There’s little room for argument that Kyle Gibson has been a frustrating pitcher to watch, and probably to coach, over his four full major league seasons. Brilliant one start and seemingly brain-dead the next, far too often nibbling away his advantage after getting ahead in counts, and never seeming to trust his best stuff in tough situations despite ample evidence that he can and should. But we may be witnessing a metamorphosis of sorts with Gibby and this could be a breakout season for the 31-year old Hoosier, with the normal caveat about staying healthy.
Late last year Gibson finally started to show some confidence and consistency on the mound and finished the season strong. His Achilles heel continues to be inefficiency as he’s only averaged 5 1/3 innings per start this season despite notching impressive performance stats, to wit a 3.38 ERA (good for a 129 ERA+) that's nicely in line with his 3.42 FIP. He’s allowed only two long balls in 32 innings and pitched to a meager .212 opponent batting average while maintaining a low 1.28 WHIP. And he’s been an effective control and ground ball pitcher, tallying 36 strikeouts with a 2.25 K/BB ratio and 1.57 grounders for every fly ball struck. All told it’s been worth 0.9 WAR from Gibson through April.
Opposing Gibson today is James Shields, who has struggled some out of the gate to a 1-3 record. His 5.35 ERA and 4.73 FIP indicate he’s been a bit unlucky and the Pale Hose have lost five of his seven starts, four of them by a single run. Twins on the current roster have 200 at bats against Shields with a respectable slash line of .260/.323/.465/.788. Dozier especially has feasted, sporting a .333 average and 1.224 OPS against Shields, who has contributed just 0.2 WAR for the Southsiders this year.
Enough with the egghead stats already, this game happens on a field, not a spreadsheet. Play ball!