One of the first offseason moves made by Mike Elias after the 2022 season was the signing of starting pitcher Kyle Gibson. With Jordan Lyles exiting the stage, the Orioles needed a new team dad and Gibson got the gig. They also needed a pitcher who could eat a fair amount of innings to take the load off the young pitchers. And if he could offer the gift of wisdom from his long career, even better.
It wasn’t an exciting signing when it happened and it was only more frustrating when the offseason stretched on and Elias didn’t follow up with bigger moves. But neither of those things is Kyle Gibson’s fault and, in the end, he did what was asked of him. And it turns out he’s pretty darn likable as well.
As the veteran on the team, Gibson was bestowed the honor of pitching on Opening Day on the road against the Red Sox. He wasn’t very good. He allowed four runs in five innings, but thanks to a big day by the offense, he picked up the first of his 15 wins as an Oriole. He settled in after that, never flashy but usually giving the Orioles some length.
Gibson took his job of eating innings seriously. His 33 games started were the most in the league and he came close to 200 innings pitched. His total of 192 in 2023 is the third-most in his career and the most in a season since 2018 (196.2). He pitched at least six innings 19 times in 33 starts and only failed to complete five innings five times.
Gibson got off to a decent start to the year, pitching to a 3.89 ERA in April and May. Over 12 starts, Gibson averaged just about six innings per start and the team went 8-4. But things took a turn after that. Gibson pitched abysmally in both June (6.89 ERA) and August (7.89 ERA) sandwiched around a middling July (4.21 ERA).
By the time August ended, it felt like there was no way Gibson could stay in the rotation. Heck, before the end of August it felt that way. The Orioles were rolling and Gibson was struggling, punctuated by a 4.1 IP, 7 R outing against the terrible Chicago White Sox to end the month.
But then the final month began and somehow, Gibson had his finest stretch of the season. Over his final five starts he dropped his ERA from an unsightly 5.15 to a poor but not quite so embarrassing 4.72. The Orioles went 4-1 in Gibson’s final five starts as he pitched to a 2.45 ERA.
I think it’s fair to say that Gibson did exactly what was asked of him as a one-year signing for a team that needed a veteran. He was incredibly frustrating to watch at times, but at the end of the season, the full package was worth it. In addition to his overall steady presence on the field, he was lauded by both players and manager Brandon Hyde for being a mentor to the young players, fun in the clubhouse, and a good guy off the field.
Let’s go back to how he’s fun for just a minute. A recap of Kyle Gibson’s season would not be complete without remembering some of the finest television you’ll ever see courtesy of Gibson and the MASN studios. With the Orioles winning big in Atlanta in early May, backup catcher James McCann hit a ground ball and hustled his way into a double.
The double, of course, engaged the sprinkler move and the subsequent fountain from the starting pitchers in the dugout. Except the play was challenged and McCann didn’t make the sprinkler move. But Gibson and his fellow starters had already loaded up their fountains. What followed was one of the most endearing and hilarious moments that we’d see all year long.
Hitting the sprinkler is not for the weak pic.twitter.com/OjAx0joYFH— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) May 6, 2023
Kyle Gibson was not a great pitcher in 2023, but he was on a great Orioles team that will be a favorite team for many of us for the rest of our lives. He did what was asked of him. He provided innings as a stalwart of the rotation. He gave the Orioles a chance to win; they went 20-13 in his starts during the year. He provided an example to the younger members of the rotation. And he had a lot of fun doing it.
Gibson won’t be a member of the 2024 Orioles. No one ever expected he would be. If the Orioles can make 2023 the first year of a sustained run of success, he won’t be remembered the way we (hopefully) remember Grayson Rodriguez, Kyle Bradish, and others. But for this year, he did his job.
Monday: John Means