On Friday July 12, the Indians will begin what is likely the most important regular season series since 2013, against the Minnesota Twins. The Indians season, and in many ways a significant portion of their future, will be impacted by three games in downtown Cleveland. Sweep? The Indians are likely in the short term buyers market. Get swept? The Indians will likely be selling Trevor Bauer. Anything in between? The decisions become cloudier. The series is not determinative on its own but it will be a heavy factor.
With the scale of impact a more thorough consideration of the series became necessary. Therefore, this website will be publishing pitcher previews for each game in this three game series.
Kyle Gibson will open the second half for the Twins in the midst of his best big league season. Since hiring forward-thinking Wes Johnson as pitching coach the Twins have gotten significant contributions from historically insignificant pitchers, Gibson is one such contributor.
Gibson will enter from the center field bullpen with a 4.09 ERA, 4.05 FIP, and for those who care, an 8-4 won-loss record. Gibson does a few things well, most notably he induces ground balls at an above-average clip, 48.3%, which is good for 22nd among qualified starters.
Gibson’s usage has not change much in a larger sense, having simply decreased four-seam fastball usage in exchange for small increases in slider, changeup, and curveball usage.
Unfortunately for the Indians, Gibson’s changeup has been one of his best offerings in 2019, with a 37.5% whiff rate, and an xwOBA against of .258.
In recent weeks, Gage Will outlined how much the Indians have struggled against changeups and other teams are taking advantage of it:
That point illuminates just how putrid they are against changeups from right-handers. In that category, they are dead last with a 0.211 wOBA — a full 90 points behind the middle of the pack and 150 points behind the league-leading Texas Rangers.
Further Gage noted how Jose Berrios spiked changeup usage in his second outing against the Indians in 2019 by 10% in order to attack a perceived weakness.
What does Gibson do with the changeup? He consistently throws it under the hands below the strike zone to RHH.
Against lefties Gibson throws the changeup to the same location of the strike zone, which means against both sides of the plate, he just focuses on commanding the ball to one area.
Focusing in on what will likely be Gibson’s key secondary offering, the Indians have two hitters with an xwOBA above .300 against changeups. Carlos Santana, and small sample size stud Mike Freeman.
It is likely this is partially noise as Francisco Lindor, Tyler Naquin, and Jose Ramirez were all varying levels of productive against changeup in 2018.
Gibson has roughly average sinker velocity sitting at 93 MPH and a solid slider but this game will be driven by stars and the platoon key. These are the sort of matchups that Naquin can establish value. Middling velocity, secondaries down, you need your best platoon bat to exploit the matchup here. As for Santana, Lindor, and Ramirez, well they match up well too.
Attacking the sinker when it misses up in the zone, and spitting on anchangeup that starts at the bottom of the zone is key, well almost any changeup because Gibson rarely throws it in the strike zone.
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