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.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
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.
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
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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