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Twins Daily 2018 Awards: Most Improved

A year after the Twins made massive improvements, jumping from 59 wins in 2016 to 85 wins in 2017, 2018 was a disappointing season for the Twins. Today we begin our week of handing out the Twins Daily 2018 Awards by looking at the players who showed the most improvement.

In 2017, there were several players who showed significant improvement. In a difficult 2018 season, improvement was more difficult to find, but one player took some major strides forward this year, particularly in terms of consistency.
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA Today
2017 was a tough season for Kyle Gibson. The Twins top pick from 2009 was the Twins Daily choice for Best Pitcher in 2015 when he posted an ERA of 3.84. But he posted a 5.07 ERA in both 2016 and 2017. In fact, in 2017, he was demoted to Triple-A Rochester twice and told to work on certain things.

Gibson has acknowledged that getting sent down was quite humbling, but instead of sulking, he went to work. He impressed those in Rochester with how much he worked, how well he listened and the adjustments that he worked on. He also discussed how he was able to work on the mental side of the game as much as the physical.

“You’ve gotta have the right mentality about what you’re doing. You can’t put too much pressure on yourself, you can’t put too much importance on one start, one outing. It’s still a game.” Gibson told Twins Daily recently, “For me, I just had to switch my mentality a little bit and realize that if I never played another game of baseball I’d be OK. I try to keep things in perspective, try to keep my priorities straight and that allowed me to understand and be able to handle the failure a little bit better, learn from the failure a little bit better and eventually turn it into longer-term success.”

Gibson responded late in the 2017 season. Over his final eight starts for the Twins last year, Gibson went 6-0 with a 2.92 ERA. Fortunately for the Twins, Gibson carried his lessons learned into the 2018 season and put together his best season. Maybe more important, it was his most consistent (in a positive way) season.

Among his 29 MLB starts in 2017, he had 12 games in which he pitched at least six innings. Seven of them came over his final eight starts. Eight times he did not complete five innings. In 2018, he made 32 starts and completed six innings in 20 of them. Just three times, and twice in April, did he fail to complete five innings. He was a reliable starter and finished with a career-high 196 2/3 innings.

If you’re still into Win-Loss record, you may not like this choice. Despite the 5.07 ERA in 2017, Gibson went 12-10. This year, while posting a 3.62 ERA, he went just 10-13. Most of the rest of his numbers showed improvement.
  • WHIP: 2017: 1.53. 2018: 1.30
  • bWAR: 2017: 0.3, 2018: 3.8
  • fWAR: 2017: 1.2, 2018: 2.8
  • Innings: 2017: 158.0, 2018: 196 2/3
  • K/9: 2017: 6.9, 2018: 8.2
  • HR/9: 2017: 1.4, 2018: 1.1
  • K%: 2017: 17.5%, 2018: 21.7%
  • Avg: 2017: .290, 2018: .238
Aside from those stats, it is interesting to note that Gibson’s average fastball jumped from 92.0 to 93.0 in 2018. He was throwing all of his pitches harder. He threw the same percentage of fastballs, but he reduced his changeup usage, choosing to throw more breaking pitches. That helped him increase his swinging strike rate from 10.0% to 11.5%

Through his struggles in early 2017 and his return to success throughout 2018, coupled with several midseason trades, Gibson finds himself in even more for a leadership role on this Twins roster.

“I’m getting to the point where I’m one of the older guys in here. After the trades I ended up being one of the higher service-time guys, so you’ve got to have a good mentality. It’s up to us (veterans) to try to lead these guys in the right direction, and if we don’t have the right mentality just because the team’s losing, then what is that showing them?”

And Gibson welcomes the leadership role for the young Twins starters and has already had some discussions with them, particularly about the struggles. He’s experienced it. He understands.

““We’ve got a couple guys in (Stephen) Gonsalves, Kohl (Stewart) and Zack (Littell) that have all gone through certain times of struggle, and that’s good for them. Hopefully I can be here and say ‘listen guys, a three-start struggle is nothing like a full-year struggle. Understand that these three starts really don’t really have that great of an impact on your career.’ They know my story, and the more I can share with them, hopefully it can help them through certain times of struggle.””

