What’s behind Logan Gilbert’s strong start? Mariners pitching coach explains

Apr 17, 2024, 12:59 PM | Updated: 3:55 pm

Seattle Mariners Logan Gilbert...

Logan Gilbert of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 5, 2024. (John Fisher/Getty Images)

(John Fisher/Getty Images)

Seattle Mariners starter Logan Gilbert is always searching for ways to improve his pitch arsenal.

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Two years ago, he reworked his slider. Last year, he developed a splitter.

And this year, the 26-year-old right-hander added a cutter to his repertoire.

“That was kind of his offseason project,” Mariners pitching coach Pete Woodworth said Tuesday during The Dugout on Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy. “… Every year he’s kind of graduating to the next pitch and the next year.”

So far, the results have been impressive.

Gilbert has posted a 2.33 ERA in 27 innings this season, with 29 strikeouts and just four walks. He has allowed one run or fewer in three of his four starts, including 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball in Seattle’s 3-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.

Gilbert’s cutter has averaged 91 mph and produced a 26.5% whiff rate, according to Statcast. It gives him a pitch that splits the difference between his 95 mph four-seam fastball and 87 mph slider, while adding more horizontal movement to his mix.

Woodworth said the cutter has benefited Gilbert’s other pitches, especially his slider and splitter. Gilbert has seen his slider’s whiff rate increase from 32.2% last season to 38.6% this season, while his splitter’s whiff rate has jumped from 35% to 56.5%.

“We’ve kind of seen (him) learning how the cutter is fitting into the whole mix and when to use it, where to use it and how to help it set up his primary weapons like his slider and his split,” Woodworth said.

Woodworth also pointed to improved fastball command as a factor in the 6-foot-6 Gilbert’s strong start.

“He’s been commanding the fastball really well, which has not always been his strength,” Woodworth said. “It’s always been big velo, huge extension, big fastball jumping on you, but it’s kind of just been wherever it ends up, it ends up. … (Now) he’s learning how to move and command it.”

The starting rotation’s bounceback

The Mariners’ expectations are centered on their talented group of starting pitchers, headlined by the elite top-end trio of Luis Castillo, George Kirby and Gilbert. Their reputation as one of the best rotations in baseball was solidified last season, when their starters combined for the fourth-best ERA in the majors (3.89) and the best WHIP (1.14).

Seattle’s rotation sputtered out of the gates this season, however. Through the first 12 games, its starters combined for a 6.39 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP.

Yet after the rough opening stretch, the group appears to have found its footing. The Mariners’ rotation has rattled off six consecutive quality starts, while posting a league-best 1.86 ERA, a 0.83 WHIP and a .194 opponents’ batting average over that span.

“The guys are settling in,” Woodworth said. “They’re figuring out what they need to do this year and kind of turning the page from last year. A handful of them have implemented some new weapons and they’re kind of learning how and when and where to use them.

“So it took about 10 days, but this last go through the rotation was as good as you can ask for.”

To hear the full segment from The Dugout during Tuesday’s Bump and Stacy, listen to the audio player near the top of this post or at this link. The Dugout features an hour of Mariners coverage and guests every Tuesday from 1 to 2 p.m. 

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