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A defense of Kyle Gibson

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In which I tell you how much better Gibson had actually been, and probably jinx him.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time for another conversation about Kyle Gibson. He was really bad to start the season. I mean atrocious. Awful. Terrible. Horrible. But he had actually been much better before being sent down to make space for the newly acquired Jaime Garcia. Gibson had actually compared very well to his colleagues in the MLB. Don’t take my word for it.

Here are five recent pitching performances:

last start.csv

IP H R ER BB SO HR
IP H R ER BB SO HR
Pitcher A 6 4 0 0 2 9 0
Pitcher B 5 7 2 2 1 2 1
Pitcher C 7.1 5 3 3 3 5 0
Pitcher D 7 8 0 0 1 6 0
Pitcher E 4.2 6 5 4 3 5 0

What if I told you four of these lines belong to AL All-Stars, and the fifth belongs to Kyle Gibson?

They are the most recent outings by Chris Sale (Pitcher A,) Jason Vargas (Pitcher B,) Kyle Gibson (Pitcher C,) Luis Severino (Pitcher D,) and Lance McCullers Jr (Pitcher E.)

But TJ, you’re cherry picking, and that is a small sample size!

You’re right you know, so here are five months of July, one is Gibson, the other four are different guys than before:

july.csv

IP Hits Runs BB's K's HR ERA BAA OBPA SLGA
IP Hits Runs BB's K's HR ERA BAA OBPA SLGA
Pitcher A 22.1 24 13 11 19 4 4.84 .267 .343 .489
Pitcher B 24 25 16 11 16 3 6.00 .269 .346 .419
Pitcher C 16.1 14 11 7 13 4 6.06 .222 .300 .429
Pitcher D 20 21 9 4 16 0 4.05 .269 .305 .372
Pitcher E 19.1 26 17 7 15 4 5.12 .317 .383 .512

Any guesses who is who? There are some names on this list that have been considered desirable to competitive teams (including the Twins).

The guys are: Justin Verlander (Pitcher A), Kyle Gibson (Pitcher B), Jake Odorizzi (Pitcher C), Jaime Garcia (Pitcher D), and Jose Berrios (Pitcher E).

But TJ, you’re just a Gibson apologist. He’s been really bad this year, no matter what his last few starts have been like!

Okay, here’s one more group of pitchers, this time with their numbers for the whole year. As before, it Gibson and four other (and totally different) guys!

year.csv

IP Hits Runs BB's K's HR ERA BAA OBPA SLGA
IP Hits Runs BB's K's HR ERA BAA OBPA SLGA
Pitcher A 98.1 106 63 41 111 14 5.58 .275 .346 .460
Pitcher B 92.2 105 75 44 77 22 7.19 .283 .359 .542
Pitcher C 103.2 106 62 32 87 25 5.04 .264 .323 .514
Pitcher D 96.2 121 62 40 58 14 5.49 .308 .368 .468
Pitcher E 94.2 117 68 45 62 16 6.08 .305 .381 .512

Alright, which one is your favorite? What If I told you there are a total of six World Series rings represented on this chart? Its true.

The names are Trevor Bauer (Pitcher A), Ubaldo Jimenez (Pitcher B), John Lackey (Pitcher C), Matt Cain (Pitcher D), and Kyle Gibson (Pitcher E).

Okay TJ, Fine. You can compare Gibson to a bunch of pitchers. What’s your point?

If I had told you this off-season that the Twins were going to acquire any of those pitchers, you would probably have been very, very excited. No one questions that any of those guys (besides maybe Ubaldo, this year) belong in a MLB rotation.

Don’t subscribe to comparing individual pitchers? We can compare Gibson to the rest the league all at once as well. Here are a few more numbers to prove that Gibson belongs: assume each team will use six starters on average. Times thirty teams, that means there are 180 “MLB Starters.” Even if each team only uses five, that means 150 “MLB Starters.” Therefore any pitcher better than #150 is, in theory, better than replacement value (yes, I know I’m making a lot of assumptions about the distribution of pitchers, but it works in a vacuum).

For pitchers with a minimum of 60 innings pitched (about 10-12 starts)...

Gibson ranks...

#137 in ERA.

#132 in K/9 and FIP

#78 in innings pitched

#109 in HR/9

#120 in Hits allowed and Strikeouts

#139 in WHIP

#143 in K/BB

#134 in SIERA

The point being, Gibson is not an Ace. He’s not great. He is however, a serviceable major league starter. You don’t want to count on him to be one of your top guys, but he can be useful in the back of the rotation. He’ll eat some innings and give your team a chance to win with proper run support. That’s what a fifth starter should do, and Gibson does that.

Though he was sent down yesterday to make room for the newly acquired Jaime Garcia, Gibson can still provide valuable depth for the Twins starting rotation.