Texas Rangers: Is the cutter key to Kyle Gibson’s bounce-back year?

Sep 10, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Kyle Gibson (44) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 10, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Kyle Gibson (44) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Texas Rangers’ Kyle Gibson has added a cutter to his repertoire this spring, looking to make his arsenal deeper and more effective.

The Texas Rangers have had success over the past four seasons signing and re-establishing major league pitchers.

Mike Minor came first, followed by Lance Lynn and as of last year, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles.

As for Minor and Lynn, they both had solid first two seasons with the Texas Rangers, and both got dealt for prospects.

Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles did not find that same success in 2020, but in the grand scheme of things, not a lot of major league players did.

Texas Rangers Kyle Gibson
Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Kyle Gibson has a new pitch at Texas Rangers’ spring training.

Gibson came to Texas from Minnesota on a three year, $30 million deal, almost identical to those of Minor and Lynn.

The longtime Twins’ right-hander had a 4.29 ERA over his first seven years in the big leagues, striking out 845 opposing hitters and walking 392.

Gibson has never been considered a strikeout pitcher, but more of a ground ball specialist.

Over his eight year career, Gibson’s strikeout percentage sits just over 18%, whereas his career ground ball percentage is 51.5%.

In a new ballpark that played big in 2020, a high ground ball rate would make Gibson more effective, right?

Well, not necessarily.

In 2020, Gibson had career highs in BB/9 (4.01), HR/9 (1.60) and home runs to fly ball ratio (26.7%).

Basically, Kyle Gibson was walking opposing batters at a career high and over a quarter of his fly balls surrendered left the ballpark.

According to FanGraphs, Kyle Gibson threw 1,139 pitches from July 28 to September 26.

Over those two months, right-handed batters took advantage of the low-and-away pitches that Gibson threw, I.e. his curveball, slider, changeup and sinker.

Left-handers dominated in their “nitro-zone” down-and-in, and over the middle-away portion of home plate where Gibson would start his sinker to lefties.

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He looks to counteract their success with a newly-added cut fastball.

In addition to adding another potential strikeout pitch, the newly added cutter should allow Gibson to come in on left-handers more effectively and run it away from right-handers with a much sharper break than his slider.

According to Chris Halicke of SI Now, Gibson featured his newly-added cutter during his first spring outing against the San Francisco Giants.

He used it roughly “8 to 10 times,” Halicke said.

In his one inning, Gibson gave up a walk and a single to open up the inning. He quickly followed with a double-play and a groundout to finish his one and only frame of the day.

The Giants featured six lefties and one switch-hitter in their starting nine against Kyle Gibson, so it allowed him to feature the new pitch.

"“I really wanted to see how the hitters reacted to it. I didn’t care if I threw three or four in a row, didn’t care if the same hitter saw it as many times as possible. I wanted to kind of see how it was going to work off a few pitches.” – Kyle Gibson"

For what it’s worth, Kyle Gibson had success in his first outing with all of his pitches, and touched the mid-90s with his fastball.

As he he begins to get stretched out for what we assume will be his Opening Day start, we’ll have to see how his new cutter plays in longer outings.

How much will he use it? Will he only use it against lefties?

A lot of question arise when you experiment with a new pitch, but Gibson has been around the league awhile and should adjust fine.

Next. Arihara struggles in first start. dark

Kyle Gibson, as of now, would be the frontrunner to start Opening Day for the Texas Rangers, and the perfect stage to showcase his new, effective cutter.

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