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  • The Big Switch: Kyle Gibson

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    Maybe the Twins knew what they were doing when they brought Kyle Gibson north from spring training.

    The Twins switched their plan by including Gibson on the roster and he switched around the direction of their homestand. They had signed four free agent pitchers over the last two years to fill the five spots in their starting rotation. That left one spot. Officially, Gibson was one of the candidates, but by no means the favorite.

    The competition was supposed to be between three pitchers Ė Vance Worley, Scott Diamond and Sam Deduno Ė all of whom were out of options, meaning they would need to be offered free of charge to other teams if they didnít make the Twins roster. Gibson was not out of options, so the Twins could send him to AAA without fear of losing him.

    Instead, by the last week of March, Worley had been traded, Deduno had been moved to the bullpen and Diamond had been been demoted to AAA-Rochester. Gibson and his 2.20 spring ERA were traveling with the club to chillier climes. The colder weather has suited him. He won his first start of the year in Cleveland when it was 36 degrees with a 24mph wind.

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    But itís his second start that garners the ďSwitch of the WeekĒ award. The Twins had started their opening 2014 homestand 0-3 with the starting pitcher shouldering most of the blame in each of the three losses. One by one the free agents had dug the team an early hole. Kevin Correia had given up five runs in the first three innings of the home opener. Phil Hughes had given up four runs before the Twins got their first at-bat in the second game of the season. Mike Pelfrey gave up five runs in his first four innings on Thursday afternoon.

    Gibson started down that road: a wild pitch led to a run in the first inning. But he limited the damage and then held the line for the next five innings while the offense rallied for seven runs to put the game safely away. He thus earned his second win in two starts, tying the total he earned over 10 starts last year. He also kicked off a string of quality starts through the remainder of the Royals series. Whether it a happy coincidence or not, the Twins starting rotation has looked totally different since Gibson took the mound on Friday.

    Itís easy to be optimistic about his future. Before he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011, Gibson was a top pitching prospect in the Twins minor leagues. After a year of recovery, his arrival last year was highly anticipated, which made the 6.53 ERA he posted that much more disappointing. But he was still recovering from the surgery, and approaching the team's innings limit for him when was recalled at the end of June. This year his arm should be more prepared for the challenges of a long major league season.

    But there are also indicators the suggest some caution. Itís unusual for a starting pitcher to have long-term success with a below average strikeout rate. Through two starts, Gibsonís sits at just 4.8, far below the league average of 7. Itís also unusual for a pitcher to have success if heís walking nearly as many batters as he is striking out. Gibson has walked more (8) than he has struck out (6).

    So another switch isnít out of the question, and it could be a switch for the worse. On the other hand, Gibson is a sinker ball pitcher Ė strikeout rate isnít quite as important for a pitcher who relies on hitters hitting groundballs at his infielders. Whatever the future, though March and April, Gibson has been one of the Twins most pleasant surprises and most consistent starters, which is a switch that we all can embrace.
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    Comments 21 Comments
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      strikeout rate isnít quite as important for a pitcher who relies on hitters hitting groundballs at his infielder
      I hear this a lot. Has data shown this to be true?
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by clutterheart View Post
      I hear this a lot. Has data shown this to be true?
      Right now Gibson has a high GB% and low LD%. I think it would indicate that the hitters are not making good contact. The key is that the sinker almost always has to be good or bad things happen. The data you seek would have to be from what happens when sinkerball pitchers pitch well.
      I don't think anyone would complain if he had a career similar to Tim Hudson or Jake Westbrook. That is what can happen if you pitch well.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      I think K per 9 is not a great way to evaluate a guy whose main objective is to keep the ball down and get ground balls.

      Having said that, I think Gibson will settle in with a slightly higher K/9 than 4.8. I think his ceiling is Brandon Webb-light. Webb was a great pitcher, a decent 7k per 9 and high ground ball rate. In watching Gibson's starts so far, he has good movement and kept the ball down very well.

      Webb's numbers.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...webbbr01.shtml
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      I think Gibson's absolute ceiling is Webb. I'd love for him to reach it, I just don't see it happening. I'm not convinced he can miss that many bats.

      I hope I'm wrong.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I think Gibson's absolute ceiling is Webb. I'd love for him to reach it, I just don't see it happening. I'm not convinced he can miss that many bats.

      I hope I'm wrong.
      The key to that is his offspeed stuff. When he throws everything hard, he gets a lot of grounders, and some of them get through the infield. When he throws his split (which DickNBrt call his slower sinker) and his change more often, he gets more Ks.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I think he's a legit, long term, MLB starter. It's been a while since we can say that about a guy they drafted and developed, so I'm happy about that. If he ends up a 2, awesome. But I'd guess he's a "3" long term, which is a good thing, imo.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      I think he's a legit, long term, MLB starter. It's been a while since we can say that about a guy they drafted and developed, so I'm happy about that. If he ends up a 2, awesome. But I'd guess he's a "3" long term, which is a good thing, imo.
      My thoughts as well. He might even end up a #4, which isn't optimal but is better than nothing.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      The key to that is his offspeed stuff. When he throws everything hard, he gets a lot of grounders, and some of them get through the infield. When he throws his split (which DickNBrt call his slower sinker) and his change more often, he gets more Ks.
      Kyle Gibson now passes the eyeball test. He throws on a good downward plane, gets good sink while bending it right or left. His ability to change speeds is key because it gives his stuff one more dimension to worry about.

