Twins Daily Awards 2015: Best Pitcher
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA TodayDespite those facts, our Twins Daily panel of eight voters were unanimous in our choice for Minnesota Twins Pitcher of the Year in 2015. (Note that voters each voted for their top three pitchers. First place was 3 points. Second place was 2 points. Third place was 1 point.)
Twins Daily Minnesota Twins Pitcher of the Year Results
Kyle Gibson – 24
Trevor May – 12
Glen Perkins – 9
Mike Pelfrey, Ervin Santana, Kevin Jepsen – 1 point each
Kyle Gibson was the Twins first-round pick in the 2009 draft out of the University of Missouri. He made his professional debut in 2010 and pitched for Ft. Myers, New Britain and ended that season with three starts in Rochester. He got off to a quick start in the 2011 season, but as the season went along, he began to feel pain in his elbow. He was shut down and had Tommy John surgery in September of 2011.
Remarkably, he returned to the mound in early July of 2012, spending a month rehabbing with the GCL Twins. He made two appearances for the Miracle and ended the season with two starts in Rochester. It was a very quick recovery. In fact, he made six starts in the Arizona Fall League.
He made his big league debut with ten starts for the Twins in the second half of 2013. In 2014, he made the Opening Day starting rotation and made 31 starts. He went 13-12 with a 4.47 ERA in 179.1 innings.
In 2015, Gibson made 32 starts for the Twins. After missing time with injury in 2012, being able to make 31+ starts the last two seasons is important. Gibson said, “It means a lot to be able to make the 31 starts a year. If I want to become the best pitcher I can be, then being able to be relied upon every five days is important. There are always going to be injuries that pop up, but there is nothing you can do about those. Pitching better consistently will help the numbers take care of themselves.”
He went 11-11 with a 3.84 ERA in 194.2 innings. He led the Twins in Innings Pitched, finishing with 30 innings more than Mike Pelfrey. Opponents posted an OPS of just .698 which was best of the six Twins pitchers with more than 100 innings on the mound. His Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and xFIP were second-best, behind just Trevor May.
Despite the record, Gibson made strides in most every statistical category. His ERA dropped by 0.63. His WHIP dropped. He worked 15 more innings. He gave up less hits, and he struck out more batters. Last year, Gibson struck out just 5.4 batters per nine innings. In 2015, he struck out 6.7 per nine. Though he’ll never be considered a strikeout pitcher, the improvement is noteworthy and encouraging.
Gibson said it was really “something that just happened. I talked a lot with Perk, May, and the other guys who get Ks just to see if they saw anything that could be changed. Worked some on high fastballs. If I go back and see the games I struck out the most, I bet I got ahead of the hitters more often. 2-2 and 3-2 aren’t really K counts. You have to be 0-2 and 1-2 if you want to see the K-count go up.”
But the strikeouts still are not a big deal to Gibson. “Personally, I couldn’t care less about Ks. I think I had some of my best starts and got maybe just a couple of Ks in those. Sometimes they just swing and miss more often, and sometimes those same pitches get fouled off, at least with my sinker especially.”
Through his pro career, the word “consistency” has been used in descriptions of Gibson. Terry Ryan would talk about how Gibson needed to be more consistent when he was in Rochester. His first full season (2014) was full of ups and downs. Even in his improved 2015 season, it was inconsistent throughout the year.
In 18 starts before the All Star game this year, Gibson was 8-6 with a 2.85 ERA. “In the first half, my fastball command was pretty decent, but it was my off speed that helped me the most. My change up was as consistent as it has ever been. When I fell behind, my off speed command is what I used to get back into counts. Overall though, defense was also a big part of why I had a good first half. Not being a K guy means that defense is important to me, and they did an awesome job all year for me!”
However, in 14 starts following the break, he was just 3-5 with a 5.22 ERA. Coming out of the break, he gave up at least five earned runs in four of his first six starts. However, he learned a lot from that, continued to work and aside from one start in September, he was very good again.
“In August, my fastball command was pretty terrible. I was walking a lot of guys, and along with that, my off speed was not as good. That is a bad combination. At the end of August, I had decided to move to the third base side of the rubber. As I was working through that in my side sessions with Neil (Allen), we also worked on a few other things that helped with my consistency. It allowed for some different movement on my pitches since I was on the third base side of the rubber and also a bit more consistent release point. All of those things combined, allowed for a few adjustments, and in turn allowed for a bit better results.”
On September 24th at Target Field against Cleveland, Gibson had his shortest outing of the season (2.2 innings). Six days later, at Cleveland, he tossed six shutout innings and struck out nine in a huge win for the Twins. A season for a pitcher (or any ball player) is all about making those adjustments.
As important as any of his numbers, he gained the confidence of his teammates and the coaching staff. Had their 162nd game been meaningful, it would have been Kyle Gibson making the start on short rest.
Gibson told Twins Daily, “It meant a lot to me that they had that confidence. We knew we were going to be in a bind once the double header was scheduled in Cleveland. I was lined up to pitch that last day versus Kansas City had we not been postponed, and for me, it was an exciting conversation to have with Mollie and Neil. I hadn’t pitched on short rest in my professional career, but I was very excited about the opportunity. Physically, I felt great and was ready for that challenge.”
2015 was a good year for Gibson and yet he’s already talked about things that he knows he can improve. He talked about needing to be better with the fastball up in the zone. He wants to be more consistent. He also really wants to improve his control. He walked 3.0 per nine innings.
“More so than not this year, I did a TERRIBLE job of getting 0-2 and 1-2. That is something that HAS to change for next year. That will automatically cut out walks, which is something I have to do to take the next step and get better! Can’t walk guys…”
Gibson is a smart guy, on and off the mound. He’ll start looking to 2016 in a little while, but for now, “It’s time to sit back and relax with my family.”
That’s not to say he won’t think about baseball at all. “I’ll probably look back on 2015 more than looking ahead for right now, but that will change soon. I do think looking back is a great way to learn. So I will do a little when I start preparing for 2016. Not saying I will dwell on 2016 all throughout the offseason, but I do need to learn from a few things from this year. I am a visual learner, so the only way to do that is revisit those starts, and learn from watching video.”
Congratulations to Kyle Gibson on being named the Twins Daily Twins Best Pitcher for 2015!
- h2oface, hybridbear, dbminn and 1 other like this