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Kyle Gibson’s start on Saturday was one of the best of his career

Gibson went 7 innings, striking out ten and walking none.

Oakland Athletics v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Kyle Gibson was dominant on Saturday, that much we know for sure. Gibson, who is not usually a strikeout pitcher, struck out 10 Athletics batters in just seven innings. It was just the fourth time in his career that he’s recorded double-digit strikeouts and the first time he’s done so without walking a single batter.

With that in mind, I wanted to see how this start compared to some of the best of Gibson’s career.

Gibson, whose career strikeout rate (K/9) is 14% worse than league-average, doesn’t often strike out a ton of batters. These are the only four games in his career in which he’s recorded more than 10 punch outs.

Kyle Gibson’s double-digit strikeout games

Date Opponent IP ER K BB HR Pitches Game Score
Date Opponent IP ER K BB HR Pitches Game Score
April 9, 2022 Athletics 7 0 10 0 0 82 83
June 26, 2021 Royals 7 0 10 1 0 95 82
May 8, 2019 Blue Jays 6 1 11 1 1 88 74
April 26, 2018 Yankees 6 0 10 3 0 95 77

Quality of opponents notwithstanding, Gibson’s start on Saturday is the best of this bunch. It took Gibson fewer pitchers (82) to record double-digit strikeouts than ever before in his career. It was just the third time in his career that he allowed only 2 baserunners in a start.

Saturday’s start also has the highest game score of those four. Here’s how it compares to Gibson’s other best starts by game score.

Kyle Gibson’s best starts by game score

Date Opponent Game Score Game Score (v2) IP Pitches ER K BB
Date Opponent Game Score Game Score (v2) IP Pitches ER K BB
September 16, 2020 Astros 85 91 9 114 0 9 3
June 14, 2019 Royals 84 92 8 88 0 6 0
April 9, 2022 Athletics 83 88 7 82 0 10 0

These are the top three starts of Gibson’s career by both traditional Game Score and the more precise Game Score version 2. All three of these starts were outstanding, and their game scores are close enough that you could argue any one of them was the most dominant start of Gibson’s career.

While he had slightly higher game scores in the other two starts, here’s the case for why Kyle Gibson’s first start of 2022 was the most impressive of his career.

On Saturday, Gibson went 7 innings on just 82 pitches. He allowed only 22 baserunners (one more than the minimum) in those 7 innings of work. He recorded ten strikeouts without allowing a walk or a home run.

He accomplished this at 34 years old and with a fastball that seems to be declining in velocity. In his shutout against Houston in 2020, Gibson’s fastball averaged 92.4 MPH (per FanGraphs). In his 8-inning start against Minnesota in 2019, it averaged 94.1 MPH. On Saturday, it averaged just 91.6 MPH.

It’s hard to say if that decline in velocity is due to Gibson’s age or the delayed Spring Training, but it’s noteworthy either way. Kyle Gibson had, arguably, the most dominant start of his career at the oldest he’s ever been and in his first start of the season after a delayed Spring Training.

The Debbie Downer in me feels the need to point out that this start was against one of the worst teams in baseball: the Oakland Athletics. That doesn’t make Gibson’s performance any less dominant, but it does explain the dominance to a certain degree.

You could certainly argue that Gibson’s 2020 shutout against the eventual AL champion Houston Astros was the more skillful performance, even though he walked three batters, took 114 pitches to get through the game, and benefitted from two runners caught stealing. I’m inclined to agree with that argument myself.

Nevertheless, Kyle Gibson’s start on Saturday was incredible, and it’s a very encouraging sign. The Phillies only need Gibson to be a reliable, inning-eating fifth starter, and if he can be more than that, this Phillies rotation is going to be really, really good.