Saturday, May 19, 2018

A return of "SOG" (one day only, we hope)

Kyle Gibson allowed five earned runs in 5.1 innings on eight hits and four walks Friday night. Last year at this time I referred to such outings from him as "SOG" -- Same Old Gibson. This year, such outings have been rare indeed.

Last season he learned to incorporate a four-seam fastball into his mix of pitches and use it in the upper levels of the strike zone. He pitched quite well down the stretch in 2017 after his second brief demotion to Triple A, and for the most part has done so this season as well, Friday's clunker notwithstanding. His new approach has, among other benefits, sharply boosted his strikeout rate.

Gibson is no longer a "sinker-slider guy." He has a broader range of pitches now -- and they are usable pitches, pitches he can actually get outs with, not just throw out of the strike zone.

The high fastball is emerging in pitching theory as a means to combat the hitters who are focused on "launch angle," or hitting the ball in the air. Jake Odorizzi has deployed that approach for some time, and Gibson has clearly embraced it as well.

With any luck, this trend will prompt Bert Blyleven to stop mindlessly declaring that any hard-hit ball was "up in the zone" regardless of its actual location. Ot maybe that's too much to ask for.

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