Cardinals fans got their first chance to watch Kyle Gibson start a game that counted, and he did an exceptional job of quieting a potent Padres offense that came in averaging 7.5 runs per contest. And Gibson impressed with his professionalism, poise and pitchmaking. He handled his business, and then some, in a 6-2 win at San Diego.

The Cardinals really needed innings from Gibson after four starters averaged only 4.7 innings per start in a rough opening set at Dodger Stadium. No problem. Gibson supplied seven innings and gave a breather to an overworked bullpen. The Cardinals needed quality to go with the bulk, and Gibson took care of that by allowing just two runs (via solo homers) while piling up 21 outs. This goes into the books as a Quality Start, but you don’t need me to tell you that.

We saw Gibson’s qualities. He’ll never be a Statcast star. The Padres hit the ball hard against him Monday. He’ll never come out looking like an elite pitcher based on advanced-metrics analyses. The Padres had a high barrel-rate percentage against him. Gibson is maligned because he doesn’t strike out many hitters, and he has the audacity to rely on his defense. Somewhere along the line, that type of pitching fell out of favor. Gibson wasn’t made for these times, and that’s a compliment to him.

If you think I’m exaggerating, well here ya go: after Gibson was touched for only four hits and two runs in seven innings of work, he emerged from the start with a WAR of minus 0.1. Yes, that’s right. Gibson’s performance at San Diego was rated below the replacement level. He was deemed just a guy, a Triple A level palooka, someone you turn to only when you’re out of options. (Oh, but he had only four strikeouts!) Despite what we watched with our own eyes, Gibson’s work was considered below average according to the keepers of the fancy-pants stats. One word for that: cuckoo.

Gibson was really good. He had a Bill James Game Score of 63, which was way above average. He saved his team’s tired bullpen,which was a pretty big deal, and I’m looking how to translate that into WAR … oh, that’s right. We can’t do that. There’s no way to quantify the value of Gibson’s start in relation to what his team clearly needed from him Monday night at Petco Park. I’m a strong analytics believer, but I decline to be a member of a cult. I’ve always kept an open mind and most of this stuff makes sense but some of it is silly.

Am I allowed to declare that Gibson deserved a “win” in his first start of the season? May I give him credit? Is this a violation of the sabermetrics rule of law? I guess I’ll have to turn myself into the proper authorities and post bail.

Since 2014, Gibson has started more games than any big-league pitcher and ranks fourth in innings. He’s tied for 10th in Quality Starts. A starter that delivers innings has value that can’t always be measured by a simple ERA stat. If we remember the carnage of 2023, then we should know the Cardinals had a pressing need for innings.

Since 2014, Gibson ranks eighth in the majors for most starts of 6+ innings. His team’s record in those starts is 110-50 for a .687 winning percentage. Since the start of the 2021 season, Gibson has made 57 starts of 6+ innings – which ranks 14th on a lengthy list of starters – and his teams have a .667 winning percentage when he does it.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer a .667 winning percentage over the .438 team winning percentage the Cardinals turned in last season. But then again, I’m eccentric.

To repeat a stat that I came up with and have mentioned before: last season the Cardinals were 10 games over .500 when their starting pitcher went at least six innings. And when the starter lasted less than six, the Cardinals were 30 games under .500.

Over the last three-plus seasons, the durable Gibson has made more starts of 6+ innings than Max Scherzer, Spencer Strider, Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Dylan Cease, Joe Musgrove, Marcus Stroman, Sonny Gray, Eduardo Rodriguez, Zac Gallen, Shane Bieber, Pablo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, Justin Verlander, Nathan Eovaldi, Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff, Clayton Kershaw, Shane McClanahan and other notables.

Some of the above pitchers had injuries and/or surgeries and weren’t able to start as many games as Gibson. But isn’t that the point? Gibson takes the ball every fifth day. The individuals I cited on the list have more talent than Gibson, and they’ve won more awards than Gibson, and they are more highly regarded than Gibson. Of course.

Gibson, 36, stands out in his own way. His teams can count on him. They know he’ll be there. Sure, Gibson gets knocked around at times during the season, and that will be the case in his work for the Cardinals. That’s also when the whiners will resume yelling and maligning Gibson. But he’s resilient. He finds ways to adjust and bounce back. He rebounds and resumes stacking up the innings. He eases the burden on the bullpen. He’s a fifth starter who gives his team a chance to win a high percentage of his outings. And when Gibson goes at least six innings, his team wins more than two-thirds of those games.

I’m sorry, but what’s the problem?

Yeah, innings matter. They matter a lot. They matter a helluva lot more than folks realize or are willing to acknowledge. Even the people who should know better.

WHERE THE BOYS ARE: The Redbirds are 2-3 on the season, hanging in there, and have two more games to go at Petco. After taking the opener from former manager Mike Shildt and his team, the Cardinals must win this series. And if they go at least 2-1 at San Diego, they’ll come home with a 3-4 record that requires no apology.

