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Watch Him Grow! Kyle Gibson's Early Results

In a lost season, baseball fans take what they can get. Most get by on hope, and for the Twins, looking toward the future has begun as early as ever. Before elbow surgery, Kyle Gibson's name often topped lists of reasons to keep the faith. Though he's stumbled out of the gate, he has the tools to work at the top of the rotation, and he has the freedom to develop on-the-job. Here are five areas where Gibson can improve as he gains confidence in his pitches and trust in his catchers and coaches, beginning tonight.
[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]

Attached Image: chia.JPG



[TABLE="width: 357"]

[TD="colspan: 4"]CONTROL WITH RUNNERS ON BASE[/TD]


(Plate Apps)
AVG/OBP/OPS

SO/BB


With RISP





Gibson (34)
.367/.412/.845

[TD="align: right"]1.50[/TD]


Twins
.291/.356/.798

[TD="align: right"]1.57[/TD]


AL
.259/.336/.736

[TD="align: right"]1.89[/TD]

[/TABLE]

Traditional theory assumes most batters swing more freely with men on, looking for RBIs. But when pitching to them, Gibson leaves too many balls over the middle of the plate instead of consistently working the corners. Some may be mistakes, but others are untimely efforts to stay ahead of the batter. He spends little time "watching" runners back to the bag, instead working quickly after receiving the sign. While it's wise to trust base-stealing threats to veteran defenders, Gibson often looks too eager to rush the pitch and make up for the mistakes that put men on. Statistically, pitching performance shouldn't change dramatically with runners on base. Continuing at a natural pace and keeping the ball down and away from the batter - especially with his slider - will not only keep batters off-balance, but should induce ground balls and lead to more missed bats.

[TABLE="width: 357"]

[TD="colspan: 4"]TAKING WHAT'S EARNED[/TD]


After 0-1 Count





Gibson (46)
.275/.348/.648

[TD="align: right"]3.33[/TD]


Twins
.241/.279/.638

[TD="align: right"]5.08[/TD]


AL
.226/.265/.612

[TD="align: right"]6.36[/TD]

[/TABLE]

After taking an 0-1 lead in the count, pitchers should gain a sizable advantage. Though Gibson is getting first pitch strikes at nearly the 60% league average, he converts them to outs far less often than his peers. After grabbing two strikes - an even greater lead - Gibson has a modest 2.20 SO/BB, compared to an AL average of 5.26. Some of the fault lies with Mauer, but that's to be expected. As both gain confidence in their game plan and pitch selection, strikeout rates will improve.

SLIDER COMMAND

Baseball America ranked Gibson's slider as the best in the Twins' organization after each of the last four seasons, but it's been his least "valuable" pitch in his short time in the majors. In his home collapse against the Yankees on July 4th, he relied heavily on the breaking ball and off-spead pitches (both 22%, vs. 56% fastball). Ten days later he found relative success in New York by dialing in on his command and increasing his power pitches to 71% (vs. 17% breaking balls and 12% off-speed). A lot of the damage on the slider is due to tough luck (.400 opponent BABIP), and it's still been his best pitch in producing swinging strikes. Expect to see usage rate increase as he gains confidence. Combining it with his controlled fastball and quality change-up will produce a powerful out-pitch and lead to a more impressive K-rate.

[TABLE="width: 357"]

[TD="colspan: 4"]GAME PROGRESSION[/TD]


[TD="colspan: 4"]Gibson vs. Batter[/TD]


1st PA (36)
.303/.333/.727

[TD="align: right"]3.00[/TD]


2nd PA (36)
.467/.556/1.122

[TD="align: right"]0.50[/TD]


[TD="colspan: 4"]Twins(Starters) vs. Batter[/TD]


1st PA
.307/.356/.823

[TD="align: right"]1.86[/TD]


2nd PA
.285/.343/.775

[TD="align: right"]1.68[/TD]


[TD="colspan: 4"]AL(Starters) vs. Batter[/TD]


1st PA
.258/.315/.729

[TD="align: right"]2.82[/TD]


2nd PA
.261/.323/.749

[TD="align: right"]2.34[/TD]

[/TABLE]

Of course, hitters tend to improve slightly each time they face a pitcher in a game, but opposing batters have crushed Gibson after their first time up. Mauer has seen enough of the AL bats to have a feel for their strengths, but as noted previously, he hasn't seen enough of Gibson to embrace new combinations. His release points are consistent, and his velocity and movement look good. As Gibson's confidence develops and reliable pitch varieties follow, he should regain some ground.

[TABLE="width: 357"]

[TD="colspan: 4"]HANDLING LEFTIES[/TD]


Gibson





vs. RHB (44)
.231/.318/.626

[TD="align: right"]3.00[/TD]


vs. LHB (58)
.380/.448/.908

[TD="align: right"]0.33[/TD]


Twins (RHPs)





vs. RHB
.281/.331/.745

[TD="align: right"]2.45[/TD]


vs. LHB
.285/.346/.791

[TD="align: right"]1.68[/TD]


AL (RHPs)





vs. RHB
.251/.308/.705

[TD="align: right"]3.16[/TD]


vs. LHB
.261/.330/.754

[TD="align: right"]2.10[/TD]

[/TABLE]

Simply put, these splits are far too extreme to last. Gibson wouldn't be here if lefties could hit him at this rate. He's faced very well-coached (if only traditionally-potent) AL East lineups three times, and there are always adjustments to be made on the first go-around in the big show. He's a first-round draft pick, and he's earned his trip to the big leagues. Fear not.

There’s been plenty of change across the club, and plenty of losses to match it. But the light is growing at the end of the tunnel. Though Twins fans will work to forget 2013, they can remember watching their future stars grow. Here's hoping Kyle Gibson becomes one of them.


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