For 2nd year in a row, Mariners’ Logan Gilbert surging at right time

Sep 11, 2022, 10:05 AM | Updated: 10:20 am

Mariners Logan Gilbert...

Logan Gilbert celebrates with Mariners teammates after pitching his way out of a jam against the White Sox on Sept. 6. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

As a rookie in 2021, Logan Gilbert had a brutal month of August for the Mariners.

In five starts that month, the rookie right-hander posted a 9.13 ERA and allowed six home runs. The result? The Mariners lost all five of his starts.

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But he flipped a switch over his final six starts across September and October, posting a 2.70 ERA and striking out 31 in 33 1/3 innings, helping Seattle win five of those six outings.

That surge was key not just from a personal standpoint for Gilbert, but it was massive for a Mariners team that was trying to secure a playoff spot but very thin when it came to starting pitching depth.

Ultimately, Seattle fell just short of the postseason despite winning 90 games, but that certainly wasn’t the fault of Gilbert, who was instrumental for the Mariners over the final month of 2021.

I bring that up because it looks like the Mariners are getting another late-season surge from their young right-hander, and it’s been even more impressive than last year’s.

For the most part, Gilbert has been consistent in 2022, but he again had a hiccup month of August “aided” by two rocky outings against the New York Yankees. But since those two starts, Gilbert has been fantastic for the Mariners. And since the calendar flipped to September, he’s been even better.

Overall, Gilbert posted a 6.75 ERA in five August starts. He has been very consistent to that point in 2022, posting monthly ERAs of 3.44 in May, 3.28 in June and 3.14 in July. In April, Gilbert was American League Pitcher of the Month with a 0.40 ERA across four starts.

As noted, that number in August is inflated as he was touched up in his first two outings of the month, both of which came against the Bronx Bombers. Gilbert allowed 13 earned runs in just 9 1/3 innings against the Yankees.

Since those tough starts, Gilbert has a 2.15 ERA in five outings, striking out 29 while walking just five. And if you take out that first start immediately after the two vs New York, where Gilbert allowed three earned runs and walked four in six innings against the Texas Rangers, Gilbert has a 1.54 ERA with 24 strikeouts and just one walk in 23 1/3 innings.

Gilbert is again doing special things in the month of September. In two starts this month, he has pitched 12 innings, struck out 18, walked just one batter and has yet to allow a run.

There’s a few reasons this surge is notable and good news for the Mariners.

First of all, Gilbert’s velocity, which is already elite among MLB starting pitchers, is trending up despite the second-year pitcher being in uncharted territory as far as his innings go. His season average for his four-seam fastball is 96 mph, per Statcast, but he averaged 96.5 mph his last two starts, including hitting 99 mph for his final two strikeouts on Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox.

Additionally, Gilbert is starting to miss more bats. Gilbert’s strikeouts per nine innings has dipped from 9.7 as a rookie to 8.4 this season, and he ranks in just the third percentile when it comes to average exit velocity allowed, per Statcast. But he recorded 18 whiffs on Tuesday against Chicago and 17 against the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 1. Those were his second- and third-most swings and misses recorded in a single game this season. He struck out nine in both September starts, which tied a career-high in a single game.

Gilbert’s surge comes not only with the Mariners closing in on a playoff spot, but at a time when the rotation has never been in better shape.

Last year, Gilbert coming on late was huge as All-Star Yusei Kikuchi struggled in the second half and was virtually unpitchable, and the Mariners didn’t have any other options to turn to in a five-man rotation. Now? Gilbert is in the same rotation as All-Star ace Luis Castillo, reigning Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray (who is coming off a stellar month of August), and rookie George Kirby, who was just named AL Rookie Pitcher of the Month for August.

As I’ve written before, the Mariners’ way of winning is very clear: they lean heavily on their starting rotation and bullpen, play sound defense, run the bases well and get timely hitting. Gilbert taking it to another level for the second straight September goes a long way in Seattle’s winning formula, and it helps even more that he appears to be in a much better place than he was this time last year, when he was wonderful for the Mariners.

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Team: mariners
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For 2nd year in a row, Mariners’ Logan Gilbert surging at right time