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  • Consistency Earned Kyle Gibson the Fifth Starter Job

    When it was announced Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Diamond went unclaimed through waivers and would not be named the fifth starter, the left-hander doffed his cap to his competition in Kyle Gibson.

    The decision was a tough one, with the left-hander being out of options, but Gibson’s strong spring showing ultimately won him the job. What solidified his spot in the rotation, in the manager’s mind, was a combination of his stuff and his demeanor.

    “The big power sinker. Right out of the get-go his ball was at a great angle and it was diving down. He just didn’t look like he was overwhelmed,” said Ron Gardenhire after the final spring training game of the year at Hammond Stadium. “Last year in spring training we saw him yanking pitches, when he came to the big league we saw him misfiring quite a bit. Catcher would be setting up inside and he would yank it all the way across the plate.”

    Gibson missed his spots often but pitchf/x data does not suggest he was missing out of the strike zone. In fact, Gibson was one of the most demerited pitchers when it came to pitches in the zone actually being called balls.

    Speaking in general to the blossoming benefits of framing, backstop Kurt Suzuki was questioned how much influence the catcher has over the calls versus the reputation and execution of the pitcher.

    “I don’t put too much stock in that,” Suzuki said. “Don’t get me wrong, I think that has a lot to do with it but at the same time, what a pitcher does has a lot to do with it. If he’s all over the place, he’s obviously not going to get those borderline calls, no matter how good you make it look. If you are around the plate consistently, you are going to get those calls.”

    In part, Gibson’s shrunken strike zone last year may have, had to do with his catchers. After all, he spent 40 of his 50 innings paired with Joe Mauer and Mauer, while a very solid receiver at gaining extra strikes at the top of the zone, had a history of not getting the calls at the bottom of the zone -- precisely where Gibson liked to work his sinker. At the same time, he was admittedly erratic with his pitches and failed to establish control.

    Gibson, who spent ten starts in Minnesota attempting to exploit the edges of the strike zone, said that in the moment he did not notice the scales perhaps being unfairly tipped to the hitter’s advantage.

    “On borderline pitches whether you’re a pitcher, hitter, catcher, whatever, it’s tough to really tell where that was,” remarked Gibson. “The way umpires can actually call those pitches as well as they do is pretty amazing, honestly.”

    To the naked eye, it is hard to call those pitches that fall within a fraction of an inch of the invisible strike zone. The cameras in the sky have a different perspective. According to the data, Gibson had just 73% of his in-zone pitches called strikes, well below the 81% average.

    Gibson believes that, if there was an effect, it likely stemmed from his inability to locate his pitches consistently.

    “What I was always taught in college was the more you get an umpire calling a strike, the more he’s going to call strikes on the borderline part,” he said. “And the fact of the matter was I was getting behind a lot and when it’s 1-0 and 2-0 and you’ve repeatedly shown that you can’t locate right there on the edge of the plate, you probably are not going to get that call.”

    That is the area that Gibson would like to focus on the most: working ahead in the count. This spring, his three walks in 16.1 innings suggest he has made strides in that department, but he recognizes that the improvement needs to come north with him.

    “Hopefully this year, if I am able to pound the zone and go back to those same pitches, then I might get more of those calls. But you've got to get ahead and earn the fact that you can hit that spot and I just wasn’t doing that.”

    If his spring performance has been any indication, he should be ready.

    “He’s been real consistent,” said Gardenhire. “Getting pretty close to the glove with a good angle and a hard slider and when he’s doing that, it’s hard for hitters to get on him. If he’s got that power sinker going -- at about 91, 92, 93 miles per hour. And that’s what he’s done this spring, really in control of himself.”
    Comments 27 Comments
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      The idea that pitch f/x always is right is just "wrong". It can't be right all the time, it doesn't have the capacity to be right all the time. Sometimes, the umpire is going to be right and pitch f/x will be wrong. Sometimes they will be both wrong, especially if you are going to train the umpires to call pitches based on pitch f/x.
      Right, so these things tend to cancel each other out. Given a large enough sample size, a 73% similarity between Pitch F/X and the actual calls is significant, especially when the average is 81%.
    1. lee_the_twins_fan's Avatar
      lee_the_twins_fan -
      For those Twins Fans who still complain that the Twins operate under a scholarship program, consider this. The Twins entered spring training with eight players being out of options: Trevor Plouffe, Anthony Swarzak, Scott Diamond, Sam Deduno, Vance Worley,Eduardo Escobar, Alex Presley, Chris Parmelee

      Four of them were put on waivers – Presley was claimed by the Astros; Worley was traded to the Pirates and Diamond and Parmelee cleared waivers and were sent down to AAA. Plouffe, Swarzak, Deduno and Escobar are all with the team.

      So much for entitlement. Even when it's at the expense of having Jason Bartlett and Jason Kubel on the squad. Will the two Jasons excel as they did three years ago – or will they revert to their near-disastrous 2012 campaigns?

      Let's hope the other "Js" on the team – Joe, Josh, Josmil and Jared – also excel this year. If they do, it could be an exciting season.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by lee_the_twins_fan View Post
      For those Twins Fans who still complain that the Twins operate under a scholarship program, consider this. The Twins entered spring training with eight players being out of options: Trevor Plouffe, Anthony Swarzak, Scott Diamond, Sam Deduno, Vance Worley,Eduardo Escobar, Alex Presley, Chris Parmelee

      Four of them were put on waivers – Presley was claimed by the Astros; Worley was traded to the Pirates and Diamond and Parmelee cleared waivers and were sent down to AAA. Plouffe, Swarzak, Deduno and Escobar are all with the team.

      So much for entitlement. Even when it's at the expense of having Jason Bartlett and Jason Kubel on the squad.

