Kyle Gibson has not pitched well for the Minnesota Twins. Is there still a way for him to be useful?
Within an hour after the Minnesota Twins lost to the Oakland Athletics, the Twins optioned Kyle Gibson down to triple-A Rochester.
Gibson, quite frankly, stunk the entire month of April and into his first start in May. He never went deeper than 5 1-3 innings into a game. He also never gave up less than three runs in a single outing.
The Twins gave Gibson enough of a chance to stick around, but he never could return the favor by giving the Twins a chance to win a game.
Finding a new role
There is a way for Gibson to remain in the majors but after the demotion, it’s time to change his role with the Twins immediately.
Gibson needs to become a reliever.
He’s simply not useful anymore as a starter and could become an effective pitcher out of the bullpen.
At first, there was hope Gibson could remain an MLB average pitcher upon finding a semi-favorable comparison to Shelby Miller.
Miller’s stats were generally better than Gibson’s but the three-year average of both pitchers was awfully similar.
Miller ‘s average FIP was 4.15, while Gibson’s was 4.11. Both averaged nearly identical strikeout and walk totals per year. Gibson struck out an average of 119 and walked 59 batters per season while Miller averaged 123 strikeouts and 63 walks.
Using this comparison, one stat line differentiates the two, one that isn’t favorable to Gibson.
Looking at the number of plate appearances per game, Gibson struggles the second time through the batting order while Miller doesn’t until the third time through.
- Opposing slash lines first through the order in their careers.Gibson: .267/.324/.396. Miller: .215/.291/.351.
- The second time through. Gibson: .296/.357/.471. Miller: .251/.312/.383.
- Third time through. Gibson: .259/.334/.359. Miller: .282/.357/.443.
So if Gibson can’t handle facing hitters a second time, why continue as a starter?
This brings us back to the idea of converting to a reliever.
A great comparison is Luke Hochevar when looking for starters turned relievers.
Hochevar, like Gibson, struggled when facing batters for the second time as a starter. At age 29, Hochevar became a reliever and put up great numbers.
At age 29, Hochevar became a reliever and put up great numbers. His ERA was 1.92, which was down from 5.73 the previous year. His SO/9 increased from 7.0 the previous season to 10.5. Additionally, his BB/9 decreased from 9.8 to 5.2.
Below is a FanGraphs comparison chart of Gibson, Miller and Hochevar’s ERA by age.
Hochevar’s ERA is slightly higher than Gibson’s in each of the three previous seasons leading up to their respective season at age 29.
It’s also worth noting that Gibson keeps the ball on the ground better than Hochevar did as a starter.
Gibson induced a groundball on 54.4 percent of balls hit in play when facing the order for the first time, which is 6.4 percent higher than Hochevar in the same scenario.
It appears Gibson should become a reliever and could be as good as if not better than Hochevar.