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  • Consistency Earned Kyle Gibson the Fifth Starter Job

    When it was announced Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Diamond went unclaimed through waivers and would not be named the fifth starter, the left-hander doffed his cap to his competition in Kyle Gibson.

    The decision was a tough one, with the left-hander being out of options, but Gibson’s strong spring showing ultimately won him the job. What solidified his spot in the rotation, in the manager’s mind, was a combination of his stuff and his demeanor.

    “The big power sinker. Right out of the get-go his ball was at a great angle and it was diving down. He just didn’t look like he was overwhelmed,” said Ron Gardenhire after the final spring training game of the year at Hammond Stadium. “Last year in spring training we saw him yanking pitches, when he came to the big league we saw him misfiring quite a bit. Catcher would be setting up inside and he would yank it all the way across the plate.”

    Gibson missed his spots often but pitchf/x data does not suggest he was missing out of the strike zone. In fact, Gibson was one of the most demerited pitchers when it came to pitches in the zone actually being called balls.

    Speaking in general to the blossoming benefits of framing, backstop Kurt Suzuki was questioned how much influence the catcher has over the calls versus the reputation and execution of the pitcher.

    “I don’t put too much stock in that,” Suzuki said. “Don’t get me wrong, I think that has a lot to do with it but at the same time, what a pitcher does has a lot to do with it. If he’s all over the place, he’s obviously not going to get those borderline calls, no matter how good you make it look. If you are around the plate consistently, you are going to get those calls.”

    In part, Gibson’s shrunken strike zone last year may have, had to do with his catchers. After all, he spent 40 of his 50 innings paired with Joe Mauer and Mauer, while a very solid receiver at gaining extra strikes at the top of the zone, had a history of not getting the calls at the bottom of the zone -- precisely where Gibson liked to work his sinker. At the same time, he was admittedly erratic with his pitches and failed to establish control.

    Gibson, who spent ten starts in Minnesota attempting to exploit the edges of the strike zone, said that in the moment he did not notice the scales perhaps being unfairly tipped to the hitter’s advantage.

    “On borderline pitches whether you’re a pitcher, hitter, catcher, whatever, it’s tough to really tell where that was,” remarked Gibson. “The way umpires can actually call those pitches as well as they do is pretty amazing, honestly.”

    To the naked eye, it is hard to call those pitches that fall within a fraction of an inch of the invisible strike zone. The cameras in the sky have a different perspective. According to the data, Gibson had just 73% of his in-zone pitches called strikes, well below the 81% average.

    Gibson believes that, if there was an effect, it likely stemmed from his inability to locate his pitches consistently.

    “What I was always taught in college was the more you get an umpire calling a strike, the more he’s going to call strikes on the borderline part,” he said. “And the fact of the matter was I was getting behind a lot and when it’s 1-0 and 2-0 and you’ve repeatedly shown that you can’t locate right there on the edge of the plate, you probably are not going to get that call.”

    That is the area that Gibson would like to focus on the most: working ahead in the count. This spring, his three walks in 16.1 innings suggest he has made strides in that department, but he recognizes that the improvement needs to come north with him.

    “Hopefully this year, if I am able to pound the zone and go back to those same pitches, then I might get more of those calls. But you've got to get ahead and earn the fact that you can hit that spot and I just wasn’t doing that.”

    If his spring performance has been any indication, he should be ready.

    “He’s been real consistent,” said Gardenhire. “Getting pretty close to the glove with a good angle and a hard slider and when he’s doing that, it’s hard for hitters to get on him. If he’s got that power sinker going -- at about 91, 92, 93 miles per hour. And that’s what he’s done this spring, really in control of himself.”
    Comments 27 Comments
    1. crarko's Avatar
      crarko -
      Good. That's exactly what Ryan said they wanted to see, and rewarded him for it Go Kyle!

      Hope Alex Meyer does the same thing.
    1. blindeke's Avatar
      blindeke -
      Gibson and Hicks having good seasons after last year would make me quite happy.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      “I don’t put too much stock in that,” Suzuki said. “Don’t get me wrong, I think that has a lot to do with it but at the same time, what a pitcher does has a lot to do with it. If he’s all over the place, he’s obviously not going to get those borderline calls, not matter how good you make it look. If you are around the plate consistently, you are going to get those calls.”
      Has anyone tested this axiom using Commandf/x data yet?
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      Hicks, Arcia, Dozier, Pinto and Gibson just might be the top 5 reasons to watch and follow the Twins this season. With a little luck, before September, we'll have a few more options such as Meyer and .......?
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Gibson's got the stuff to dominate. He's got the build to last into late innings. Make a whinny, ya big stud horse!
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Good stuff, especially the part about not getting strikes low in the zone. With Mauer or Doumit's helmet in the way, umps would call the pitch where it's caught. With the sinker, it was consistently caught below the strike zone even though it crossed the front of the zone above the knees. I look forward to better calls this year, whether from more consistency, a lower target, or a lack of rookie stigma.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      Good stuff, especially the part about not getting strikes low in the zone. With Mauer or Doumit's helmet in the way, umps would call the pitch where it's caught. With the sinker, it was consistently caught below the strike zone even though it crossed the front of the zone above the knees. I look forward to better calls this year, whether from more consistency, a lower target, or a lack of rookie stigma.

      How about scheduling more of his starts against more home plate umps like the one who did the game today (Thomas Newsom)? Both Deduno (5Ks out of 6 outs) and Doubront figured out that not only were they getting all the borderline, over the plate, at-the-knee strikes, they also got the at-the-shin ones, as well. Apparently, no one told Hughes what was up (er, down).

