Let’s Throw a Logan Gilbert-For-Cy Younger Prediction on the Wall and See if It Sticks

Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports activities

I went to highschool in a state with a particularly late calendar, and I took numerous AP courses. Which meant that from concerning the second week of Might till the top of the varsity yr in late June, most of my class schedule was fairly pointless. It’s exhausting to get a bunch of overworked, checked-out teenagers to focus at school with nothing on the road, particularly when mentioned teenagers have simply seen the solar for the primary time in six months. Full credit score to the academics who had been capable of thread that needle, however on the whole we watched numerous motion pictures and performed numerous rummy whereas the clock ran out.

And that’s type of the place we’re in spring coaching. With most rosters all however set and the Dodgers and Padres already enjoying significant video games in Korea, the one factor left to do is discover a reside rooster — was it a reside rooster? — to take the curse off Jake Cronenworth’s glove. And that’s not gonna take all week.

So let’s make a prediction.

Particularly, a darkish horse prediction. A believable, however low proportion prediction, the form of prognostication you can dine out on all yr when you’re proper however no one (besides essentially the most embittered, partisan shut-ins on social media, and to hell with them anyway) will bear in mind when you’re incorrect.

Right here’s mine. Logan Gilbert will win the AL Cy Younger this yr.

I’m not saying you need to learn this and go plonk down your subsequent mortgage fee on some sketchy on-line sportsbook, however I feel he’s a barely under-the-radar candidate with a transparent path to having an enormous season.

Let’s begin with this: Gilbert is absolutely good already. For the reason that begin of the 2022 season, he has an ERA- of 89 in 376 1/3 innings, which is the Eleventh-largest workload in baseball over that point. Earlier than the Mariners traded Robbie Ray, there have been persistent rumors that Seattle was wanting to attract on its surfeit of beginning pitchers to enhance its roster elsewhere, and that Gilbert was the almost certainly to go.

And whereas I perceive the logic insofar as Gilbert being beneficial. If Aaron Nola is price $172 million over seven seasons, having Gilbert for the following 4 on a a lot decrease price can be fairly enticing. Gilbert is because of make $4.05 million in 2024, and whereas his wage will almost certainly go up fairly a bit earlier than he hits free company, he received’t make his market fee till 2028.

However despite the fact that Seattle has Luis Castillo, George Kirby, Bryan Woo, and Bryce Miller, I didn’t suppose it made sense to commerce Gilbert as a result of, as a lot as he’d be beneficial to a commerce companion, he’s additionally beneficial to the Mariners. Pitchers who can reliably throw 180 innings a yr don’t develop on timber anymore. Much less so 6-foot-6 bodily monsters with a number of plus secondary pitches.

Final season, Gilbert threw 4 pitches frequently: a four-seamer, a slider, a split-change, and a knuckle-curve. (Gilbert’s repertoire hits all of the aesthetically lovely “cellar door”-type hybrid pitch names. “Knuckle-curve” is baseball’s “cumulonimbus.”)

Right here’s an ideal interview from a pair weeks in the past with Rob Friedman, who runs the Pitching Ninja account.

An incredulous Friedman’s first query was, “How massive are your palms?” which is completely an important difficulty right here. Gilbert’s palms are huge. He holds a baseball the way in which a traditional individual holds a key lime. He may palm a 5-year-old’s head like a basketball. He may play a chord throughout each fretboards of a double-neck guitar with one hand. He’s obtained mitts like a child lynx.

The place was I?

So right here’s how every of Gilbert’s pitches performed final season.

Logan Gilbert’s Repertoire, 2023

Pitch Utilization% Run Worth BA wOBA Whiff%
Fastball 41.9 0 .280 .358 17.7
Slider 29.7 15 .211 .273 32.2
Splitter 14.8 3 .174 .221 35.0
Knuckle-Curve 13.4 -2 .214 .274 30.6

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Gilbert’s two greatest pitches are his slider — a ravishing falling-down-the-elevator-shaft vertical gyro breaking ball — and his splitter. Within the above video, he in contrast the latter to Kodai Senga’s ghost fork; final June, I discussed each Gilbert and Senga as comps for Braves prospect Hurston Waldrep’s grotesque low-spin splitter. I wouldn’t change a factor about both pitch.

The knuckle-curve obtained banged round a bit, however Gilbert advised Friedman he’s tweaking it, attempting to throw it a bit more durable and with extra horizontal motion this yr. That’s good; as a lot as Gilbert may throw the kitchen sink at opponents, none of his pitches include a ton of horizontal motion.

