HomeTeamsMarinersGeorge Kirby Offseason Program Shows His Impeccable Control

George Kirby Offseason Program Shows His Impeccable Control

In an interview with Ryan Divish from the Seattle times, George Kirby said that he doesn’t throw to a catcher in the offseason. Instead, he chooses to throw ‘perfect strikes’ to a nine-pocket net. And while this has been his offseason program for four years, it works. As shown in his impeccable control.  

Kirby said about his work with the nine pockets in the offseason “I just like to be super target-oriented and then it just becomes muscle memory at that point,” he said. “I’m focused on hitting that square in the top left corner or the bottom right.” He added that he just tries to hit X every time. As it clearly works for him, I thought to take a look at how good his stats were compared to others. 

We are aware that Kirby is a strike machine. The 26-year-old righty had just 2.5 walks percentage, which was best in the majors. And it was an improvement over his 4.1 walk percentage in his rookie year, which was still in the 96th percentile in baseball in 2022.  

To put this in perspective. Kirby led the majors in walks per nine at 0.897. Second best in the majors was Zach Eflin at 1.21. If you doubled Kirby walks per nine, he would end up with 1.794 walks per nine. That still would be 6th, ahead of Zack Wheeler and his 1.828.  

So how good was his walk per nine rates over the last 10 years in the majors? 

Over the last 10 seasons (2014-2023), there was just one qualified starter who had fewer walks per nine than George Kirby. That was Phil Hughes in 2014 (0.687 Walks per nine) in a full season. Kyle Hendricks also had one year with a slightly lower walk rate than Kirby, but that was in 2020, so that doesn’t count in my view.  

In that season Hughes finished 7th in the CY Young voting, with a 11.63 Strikeout per walks rate, better than Kirby at 9.05, who finished 8th in the 2023 CY Young voting.  

However, that was by far the best year Hughes had in his career as it was the only year (minimum 100+ innings) that Hughes ended up with an ERA under 4, a feat Kirby already did twice in two years. 

How good was his walk rate in the history of the game? 

Overall, Kirby his 0.897 walks per nine was 93rd all time for qualified starters in the history of the game. A great feat on his own. However, most of the pitchers in front of him were from a very long time ago with a lot of them at the end of the 1800’s to early 1900’s. Since 2000 there were only 3 pitchers with a lower walk per nine: 

2005 Carlos Silva: 0.4301 in 188.1IP 

2014 Phil Hughes: 0.6868 in 209.2IP 

2020 Kyle Hendricks: 0.8852 in 81.1IP 

2023 George Kirby: 0.8969 in 190.2IP 

How does Kirby Walk rate compare to the current greats? 

At this point according to baseball reference, Kirby is ineligible for the lead due to the lack of innings. Kyle Hendricks is the active leader in walks per nine with a minimum of 1000 innings with 1.9 walks per nine rate. After 320.2 career innings pitched, Kirby his walks per nine stands at 1.2. A pretty big gap with the best qualified active leader in Hendricks. He is a walk per nine better than greats like Gerrit Cole (2.2), Max Scherzer (2.3) and Justin Verlander (2.5) over their career. Don’t look to walk vs. George Kirby. 

So, it’s easy to think not throwing to a catcher is weird. And yes, you are correct, it’s unorthodox. However, do not change George Kirby. As his control is impeccable. These numbers made that very clear.  

We all remember George Kirby his Knuckleball as a tribute to the late Tim Wakefield. It was the first time he threw that pitch. Not only did he get a swing, but the location was also spot on. On the lower edge of the zone, which should have been called a strike, if the batter did not swing. It shows how Kirby is a master of control, doing that on a pitch he never threw in a big-league game. He recently told reporters he is going to use it more during games. So, we can look forward to that! 

I look forward to seeing how Kirby and his control will develop in the coming years. Can he keep his walk rate historically low, like he has so far? Let’s hope!

Corne Hogeveen
Corne Hogeveenhttps://mlbreport.com/
Mets fan from the Netherlands, writer for the Seattle Mariners on MLBreport.com. Mets fan since 06, trying to get to as many games since. Writer of Diary of a Dutch MetsFan.

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