Hopefully he continues to progress and improve, and some of those young pitchers will improve right along with him. Gibson put up improved numbers, and he was one of three Twins starters to make 32 starts. He was certainly the Twins most consistent starter in 2018.

That earned him our Most Improved award, unanimously, for 2018.


THE BALLOTS

Here's a look at the ballots from each of our seven voters. Opinions didn't vary much on this one.

Seth Stohs: 1) Kyle Gibson, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jose Berrios
Nick Nelson: 1) Kyle Gibson, 2) Taylor Rogers,, 3) Jose Berrios
John Bonnes: 1) Kyle Gibson, 2) Mitch Garver
Tom Froemming: 1) Kyle Gibson, 2) Eduardo Escobar, 3) Taylor Rogers
Cody Christie: 1) Kyle Gibson, 2) Eddie Rosario, 3) Eduardo Escobar
Steve Lein: 1) Kyle Gibson, 2) Mitch Garver, 3) Ryan Pressly
Ted Schwerzler: 1) Kyle Gibson, 2) Mitch Garver, 4) Matt Magill


POINTS

Kyle Gibson: 21
Mitch Garver: 6
Taylor Rogers: 5
Eduardo Escobar: 3
Jose Berrios: 2
Eddie Rosario: 2
Ryan Pressly: 1
Matt Magill: 1


PREVIOUS MOST IMPROVED WINNERS

2015: Aaron Hicks
2016: Brian Dozier
2017: Byron Buxton

Do you agree with our committee's pick? Who would be your choice for Most Improved Twin and why?

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24 Comments

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Original Whizzinator
Oct 02 2018 02:35 AM
I'm on board with this choice. We all like to see when someone gets knocked down and picks themselves up. Gibson has been knocked down a few times I'd say. The higher FB velocity would be because he went to the 4 seamer more and less of the sinker.
    • tarheeltwinsfan, MN_ExPat and BBAM like this

This is an excellent choice, but Garver would have been equally good.Garver rose to the challenge of being the number one catcher despite having to split time with Bobby Wilson.He hit as we would have wished, but more important, perhaps, is the fact that his pitch framing and defense continued to improve throughout the year and we should now depend upon him to split the time with Castro and pick up more ABs at 1B and DH, 

    • Major League Ready, blindeke, ChrisKnutson and 4 others like this

Gibson had a solid 2018 after a strong ending to last season. Let's hope Garver and Rogers do the same in 2019. Both were really good after the break this year.

Here's a look at the ballots from each of our seven voters. Opinions varied greatly on this one. There were five different choices for No. 1, and no player appeared on every list.

Seth Stohs: 1) Kyle Gibson
Nick Nelson: 1) Kyle Gibson
John Bonnes: 1) Kyle Gibson
Tom Froemming: 1) Kyle Gibson
Cody Christie: 1) Kyle Gibson
Steve Lien: 1) Kyle Gibson
Ted Schwerzler: 1) Kyle Gibson

 

 

Was the lead-in to the list for another story?:-)

    • bighat likes this

I agree with this one as well. And after many months of referring to Kyle Gibson as "The Tease"...I'm retiring the label. His consistency this season was much improved. His peripherals were better. He looked a lot more like the guy we saw in 2015 than the frustrating one from the last 2 years, but it looks like he achieved it through a change in approach rather than just hoping for the best and running out the same old plan.

 

I don't expect Kyle Gibson to be an elite pitcher. But I think he can be a stalwart in the rotation who keeps you in games, chews up innings, and has a good plan out there every start. that's really valuable. He's probably going to hover in that 2-4 bWAR range the next 3-4 seasons, and I'd be very comfortable extending him at this point. (If he has a season where the BB/9 drop to the 2-2.5 range for a season and everything else stays to the good, he'll probably be an all-star, but based on his consistent track record of being a 3-3.5 BB/9 guy it's important to realize that would be an outlier and not something to expect)

 

Something I found notable about this year: Gibson had 15 starts with a Game Score of 60 or above, but only 7 with a Game Score of 40 or less. Contrast that to 2017, where he was at only 3 at 60 or above and 8 at 40 or less. This year his worst Game Score was a 29; last year he had three games at 28, 17, and 15. 2018 he had 5 Game Scores of 70 or higher. 2017 he had 1. The ceiling was higher, the floor was higher and the overall performance was simply better and we got to have more of it.

