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Twins Daily Awards 2015: Best Pitcher

We began our look Twins Daily Award 2015 on Tuesday by naming Aaron Hicks the Twins Most Improved Player. Yesterday, Nick surprised no one when he wrote that Miguel Sano was named the Best Rookie. Today, we continue handing out some hypothetical hardware by naming the Best Twins Pitcher in 2015.

In 2014, the Twins posted a team ERA of 4.57 which was 29th of 30 in baseball, ahead of only the Colorado Rockies. Fast-forward to 2015. The Twins reduced their team ERA by a half run, to 4.07. That was good for 19th in MLB and 10th (of 15) in the American League. Still not great, but a significant improvement from just one year ago.

The pitching improvement was even more noteworthy when focusing on Twins starting pitchers. In 2014, starters posted an ERA of 5.06. That number included the remarkable performance of Phil Hughes. In 2015, Twins starting pitchers worked to an ERA of 4.14. That improvement is nearly one full run per game.

That huge improvement came despite the fact that no starter put up numbers near what Hughes did in 2014. It is unlikely any Twins pitcher will receive a single vote for American League Cy Young.
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA Today
Despite 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!

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17 Comments

I agree that Gibson was the best starter over the course of the year. That said, it is not a good reflection on the quality of the Twins' pitchers, and there is trouble ahead if this type of performance wins you the best pitcher award for your team in the coming years.

    • DaveW, ShouldaCouldaWoulda and Vanimal46 like this
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dougkoebernick
Oct 08 2015 06:27 AM

I'd maybe give a 2nd or 3rd place vote to Neil Allen.

    • Dantes929 likes this
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dougkoebernick
Oct 08 2015 06:32 AM

I think the establishing of next year's starting pitching rotation is going to be incredibly interesting. Here's how I see it happening:

 

Hughes

Santana 

Gibson

Nolasco 

Duffey

 

Here's how I see it around midseason:

 

Hughes

Santana

Gibson

Duffey

Berrios

 

With all that said, it's pretty amazing that Milone and May are not on that list as I think May will be a pretty good starter and Tommy Milone had a really good season (especially when you take some of those starts related to injury).

 

I know that this will be a topic for numerous posts in the future but wanted to get my two cents since I would anticipate that the 2016 Pitcher of the Year Award will be slightly more contested. 

    • olivia11 likes this
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HitInAPinch
Oct 08 2015 07:25 AM

The 1st half, 2nd half splits are very concerning.Losing command of a fastball is just weird, IMHO.

If Gibson [ and Allen ] keep his delivery together, he will be a strong innings eater with a ++ .500 record.

 

Twins really need an Ace.

 

 

 

Twins really need an Ace.

I am ok with guys that can often pitch like aces. Gibson in his career has not been a 6 inning 3 run kind of quality start guy.  His quality starts are near the league norm but in very few of those has he given up as many as 3 runs and most are just 0 or 1 runs. This year he did a little better job of staying with it when he wasn't on. HIs game where he gave up 4 in the first and still completed the game was an example of him battling a little better this year. His slump WAS due to command. You could watch just the pitches without knowing the outcome and see the difference.  

The guy that has the best chance of being an ace in the whole organization is still May who has the best stuff and has had better command as time goes.  Santana, Gibson, May and Duffey should be locks (I know they won't be but they should be) for the rotation next year with Milone, Hughes and Berrios in that order competing for the last spot..   

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dougkoebernick
Oct 08 2015 08:57 AM

In some ways Gibson reminds me of Brad Radke and when you look at their stats there are some definite similarities and some differences. Similar ERAs, Radke's WHIP was better, Radke gave up fewer walks, but Gibson gives up fewer HRs and hits while striking out more batters. 

 

I'd appreciate any thoughts from others about this comparison.

NOT going to get in to another debate as to what truly qualifies as an "Ace" SP. The Twins won their WS in '87 with, what I would call, a pair of "aces". Their second, they had a single "ace" and a couple solid starters. During the Gardenhire era they clearly had an ace quality pitcher in Santana, one of the best in all of baseball, and at times, almost a second #1 SP in Radke. Certainly, he was a very nice #2. And yet, they did not win a title. 

 

It would be nice to have that Cy Young, #1, "Ace" SP, but there are plenty of teams in the past that have had one and not won the WS. It is still a complete team effort at the end of the day. With Hughes pitching like he did in 2014, and I believe a rebound to that is not only possible, but probable, and Santana pitching like Santana normally does, and did this year with the exception of a couple of games, and just a bit more improvement from Gibson again, we could be talking about a team with three #2 caliber SP's to lead the rotation. And the argument could be made that Hughes and Santana both pitch like a #1 at times.

