Game 47, Astros at Mariners

marc w · May 28, 2022 at 6:54 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Logan Gilbert vs. Jose Urquidy, 7:10pm

When was the last time the Mariners were favored in a match-up with the Astros? Not sure, but it can’t have been too recently. But that’s exactly what we have tonight, as the M’s surprising ace, Logan Gilbert, faces off against the underbelly of the Astros rotation.

Let’s be clear: Jose Urquidy isn’t a bad pitcher. For years, he’s beaten his FIP through low BABIPs driven by fly balls and infield pop-ups. To his credit, he’s been extremely stingy with walks as well. It’s just that this season, the whole BABIP-suppression thing isn’t working, and he’s allowed 52 hits in just over 40 IP. That sort of thing just isn’t *done* anymore; he’d have been a star in the 1980s, but is verging on anachronism now.

He seems odd because he doesn’t strike a ton of batters out, and he’s a rare fastball/change-up guy – kind of a right-handed crafty lefty. The change has been easily his best pitch, and it’s often why he’s able to get poor contact and pop-ups. It’s also driven his sharply reversed platoon splits. In his career, lefties have a .253 wOBA against him, while righties are up at .332. That speaks both to the high quality of his change, but also the relative weakness of his breaking stuff. Righties should not be able to hit that well against him.

So, what’s happening this year? Well, his dominance of lefties is over with, at least for now. They’re destroying the ball, and his change-up is at the heart of it. I’m never really sure why pitchers with a great weapon want to change it, but Urquidy came into 2022 with a new change, or rather, he extended some changes he’d been making through 2021. Over the course of that season, he started throwing his change faster – from 84 and change to a bit over 86 mph this season. That didn’t change the horizontal run on the pitch, but it has reduced its vertical drop (as you’d kind of expect). By getting more active spin on his fastball, his heater’s vertical movement moved up through 2021 even as it lost velocity. But still, the changes were larger on the change, and the upshot is that there’s less of a gap in either speed or vertical break than there used to be. Lefties seem to have noticed. Hell, everyone has. He throws the pitch to righties too, and even they are hitting him better this year.

Logan Gilbert and Urquidy are very, very different pitchers, but, uh, Gilbert’s career platoon splits show a .254 wOBA for lefties and a .324 for righties. The driver in this case is much more the fastball than the change, but I think it’s pretty obvious at this point that Gilbert’s change is his second best pitch. An effective pitcher overall without a very good breaking ball…that descriptor works for both pitchers tonight. Michael Ajeto wrote up the evolving Gilbert over at Baseball Prospectus, talking about him using more of his secondaries in recent starts, and the change in particular. That bears watching in tonight’s contest.

Like Urquidy, Gilbert has a re-made change in 2022. Last year’s version was slow – down at 80 mph and with plenty of vertical drop. This year, Gilbert’s change averages 86+ mph – over 6 mph added to the pitch in one year. As with Urquidy, this has had some impact on its vertical movement, and sure, it’s shrunk the gap with his fastball. But Gilbert’s pitch has better movement; it really dives despite the added oomph. It was a very unsuccessful pitch last year, with MLB giving it a run value of +6, an absolutely terrible figure for a pitch thrown infrequently. This year, it’s down at -2; it’s already saved 2 runs despite the fact he’s still using it sparingly (below 10% of his pitches). Throw it more, Logan!

1: Winker, LF
2: France, 1B
3: Rodriguez, CF
4: Crawford, SS
5: Suarez, 3B
6: Frazier, 2B
7: Lewis, DH
8: Trammell, RF
9: Raleigh, C
SP: Gilbert


One Response to “Game 47, Astros at Mariners”

  1. heyoka on May 29th, 2022 3:17 am

    If the M’s can win out the rest of the season, they’ll have a franchise record 135 wins, and a good shot at the playoffs.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.