ROTATION UPDATE: In the last three games, Lance Lynn, Steven Matz and Gibson have combined for 16 and ⅓ innings of work and limited opponents to four runs. That’s a 2.20 ERA. Lynn went only four innings in his first start of the season on Saturday, but a rain delay prevented him from pitching deeper into the start.

IN A RELATED NOTE: Miles Mikolas, it’s your turn to pitch well. He goes against Yu Darvish tonight in a game that starts 8:40 p.m, St. Louis time.

BRENDAN DONOVAN: For the most part the Cardinals were able to keep Donovan off base during the four-game series. Since he bats leadoff, that’s an effective way to hold the STL offense down. Donny had two hits in the four games, didn’t draw a walk, and struck out six times in 18 plate appearances. That isn’t him. That said, Donovan knocked in four runs in the final two games at LA and was getting locked in. That led to his assault on San Diego pitching Monday. In five plate appearances Donovan had three hits and a walk, stroked a double and a two-run homer. As a base runner or a hitter, Donovan played a part in producing five of the Cards’ six runs. Through five games Donovan leads the Cardinals with six RBIs, one ahead of Paul Goldschmidt.

IS THE OFFENSE STIRRING? The Cardinals had 14 hits and three walks on Monday. The output included two doubles and homers by Donovan and Willson Contreras … The Redbirds went 5 for 15 (.333) with runners in scoring position … They had eight two-out hits that brought home four two-out runs … in Monday’s win, eight different Cardinals had hits, nine reached base, and five lineup regulars had at least two hits … After scoring only four total runs in their first two games of the season, the Cardinals have plated 16 runs in the last three games. Yu Darvish will be a challenge for the Redbirds in Tuesday’s competition.

EARLY PROBLEM: The Cardinals struck out 13 times Monday, increasing their total to 56 strikeouts in five games. Their team strikeout rate, 28.9 percent, is fifth worst in the majors so far. Nolan Gorman has struck out 11 times in 23 plate appearances for a ghastly strikeout rate of 47.8 percent. Other Cardinals with poor strikeout rates early in the season include Jordan Walker (37.5%), Alec Burleson (35.7%), Victor Scott (35%) and Paul Goldschmidt (30.4%).

ARENADO BREAKS OUT: After going 1 for 16 against the Dodgers, Arenado stabilized with a 2 for 5 performance in Monday’s win. Arenado made an early impact with an RBI double to score Donovan. From there he was driven in on a two-run homer by Willson Contreras that gave the Cardinals a 3-0 lead. But …

ARENADO’S POWER DROUGHT: He hasn’t gone deep since rocking Mets starter Kodai Senga in the fourth inning of an Aug. 19 game last season. In 31 regular-season games played since then, Arenado has gone 121 at-bats without hitting a homer. Over that time, in 133 plate appearances, Arenado has hit .182 with a .241 onbase percentage and .223 slug for a .464 OPS. And his park-and-league adjusted runs created over that time (wRC+) is 72 percent below league average offensively. Arenado has five extra-base hits (doubles) in his last 41 games.

MORE ON KYLE GIBSON: He had a first-strike percentage of 68% against the Padres, and that gave him more freedom to entice the hitters into chasing pitches just off the plate. The approach worked. The Padres had a 33% chase rate and had a low contact rate when chasing Gibson’s out-of-zone stuff. Gibson also got eight ground-ball outs and set up the defense to turn two double plays. Speaking of double plays: since the start of 2014 Gibson leads major-league pitchers with 203 ground-ball double plays – 24 more than any other pitcher. And since the beginning of 2021, his 59 double-play grounders rank third in MLB. If a pitcher lacks strikeout power, GB double plays are a good way to get outs.

IT’S EARLY BUT THE DEFENSE LOOKS SHARPER: Through five games the Cardinals have converted 70 percent of batted balls in play into outs; that ranks 12th in the majors. The Cardinals were the worst in the majors in this category last season and had their poorest defensive efficiency rating since 1930.

In addition the Cardinals are tied for second in Total Zone Fielding Above Average. Their fielders have turned six double plays which is tied for third most so far. Long way to go. But it’s never too early to play above-average defense. Right fielder Jordan Walker made a diving catch Monday that could have been the best we’ve seen from the second-year Cardinal.


This view from native St. Louisan Bradford Doolittle, the outstanding baseball analyst for ESPN. He placed the Cardinals in the third tier of MLB teams for 2024 — along with the Mariners, Blue Jays, Guardians, Cubs, Red Sox and Padres — under the heading of “We’re Saying They Have A Chance.”

“The Cardinals’ 15-year run of winning seasons ended abruptly in 2023, with St. Louis finishing in last place for the first time since 1990,” Doolittle wrote. “Needless to say, the revered Redbird fanbase is not happy. The Cardinals project to regress which, in their case, is a good thing, but it is also not something that can be taken for granted. The team enjoyed a fairly aggressive offseason, especially when it came to the rotation. St. Louis’ brass needs that to be enough because a repeat of last season would be a real problem for a fan base that prides itself on being baseball’s best, a description that carries with it a certain expectation for the team to perform at that level.”

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Sports Info Solutions and Cot’s Contracts unless otherwise noted.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.