 

I feel pretty good about that depth, especially when you realize how strong out 4th and 5th spots could be.

    • brvama and MinnFan like this

 

In some ways Gibson reminds me of Brad Radke and when you look at their stats there are some definite similarities and some differences. Similar ERAs, Radke's WHIP was better, Radke gave up fewer walks, but Gibson gives up fewer HRs and hits while striking out more batters.

In terms of strikeouts relative to league, young Radke was probably better at that than Gibson so far.  Also, Radke pitched a lot of innings, even for his era.  Combining innings and run prevention, Radke was a legit ace for about 5 years there.

    • dougkoebernick likes this

I don't think it's probable Hughes returns to how he was in 2014.  Looking at his career, 2014 was the outlier and 2015 was his bounce back to his norm.

Congratulations to Kyle Gibson on a good season. Should be interesting where he winds up among Twins pitchers in 2016. It's quite possible he will have the 3rd or 4th best record next season, with Santana coming back for a full year, Duffey looking much better than expected, Berrios coming up, and Trevor May back in the starting rotation. Will there be room for Phil Hughes? 

 

I still think the best option for the Twins would be to put all the young studs in the rotation, all the expensive vets in the pen, then swap them around as needed. A bullpen with Hughes, Nolasco, Milone and Pelfrey could provide 3 to 4 innings a game for a whole season, and with such strong backup, the young arms could afford to attack with little fear. Instead of worrying about a threadbare pitching staff, they'd be brimming with talent and endurance.

 

I'd like that a lot better than what I saw this season.

    • h2oface and Willihammer like this
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theBOMisthebomb
Oct 08 2015 12:44 PM

Perkins gets 9 points but Milone and Duffy no points?Who voted for this award, Perk's family and close personal friends. 

    • Mike Sixel and h2oface like this

 

Congratulations to Kyle Gibson on a good season. Should be interesting where he winds up among Twins pitchers in 2016. It's quite possible he will have the 3rd or 4th best record next season, with Santana coming back for a full year, Duffey looking much better than expected, Berrios coming up, and Trevor May back in the starting rotation. Will there be room for Phil Hughes? 

 

I still think the best option for the Twins would be to put all the young studs in the rotation, all the expensive vets in the pen, then swap them around as needed. A bullpen with Hughes, Nolasco, Milone and Pelfrey could provide 3 to 4 innings a game for a whole season, and with such strong backup, the young arms could afford to attack with little fear. Instead of worrying about a threadbare pitching staff, they'd be brimming with talent and endurance.

 

I'd like that a lot better than what I saw this season.

 

If they're really going to push towards a youth movement why not have...

 

Santana (33)

Hughes (29)

Gibson (27)

May (26)

Duffey (24) / Berrios (21)

 

Bye bye Pelfrey. Trade Milone and permanently bench Nolasco for the remainder of his contract.  

 

Simple easy best solution to the glut of starters we have.Right now the issue is quantity vs. quality.You can't have it both ways.Either go with the best starting rotation you can field regardless of contracts and prior obligations or continue with same old same old and miss the playoffs again in 2016 by a few games. 

Tyler Duffey - without him the drama of September would not have happened. 

Just a side note on Gibson. He looked good in his last game, at least the time I was able to watch. What struck me was how his appearance looked like Tom Glavine. Oh to dream Glavine has been reincarnated on the Twins.

 

Tyler Duffey - without him the drama of September would not have happened. 

 

Duffey should be talked about more. His 7-8 weeks in the big leagues were remarkable. But 50 innings compared to 194 innings is hard to overcome.  He came in 3rd or 4th in minor league starting pitcher balloting. 

 

Either way, he deserves a lot of attention and discussion.

    • h2oface and MinnFan like this

Here is a breakdown of the votes:

 

Seth: 1.) Gibson, 2.) May, 3.) Perkins

Nick: 1.) Gibson, 2.) May, 3.) Perkins

Parker: 1.) Gibson, 2.) May, 3.) Perkins

John: 1.) Gibson, 2.) Perkins, 3.) Jepsen

Jeremy: 1.) Gibson, 2.) Perkins, 3.) May

Cody: 1.) Gibson, 2.) May, 3.) Pelfrey

Steve: 1.) Gibson, 2.) May, 3.) Santana

Eric: 1.) Gibson, 2.) Perkins, 3.) May

Gibson was clearly the best pitcher this year, imo. This thread is about this year, so I'll just leave it at that.

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