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  • A Tale of Two Gibsons

    Kyle Gibson was lights out Wednesday night as he held the Mariners scoreless over six innings. He scattered seven hits, but only walked one while striking out three to turn in his 8th dominant performance on the year, improving his overall record to eight wins and seven losses.

    The problem is, there doesnít seem to be any middle ground when it comes to Gibsonís starts. Either heís lights out, like he was in Seattle (6.0IP, 7H, 0ER, 1BB, 3K) or heís knocked out, like his outing against the Yankees on July 4th (2.0 IP, 6H, 5ER, 1BB, 0K).

    One or two starts with such a variance wouldnít mean much. Starters have bad outings, as even staff ace Phil Hughes has thrown a clunker or two this season. Gibson, however, isnít just having one or two all or nothing starts. Seemingly every start is defined by the all-or-nothing principal.

    Take a look at this years' splits:

    (A blank space in the charts below indicates a value of zero).

    Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO SO/W BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
    in Wins 8 216 198 5 41 5 1 1 17 28 1.65 .207 .270 .247 .517 49 8 1 3 .237 58 85
    in Losses 7 136 124 40 47 11 2 5 1 9 12 1.33 .379 .419 .621 1.040 77 5 1 2 2 .385 213 125
    in No Dec. 3 71 68 10 3 2 1 3 13 4.33 .147 .183 .191 .374 13 2 1 .182 14 9

     
    Thatís a startling difference. Heís essentially allowing opposing batters to hit 170 points higher in average in losses while also seeing opponents' OPS double (!) Obviously, in a loss, starters are going to post worse numbers than they do in wins, but the splits are not typically this wide or dramatic.

    Initially it looked like Gibsonís struggles were attributable to home/road splits. In his home starts since the beginning of the season, Gibson has had only two "clunkers"


    Home Starts:

    Date Innings Earned Runs
    4/11 6.1 1
    4/17 8.0
    4/30 6.2 5
    5/16 7.0 1
    5/28 6.0
    6/7 7.0
    7/4 2.0 5

    His road starts have been a bit rougher:

    Road Starts:

    Date Innings Earned Runs
    4/5 5.0 1
    4/22 3.0 7
    5/5 7.0
    5/10 2.0 6
    5/23 5.0 5
    6/2 6.0 4
    6/13 7.0
    6/18 7.0
    6/24 2.0 7
    6/29 8.0 2
    7/9 6.0
         


    Early in the season, the solution seemed simple. For whatever reason, Kyle Gibson struggled away from Target Field. However, Gibsonís last few starts have made that assessment inaccurate. Heís turned in quality outings in Texas, Boston and Detroit while his last dud came at home.

    Itís clearly not as simple as home/road struggles. So, letís dig a bit deeper. Maybe this is all just a matter of pitch selection?


    Date Opp FB% FBv SL% SLv CB% CBv CH% CHv
    7/9/2014 @SEA
    7/4/2014 NYY 57.70% 90.9 23.10% 83.7 3.90% 79 15.40% 83.3
    6/29/2014 @TEX 67.40% 92.2 24.20% 85.5 2.10% 80.5 6.30% 84.5
    6/24/2014 @LAA 62.00% 92.6 20.00% 85 2.00% 82 16.00% 84.1
    6/18/2014 @BOS 56.90% 92.1 20.60% 84.9 3.90% 81 18.60% 84.1
    6/13/2014 @DET 60.00% 91.5 24.60% 83.9 2.70% 78.3 12.70% 82.5
    6/7/2014 HOU 65.10% 89.9 18.90% 83.8 2.80% 77.3 13.20% 82.1
    6/2/2014 @MIL 62.30% 92.1 31.20% 84.3 2.60% 79 3.90% 83.3
    5/28/2014 TEX 67.30% 91.5 20.60% 84.7 5.60% 79.7 6.50% 82.7
    5/23/2014 @SFG 51.40% 92 26.40% 85.5 9.70% 81 12.50% 83.8
    5/16/2014 SEA 68.80% 90.9 12.50% 84.1 1.00% 78 17.70% 83.2
    5/10/2014 @DET 56.30% 91.7 33.30% 84.6 10.40% 83.2
    5/5/2014 @CLE 69.00% 90.5 7.00% 85.6 7.00% 79.4 17.00% 82.7
    4/30/2014 LAD 64.40% 91 19.80% 82.4 3.00% 79 12.90% 83.2
    4/22/2014 @TBR 68.60% 90.8 24.40% 82.9 7.00% 82.7
    4/17/2014 TOR 80.00% 90.9 11.40% 83.7 8.60% 82.9
    4/11/2014 KCR 67.00% 91.3 19.00% 83.2 3.00% 78.7 11.00% 83
    4/5/2014 @CLE 69.10% 90.4 13.40% 82 17.50% 81.8