      I'm sure there are ump charts out there, right?
    1. SD Buhr's Avatar
      SD Buhr -
      What none of the pitch potting technology will tell you is where the catcher was set up for each pitch. If, as Gardenhire and Gibson both seem to indicate, he was consistently "yanking" pitches toward the outside and missing the catcher's mitt when it was set up inside, he wasn't likely to get the outside corner call even if the pitch did catch the corner. Until we replace umpires with technology on ball/strike calls, that's probably not going to change.

      Gibson being able to consistently put the ball where he wants it, combined with having catchers who get lower in the crouch, could be huge for Gibson's success.
    1. highlander's Avatar
      highlander -
      Options should be irrelevant to making the big club!! The best players need to go north. GO GO Gibson, way to earn your spot.
    1. TwinVike61's Avatar
      TwinVike61 -
      Again Parker, thanks for this excellent analysis and article.

      “Hopefully this year, if I am able to pound the zone and go back to those same pitches, then I might get more of those calls. But you've got to get ahead and earn the fact that you can hit that spot and I just wasn’t doing that.”

      This statement seems to sum it up.
    1. Tibs's Avatar
      Tibs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      Has anyone tested this axiom using Commandf/x data yet?
      I have been umpiring a good five or six years now. It's very much true that the more you are around the plate the more likely you are to get the call when it comes to close pitches on the corners. I see this happen a lot when I do little league games.
    1. Tibs's Avatar
      Tibs -
      Quote Originally Posted by DocBauer View Post
      Hicks, Arcia, Dozier, Pinto and Gibson just might be the top 5 reasons to watch and follow the Twins this season. With a little luck, before September, we'll have a few more options such as Meyer and .......?
      Joe Mauer?
    1. Miraclemat's Avatar
      Miraclemat -
      Quote Originally Posted by DocBauer View Post
      Hicks, Arcia, Dozier, Pinto and Gibson just might be the top 5 reasons to watch and follow the Twins this season. With a little luck, before September, we'll have a few more options such as Meyer and .......?
      That is saddest thing I have read in a long time!
    1. Miraclemat's Avatar
      Miraclemat -
      Quote Originally Posted by Miraclemat View Post
      That is saddest thing I have read in a long time!
      I stand corrected. This might be the saddest!

      Jason Bartlett will make the Twins as a reserve infielder and center field option, tweets Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The 34-year-old had previously agreed to bump back his opt-out date. Though he has played exactly one MLB game at a position other than shortstop (a single 2004 appearance at second), Bartlett will apparently see some time in the outfield. He finds himself in position to break camp after taking just 98 professional plate appearances over the last two seasons.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      Good stuff, especially the part about not getting strikes low in the zone. With Mauer or Doumit's helmet in the way, umps would call the pitch where it's caught. With the sinker, it was consistently caught below the strike zone even though it crossed the front of the zone above the knees. I look forward to better calls this year, whether from more consistency, a lower target, or a lack of rookie stigma.
      First legitimate use of Google Glass: Project a strike zone rectangle for umpires to train their eye.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tibs View Post
      I have been umpiring a good five or six years now. It's very much true that the more you are around the plate the more likely you are to get the call when it comes to close pitches on the corners. I see this happen a lot when I do little league games.
      I am familiar with the saying, and I wouldn't be surprised if there is some truth to it.

      I just think its funny that whenever a ballplayer scores lousy in a newish metric (catcher framing, in this case), he will, without fail, say he "doesn't put much stock in it" or repeat some cliche like this that we've all heard a hundred times so that he doesn't have to explain himself.

      Anyway, Commandf/x has been capturing catcher mitt placement data since 2010, according to Sportvision's website. Unfortunately MLBAM hasnt released it to the public.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by SD Buhr View Post
      What none of the pitch potting technology will tell you is where the catcher was set up for each pitch. If, as Gardenhire and Gibson both seem to indicate, he was consistently "yanking" pitches toward the outside and missing the catcher's mitt when it was set up inside, he wasn't likely to get the outside corner call even if the pitch did catch the corner. Until we replace umpires with technology on ball/strike calls, that's probably not going to change.

      Gibson being able to consistently put the ball where he wants it, combined with having catchers who get lower in the crouch, could be huge for Gibson's success.
      Yeah. I wonder how much of that was arm fatigue from TJ. He was hitting his spots more consistently in Rochester. But he would just lose it for innings with the Twins. It will be interesting to see what he can do with a full healthy season.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimbo92107 View Post
      First legitimate use of Google Glass: Project a strike zone rectangle for umpires to train their eye.
      But the strike zone isn't a rectangle, it is more like a box. The plate has 16 inches of depth and ball can enter the strike zone from the top or the side. Also the strike zone is not one standard size like pitch f/x but varies from batter to batter(according to the rule book anyway) based on the where the batter's knees and "letters" are.

      The idea that pitch f/x always is right is just "wrong". It can't be right all the time, it doesn't have the capacity to be right all the time. Sometimes, the umpire is going to be right and pitch f/x will be wrong. Sometimes they will be both wrong, especially if you are going to train the umpires to call pitches based on pitch f/x.
    1. big dog's Avatar
      big dog -
      Quote Originally Posted by Miraclemat View Post
      That is saddest thing I have read in a long time!
      You must have missed the various stories about Sano and Rosario.
    1. crarko's Avatar
      crarko -
      Quote Originally Posted by big dog View Post
      You must have missed the various stories about Sano and Rosario.
      Or MH370.
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