COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Twins are in a little bit of a quandary right now with their young players.
Many are struggling, which should be expected, but the problem is figuring out whom should be allowed to struggle in the major leagues and whom should be demoted.
On Thursday, Aug. 1, the Twins demoted starting pitcher Scott Diamond and center fielder Aaron Hicks to the minor leagues. On Saturday, rookie starter Kyle Gibson had another poor outing, but the Twins have stated he will remain in the rotation.
On the surface, this would appear to be somewhat of a double standard. After all, Diamond has a track record of success in the major leagues after being by far the best starting pitcher in 2012 for the Twins, and Gibson's ERA now stands a full run higher than Diamond's when he was sent down to the minors.
However, the Twins are evaluating each player individually and trying to determine what is best for each player's situation instead of holding all players up to the same standard. This is because each player is unique and reacts to similar situations differently.
In Gibson's case, he's actually pitched better than the standard numbers, such as ERA, would indicate. For example, Gibson has allowed a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .344, which is quite high. This stat looks at all instances where the defense behind a pitcher is involved, so if the average is high, it means the pitcher has either been unlucky or the defense behind him hasn't been very good.
Gibson also has allowed about 10 percent more home runs per fly ball than the American League average, so he's had some bad luck on home runs as well. Gibson has allowed a line-drive rate that is the same as the major-league average, so it doesn't appear that he's made more mistakes than usual.
Gibson also has been better than average at getting ground balls. Most major-league pitchers allow more fly balls than ground balls. Gibson has allowed 1.11 ground balls per fly ball.
Despite this, the Twins have turned a double play behind Gibson in only 8 percent of the double-play opportunities (man on first, less than two outs). The major-league average is 11 percent. The Twins have turned a double play in 13 percent of their opportunities overall, so, again, Gibson hasn't had much luck when a double play could get him out of an inning or at least get him two-thirds of the way there on one pitch.
This is not to say that Gibson has pitched well, just not as bad as it seems. He could continue to pitch as well and you would expect him to start getting better results.
What is clear is that Gibson has much better overall stuff than Diamond. Sending Gibson down to the minor leagues wouldn't do him much good because he would most likely just continue to dominate on his raw talent alone. He needs to stay up in the major leagues and learn how to get major-league hitters out, especially now while the Twins aren't trying to contend.
This, of course, depends on Gibson remaining confident in himself and his abilities. If this starts to waver, the Twins will most likely send him to the minor leagues or even shut him down for the season. Gibson had Tommy John surgery in 2011 and pitched only 52 2/3 innings last year in the minor leagues, so he may be hitting a wall now.
Diamond will be better off working out his issues in the minor leagues. He had offseason surgery to remove bone chips and has not been able to locate his pitches nearly as well this season as he did in 2012. With his stuff, he can't get away with as much in the minor leagues as Gibson could, so it will be easier to work on locating his pitches better in Class AAA Rochester in a more relaxed environment, although the Red Wings are in a pennant race and could very well make the playoffs.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
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