    That big block of data does have some interesting points. Mainly, in wins, Gibson is using his fastball between 60%-70% of the time while in losses the fastball usage resides at 51%-57%. Why is Gibson shying away from his fastball in losses? It looks like heís struggling to locate the pitch.

    Hereís Gibsonís Pitch F/X data from his 7/4 start against the Yankees:




     
    Look at the gray squares, which indicate Gibsonís sinker. As you can see, Gibson struggled to locate his sinker, leaving many balls out of the zone. That caused him to fall behind and then have to come into the zone with a different pitch (since his sinker control was off) Ė thus resulting in a fireworks performance courtesy of the Yankee bats.

    The trend repeats in his 6/24 start against the Angels.



     
    Again, thereís little consistency in the location of his sinker and not surprisingly the results are very similar to the start against the Yankees.

    Finally, look at the Pitch F/X data from his 6/29 start against Texas and the start yesterday against Seattle.


     





    A majority of his sinkers are low in the zone and are grouped nicely. Greater control yielded a better result.

    Admittedly, thatís a lot of data to comb over to simply reach the conclusion that Gibson is better when he can control his pitches. That policy applies to every starter in the league, outside of maybe Sam Deduno who in fact may be better when he has no idea where the ball is going. Whatís startling is just how different the results are when Gibson is struggling with control and when heís on.

    Every starter will battle control issues from time to time and even the best starters get knocked around a bit, but I donít know that Iíve ever seen a player as all or nothing as Kyle Gibson. Hopefully, Gibson can improve on these results as he continues to learn and grow. Heíll need to learn how to pitch when his best stuff just isnít with him Ė even Kevin Correia and Ricky Nolasco can turn in quality outings when their command is evading them.

    It seems like Gibsonís struggles may simply be because he hasnít figured out how to work with what he has on any given night. We hope that as he pitches further into the season, heíll figure things out and weíll stop seeing so many "boom or busts" starts from the Twinsí righty.
    Comments 11 Comments
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Really well done. Great breakdown.
    1. Gernzy's Avatar
      Gernzy -
      Data overload! Amazing work on the article. I was at the game on 06/18 in Boston and it was the best I've seem him pitch. The Sox couldn't touch him.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Reposted from when this was a blog entry:

      Hopefully, Gibson can improve on these results as he continues to learn and grow. He’ll need to learn how to pitch when his best stuff just isn’t with him – even Kevin Correia and Ricky Nolasco can turn in quality outings when their command is evading them.

      I wonder if last night wasn't part of that learning process.

      Len 3 tweeted:
      LaVelle E. Neal III @LaVelleNeal 20h

      Gibson was solid but not spectacular. Failure to throw strike one kept him from pitching deeper in game.

      So even though he apparently didn't have his best stuff, he perservered.

