Kyle Gibson article II: Electric Boogaloo
Last Friday, The Times took a (statistically inclined) look at how Twins’ starting pitcher, Kyle Gibson, had started the season, and whether or not his success was sustainable. The conclusion was that if his changeup had truly become a strikeout pitch maybe his success could be sustained, but otherwise it seemed unlikely. Well Gibson got in a start over the weekend, and the results were mixed. Here’s a way too quick look at what can be taken away from that start.
On Sunday, Kyle Gibson took the mound against the Tampa Bay Rays and went 5.0 innings, allowing three runs (all earned), eight hits, two walks, while only striking out two and taking the loss. It wasn’t a heinous start from the tall righty, but it also wasn’t as strong as his previous four outings.
In fact, those ten baserunners allowed have only been topped once this season by Gibson, in his awful first start of the season. The two strikeouts were also well below average, but there was something a bit more disturbing than either of those signs.
That changeup that was potentially becoming a strikeout pitch? Not so much on Sunday. According to BrooksBaseball, Gibson threw 17 changeups on Sunday, and not once did a Tampa Bay Ray swing and miss at the offering. That’s not good. In Gibson’s aforementioned start on May 12, when many optimistic Twins’ writers wrote about Gibson’s changeup turning a corner, Gibson not only had four strikeouts with the changeup, but got the Tigers, a better hitting team than the Rays by the way, to swing and miss at his changeup seven times despite throwing the pitch three fewer times (14 compared to 17).
Now to the caveats. Of course, this is just a one-game sample from Gibson, so decrying his changeup because of one outing in which the pitch didn’t have the results he was looking for would be overreactionary and silly. There’s also the fact that Gibson still had a passable start with those five innings and three runs. Even though that makes for an ERA of 6.00, it’s only one shutout inning shy of a quality start. Finally, if you want to really read between the lines, the Rays are a team that has always emphasized changeups from the pitching side of things, so their hitters may well be better versed to handle a strong changeup than your average team; although that might be stretching it.
In the end, we’re just working with a one-game sample so there’s only so much that can be parsed from the information available. It’s not a great sign, but let’s wait a few more starts.