Logan Gilbert’s Breakout Is Overdue

Why stop at pretty good when he could be great?

Logan Gilbert is already a good pitcher. That much is plainly obvious. He’s been a steady presence in a dynamite Mariners rotation for the last two seasons following some headache-inducing pitching in his rookie campaign. Usually, this type of article is reserved for a pitcher who is flying under the radar due to underperforming despite the quality of their stuff. Gilbert fits this description differently than most. As stated, he’s been solid for two consecutive seasons. Despite this, few pitchers frustrate me more than he does. I firmly believe he has even more talent than his results to date would indicate. Let’s break down what he has to offer.


A chart displaying Logan Gilbert’s PLV by pitch for the 2023 season. 4-seam 5.04, slider 5.48, splitter 5.12, curveball 4.82


The Fastball


Gilbert’s fastball of choice is a 4-seamer that he throws hard by starter standards, averaging 95.7 mph. This is misleading, however. If you’ve ever watched him pitch you’ll know that he’s built like an NBA small forward. 6’6” with long levers, and he uses every bit of his frame to glide down the mound and release the ball a ridiculous 7.5 feet in front of the rubber. That’s tied with Tyler Glasnow for fourth-furthest among pitchers with at least 100 fastballs thrown last season. 

Releasing the ball that much closer to the plate allows his fastball to play faster than it really is with a perceived velocity of 98.0 on average. While I believe perceived velocity’s effectiveness to be slightly exaggerated and less important than actual velocity, it’s worth noting in this case because it’s such an extreme difference. That mark of 98.0 is on par with Sandy Alcantara and Hunter Greene.

This is a great base to build a fastball off of. The pitch is however slightly hamstrung by movement that I can only label as average. He gets 17.0” of vertical movement and 6.1” of horizontal run from a higher-than-average release point of 6.2’ off the ground. This doesn’t create a particularly whiff or grounder-happy shape, with a middle-of-the-road -5.0° VAA. Due to its rather pedestrian shape, it’s only a slightly above-average fastball. That sounds worse than it is. It’s a good foundation for building an arsenal off of, even if it’s not a marquee put-away pitch.


The Slider


Gilbert’s slider is one of the coolest pitches in baseball. It’s a true, pure bullet slider. It has just 13% active spin and averages 0.3” IVB, and 0.8” of glove-side break. It barely moves beyond the effects of gravity. It’s beautiful. Throwing such a gyro-heavy breaking ball is rare and it serves as a confounding pitch that hitters have a hard time tracking on its way to the plate. Now consider how hard he throws the pitchit averaged 88.7 mph last season. There were only 5* sliders thrown harder with lower IVB than Gilbert’s and they all belonged to relievers. 

This is Gilbert’s best pitch by a comfortable margin. It’s hard to combine this much power and depth in a slider as it is but he goes an extra step with the elimination of any consistent horizontal movement as well. This is the type of slider that pre-pitch data scouts would say had “late bite”. I could watch him throw this one all day, it’s just a phenomenal weapon to have in his arsenal. 



The Splitter


Gilbert’s splitter is a fascinating pitch. His original changeup when he was called up to The Show was a bizarre pitch. Almost Cease-ian in its pursuit of killing velocity, he had a 95 mph fastball and a 79 mph changeup. It was cartoonish. It also didn’t work. While it had a great whiff rate in a small sample, it got absolutely hammered if he left it in the zone. He made a change in 2022, opting for a more modern, harder-thrown changeup. It lacked depth but had good fade and performed well for him in limited use.

This was not enough for Gilbert. Ever the tinkerer, he went to Driveline after the 2022 season and they decided he was a good fit to throw a splitter. He scrapped the changeup and went forward into 2023 with his new toyan 85.6 mph offering with 4.0” of IVB, and 7.3” of arm-side break. This pitch has a baker’s dozen’s worth of vertical movement separation from his fastball, a ridiculous margin. It causes truly spectacular-looking whiffs, and it wasn’t hit particularly well when batters did make contact with it. He left a good pitch behind and managed to find something even better.



