LENZ: Evaluating Kyle Gibson Through Two Starts

Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Feeling conflicted myself, I turned to Twitter to gauge the temperature of where people are at with Kyle Gibson through two starts.

Some people are ready to call him an ace, some people are skeptical and others are still waiting for that “typical Gibson” game line that looks something like five earned runs in three innings pitched while striking out none and allowing about 10 baserunners.

Meanwhile, through two starts he is 1-0 with a microscopic 0.87 ERA (2.95 FIP), a 1.26 WHIP (better than his career WHIP) and has the lowest hard-hit percentage of his career at 12.9 percent.

The Twins have starting pitching depth down in AAA, so if things don’t work out well for another long stretch this year then I don’t know if manager Paul Molitor can confidently keep trudging him out there every fifth day with the talent that is waiting in Rochester.

Fernando Romero and Adalberto Meija will be right on his heels hoping to become a rotation regular at the big-league level.

With the numbers mentioned above why even worry about a possible move to the bullpen? To answer that question let’s look at more meaningful statistics and some video analysis.

Acknowledging the fact this is a small sample size, I have seen some concerning trends that should be watched over his next few starts.

Throughout his career, Gibson has thrown his fastball for a strike 24.4 percent of the time and his change-up 56.6 percent of the time. Through two starts, his strike percentages are down to 18.9 and 21.2 for his fastball and changeup, respectively.

His sinker and slider at about his career norms while the strike percentage of his curveball has increased going up from 28 percent to 34.4 percent.

Overall, he’s actually throwing nearly the same strike rate that he normally does which is right around 39 percent. So where’s the concern?

If you were to look back at his previous starts — or pay attention during his next start — don’t hyperfocus on balls and strikes. A better indicator of a pitcher’s control is to look where the catcher asks for the ball compared to where it is actually delivered.

An easy way to do this is to focus on how much the catcher’s mitt moves as the ball is delivered to the plate and you’ll see that Gibson has really struggled with this in his first two starts.

In a small sample you may not see the effects of this, but over an entire season, this can be very harmful to a pitchers performance.

Below you’ll see a few examples of this from Thursday. Below, the pitch called is low and inside but Gibson throws it high and inside for a ball.

On the next one, you see another call for low and inside but Gibson throws it high and over the middle of the plate.

One more example, you’ll see Mitch Garver ask for a low and away pitch, but Gibson delivers a belt-high, inside fastball for a strike.

Again, balls and strikes aren’t quite as important as a pitcher hitting his spots is.

In this small sample, Gibson has relied on his fastball much more than his changeup and curve, so although there are noticeable discrepancies in strike percentage between all three of those pitches, let’s specifically look at a concerning trend related to the delivery of his fastball.

A goal of all pitchers is to be consistent in their delivery and to repeat the same motion every time. This reduces the risk of injury and helps improve their control.

I noticed many times that Gibson was overthrowing especially when it came to his fastball. Take a look at the pictures below and compare where Gibson finishes his follow-through:

The first example is a perfectly located fastball for a strike and the second is another example of Gibson missing his spot on a pitch that was supposed to be in the same location as the pitch on the first.

In the second, he falls further towards the first side base of the mound which is an indicator that he is overthrowing as is momentum carries him further off the mound. Examples of this can be seen over and over throughout both of his starts.

From here on out, the Twins are going to need to see more consistency from Gibson’s delivery to see more consistent results. Fix the command issues and you fix a lot of what Gibson struggles with.

To this point, his results look good partly because he is facing offenses that aren’t very good. The first real test will come next time out against the defending champion Houston Astros.


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