STEAMER thinks George Kirby will have a little sophomore slump in 2023
George Kirby came out in 2022 with some interesting expectations. Could he really keep up the combination of velo and command? How would he do as a rookie on a team fighting to break the drought?
It turns out that he was able to do all of it and do it pretty darn well. According to Fangraphs, he accumulated a 3.0 fWAR in just 130 IP, in large part due to an ERA of 3.39 and an even better FIP of 2.99, while doing a great job at limiting both walks and home runs.
Can he repeat that in 2023?
STEAMER thinks that we are still going to see a good season from Kirby. It's going to be a slight step back from what he did in 2022 though.
2022 - 25 GS, 130 IP, 9.2 K, 1.52 BB, 0.9 HR, .331 BABIP, 3.39 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 3.0 fWAR
STEAMER - 26 GS, 143 IP, 8.6 K, 2.06 BB, 1.1 HR .291 BABIP, 3.59 ERA, 2.3 fWAR,
It's always important to remember that it's a cautious prediction and can be tough to nail down for someone with limited minor league innings (117.1 IP) and a single MLB season (130 IP). It seems like a good safe bet and is a far cry from a true sophomore slump. Account for lower innings, maybe some missed starts, and maybe a rough stretch from someone who is only going to be 25.
However, Logan Gilbert was unleashed for 185 IP in 2022. Would it be unrealistic to see Kirby get the same chance? He threw just over 5 IP per start in 2022, so if we see 5.1 per start and he gets 30 starts, that's 160 IP. With his ability to command the zone and limit walks, getting six innings and just 95 pitches from him doesn't seem like a stretch.
Also... Kirby might've been unlucky last year. That .331 BABIP is quite high. Imagine it turning the other way and being 35-40 points below the league average instead. That would be massive. If he does everything else the same while that becomes the change point, he could have a dominant season. I'm not saying it happens... yet. Still, the STEAMER numbers for Kirby look good for a sophomore, and a full season would get him right back into that 3.0 fWAR range.