The Curveball


His last pitch is a curveball that changed over the course of the 2023 season. It started as an 82 mph pitch with a foot of negative IVB, and half that of horizontal break. As a bonus, its spin mirrored his fastball pretty well. It was a fine pitch, good enough to get some called strikes and whiffs. As he began to trust his new slider more though, he started throwing his curve less and less. This was a good change, but then something odd happened. His curve slowed down substantially.

I don’t know whether or not this was a conscious choice. It’s possible he was aiming for more velo separation from the rest of his arsenal. Just as likely it could’ve been the change in usage. Seeing as he started favoring his slider in two-strike counts instead of his curveball, it took a back seat. Maybe in changing from an out pitch to a pitch he was just looking to flip in to get a free strike, he started throwing it less hard in hopes of more consistently landing it in the zone? I’m not entirely sure what to make of the cause of the change.

What I am sure of is the effect. It’s an objectively worse pitch when he throws it slower. It’s more identifiable for hitters, and it doesn’t have good enough movement to get away with being thrown 77 mph. He’s shown he has a better curveball in him. I sincerely hope he finds his way back to it.


The Outlook


You may have noticed that I didn’t talk much about the results of his pitches after they leave his hand. I complimented his stuff, but I left out the key detail as to why he hasn’t taken that next big step yet. Gilbert has a flaw that affects all of his pitches, but it’s also part of what makes him such a dependable pitcher. He pounds the zone. He loves going right after hitters and challenging them with strikes. The issue is that pitches in the zone are, of course, easier for hitters to do damage with. Gilbert has really good command, but he’s not George Kirby. He doesn’t have the same near-pinpoint locations, nor does he have quite the same arsenal depth. What this leads to is an excess of mistake pitches.

Gilbert throws too many pitches down the middle. This seems like an obvious critique for any pitcher but it’s deeper than that. Some pitchers can get away with pitches down the middle because their stuff is so good. No pitchers can get away with fully living in the heart of the zone which is why no one does that. Gilbert, however, walks that line too closely for my liking. Throwing as many pitches there as he does causes his stuff to play down from its actual quality. That’s why he has a good but not great strikeout rate and his pitches, strong as they are, don’t miss the amount of bats they should. 

Updating his arsenal last season fixed a problem he had had where he was struggling to get hitters to chase his pitches outside of the zone. Previously his low walk rate was more a result of just not throwing many balls. Now he actually has the ability to throw out of the zone effectively and I don’t know that he’s completely figured that out.

That said, there comes the question of: “Why mess with what’s working?” Being a zone-filling pitcher generally leads to fewer walks, which is good! It also leads to giving up more hits and getting fewer strikeouts, which is bad! You can view it like training wheels or a crutch. It’ll get you going and keep you up, but you’ll never go as fast as you could without them.

This is what makes Gilbert so frustrating, as well as difficult to suggest ideas for. It’s so easy to envision a near-ace caliber pitcher with what he can offer on the mound. The philosophical question becomes, “Are you willing to sacrifice allowing more walks and getting in more difficult counts if it means putting more hitters away with the bat never making contact with the ball?” I’m not saying he needs to be Blake Snell and dance around the zone. He shouldn’t do that, his stuff won’t carry him quite that far. With that said though, it’s more than good enough to sustain a higher walk rate. It’s more than good enough to get him out of high-pressure situations. 

At the end of the day, pitching is about trying to put hitters in the worst position possible to succeed. You’re never going to be perfect. There will always be mistakes and failures. The question lies in how you take your risks. Going right after hitters is a bold choice, yet also perceived as a safer route. Personally, I can live with the concept of a pitcher who walks more hitters but leaves his pitches in less hittable locations. With Gilbert’s fastball not being built to induce ground balls or get whiffs, throwing it in the zone as much as he does gets it hit and hit hard. I know I’m going against decades upon decades of “pound the zone, be aggressive” pitch philosophy but I truly believe this is not what Gilbert is best suited for. I don’t mean to imply that he’s not a really good pitcher, but, why settle for really good when greatness is so visible on the horizon?



*minimum 50 thrown, and one of them is listed as a cutter but at 88.8 mph with 0.3v/4.5h, I’m calling it a slider.

Jack Foley

Jack is a contributor at Pitcher List who enjoys newfangled baseball numbers, coffee, and watching dogs walk by from the window where he works. He has spent far too much time on the nickname page of Baseball-Reference.

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