Twins Daily: Possible roles for Kyle Gibson in the playoffs

What will the Twins do with their veteran starting pitcher?
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Kyle Gibson has had some of the worst luck of anyone in baseball this season. After a great 2018 season in which he posted a 3.62 ERA, Gibby has unfortunately been dealing with ulcerative colitis for much of the season. It seems as if the Twins would like him to be on the 25-man postseason roster, but being used in different roles than he has been in before, including coming out of the bullpen. Does he still have a role for the playoffs? I examined three different ways he could contribute.

The postseason roster for the Twins will likely be carrying twelve or thirteen pitchers, so Kyle Gibson will have a good shot to make it. There are eight locks to make it in (Rogers, Romo, Duffey, Littell, May, Berrios, Odorizzi, Dobnak). Stashak, Smeltzer, Thorpe, Perez, Graterol and of course Gibson are all hoping to make it in. One or two of those guys will not be on the roster.

There are a few different roles the Twins could use Gibson for in the playoffs, including traditional starting pitcher, opener, or bullpen arm. I’ll be exploring each one and attempting to point out which one would best suit him to help make sure the Twins are not going home any time soon.

Starting pitcher

This role seems unlikely with the Twins having success in games with an opener/bullpen games especially recently. It also looks like the Twins will enter the playoffs with a Jose Berrios, Randy Dobnak, Jake Odorizzi and a bullpen-game type of rotation and that seems to maximize their potential to move on. Kyle Gibson does not appear to be going into October as a starting pitcher, especially with his bullpen roles lately and his struggles in the second half.

Since the All-Star break, Kyle Gibson has a 6.05 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, and .852 OPS when he starts a game with more than a full MPH drop in fastball velocity down to 92.8 MPH. He just isn’t healthy enough to get you five quality innings.

Opener or primary pitcher

This is where I would expect the Twins to be able to maximize the outcome for Gibson in the playoffs. It looks like there will be at least one game per series where the Twins have to go with a bullpen game and Kyle Gibson might be the ideal guy to start that game. Let him go out and get through the order one time before you go to your next pitcher. You have the opportunity to pull him as soon as he starts to run into trouble and not have to think twice about it.

There are some stats to back up the idea of letting Gibson start a game for just a couple innings. He has seen success when pitching the first time through the order with a .647 OPS in 2018 and a .698 this season. It gets ugly after that, but it won’t matter what he does the second time through because he shouldn’t see that in October.

Relief pitcher

The role the Twins have been exploring recently is having Gibson come out of the bullpen in the sixth/seventh inning and let him get as many outs as he can. The results have been a mix of success with some discouraging signs. In two relief appearances against Cleveland and Detroit, he has gone three innings while giving up six hits and three runs. The upside is he hasn’t allowed solid contact and he struck out four in his second appearance.

On paper, Kyle Gibson to the bullpen would look good with his quality sinker/slider combo and the ability to hit 96 MPH on the fastball, but it is still a huge adjustment for someone who has spent his entire career in the rotation to switch over to the bullpen in the final weeks of a playoff race.

He is definitely willing to do whatever it takes. According to an article at MLB.com, Gibson approached manager Rocco Baldelli and told him “Listen, I haven’t played here for 6 1/2 years to get this close to winning some playoff games to cause a fuss based on when I pitch and where I pitch and stuff like that.”

He will likely have to beat out two of the guys from a list of Cody Stashak, Brusdar Graterol, Devin Smeltzer, Martin Perez, and Lewis Thorpe so that is certainly something to watch in the final four games. He will likely have two more appearances out of the bullpen before the season ends. 

This article first appeared at Twins Daily and was re-shared through a collaboration between Bring Me The News and Twins Daily. 

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