Will Kyle Gibson Help the St. Louis Cardinals?
The St. Louis Cardinals entered the offseason with a goal to add to their starting rotation. Many believed they would bid heavily for the services of the top options on the market, and while that may still be the case, they have spent over $20 million to bring in two veteran starters in their mid-30s. After signing Lance Lynn on Monday, the Cardinals added Kyle Gibson on a one-year deal. Gibson is an intriguing arm that any team would have been happy to have but can he really help the Cardinals?
At the age of 35, Gibson signed a one-year $10 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles for the 2023 season. The team was young with some questions about the rotation (sound familiar?) and they decided to bring in Gibson as a lower-cost short-term solution.
When all was said and done Gibson turned in a solid year for an Orioles team that won over 100 games and went to the postseason. Over the course of 33 starts, Gibson tossed 192 innings and pitched to a 4.73 ERA, 4.13 FIP, and an 87 ERA+. He managed to win 15 games but that could be more of a testament to the Orioles offense and bullpen than it is to him exactly.
Still, the first thing that sticks out about Gibson that could make him attractive to the Cardinals is the fact that he is a durable workhorse. Since 2014, Gibson has never pitched less than 140 innings in a full season and made less than 25 starts. He has made at least 30 starts in six of his 11 seasons in the big leagues, including a full 12 starts in the shortened 2020 season.
In all but five starts last season, Gibson completed at least five innings. In 19 starts he completed at least six innings. It’s also worth noting that Gibson had just six starts in which he allowed more than four runs in a game. It may not be the prettiest results but Gibson at least can be trusted to take the ball every five days and give the team a chance to win.
That brings up the next thing to consider; how can he limit damage to give the team a chance to win? Gibson’s 48.9% groundball rate ranked eighth in the Majors a helpful figure for a somewhat soft tosser. A high ground ball rate doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be good for the Cardinals, but with such a thin rotation they need someone that can be efficient and give them plenty of work.
Gibson has to rely on ground balls because he is prone to give up a lot of hits. His 198 hits allowed in 2023 led the league and opponents batted .270 against him. He doesn’t hurt himself with too many walks and has a career 2.31 SO/BB ratio. It is concerning that he posted a career-high 44.5% hard-hit rate in 2023 while giving up 23 home runs.
Gibson has at least been consistent with his arsenal on the mound. His sinker and fastball top out at 91 mph while implementing a traditional mix of offspeed and breaking pitches. Unfortunately, he doesn’t generate many swings and misses or chases which is an area of concern for the Cardinals rotation.
Overall, Gibson wouldn’t isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world for the Cardinals. His veteran know-how and groundball identity will make him a reliable option and with a rotation still in question for 2024, it wouldn’t hurt to have someone like Gibson around to eat innings and make 30 starts, thus giving younger pitchers a bit more time to progress in the minors and give the Cardinals a chance to recalibrate some things. The team has to be able to snag one of the pitchers that has higher strikeout numbers like Blake Snell if their efforts to rebuild their rotation pay off next season.
As he enters his age 36 season, it’s only natural that numbers will continue to change negatively, however, his track record could prove useful and benefit the team in some small way.