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A Tale of Two Gibsons

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Kyle Gibson was lights out last night as he held the Mariners scoreless over six innings of work. He scattered 7 hits, but only walked one batter while striking out three to turn in his 8th dominate performance on the year, improving his overall record to 8 wins, 7 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 last night 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, 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 the splits:

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 better in average in losses while seeing opponentís OPS double (!) Obviously, in a loss, starters are going to post worse numbers than they do in wins, but they 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

While 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 a bit inaccurate. Heís turned in quality outings in Texas, Boston and Detroit while his last "dud" start 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% while in losses the fastball usage resides closer to 51%-57% of the time. 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:


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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 to batters and then 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.

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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.


 
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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 dramatic 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 scene 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 simple be because he hasnít figured out how to work with what he has on any given night. Hopefully 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.
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Comments

  1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
    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.



  2. naobermiller's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa
    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.



    I agree with this 100%. Gibson was OK. worked out of some jams, and it's difficult to be disappointed when a guy goes six scoreless. But in a Low Leverage game like that, you'd hope for a little better.
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