A new series begins tonight at Target Field when the Kansas City Royals meet the Minnesota Twins for the first of three in Minneapolis. The always-tricky Bruce Chen faces off against the up-and-coming Kyle Gibson, an unproven right-hander coming off a short, but solid start.
The 26-year-old Gibson posted a 2.92 ERA in 101 2-3 innings of Triple-A ball last season, but his ERA exploded to 6.53 in 51 innings in MLB. After posting a promising 2.20 ERA in Spring Training this year, Gibson allowed only a single run to score in his first five-inning regular season outing. Gibson can credit his limited success largely to the consistent, if not predictable placement of all his pitches.
Gibson focuses on staying down in the zone, which he does with considerable success to hitters on both sides of the plate. However, the vast majority of pitches to lefties are aimed low and away, making him predictable for any sure-handed lefty batters.
His arsenal includes two fastballs, a change-up, slider and rarely-used curve, and the fastballs account for 69 percent of pitches thrown throughout his career. Roughly 42.4 percent of that is a two-seam fastball, while the remainder is a four-seamer that tops out at 92 mph. Gibson has respectable command over everything in the toolbox, which is perhaps why he can still target such a small area and still be effective.
Gibson will hope to take advantage of being relatively unknown today, so maybe he’ll shake things up with K.C. and do his best to avoid the patterns I’ve detailed here. Nobody in tonight’s projected Royals lineup has seen Gibson in more than three at-bats. To win Game 1 of this critical series and climb above .500, K.C. needs to jump on him early and destroy his confidence. Apparently four runs does the trick every time, so if they score that much tonight, the Royals should be able to seal a victory.