In 2022, George Kirby had a phenomenal rookie season, posting a 3.39 ERA while striking out 133 batters in 130 innings. This season, he increased his workload to 190.2 innings while lowering his ERA to 3.35, proving that he is an elite talent.
Kirby's 4.4 fWAR ranked as the 11th best in baseball, ahead of star pitchers such as Blake Snell and teammate Luis Castillo. He placed 8th in American League Cy Young voting in just his second season in the majors.
George Kirby's Strong Sophomore Season Was Good Enough to Move Him into the Top Three in Our 2024 Player Rankings
Kirby is known for his great control, and it showed in 2023. He was the best pitcher in the MLB at preventing walks, as evidenced by his league-leading 0.9 BB/9, even better than the superb 1.5 BB/9 that he posted as a rookie.
He is a master at limiting walks and also finished 2023 ranked in the top 25 in both HR/9 and BABIP, showing that he is preventing hitters from punishing him for pounding the strike zone. Furthermore, when he did stray outside the zone, he was effective at getting hitters to chase bad pitches.
Per Baseball Savant, Kirby's 32.9% chase rate fell in the 88th percentile of pitchers. Kirby used his plus splitter (35.7% whiff rate) and fastball (28.0% whiff rate) as his primary put-away pitches, with the fastball being his best pitch overall for the second year in a row. While his K/9 slightly decreased from his rookie season (9.2), his 8.1 K/9 this season, combined with his ludicrously low walk rate, allowed him to finish first in the MLB among qualified pitchers in SO/W.
Kirby's fastball was dominant in 2023. He certainly has a good amount of velo, averaging 96.1 MPH, which sits in the 84th percentile. Last season, his 4-seam fastball generated a run value of 14, good for 10th most in the MLB. He only throws the pitch about 39.4% of the time, but he also ranked in the top 10 in 2022 for 4-seam run value. He likely has room to lean even more on what is one of the better pitches in baseball.
George Kirby's 2024 Projection
Steamer has Kirby projected to go 12-11 with a 3.59 ERA while seeing his BB/9 increase to 1.53 and his K/9 increase to 8.65. I think this is a good floor for Kirby, but if he can manage to keep his BB/9 around the 1.1 to 1.2 range while getting his K/9 closer to the 9 that he posted as a rookie, Kirby has the potential to be a legitimate Cy Young candidate in 2024.