When you think about the Mariners starting pitchers, there is one guy that comes to the front of everyone's minds for the fan favorite. Some people like La Piedra, some like the kids, and others (myself included) like Gilbert. However, it seems like the majority prefer Kirby as their top pitcher when talking about the amazing mix of youth, talent, and ceiling.
He is the subject of today's report card, and it should come as no surprise (and hopefully not a spoiler) that he is the top graded Mariners starting pitcher on the 2023 season.
George Kirby earned a grade of A- for his 2023 season.
I want to give Kirby an A. I really do. However, its a version of what happened to Luis Castillo. You can't have your worst stretch of the season at the end of the year. From August 17th to September 20th, a six-start stretch, Kirby posted a 5.56 ERA. It stinks, cause it was about double his ERA on the rest of the season, which was 2.87 across those 26 starts. Am I being too harsh? Maybe. It still hurt the Mariners, and going 2-4 in those starts was a big hurt to our chances.
Let's focus on the positive though, and I think looking back at that ERA number is a good spot. He had a 3.35 ERA and a 3.35 FIP, which is both neat and good. The WHIP was awesome as well, coming in at 1.038. He did a fair job at keeping the ball in the park as well, giving up 22 homers, which is just 1.0 per 9. You know what's crazy though?
Kirby walked less hitters than he gave up homers, at 22-19. In fact, that mark was good for the 10th best walk rate since 1946, and none of the top 100 happened from 1946 to 1984, showing a big change over that period. Kirby had a BB/9 rate of 0.8969, the best since Phil Hughes in 2014 when he had an insane 0.6868. I did throw out 2020 because it was a shortened season.
With the strikeouts he throws, it goes beyond that. Normally guys with super command don't strike people out. Kirby struck out 8.1 per 9. That led to the 8th best season ever for BB/K, at 9.05. He actually falls behind Marco from 2020, but again, throwing that out. That 2014 season by Phil Hughes reigns supreme at 11.63, just a truly remarkable record.
It was a great season by Kirby. A strong finish, and he might've even pushed Cole for the Cy Young (I firmly believe that even if he was barely behind him in stats, they would prefer to give it to a playoff pitcher). Things are looking great for Kirby, and for those who were calling for a Cy Young in 2023... I think you may have only been off by a year. 2024 is going to be special.