Kyle Gibson: Sneaky Pitcher Progression

Is there not a more joyous time to be an American?

Donald Trump continues his pompous, confusing stretch as a faux-political ghoul, Kanye West’s TLOP release has been a Tidal wave (clever, yes) of steady delays, while Peyton Manning’s past discretions are now present scrutinies. And yet, pitchers and catchers report in three days, so how bad can everything really be?

My baseball withdrawals have gotten to such a point that within the past three weeks, I’ve blown through about 15 years of Out Of The Park 16 gameplay, and for that, I show no such remorse. Still, I miss the real thing. I want it back.

In an attempt to ease the burden of bypassing 49 days until Opening Night, I was somewhat inspired by fellow colleague Jake Hasan, who wrote an article last week predicting the breakout of ten young players poised to make a splash. In a different spin, I hoped to pinpoint not a leap to stardom per se, but rather an underdog that should continue to build on a growing foundation.

That man being Kyle Gibson.

Sep 3, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Kyle Gibson (44) pitches in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

As much as I love watching Jose Fernandez or Matt Harvey pump heat into the strike zone, it can be refreshing to watch guys that rely more on pitchability than sheer stuff.

Kyle Gibson falls into that category.

A first-round pick in 2009, Gibson didn’t break in with the Minnesota Twins until 2013. His delayed debut can be attributed to Tommy John Surgery in 2011. Upon his call-up, Gibson struggled to a 6.53 ERA in 10 starts, including a 13.5 HR/FB% and .350 BABIP. Despite a 50.3 GB%, Gibson fell victim to an above-average 8.4 BB% and a dismal 12.2 K%. Though, the past two seasons, Gibson has seen a precipitous increase in comfort, which has translated into furthering consistency.

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Gibson has shaken off his disappointing debut, and reeled off consecutive years of growing upside. Most noticeably, despite an impressive two-seam fastball, Gibson has opted for more changeups, because, well, he’s got a good one.

Credit: MLB.com

Credit: MLB.com

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As you can see, Gibson has gotten away from his original blueprint as a stingy sinker-baller, instead learning how to manipulate his entire arsenal, specifically his changeup. Despite a less-than prototypical speed differential from his fastball to changeup, Gibson swaps major dip in velocity for stellar downward movement. In fact, Gibson’s weighted run value on his changeup took a tremendous skyward uptick from 2014 to 2015, shooting from 0.9 to 9.1.

In Gibson, you also get a pitcher whose two-seam fastball equips well down-and-in to righties, low-and-away to lefties, and is also unafraid to sneak a Maddux-esque fastball that starts on a lefty’s hip, breaking back over the inner-half of the plate. Though his slider usage slightly fell, it’s turned into a strikeout pitch against both lefties and righties.

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Credit: MLB.com

Not a bad pitch, eh?

Furthermore, as his career has progressed, Gibson has shown the kind of peripheral improvement you’d hope to see.

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Over the course of three years, Gibson has produced more swings and misses, retroactively causing less contact. Factor in the growing repertoire, and you’re looking at a pitcher whose confidence is slowly taking root. More first-pitch strikes and swings and misses can be equated in different ways, but simply, it identifies someone who is growing into a pitcher with an understanding of what he is. I’d also tab his expanded pitch discipline numbers on his furthered unpredictability towards the plate.

Gibson is never going to wow the masses to overwhelming awe, but his formula works. Sinking fastballs, warping changeups and the occasional breaking ball can pitch to sustainability. I’m not sure Gibson is ever to going to explode into a superstar, but when compromising a roster of 25 of your best, improving pitchers like him tend to stand out.

And it appears his best is yet come.

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