 

really happy for him, and glad he found an approach that works for him consistently.

 

 

 

I agree with this one as well. And after many months of referring to Kyle Gibson as "The Tease"...I'm retiring the label. His consistency this season was much improved. His peripherals were better. He looked a lot more like the guy we saw in 2015 than the frustrating one from the last 2 years, but it looks like he achieved it through a change in approach rather than just hoping for the best and running out the same old plan.

 

I don't expect Kyle Gibson to be an elite pitcher. But I think he can be a stalwart in the rotation who keeps you in games, chews up innings, and has a good plan out there every start. that's really valuable. He's probably going to hover in that 2-4 bWAR range the next 3-4 seasons, and I'd be very comfortable extending him at this point. (If he has a season where the BB/9 drop to the 2-2.5 range for a season and everything else stays to the good, he'll probably be an all-star, but based on his consistent track record of being a 3-3.5 BB/9 guy it's important to realize that would be an outlier and not something to expect)

 

Something I found notable about this year: Gibson had 15 starts with a Game Score of 60 or above, but only 7 with a Game Score of 40 or less. Contrast that to 2017, where he was at only 3 at 60 or above and 8 at 40 or less. This year his worst Game Score was a 29; last year he had three games at 28, 17, and 15. 2018 he had 5 Game Scores of 70 or higher. 2017 he had 1. The ceiling was higher, the floor was higher and the overall performance was simply better and we got to have more of it.

 

really happy for him, and glad he found an approach that works for him consistently.

His FIP dropped 72 points (4.13), his BABIP dropped 43 points (to a career best BABIP), and he had a career best LOB%.His K/9 went up, his BB/9 also went up, and he averaged almost 6 innings a start this year (almost hitting 200).He definitely improved, but I'm skeptical this continues in his career, mostly due to the BABIP, LOB%, and his history.

    • rghrbek likes this

 

His FIP dropped 72 points (4.13), his BABIP dropped 43 points (to a career best BABIP), and he had a career best LOB%.His K/9 went up, his BB/9 also went up, and he averaged almost 6 innings a start this year (almost hitting 200).He definitely improved, but I'm skeptical this continues in his career, mostly due to the BABIP, LOB%, and his history.

 

His FIP dropping simply means he pitched better, but it's not like it's an out of character number for him; he posted better numbers in both 2014 & 2015. I'm slightly more concerned about the differential between his ERA and his FIP, which suggests he was actually a little lucky at times.

 

The BABIP is certain a reason why he improved this year, but despite the big drop it's not like this is an out of character number for him: he had very similar number in 2014 & 2015. I'm much more concerned about a drop in BABIP (or a spike for hitters) when it's an outlier.

 

The innings is another one where he's done this before: 194.2 in 2015.

 

I'm hopeful this is an indicator of long term success in part because he was operating with a different pitch mix and approach, and showed much greater consistency than the last two years.

 

I look at the last three winners and think if I am on the Twins, I would not want this award.

    • ashburyjohn, big dog, tarheeltwinsfan and 2 others like this

I would have gone with Escobar or Rosario. It always felt like Gibson was on the cusp over the past three years.

 

His FIP dropping simply means he pitched better, but it's not like it's an out of character number for him; he posted better numbers in both 2014 & 2015. I'm slightly more concerned about the differential between his ERA and his FIP, which suggests he was actually a little lucky at times.

 

The BABIP is certain a reason why he improved this year, but despite the big drop it's not like this is an out of character number for him: he had very similar number in 2014 & 2015. I'm much more concerned about a drop in BABIP (or a spike for hitters) when it's an outlier.

 

The innings is another one where he's done this before: 194.2 in 2015.

 

I'm hopeful this is an indicator of long term success in part because he was operating with a different pitch mix and approach, and showed much greater consistency than the last two years.

I think if you re-read what I wrote, I didn't say his drop in FIP, or it being out of character, was a reason I was skeptical of his ability to repeat his 2018 going forward). Obviously his FIP drop means he pitched better.

 

Overall, I am also hopeful it's an indicator of long term success, but l have the same belief I had after his 2015 season, trade him now if you can get some value, before he comes back down.

