The lead for the Phillies that they currently possess over the Milwaukee Brewers in the race for the final wild card position stands at 1 1⁄2 games. Each game is precious and needs to be treated as a must win. With the magic number (as of this writing) standing at eight, the team cannot make in-game decisions based on emotion or personal preference for players. It has to put the good of the team above all else if they want to make sure that they are in the best position to continue playing baseball on October 7th.
Therefore, Kyle Gibson cannot throw another pitch as a starter for the Phillies this year.
All year long, the team has ridden the rotation as the strength of their team and for good reason. Led by Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, they have provided the team with the most consistency throughout the season when the offense wasn’t clicking, the bullpen got sketchy and...well...the less said about the defense, the better. As a collective, they threw a lot of innings, the majority of them effective and on most evenings, gave them a more than solid chance to win whatever game they were in.
Though there have been good performances during the spring and summer, in September, Kyle Gibson has simply not done that job anymore. Heading into Sunday’s start, he had thrown 17 2⁄3 innings during the month, surrendering 19 runs on 32 hits, only walking six but also only striking out 14. After Sunday’s start, those totals climbed to:
22 2⁄3 innings, 39 hits, 24 runs, 8 BB, 23 K.
It actually lowered his ERA this month from 9.68 to 9.55, but c’mon. That’s not what the team needs when they send him to the mound. They cannot afford to roll the dice when he takes the ball, hoping they get the six innings of one run ball he gave them last week against the Marlins in Miami. Yesterday has to be his last time throwing a baseball in a Phillies uniform.
The issues, though, are pretty obvious. The first being that you really don’t know what you’re going to get from Gibson on any given day. Prior to the month of September, Gibson’s last nine starts dating back to July 9 were actually quite good (54 2⁄3 IP, 44 H, 20 R (17 ER), 13 BB, 44 K, 2.80 ERA). Even that last start in Miami where he was pretty excellent over six innings give a glimpse as to why the team keeps going back to him. When he’s on, he can give the team a very good outing that helps lead them to a win. Were you to look up what a fifth starter is in a baseball dictionary, you’d probably find a picture of Gibson staring back at you. But over the course of a few weeks, he has been very bad on the mound and simply cannot be trusted in any situation the team gives him. With the way some of their relievers have been performing late in games, they need certainty right now on the mound from anywhere they can get it. Gibson provides no such certainty that he’ll be the good version of himself.
The other issue with not starting Gibson is a question of who.
If not Gibson starting, then who?
As of now, he’s on track to start one of the doubleheader games against the Nationals next Saturday. With games wrapped around that and a series against Houston looming behind it, they cannot wear down the bullpen by having a bullpen game as one of their options. It could spell doom not only in the game, but also after the game, when each win becomes that much more precious. With Noah Syndergaard riding shotgun with Wheeler in his starts, using Syndergaard as an alternative choice might not be a possibility, nor does Syndergaard provide any kind of certainty himself on the mound over the course of a start. The only other option that is stretched out enough is Cristopher Sanchez and, well, do I even need to ask?
That’s why the team is left in such a bind when it comes options other than Gibson. Right now, there simply isn’t any.
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
What about Mick Abel or Andrew Painter or Griff McGarry?
We’ve been patiently waiting for their arrivals this season and each promotion quickened our collective heartbeats with the possibility that their next starts would be in red pinstripes. But think about the logistics of it. With Reading having completed their season last weekend, Abel hasn’t thrown a pitch since September 17th, Painter hasn’t thrown one since the 16th and in both of their cases, they’re probably at their innings limits for the season. Neither one is on the 40-man roster right now, so there would have to be some roster hijinks played in order to even entertain the thought.
Oh, and McGarry? He hasn’t even made a start since August 26th. Forget about that.
No, they really cannot use their top prospects to even make a spot start, nor should they even think about it. It’s tempting, but the risk of injury or having the start go bad on them, sending them into an offseason on a sour note just isn’t worth it.
So that means: what is the solution? How do the Phillies approach the idea of not having Gibson make another start this season.
The answer: I just don’t know.
The most likely thing that is going to happen is that when the doubleheader is played, Kyle Gibson will be making one of the starts for the Phillies. The kind of start he delivers will be up in the air, so we’ll just have to see what becomes of it. But the team really needs to be looking at any alternative to letting him make that start for them on Saturday. He’s a really nice guy and has done the job asked of him this year with aplomb, but in this pennant chase, where the team looks to end a decade long playoff drought, they cannot worry about what kind of person he is. They need to make sure that the team is in the best position to win that game. If that’s without Gibson on the mound, so be it.