- Rating: 3.30
- 2023 stats: 11 G, 17.1 IP, 5.19 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 19:5 K:BB, 0.0 bWAR
- Date of birth: December 22, 1993
- 2023 earnings: league minimum
- 2024 status: Removed from 40-man roster November 6, elected free agency
The highlight of Tyler Gilbert’s 2023 season almost certainly came as part of the 25th anniversary festivities, when he got his picture taken with Immaculate Grid star Edwin Jackson and Super Bowl/rock concert photographer Randy Johnson.
But that doesn’t mean that his season was terrible. In fact, it seems the fans were quite unfair by rating him so lowly; of the players to receive a poorer rating, only Nabil Crismatt was over replacement level according to bWAR, and none were according to fWAR. Gilbert was exactly replacement level according to Baseball Reference, and worth 0.2 wins according to Fangraphs. In two days, we get to read about the Diamondbacks tenure of Jace Peterson, who managed to be worth -0.8 bWAR during his time here this season (and will still be a part of the team next season.) Perception makes a big difference; Gilbert has not been able to live up to his first couple of appearances, and so even though he has had his moments of usefulness, they have been obscured by a feeling that he just isn’t working out.
Yet (and I am partially using this spot to sum up his tenure with the team, as he has elected free agency) should we have expected more than a replacement-level arm that occasionally turns in useful innings? Gilbert was a sixth round pick of the Phillies in 2015. After topping out at AAA there, he was traded to the Dodgers for Kyle Garlick, but that just so happened to be in February of 2020. The Diamondbacks picked him up off waivers in December. Compared to other sixth round picks in 2015, he’s done pretty good. While all 30 signed, only 10 have made the majors at all, and only two (David Fletcher and JT Brubaker) have become big league regulars. Two others (Steven Duggar and Jimmy Herget) have seen a decent amount of action.
The Diamondbacks acquired Gilbert as a depth piece, to fill in some gaps on a team that lost 110 games. The fact that Gilbert was able to perform consistently enough to still be a part of a team that won the NL Pennant is incredible, and certainly unexpected. Almost as unexpected as the no-hitter he threw in his first career start. He made the transition from being a spot-starter to being long relief, which may be the most thankless job in baseball. Long relievers really only appear in blowouts or extra inning games, and with the zombie runner rules there aren’t as many long extra inning games, not anymore.
Gilbert’s entire 2023 Diamondbacks tenure took place in July and early August; in other words, during the worst phase of the season for the Diamondbacks. He saw his first action in a bullpen game on July 8th; taking over after Kyle Nelson and Kevin Ginkel had worked 2.2 innings, Gilbert turned in three solid innings, allowing 1 run on 2 hits and a walk. He was efficient, which was good, because the length that he provided was key in the Diamondbacks eventually winning the game in extra innings. Following the All Star break, he worked a pair of single inning, scoreless outings, against the Braves and the Reds.
On just one day of rest after the second of those two outings, Gilbert was once again tasked with being the bulk guy in a bullpen game. He entered a tied game in the fifth inning. He struggled a bit in the sixth and gave up a run, but pitched an excellent seventh, striking out two. He gave up a single leading off the eighth and was pulled, and the rest of the bullpen assisted the Reds in putting the game out of reach.
His best outing of the year came on July 30th against the Mariners. Merrill Kelly had one of his worse outings, and left after just five innings. Gilbert came on and worked two innings, allowing just a walk and striking out 5. Unfortunately the Diamondbacks were shutout on the day, so it made no difference in the result.
Gilbert was optioned on August 19th to make room for Peter Strzelecki to make his Diamondbacks debut (and what turned out to be his lone appearance on the season.) He did have a good remainder of the season in Reno, and probably should have gotten the start in the season finale that could have put the Aces in the postseason, but instead that honor went to Mark Melancon on rehab assignment, and it didn’t go well. In his final three appearances in Reno, he worked 9 innings and gave up 3 runs, including no home runs.
If this is the end of the major league road for Gilbert (although I suspect he catches on somewhere) he at least has turned in a better career than Bobo Holloman, the other person to pitch a no hitter in his first start. Holloman finished his career having worked 65.1 innings with a WHIP of over 1.8 and an ERA+ of 81. Gilbert has thrown 91.2 innings with a 1.2 WHIP and an ERA+ of 97. Gilbert wasn’t able to sustain the heights of the beginning of his career (who could have?) but I think, on the whole, he was better than we remember, he pitched for some really bad teams, and he turned in a few necessary innings on a good team.
Tyler Gilbert wasn’t the star of the 2023 season by any means. He didn’t even come close to being involved in the biggest moment of the season, like he did in 2021. He was, in essence, just a guy who pitched some innings, and didn’t do so in remarkable fashion, one way or another. All baseball teams have guys like that, all baseball teams need guys like that. Gilbert likely won’t be that guy for the Diamondbacks in 2024, but I think that I can speak for all of us when I say we wish him well, and acknowledge that he will always hold a prominent place in Diamondbacks lore.