Heading into the 2022 season, plenty of fans were curious about how the Mariners were going to handle, arguably, their two most significant prospects George Kirby and Julio Rodriguez. We all know that Julio was insanely good and will likely win the Rookie of the Year award. We will get to him later in the offseason. Let’s look at his Rookie pitching counterpart in George Kirby, and see what grade he earns for his work in 2022.
I don’t think any of us really saw this coming so soon. Sure, we saw Logan Gilbert flash some nasty stuff last year. He ended up having a good season for a rookie. A lot of us were likely expecting the same from Kirby. Some good starts, some struggles, and a test at the big league level to see if he could really exhibit the dirty control that he had showcased in college and the minors.
George Kirby had one of the best seasons on the Mariners in 2022, earning an A
I think one of the great things that the Mariners did this year with Kirby was being strict on limiting his pitches thrown. He got to exactly 100 pitches just once, which came in his most dominant outing against the Athletics. He would go seven, allowing just three hits, walking one, allowing a single run, and striking out a career-high nine hitters.
Other than that, they kept him between 79-97 pitches in 19 of his 25 starts. The others were the 100 I previously mentioned, along with 74, 71, 69, 51, and 39. The 51 actually came in a beautiful five-inning game against the Rangers, which Game Score ranks as his 7th best game of the year.
What’s incredible about Kirby is how he mixes control with the ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. He had 15 BB in his first 22 starts, amassing 117.2 IP. Seven of those games had zero walks, and in the other 15 he had only one. He did struggle at the end of the year, but one of those (OAK) was pitching through sickness. The other was his last start against the Tigers, in which he walked three and gave up a homer.
That homer, on OCT 3, stopped a 14-start streak going back to June 27th without allowing an HR, the longest ever by a rookie pitcher. 73 IP and zero homers allowed. Oddly enough, he gave up four homers in that June 27th start.
Kirby was dominant for the better part of the season. Just over a K per inning, just over five innings per start, and an incredibly low walk rate that led ALL OF BASEBALL until those last three starts. You see his numbers, a 3.39 ERA and a 1.208 WHIP, and think “Hmmm, that’s pretty good for a Rookie.” You’d be right… but it should’ve been even better.
Kirby’s FIP was 2.99, his ERA+ was 109, and his BABIP against was .332, 42 points above the league average. A lot of balls seemed to fall because they were dropped perfectly, not because they were hit well.
We have to talk about his postseason as well. Kirby became the first player in history to make his relief debut happen in the playoffs, and get a save during that debut. He shut down the Jays during the comeback game, locking down the Mariners WC series win. Then, against the Astros, he threw seven innings of scoreless ball, allowing just six hits, no walks, no runs, and K’ing five hitters.
George Kirby was one of the biggest positive surprises on the Mariners this year, and I think we all loved watching him. It’s easy to give him an A on the season, as the Rookie deserves every bit of that grade. It seems like special things will be coming quickly, and often, from Kirby, and I cannot wait to watch him pitch in Seattle for the rest of the decade.