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  • Between the Chalk: Inside Kyle Gibson's Struggles

    Seven starts into his major league career, things have not gone as planned for Twins rookie Kyle Gibson.

    Gibson entered this season as one of the organizationís most hyped pitching prospects in recent memory. That probably says more about the sad state of Twins starting pitching in recent years than it does about Gibson himself, given his likely ceiling as a number three starter and the fact he is less than two years removed from Tommy John surgery. Regardless, a lot was expected of him when he finally debuted at the end of June, and the early returns leave much to be desired. Following his most recent outing, which saw him give up four runs on nine hits in just three innings against the lowly Astros, Gibsonís ERA sits at a robust 6.69 over 36.1 innings pitched (his 4.97 FIP and 4.51 xFIP are not quite as bad, but thatís just polishing the turd). Simply put, he has not been good.

    Gibson spent the first three months of the season at Triple-A Rochester, where he compiled a 3.01 ERA (2.96 FIP) with 79 strikeouts over 92.2 innings as one of the International Leagueís best pitchers. Despite a struggling major league rotation and earlier calls for his promotion, the Twins opted to keep Gibson in the minors until the end of June to work on his ďconsistencyĒ (whatever that means). Thus, though he has made only seven major league starts, he has already thrown a combined 129 innings between Minnesota and Rochester this. Given this is his first full season following Tommy John, that number is not insignificant.

    This last point has led some to speculate that Gibsonís problems may be the result of fatigue, suggesting that it might simply be time to shut him down for the season. To be sure, only once in his career has he thrown more innings than this year Ė his 2010 rookie season in which he logged 152. But looking at his game-by-game PITCH/x numbers, his fastball velocity has largely remained consistent over each of his seven starts, and the same is true of his power sinker.

    A review of Gibsonís PITCHf/x usage data does reveal an over-reliance on his hard stuff of late. More than 75 percent of the pitches heís thrown over his past four starts have been either the four-seam or sinking fastball. In that time, his use of the changeup has been cut by almost two-thirds, and he has stopped throwing his curveball entirely. Gibsonís recent dependence on the fastball may stem from his inability to consistently get ahead of hitters (a 50 percent first strike percentage, compared to the 60 percent MLB average). Collectively, the failure to change speeds and work ahead in the count likely go a long way toward explaining his struggles.

    Fortunately for both Gibson and the Twins, the numbers suggest that his poor performance to date might have just as much to do with bad luck as anything he is (or isnít) doing. His high BABIP (.344), high HR/FB rate (14.3%), and low LOB rate (63.2%) all suggest he is considerably underperforming right now, and once those numbers regress to more typical levels, his results should see a corresponding improvement. Gibsonís reduced strikeout rate (11.9%) is of some concern, but his walk rate (7.1%) is solid and he is getting a lot of ground balls (51.9%), which is what you would hope for given his affection for the sinker.

    With an innings pitched limit rumored to be in the 130-150 range, Gibson may have only three or four more starts to improve his debut season. He is probably a lock to crack the 2014 roster no matter how well he finishes, but you can bet there will still be a lot of eyes watching in Twins territory. A couple strong starts to end the season would be welcomed by both Gibson and the Twins front office, which faces a third straight offseason full of questions about the starting rotation. #p2c

    Originally published at pitching2contact
    This article was originally published in blog: Between the Chalk: Inside Kyle Gibson's Struggles started by jdotmcmahon
    Comments 16 Comments
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      Very nice story. Well structured, very clear and lots to digest. You are very talented Jesse.
    1. CGNikolic's Avatar
      CGNikolic -
      With his recent over-reliance on his fastball and harder stuff as a whole, do you think Gibson may be overthrowing due to the heightened expectations we put on this young man so soon after having a major surgery? It seems the state of the Twins starting rotation knows no bounds to how bad it can make anyones day Great article though, and here's hoping that Gibson's last 3 starts or so go much better than his previous major league starts have, and that we can have somewhat of a bright spot to look forward to for next year.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Seems to me that control is the last thing that comes back from TJ surgery, and your article indicates that he's having control issues. He's not getting nearly enough first pitch strikes and is leaning more on his fastball than his secondary pitches, which I assume is because he isn't commanding them as well.

      My guess is that he'll take a nice step forward next year.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      Gibson has been squeezed by inadequate plate umpires in every start according to pitch/fx. He hardly ever gets the great low strike, and they are constantly being called balls. Getting the calls right would have drastically changed his performance. Such is the problem with the anti-human part of the game, the umpires.
    1. drjim's Avatar
      drjim -
      Quote Originally Posted by h2oface View Post
      Gibson has been squeezed by inadequate plate umpires in every start according to pitch/fx. He hardly ever gets the great low strike, and they are constantly being called balls. Getting the calls right would have drastically changed his performance. Such is the problem with the anti-human part of the game, the umpires.
      I personally blame bad pitch framing.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by drjim View Post
      I personally blame bad pitch framing.
      And by extension, Ryan Doumit.
    1. Linus's Avatar
      Linus -
      And Terry Ryan. If he would have been called up earlier, he would be doing much better.
    1. drjim's Avatar
      drjim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Linus View Post
      And Terry Ryan. If he would have been called up earlier, he would be doing much better.
      Imagine how good he would be if he got called up in 2012.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      good thing I was on mute reading those last two posts.....LLOL.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by drjim View Post
      I personally blame bad pitch framing.
      The strike zone is subjective
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Among the 186 starters with at least 30 IP, the Twins have 4 in the bottom 28 of first pitch strike percentage. Gibsons first pitch strike percentage of 50% is 2nd worst only to Zack Wheeler's 49.6%.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Willihammer......what's with the pink lipstick? If it is a spoiler somehow, just send a PM.....
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Willihammer......what's with the pink lipstick? If it is a spoiler somehow, just send a PM.....
      Somehow we got onto lipstick in one of the game threads where Deduno was pitching.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      Quote Originally Posted by drjim View Post
      I personally blame bad pitch framing.
      Pitch framing is a sad commentary on an umpires incorrect and subjective and inconsistent strike zone. If the instantaneous tools to call the consistent and accurate strike zone are used, it would never, and should never, be a part of the call. Personally, I don't want fake strikes for any batter or pitcher. A false strike zone is the anti-human part of the game. It cheats both the batter and the pitchers..... the human part of the game, the actual players - the part that even traditionalists and non-progressives say they don't want to not be a part of the game.
    1. drjim's Avatar
      drjim -
      Quote Originally Posted by h2oface View Post
      Pitch framing is a sad commentary on an umpires incorrect and subjective and inconsistent strike zone. If the instantaneous tools to call the consistent and accurate strike zone are used, it would never, and should never, be a part of the call. Personally, I don't want fake strikes for any batter or pitcher. A false strike zone is the anti-human part of the game. It cheats both the batter and the pitchers..... the human part of the game, the actual players - the part that even traditionalists and non-progressives say they don't want to not be a part of the game.
      I think the balls and strikes problem is vastly overstated. When it comes to umpiring, I am much more concerned about a fair/foul or an obvious play on a base/home plate being wrong.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Frank Viola looked like an immature weenie his first season, like Matt Garza without the evil pointy beard. Whaddaya want??

      Takes one or two years before even a talented pitcher finds his stride in mlb. Gibson needs to take a few lessons from Andrew Albers. Forget about overwhelming hitters with your amazing stuff, just make them uncomfortable by moving the ball around, keeping it down, pitching inside and staying away from the middle. Right now Gibson is too predictable, throwing his "power sinker" to the same spots too much.

      Great stuff, Gibbie, now learn how to pitch!
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