      Frankly, I'd like it if he mixed in some four-seam fastballs, maybe half a dozen per outing. A "sinker baller" that sometimes throws a straight one could also induce some whiffs and pop-ups. With a bit of luck, Gibson could be a good starter for quite a while.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      I could have sworn before his TJ we were hearing he had a great slider. Am I misremembering that? Or does he just not throw it much?
    1. jgfellows's Avatar
      jgfellows -
      Kyle Gibson is going to end the season with most wins of any twins starting pitchers.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by ericchri View Post
      I could have sworn before his TJ we were hearing he had a great slider. Am I misremembering that? Or does he just not throw it much?
      He has a good but not great slider. He doesn't throw it often enough. I don't know how good it was prior to TJ. If that come from a pre-draft analysis, it might have been hype. Kohl Stewart is said to have a "whipe-out slider". That term is thrown around way too much for my taste.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I think Gibson's absolute ceiling is Webb. I'd love for him to reach it, I just don't see it happening. I'm not convinced he can miss that many bats.

      I hope I'm wrong.
      Webb was a very, very good pitcher. Career 3.27 ERA, has won 22 games. 33 WAR across only 6 seasons.

      I think 4.8 K per 9 in the major leagues is an anomoly. First, we are going off 11 innings. A little early to get into ratios like that. For his MLB career his K per 9 is 5.1, even that is only 62 IP.

      In the minors he had 337 K's in 337 IP. Last year in AAA, he had 87 K in 101 IP (7.75 K per 9). His K's were pretty consistent from high A, AA, and AAA. He was not one of those who racked up a ton in rookie league.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      Webb was a very, very good pitcher. Career 3.27 ERA, has won 22 games. 33 WAR across only 6 seasons.

      I think 4.8 K per 9 in the major leagues is an anomoly. First, we are going off 11 innings. A little early to get into ratios like that. For his MLB career his K per 9 is 5.1, even that is only 62 IP.

      In the minors he had 337 K's in 337 IP. Last year in AAA, he had 87 K in 101 IP (7.75 K per 9). His K's were pretty consistent from high A, AA, and AAA. He was not one of those who racked up a ton in rookie league.
      This. Plus look at his Pitch F/X data. He's been seriously squeezed. I probably said "where was that pitch?" 10 times in his last start. Six of them were with 2 strikes. I didn't see the first start, but I saw the data. He will get more calls as umps get used to him.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      This. Plus look at his Pitch F/X data. He's been seriously squeezed. I probably said "where was that pitch?" 10 times in his last start. Six of them were with 2 strikes. I didn't see the first start, but I saw the data. He will get more calls as umps get used to him.
      Yeah, I agree. He is getting no respect and hopefully that will come in time and help his numbers. A TD article said only 73 percent of his pitches in the zone were called for strikes last year, the league average is 81%. He was close to the worst.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      He has a good but not great slider. He doesn't throw it often enough. I don't know how good it was prior to TJ. If that come from a pre-draft analysis, it might have been hype. Kohl Stewart is said to have a "whipe-out slider". That term is thrown around way too much for my taste.
      I think this is what I was thinking of, probably. I was certain I'd seen something to indicate he had a good slider. John Manuel listed Gibson as having the best slider in their system for his 2013 list.

      http://www.baseballamerica.com/minor...ospects-14343/
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by ericchri View Post
      I think this is what I was thinking of, probably. I was certain I'd seen something to indicate he had a good slider. John Manuel listed Gibson as having the best slider in their system for his 2013 list.

      http://www.baseballamerica.com/minor...ospects-14343/
      I don't have data, but I believe I have read his slider induces a lot of ground balls, versus a Liriano, Randy Johnson, etc.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      Webb was a very, very good pitcher. Career 3.27 ERA, has won 22 games. 33 WAR across only 6 seasons.

      I think 4.8 K per 9 in the major leagues is an anomoly. First, we are going off 11 innings. A little early to get into ratios like that. For his MLB career his K per 9 is 5.1, even that is only 62 IP.

      In the minors he had 337 K's in 337 IP. Last year in AAA, he had 87 K in 101 IP (7.75 K per 9). His K's were pretty consistent from high A, AA, and AAA. He was not one of those who racked up a ton in rookie league.
      I agree that Gibson's K rate *should* climb, I guess I'm just nervous about making any comparisons to Webb because, as you said, Webb was an incredibly effective pitcher for a time. An ace on most teams, a super-2 on the rest.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I agree that Gibson's K rate *should* climb, I guess I'm just nervous about making any comparisons to Webb because, as you said, Webb was an incredibly effective pitcher for a time. An ace on most teams, a super-2 on the rest.
      Yeah, but Webb was able to put up great numbers with only a 7 k per 9, because os his ground balls. Pitchers usually are either K guys or ground ball guys. Webb was able to excel at the ground balls and still K some people. I think that is Gibson's MO. If he can K 6-7 per 9, he is going to be good. Not ace good, but very good.

      The few that come to my mind are Carlos Silva, he had 4 K per 9. Pelfrey has a career 5.2 K per 9.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      Yeah, but Webb was able to put up great numbers with only a 7 k per 9, because os his ground balls. Pitchers usually are either K guys or ground ball guys. Webb was able to excel at the ground balls and still K some people. I think that is Gibson's MO. If he can K 6-7 per 9, he is going to be good. Not ace good, but very good.

      The few that come to my mind are Carlos Silva, he had 4 K per 9. Pelfrey has a career 5.2 K per 9.
      Yeah, Webb was a rarity. Personally, I think Gibson will probably end up a 5-6k per 9 guy. Good, but not close to Webb.

      If he can find a way to keep generating grounders with a 7k per 9, he should be very good.
    1. ALessKosherScott's Avatar
      ALessKosherScott -
      The guy Gibson has always reminded me of is Scott Erickson, which means he'll never be as great as you think he is during the good times or as horrible as you think during the bad ones. There's nothing wrong with that kind of a career trajectory if you can get it. But it's never going to be the kind of thing you build a rotation around.
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