Minnesota Twins starter Kyle Gibson didn’t get the win in his seven innings of shutout work Tuesday night against the Royals—the final score was 2-1, Kansas City, in 14 innings—but he did get another opportunity to show off his glorious slider, a strikeout pitch that’s been better at getting swings and misses this season than even Shohei Ohtani’s splitter.
Gibson picked up eight Ks tonight, almost exclusively using his newly unhittable breaking pitch when he had Royals hitters at two strikes. After never rising above seven strikeouts per nine innings in his first five seasons for the Twins, Gibson’s now averaging over a strikeout per inning so far this year.
Yes, this is a small sample size. And, yes, it’s very possible that Gibson can’t keep it up. But regardless of whether or not it lasts, this pitch is so much fun to watch.
The way the bottom just consistently, impossibly drops out is therapeutic—at least if you’re not the hitter.
Regression to the mean doesn’t feel like a guarantee here. As Fangraphs noted in a prescient February article, Gibson overhauled his approach in the second half of 2017, and part of that change was almost exclusively throwing his slider out of the strike zone to get hitters to chase it.
But as much as Angels fans would like to yell “DON’T SWING! IT’S A BALL!” at Kole Calhoun as he’s down 1-2 in the count, Gibson’s pitch looks so damn hittable coming out of his hand.
Even on an endless repeating loop, it can trick you every time.
Until major-league hitters get used to Gibson’s tendency, take some time to appreciate his ghostly movement.