With Jose Berrios expected to make a jump this season and the addition of veterans Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn, it's shocking that Kyle Gibson has been the best starting pitcher for the Twins this season.
Even more shocking is that Gibson has completely changed, evolving from a pitch-to-contact guy to a strikeout pitcher.
The 30-year-old's career-best strikeout season came in 2017 when he whiffed 6.9 batters per nine innings. This season, he's averaging an unreal 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings and is on pace to finish with more than 230 strikeouts.
There are only 12 other starting pitchers in the American League averaging 10+ strikeouts per nine. Ironically, one of them is Lance Lynn (10 K/9), who ranks just behind Gibson even though he's been far less successful overall.
And consider this: Johan Santana, who led the Twins and majors in strikeouts from 2004-06, averaged 10+ strikeouts per nine innings twice in his career (11.4 in 2002, 10.5 in 2005).
Minnesota has had just one starting pitcher crack 200 strikeouts in a season since 2007: Francisco Liriano with 201 in 2010.
Gibson has 44 strikeouts in seven starts this season. Look how long it took him to reach 44 strikeouts each of the first five years of his career
- 2017 - 12 starts
- 2016 - 11 starts
- 2015 - 12 starts
- 2014 - 14 starts
So why has Gibson suddenly changed?
Fox Sports North analyst Roy Smalley says Gibson is now pitching with two fastballs – a two-seamer and a four-seamer – and has found his curveball. He already had an above average sinker and a decent slider, so he's now working with five effective pitches.
If there was ever a reality check it had to of been in his late-April start at Yankee Stadium, when he set a career-high with 10 strikeouts against a Yankees lineup that's an unforgiving as they come.
Gibson's strikeout numbers are up this season, but his turnaround actually started in mid-July last season. Since July 22, 2017, Gibson owns a 3.46 ERA with 114 strikeouts in 115 innings.
If Gibson keeps this up, it'll be an incredible turnaround of what appeared to be a wasted first-round pick by the Twins.