first four starts, Gilbert has still been able to get to the minimum number of innings required to record a decision in every single one of those starts. For a 24 year old in his second big league season to be able to show that kind of resilience is absolutely mindboggling to me.
It’s the exact kind of mentality the M’s need from the top of their rotation. And that’s why it feels Logan Gilbert has shown the potential to be the club’s ace of the future.
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