      Will the two Jasons excel as they did three years ago – or will they revert to their near-disastrous 2012 campaigns?

      Let's hope the other "Js" on the team – Joe, Josh, Josmil and Jared – also excel this year. If they do, it could be an exciting season.
      Pretty good points with which I can respect, if not fully concur. However, it's important to point out the above-bolded area's inaccuracte characterizations and why the decision on Bartlett in particular is so questionable.

      In Bartlett's case, it was 2011 that was actually "near-disastrous" (WAR of -0.1/dWAR of -0.2) and 2012 which was calamitously awful enough to put an end to his career- in effect, you have a guy 2 years out of baseball and 4 years away from when he was an acceptable major league infielder. Kubel was acceptable in 2011 and 2012 with disturbing decrease in contact rate (career high 151 Ks in 2012) and the wheels came off the cart for him completely in 2013, causing his benching in Arizona. They made the team this spring strictly on the Twins slim hope that their chances of returning to major league form are higher than those they replaced of ever reaching major league form.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      I would tend to discount Bartlett's 2012. He only played less than a month, and some of that time, he was trying to play injured. At the very least, you have to cite small samples. If he happened to be slumping and injured during that month, you would expect awful results.

      Can he return to 2010 levels? Probably not. He's a 40/60 shot to return to 2011 levels, if I had to lay odds on it, given that he's healthy for the first time in three years. If he can, that's probably good enough for a futility guy.

      Then again, he will not be called upon to hit all that much. His job is to fill in defensively when guys get pinch hit for late in games. He might start a game here or there, but his bat will not hurt that much. He isn't even second in line for shortstop, that's Escobar. I expect Esco to get twice the ABs and games than Bartlett.

      The Twins are taking a big risk here. If he succeeds, they'll look like geniuses. If he doesn't, ..., they'll look dumb. Either way, it won't affect much of the outcome of this season.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      Gibson pitched today, going against Alex Meyer. Today Meyer came out on top. Kyle breezed thru the Rochester order the first 3 innings but got belted around in the 4th, giving up 5 runs. He did settle down for the 5th and 6th innings. It was a strange game that went 12 innings as more pitchers needed work. And now they'll all be gone from here but the Miracle and GCL.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      I would tend to discount Bartlett's 2012. He only played less than a month, and some of that time, he was trying to play injured. At the very least, you have to cite small samples. If he happened to be slumping and injured during that month, you would expect awful results.

      Can he return to 2010 levels? Probably not. He's a 40/60 shot to return to 2011 levels, if I had to lay odds on it, given that he's healthy for the first time in three years. If he can, that's probably good enough for a futility guy.

      Then again, he will not be called upon to hit all that much. His job is to fill in defensively when guys get pinch hit for late in games. He might start a game here or there, but his bat will not hurt that much. He isn't even second in line for shortstop, that's Escobar. I expect Esco to get twice the ABs and games than Bartlett.

      The Twins are taking a big risk here. If he succeeds, they'll look like geniuses. If he doesn't, ..., they'll look dumb. Either way, it won't affect much of the outcome of this season.
      It was a severe enough injury as to cause major calamity to Bartlett- to end his 2012 season soon after it started- and then to seemingly end his career in 2013 (that's how it was related by Bartlett himself)..

      He supposedly is healthy now, but, and this was the point of my original post, his career was already in decline by 2011, and there is little evidence he can even return to 2011 levels of play. And having Bartlett on the team instead of someone who might challenge for a starting position or offer more in the way of affecting outcomes of games through speed, hitting ability or outfield defensive ability, let alone being completely irrelevant to the future, just makes no sense, and yes the move is risky as well as head-scratching- since there were multiple other ways to proceed. The chances for Bartlett to miraculously resurrect his career to pre-2011 are extremely remote, regardless, this whole thing could never in any way be construed as a genius move- remember, at this moment, the team is trying to sell the idea of using the 25th spot as a washed up chemistry coach who is going to help guys through all the tough times ahead.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      It was a severe enough injury as to cause major calamity to Bartlett- to end his 2012 season soon after it started- and then to seemingly end his career in 2013 (that's how it was related by Bartlett himself)..

      He supposedly is healthy now, but, and this was the point of my original post, his career was already in decline by 2011, and there is little evidence he can even return to 2011 levels of play. And having Bartlett on the team instead of someone who might challenge for a starting position or offer more in the way of affecting outcomes of games through speed, hitting ability or outfield defensive ability, let alone being completely irrelevant to the future, just makes no sense, and yes the move is risky as well as head-scratching- since there were multiple other ways to proceed. The chances for Bartlett to miraculously resurrect his career to pre-2011 are extremely remote, regardless, this whole thing could never in any way be construed as a genius move- remember, at this moment, the team is trying to sell the idea of using the 25th spot as a washed up chemistry coach who is going to help guys through all the tough times ahead.
      I agree with the bolded part, assuming there was someone like that available, either internally or externally. The field staff didn't think Presley was that guy. I was shocked when they made that decision, because I thought he had a decent September. Not that he would challenge Hicks in any real way, but he would provide depth at a thinning position. This thing happened just as Buxton's wrist injury appeared more serious and the same week they released Mitchell on the minor league side. If something happened to Hicks, it's Mastroianni and really nobody else. That's the thing that doesn't make sense to me.

      But I have higher hopes that he can resurrect his career. He spent most of 2012 and half of last year rehabbing. By the time he was healthy, he couldn't find any takers. Like I said, it's a long shot. And I don't put much stock in the chemistry thing. That's Gardy speak. If he doesn't perform, he'll be gone and they'll call up Mastro. This is either a two month experiment with a bench guy or an unlikely success story.
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