      Thanks for all the analysis. It'll be interesting to follow this the rest of the season.
    1. Thegrin's Avatar
      Thegrin -
      This post confirms what I have felt about Gibson all season. Gibson is his own worst enemy. He has a very good sinker and a good fastball, but he looses focus when his control is not the best. He thinks about his results instead of "trusting his stuff". This causes him to continue having control problems. He has to learn to focus on what he is going to throw and where he is going to throw it instead of thinking about what he just threw and where he threw it.
      The game in Seattle was a very positive sign. He did not have his best stuff, but still he kept pitching himself out of trouble. Maybe he has learned some things. If he has, we can look forward to a very good second half from Gibson.
    1. naobermiller's Avatar
      naobermiller -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      Reposted from when this was a blog entry:

      Hopefully, Gibson can improve on these results as he continues to learn and grow. Heíll need to learn how to pitch when his best stuff just isnít with him Ė even Kevin Correia and Ricky Nolasco can turn in quality outings when their command is evading them.

      I wonder if last night wasn't part of that learning process.

      Len 3 tweeted:
      LaVelle E. Neal III @LaVelleNeal 20h

      Gibson was solid but not spectacular. Failure to throw strike one kept him from pitching deeper in game.

      So even though he apparently didn't have his best stuff, he perservered.

      Thanks for all the analysis. It'll be interesting to follow this the rest of the season.
      Also reposting my response from the blog entry. While it's hard to argue with 6 innings of shut out ball, in a low leverage game like that you'd hope he could go a little deeper. Gibson was able to work out of the jams he put himself in though.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Quote Originally Posted by naobermiller View Post
      Also reposting my response from the blog entry. While it's hard to argue with 6 innings of shut out ball, in a low leverage game like that you'd hope he could go a little deeper. Gibson was able to work out of the jams he put himself in though.
      I hope the start in Seattle was a sign of growing maturity. Figuring out that even if he doesn't have his best stuff, he can keep the game in reach.

      I see it as a positive sign. But he's got a lot of learning still to do. The key is finding out how to keep those good outings while keeping it going when things aren't so good.

      I guess I think that's why it'll be interesting to see this develop. I agree that it is unusual to see such a bold line of demarcation between the good & the bad but I do see the last outing as somewhere between the two (even though the results fell on the good side).

      We have the contrast between Pino who has seemingly learned the craftiness to get through some of the bad and Gibson who is still young enough that he has a lot to learn that craft. It's part of maturing as a pitcher, I think.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Great write up.

      He looked liked a pretty mature pitcher last night, he struggled a bit but most importantly he placed his pitches when he needed to place them, something he didn't do much of at all last season.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Great article. It reminds me of a Parker Hagueman piece, which I always learn from. Well done!
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      A few more observations. The league average for quality starts is .50. Gibson is at .56. Hughes is only at .61 and for the Correia detractors he is at .56 also which is where he was last year. In other words, not ace material but better than average. I would imagine based on quality starts it puts him at least as a #3 pitcher. Gibson has a 6 ERA with more than 5 days rest but looks like he is at his best with exactly 5 days off and there seems to be a consensus with announcers that you don't want sinkerballers to have too much rest so this may be one of the significant factors. His ERA is 21 at domed stadiums and he pitches better in the daytime.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quality work, iTwins! This is the kind of stuff that helps make TD such a great place. Thanks!
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dantes929 View Post
      A few more observations. The league average for quality starts is .50. Gibson is at .56. Hughes is only at .61 and for the Correia detractors he is at .56 also which is where he was last year. In other words, not ace material but better than average. I would imagine based on quality starts it puts him at least as a #3 pitcher. Gibson has a 6 ERA with more than 5 days rest but looks like he is at his best with exactly 5 days off and there seems to be a consensus with announcers that you don't want sinkerballers to have too much rest so this may be one of the significant factors. His ERA is 21 at domed stadiums and he pitches better in the daytime.
      League average for quality starts is not a good measure for judging a starter -- it fails to account at all for the pitcher's performance in nearly half of his starts! Judging by his overall numbers, Correia must be pretty bad in his other starts (not to mention, how often does one greatly exceed the qualty start definition and give his team an excellent chance of winning).

      There is nothing here that isn't captured better than the overall numbers, really.
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