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What Is Kyle Gibson's Innings Limit and How Long Will He Stay In Minnesota?

The Twins 2009 first-round draft pick makes his Major League debut tonight.


In terms of "Going the Distance", it's not going to happen this year for Kyle Gibson. Unless your name is Mike Pelfrey, expectations for pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery has evolved into something of a science over the last few years. Missing the end of 2011 and the majority of 2012, we always knew that Gibson would be on an innings limit this season. Most outlets report that the Twins will limit Gibson to between 130 and 150 innings.

You could make the argument that it's more about the number of pitches thrown than the number of innings.

130 Innings 150 Innings
14 Pitches per Inning 1820 2100
17 Pitches per Inning 2210 2550

Averaging just three additional pitches per inning will, cumulatively, add a lot of mileage to an arm that's supposed to be very carefully managed. If the Twins keep to purely innings, by the examples above Gibson's pitch count would grow by 21%.

From the other side, recovering from Tommy John surgery really isn't an exact science. Again, see: Mike Pelfrey. It's easy to see how relying on pitching counts, instead of inning counts, makes things too fine. Telling Kyle "Okay, you have 2200 pitches to throw, and then we're shutting you down" is silly. The first issue you run into is the opposite of the innings issue, in that not all pitches are created equal. The second issue is that you'd be asking Gibson to pretend to pitch under normal circumstances when , in the back of his mind, he knows that the more efficient he is with his pitches the more innings he'll be able to throw - and that's going to affect how he approaches batters. You like to see pitchers be efficient, but it's not a race.

Gibson has already recorded 93 innings in Rochester this season. At six innings per start it means the Twins will allow him to make six starts before they shut him down for the season at around 130 innings; you can add another four starts or so onto that if they choose to let him go 150 innings.

I imagine that we'll see Gibson make around eight starts, which means he could be in the Twins rotation until the middle of August. A full ten starts would get him to September, when rosters expand and he'd be able to stay with the Twins and just learn by watching without pitching.

In terms of "Going the Distance", if we're just looking at 2013 then of course Gibson won't make it. At least not as an active member of the rotation. But in terms of going forward? It's easy to see him having a good career as a pitcher at or near the front of the Twins' rotation.