Game 111, Yankees at Mariners:

marc w · August 8, 2022 at 5:08 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Logan Gilbert vs. Jameson Taillon, 7:10pm

The M’s enter today’s game with Fangraphs’ playoff odds of 83.5%. Better than a 4 in 5 shot. Is that the high water mark during this long playoff drought? Well, no, but it’s pretty remarkable nonetheless. The M’s peaked in 2018 at 88%, but that was with a lot more season left: they hit that mark in early July. The 2014 M’s shockingly managed to crest 60% in *September* of that year, though that was more of a flash in the pan as the graph of their odds shows. This isn’t exactly uncharted territory for our fearless Mariners, but it’s close. And that’s why they need to keep the Yankees ice cold in this series.

It seems odd to say about a club that *still* leads the American League in winning percentage, but the Yankees haven’t looked quite right for a while now. The problem has been pitching, where their 4.63 ERA (their FIP is better, but not good) is one of the worst in the game the past 30 days. As we saw in the Bronx, one of the primary culprits has been the home run ball; they rank 27th in HR rate over the past month.

But guess who’s 26th? Seattle. The M’s FIP is actually just a tiny bit *worse* than the Yankees in the past month, and their HR rate is essentially indistinguishable. The only thing differentiating them is strand rate. The Yankees haven’t been able to end innings with men on base, while the M’s excellent relief crew is helping them work around walks and hits. That sounds – and often IS – volatile, and perhaps not the kind of thing you’d want to hang your hat on in a tough series. But at least a part of it seems to be the result of a considered strategy. The M’s don’t really care what you do with no one on base.

With no one on base, the M’s pitchers have yielded 84 HRs. That’s 3rd most in the game, and the teams around them are firmly in the rebuilding/hide-your-eyes camp. The Nats and Cubs, two of the absolute worst teams in the game, have given up a few more, while Oakland and Cincinnati, *also* two of the absolute worst teams in the game, have yielded a couple fewer. Looking at the list, you’d think this is just a grouping of the worst pitching staffs in the game, and to be fair, Fangraphs/Baseball Prospectus do not think much of Seattle’s hurlers. But while Seattle’s team ERA (this is a super-crude measure, and I half-apologize for using it, but go with me here) is 4th highest with no one on, it’s 4th *lowest* with men on base.

Some of this is the park. The M’s benefit from a low batting average on balls in play, because T-Mobile is small and the M’s infield is generally sure-handed. But some of it is approach. Let’s look at tonight’s starter. With no one on, Logan Gilbert is a strike-throwing, bat-missing pitcher. He’s got a career 10.24 K/9 in those situations, but a 1.34 HR/9 rate. With no one on, he’s going to challenge you in the strike zone, and if you can drive it, good for you. With men on, his K rate drops all the way down to 7.2, but he’s just under 1 HR/9. What’s he doing differently?

This is why Gilbert is such an odd pitcher. With no one on, Gilbert relies *heavily* on his fastball. It’s his best pitch, so if you beat him, you have to beat his four-seam. It’s susceptible to elevated contact, and thus HRs, though. What he’s doing in 2022 is to use his slider to generate contact. This season, his *slider* has generated balls in play more often than his fastball. That’s pretty rare. And whereas last year, his command of it was spotty, leading to a ton of called balls *and* hard-hit balls, this year, he’s getting more fieldable balls in play. It’s pretty normal for pitchers to get lower exit velocities off of their breaking stuff, and Gilbert’s definitely does. But it’s *still* not a great pitch on its own. If he ever figures out how to miss bats the way he does with his fastball, he’ll take the next step in his development. For now though, this is pretty good. His slider was a real problem last year, and the incremental improvements this year have turned him into a real asset in the rotation. His approach now lets him reliably strand more runners than you’d think given his lack of runners-on-base strikeouts.

1: Frazier, 2B
2: France, 1B
3: Haniger, RF
4: Winker, LF
5: Suarez, 3B
6: Santana, DH
7: Crawford, SS
8: Raleigh, C
9: Haggerty, RF
SP: Gilbert


3 Responses to “Game 111, Yankees at Mariners:”

  1. Sportszilla on August 8th, 2022 8:52 pm

    I like Logan, but this is two straight duds against the Yankees. Yes, they’re a very good hitting team, but the M’s need him to be better.

    Also possible he’s wearing down.

  2. heyoka on August 9th, 2022 2:54 am

    I thought that might be the case with his last game too. With Castillo, Gonzalez, Ray, Flexen, and Kirby, you would think there would be some space in there to let Gilbert rest out a round. Maybe do a relief spot or two to stay sharp? We’ve seen this with young pitchers before. The season is long.

  3. bookbook on August 9th, 2022 8:19 am

    I believe in Logan Gilbert. It does amaze me how off-balance he looks at the finish of his delivery….

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.