Kirby, the fictional character, is a little pink guy who fights to save Planet Popstar using the power of copying others' abilities by eating them first. George Kirby, the young starting pitcher for the Mariners, is a 24-year-old righty trying to help Seattle get back to the playoffs in 2023 with the power of dominant control and a fantastic fastball.
While many more people know about the former than the latter, Mariners fans are more excited about what the 6-foot-4 starting pitcher has to offer them next season.
In his first season in the major leagues in 2022, he started in 25 games, going 8-5 with a 3.39 ERA over 130 innings. However, the most impressive part of his season was his ability to pound the zone and get ahead in counts.
On a per-9 innings basis, he had 9.2 strikeouts to just 1.5 walks, a strikeout per walk rate of 6.5, which would have been good for fourth among qualified pitchers if he threw enough innings to qualify. He also dawned a FIP of 2.99, proving that he got a little unlucky with balls in play over the course of the season.
It is quite obvious that he throws the ball where he wants it to go, making him a deadly weapon in the rotation. In August 2022, he broke the record for most consecutive strikes thrown to start a game with 24 against the Nationals.
Kirby’s Baseball Savant page shows more that he is in elite territory for his command, boasting a 96th percentile walk rate at just 4.1%. His 4-seamer was also an elite pitch, sitting at a run value of -18. He used that pitch 45.4% of the time in 2022, something that we will certainly see the same of in 2023.
While there is stuff he can improve on going into the new season, he is already living up to what he was drafted for. Baseball Prospectus called him a player with a high floor that lacked “loud tools.” We have already seen that come true to an extent, but being just 24, he will look to improve into next season.
Kirby also proved to be a clutch performer. In 8.0 postseason innings, including 7.0 against the eventual World Series champions Houston Astros, he did not give up a single earned run and struck out six batters while giving up six hits.
Baseball-Reference: 8-6, 3.53 ERA 125 IP, 126 SO, 1.192 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, 13 HR
Fangraphs: 8-7, 3.58 ERA, 135 IP, 130 SO, 1.150 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, 16 HR
I however am very high on Kirby going into next season, and I think that he will improve on what he did in 2022. I will do the same thing I did with Castillo by making three predictions, a best, median, and worst-case scenario for what we will see. However, I only see him making 26-28 starts this season, which is why the innings are a little less than you would see in a full season of work.