The true potential space for enchancment is his fastball. That pitch averaged 95.7 mph, which is nice for a beginning pitcher, even a righty. Then, you think about that as a result of Gilbert is proportioned like a Santiago Calatrava constructing, he will get depraved extension that places the ball on the hitter even faster.

Final season, 276 pitchers threw at the least 1,000 fastballs within the majors. Gilbert was fifty fifth in common velocity. However in perceived velocity — factoring in extension — he was sixteenth, tied with Jordan Hicks and a 3rd of a tick behind Spencer Strider and Eury Pérez.

So why did hitters slug nearly .500 off his four-seamer?

As a result of even throwing 96 mph isn’t sufficient to maintain opponents off a pitch with fairly lackluster motion, particularly if there’s nothing else near that velocity band. Gilbert’s splitter and slider are each mid-80s; the curveball (at the least final yr) was even slower. So he can change speeds extraordinarily effectively, but when the hitter can learn a fastball out of Gilbert’s hand, he can in all probability hit it exhausting. Gilbert is aware of he wants one thing else to throw within the 90s to maintain hitters trustworthy; he tinkered with a sinker in 2022 and 2023, however unsuccessfully. So why not attempt one thing new?

Which ends up in the most recent, most enjoyable addition to Gilbert’s household: a cutter. He advised Friedman that he’s not going for large motion along with his new pitch. He desires to throw it exhausting and with delicate horizontal motion. That’s not solely in line with modern traits in pitch choice; it could be precisely what he must hold opponents from mashing his fastball they approach they’ve lately.

Till now, this has been the story of an excellent pitcher making a pair offseason changes that — in the event that they work — may take him to the following degree. However a darkish horse Cy Younger prediction wants one thing bolder, the troubled conjurings a thoughts that’s already left the current behind.

So it’s time to handle the squishy narrative elements that may swing an awards race, even among the many most numerate voting bloc the BBWAA has ever assembled.

Taking part in time concerns however, ZiPS initiatives Gilbert to be ninth within the AL in pitcher WAR this yr. That hardly makes him the favourite, however it reveals that he’s someplace near the dialog concerning the AL’s greatest pitchers.

So let’s have that dialog.

Final yr’s unanimous AL Cy Younger winner, Gerrit Cole, is damage. Runner-up Sonny Grey? Additionally damage, and now not within the AL. Fourth-place finisher Kyle Bradish? Damage. Shane McClanahan, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander? Damage.

There are nonetheless loads of good pitchers within the AL. Corbin Burnes, you might need heard of, in addition to Framber Valdez, Kevin Gausman, Pablo López, Shane Bieber. Perhaps Carlos Rodón has an enormous bounceback yr in him. If Gilbert does win the Cy Younger, it received’t be a walkover.

However I’ve been serious about what makes a Cy Younger candidate nowadays. Principally as a result of Blake Snell went unsigned for thus lengthy that I spent extra time considering his telos this winter than another two subjects put collectively. There’s been numerous cheap frustration {that a} two-time Cy Younger winner would get into the third week of March and nonetheless be checking the classifieds, however that smooths over some official criticisms about Snell’s sport.

His two Cy Younger campaigns — particularly final yr’s — weren’t precisely 1972 Steve Carlton or 1999 Pedro Martinez. We’ve tailored our requirements to accommodate pitchers who carry out extraordinarily effectively on a per-inning foundation however solely barely recover from the 162-inning bar to qualify for fee stat leaderboards. For an distinctive efficiency, like Burnes in 2021 or Snell in 2018, that’s cheap. But it surely was solely up to now 10 years that the primary beginning pitcher received the Cy Younger for a full season’s work whereas coming in beneath 200 innings pitched. We’re nonetheless determining methods to stability amount versus high quality in an age when 150 innings a yr counts as high-volume.

In the long run, Snell received the Cy Younger simply, taking 28 of 30 first-place votes. But it surely was an odd class; in a much less complicated timeline, Snell and Strider would’ve swapped ends on the FIP-to-ERA teeter-totter, the mustachioed Braves righty would’ve received the Triple Crown, and we wouldn’t be speaking about any of this.

However I feel we’re going to hit an inflection level the place voters notice simply how scarce a 200-inning starter is now and vote accordingly. Take into account the issue Snell simply had discovering work, versus the alacrity with which the Phillies simply signed as much as pay Nola and Zack Wheeler nearly $70 million a yr between them.

Groups already worth the hoss greater than the glass cannon. Voters are going to return round finally.

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