Yankees’ young right-hander shows promise amid loss to Red Sox

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Luis Gil had been struggling to consistently generate ride on his fastball, an issue that had caused him to slump hard, with the Yankees being adamant that it wasn’t related to fatigue or injury. Facing off against the Boston Red Sox, the right-hander delivered 6.2 innings while allowing just one run, striking out nine batters and not walking anybody. It was one of the best starts he’s had in his MLB career, and while it came in another uninspiring loss by the Yankees as the offense was shut out, the right-hander did make some very encouraging adjustments.

With the rotation in limbo, Luis Gil’s ability to deliver strong starts is as important as ever, and this start could be the launching pad for a hot stretch in July and August.

Luis Gil Provides Glimmer of Hope to Struggling Yankees

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The first thing that stands out is the vertical life on Luis Gil’s fastball, as the right-hander had his best average IVB (17) in a start since June 14th, which also came against the Boston Red Sox. His release point was the highest it had been since June 9th which is encouraging because when your arm slot is lowering unintentionally, it usually means you’re dealing with fatigue. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for Gil, who hasn’t had a full starter’s workload in his young career, to deal with some sort of dead arm or fatigue at this stage of the season, but he responded beautifully.

While his night ended sourly, allowing a blast to Rafael Devers, the 26-year-old should not walk away discouraged because his offense couldn’t do anything. That’s a conversation for the podcast, not this article since I’m not allowed to curse on Empire Sports Media content. His four-seamer generated a 29.2% Whiff Rate, which is the highest mark for him in a start since June 14th on that pitch, and it looked much better than it had in previous starts, but that’s not the only pitch I had my eyes on.

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Luis Gil was primarily a fastball-changeup pitcher all year, and I think part of his struggles came with the fact that if teams saw a pitch dipping, they knew it was a changeup and could better anticipate when to take or swing. Forcing Gil into fastball counts while his fastball was struggling led to blow-up starts where teams would tee off of him, and to adjust he began throwing a different version of the slider he had all season, a pitch that was utterly dominant all night.

He seemed to debut this slider against the Reds, a pitch that had more horizontal movement giving it a two-plane action with the vertical drop as well. While that start went poorly, that pitch had a 50% Whiff Rate that day, and at a higher usage rate, it was able to generate a 30% Whiff Rate while generating some called strikes and soft contact as well. It has about 6 inches of Induced Vertical Break and 6 inches of Horizontal Break, making it almost a slider-cutter hybrid.

The Yankees do a great job with pitch development, they got Jhony Brito to throw a sweeper mid-season last year and it allowed the Yankees to include him in the Juan Soto deal. Throwing a pitch that has a different horizontal movement profile to the fastball and changeup he throws which runs into the hands of righties and away from lefties gives a different look that allows you to generate chases and whiffs.

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Adding more horizontal movement with more velocity is great, and he seems to be releasing with a wider release which could be allowing him to get around the ball more. Getting that high-velocity movement makes it hard for hitters to get the barrel to the ball, and when you pair it with his changeup and fastball you suddenly have three above-average pitches that all have different movement profiles and can allow him to change speeds. I think the Yankees have a massive breakthrough with Gil on two fronts with his fastball release height and slider shape.

When you’re looking at the Yankees’ rotating past the trade deadline, Luis Gil is a massive part of what they do moving forward, because he’s shown that he’s capable of being an excellent starter. His development is important for the future as well as I think we’re looking at a long-term starter for the Bronx Bombers. The slump created some fair skepticism, but it’s how Luis Gil responds to struggles that will ultimately determine whether he can stick in that role or not. The question now becomes whether Gil can maintain the tweaks to his slider and fastball moving forward.

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