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Grading the 2019 Twins: Kyle Gibson

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Who passes — and who fails?

Divisional Series - Minnesota Twins v New York Yankees - Game One
This may have been Kyle Gibson’s last game wearing a uniform trimmed with Kasota gold. It was not a good one.
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

This is another in the “Grading the 2019 Twins” series, as you may have guessed from the title. If this is your first time venturing beyond the home page into this series, here’s how these articles work: the author discusses a player’s 2019 season and hands out a letter grade, then everyone else votes in the poll at the end and chats about it in the comments. There is occasionally pie provided. Previous entries to the series can be found in the links below.

At the end of 2018, Kyle Gibson had finished the season as, though far from atop the league, one of the Twins’ best starting pitchers. His 3.62 ERA topped all Twins starters, his 196.2 innings pitched most on the team, his 179 strikeouts behind only Jose Berrios, his 4.13 FIP third (behind Tyler Duffey and Berríos), and his 10-13 record respectable enough for a team which finished 78-84.

On June 2, 2019, Gibson was 6-2 with a 3.75 ERA and appeared to be a solid fourth starter for the Twins, who stood 40-18 with an 11.5-game lead on the Spiders and a record-pace 109 home runs coshed over the wall.

We were a naive fanbase.

The Twins squandered the division and home run leads, got them back, won the AL Central, set the single-season home run record, then in the ALDS played Bambi to the Pinstripe Platoon’s Godzilla. And Gibson finished the year 13-7 (yay!) with a 4.84 ERA (not so yay!) and out of the starting rotation (pick your own interjection!).

Whatever strengths Gibson showed at the onset of the season evaporated with the summer heat. Gibson’s last start without allowing a run came on July 7, when he pitched one inning; before that, you have to flip the calendar to June 14. That mid-June start was also the final appearance where Gibson would exit with an ERA below 4.00, as on June 19 he allowed six earned runs to Boston in 4.1 innings.

Among the 70 starting pitchers to throw at least 150 innings in 2019, Gibson ranks in the bottom half — if not at the bottom — in many statistical categories. Including only his starts, Gibson’s 22.7% K rate ranks 37th, his 4.26 FIP 39th, his 3.08 walks per nine 51st, his 4.89 ERA 64th, his 20.2% HR/FB rate 68th (it’s fortunate Gibson allowed only a 23.7% fly ball rate, third-lowest among the same group), and his minus-1.86 WPA... also 68th.

I don’t need italics for that last one.

Gibson did post an average FIP (4.26), xFIP (3.81), and K/9 (8.8) as a starting pitcher, but his struggles were evident enough to provoke a move to the bullpen. In the month of September, Gibson made six appearances but only started two, in the first giving up five earned runs over 4.2 innings, and in the second allowing three earned runs in 1.2 innings. Out of the bullpen, Gibson pitched just 5.1 innings (including a late-June 17th-inning cameo), allowing seven hits and two earned runs while walking three and striking out eight.

But then came the playoffs.

In Game 1 of the ALDS, Gibson entered in the seventh inning with the Twins down 7-4. When he left the mound after the third out of the inning, the deficit was 10-4, as Gibson walked the bases loaded before giving up a two-out, bases-clearing double. Minnesota, after losing the game, dropped the next two without Gibson returning to the mound. As Gibson is a pending free agent, it’s likely that his ALDS appearance will be his last in a Twins uniform.

By all accounts, Kyle Gibson is a great presence in any locker room and an excellent human being. But between his inability to play up to his modest 2019 expectations, his late-season collapse outside the starting rotation, and his dismal playoff inning, can I pass him?

Before answering that, we must look back at a player already graded by the Twinkie Town staff and community: Martin Perez.

In sandwiches’ article, linked above, Pérez received a C, but the poll is mostly split between C and D, with five more votes for the lower grade. One of those votes was mine.

Pérez’s collapse came after his May 23 start. At that point, he was 7-1 with a 2.95 ERA, but he finished the season with a 10-7 mark, a 5.12 ERA, and several other stats — to name just a few, FIP, WHIP, BB/9, K/9, HR/9, hits/9, cloud/9, and Love Potion No./9 — worse than Gibson’s.

Pérez’s first half was better than Gibson’s, but his collapse far worse, though he remained in the starting rotation throughout the year. As Gibson’s tumble was statistically not as low as Pérez’s, I cannot issue a worse, failing grade. But as the former first-rounder found himself outside the rotation and ended his season with a dreadful inning in the playoffs, I can’t pass him very much.

Twinkie Town regulars know that our editor in chief, T.J. Gorsegner, has long been a Gibson backer. In the first submitted draft of this article, I gave Gibson an F. But T.J.’s argument on Slack based on the two halves of Gibson’s year reminded me of Pérez, and checking his stats — and remembering I’d voted Pérez’s 2019 a D — is what raised Gibson’s grade to what you’ll read below.

EDIT: I had omitted a very important reason for Gibson’s struggles: his pitching through colitis throughout the 2019 season. This was nothing but forgetfulness on my part, and I apologize. While I admire Gibson’s determination and hard work to pitch despite being ill, my grade for him does not change.

Overall Grade: D

Poll

What grade would you give Mitch Garver’s 2019 season?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    A
    (88 votes)
  • 6%
    B
    (20 votes)
  • 27%
    C
    (91 votes)
  • 27%
    D
    (90 votes)
  • 13%
    F
    (44 votes)
333 votes total Vote Now