 

Here's a look at the ballots from each of our seven voters. Opinions varied greatly on this one. There were five different choices for No. 1, and no player appeared on every list.

Seth Stohs: 1) Kyle Gibson
Nick Nelson: 1) Kyle Gibson
John Bonnes: 1) Kyle Gibson
Tom Froemming: 1) Kyle Gibson
Cody Christie: 1) Kyle Gibson
Steve Lien: 1) Kyle Gibson
Ted Schwerzler: 1) Kyle Gibson

 

 

Was the lead-in to the list for another story?:-)

 

Might have been using last year's Most Improved article as my template and didn't delete a paragraph. Oops!! Corrected. 

    • Minny505 likes this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Oct 02 2018 09:41 AM

Who will start the opening game in 2019? I vote for Gibson.

    • bighat likes this

I agree on Gibson, with Garver a close 2nd......which begs the question of why Garver didn't play more last year.....

 

I predict Buxton wins next year....

    • scottz, Major League Ready, blindeke and 3 others like this

 

Who will start the opening game in 2019? I vote for Gibson.

Hopefully Berrios since he is currently our best starter.

    • scottz, Minny505, bighat and 1 other like this

 

I would have gone with Escobar or Rosario. It always felt like Gibson was on the cusp over the past three years.

Curious as to why you would have Rosario on this list (noticed Cody did as well)?  He regressed pretty hard over the last month or two and I believe Gleeman had some stats that his swinging at pitches out of the strike zone went from low 30% to well over 50% during that time.  All this before he got hurt.

 

I would say he he established himself as a key member of this Twins team moving forward (showing that last year was not a fluke), but not a top candidate to be most improved?

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stringer bell
Oct 02 2018 11:05 AM
I think Gibson is deserving. I think Taylor Rogers is more deserving. Rogers posted career bests in virtually every category. His last 2 months were about as good as it gets. Going back to July 30–26 IP 10 H 0 R 3 BB 29 K. From May 1–57.2 IP 33 H 10 ER 12 BB 68 K 1.57 ERA.
    • Vanimal46 likes this
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stringer bell
Oct 02 2018 11:10 AM
On Gibson, I’m not a stat maven, but wouldn’t guys who induce a lot of double plays always have a higher FIP?

While luck enters into strand stats, I think the mental part of the game matters more and I think Gibson has become a smarter pitcher.

Rogers was very good this year. Agreed.

On Gibson, I’m not a stat maven, but wouldn’t guys who induce a lot of double plays always have a higher FIP?

While luck enters into strand stats, I think the mental part of the game matters more and I think Gibson has become a smarter pitcher.

did he actually induce more double plays per IP cause his GB rate was lower than it was the last two seasons.
Can't and won't argue. Great choice! This is the Gibson we thought we were getting after '14 & '15. Glad he finally arrived!

Could make a very strong arguement for Roger's and have no complaint from me. I'd say Gibson wins because he is a SP and sank pretty low in '16 and the start of '17.

My only qualm with Garver on the list is being a rookie, kind of defeats the "improved" part of the equation, IMO. Still, I'm a believer and really felt his defense improved as the year went on. The bat looks pretty legitimate to me. I think he's the primary catcher when 2019 is said and done.
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tarheeltwinsfan
Oct 02 2018 12:13 PM

 

Hopefully Berrios since he is currently our best starter.

I'm OK with that too. I got so excited reading about Gibson's improvements that I got a little carried away.

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stringer bell
Oct 02 2018 03:47 PM

did he actually induce more double plays per IP cause his GB rate was lower than it was the last two seasons.


I would imagine he didn’t get more double plays than previous seasons, but that he still got more than average. This is what I liked about 2018 Kyle Gibson—he pitched well in some starts when he didn’t get a lot of swings and misses. Some games, it was a lot of grounders, other games, fanned more than one per inning. Regardless of what might be working for him in a specific outing, he usually found a way to be effective, as evidenced by 18 Quality Starts.
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yarnivek1972
Oct 02 2018 03:59 PM
Seems to be a bit of a dubious distinction.

Hicks and Dozier were both out of the organization within 2 years of winning the award.
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killertwinfan
Oct 03 2018 07:10 AM

Good for Kyle. I never thought it would happen!He is become a leader of the team.  


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