A Closer Look at Three Starters Experiencing An Improved K-BB%

Michael Simione | June 5th, 2019

A closer look at three starters experiencing an improved K-BB%. Featuring Matt Boyd, Lucas Giolito, and Kyle Gibson.


K-BB% is one of the best stats for analyzing pitchers. It is a great stat to use when evaluating pitchers because they have complete control over their K% and BB%. More simply put the best pitchers always get a lot of strikeouts while giving up very few walks. Below are three starters who have seen a large increase in K-BB% this year compared to last year.

Matt Boyd

M. BoydK/9BB/9K-BB%O-Swing%SwStr%

Matt Boyd has been very impressive this year. Through 13 games he has a 3.01 ERA, 2.75 FIP, 3.34 xFIP, and 3.18 SIERA. What has been most impressive has been his K-BB% skyrocketing from 15.2 to 26.0. Boyd has done this simply by increased velocity and better pitch selection. His fastball velocity is up from 91.1 to 92.1, while only one tick up in mph doesn’t sound like much it certainly makes a difference. It has caused his fastballs horizontal movement to increase from 2.1 to 2.5. Boyd has changed his pitch selection by utilizing his two best pitches more. By increasing the usage of his fastball and slider he has created a lot more whiffs. His fastball Whiff% went from 17.9 to 23.1 and his slider from 33.1 to 39.6. I fully expect this breakout season to continue.

Provided by Baseball Savant

Lucas Giolito

L. GiolitoK/9BB/9K-BB%O-Swing%SwStr%

Oh, how far Lucas Giolito has come. A once-touted prospect had a horrible season last year and is now living up to the hype. In 2019 he is posting a 2.54 ERA, 2.62 FIP, 3.64 xFIP, and 3.59 SIERA. Giolito has made the biggest improvement in K-BB% this year. He has used the same formula as Boyd. His fastball velocity is up from 92.8 to 94.6 which has increased its pVAL from -13.5 in 2018 to 6.0 in 2019. That pitch value swing is incredible. He also decided to use his two best pitches more, his fastball and changeup. His fastball’s Whiff% is up from 14.3 to 22.9 and his changeup is up from 34.8 to 36.3. Giolito has also improved his control increasing his F-Strike% from 55.4 to 61.7. Getting ahead in the count has made a big difference for him this year. He has also located his fastball much better this year as you can see below. The first chart is his heat map from 2018 as his location looks all over the place. The second chart is from 2019 where he has been much more precise. Just like Boyd, his success looks like it is here to stay.

Provided by Fangraphs
Provided by Fangraphs

Kyle Gibson

K. GibsonK/9BB/9K-BB%O-Swing%SwStr%

I wrote a piece on Kyle Gibson last week ago on how much I like him going forward. He had a solid season last year and it looks like he is replicating it again this year. Except he may actually be even better. In 2019 he has a 3.75 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 3.48 xFIP, and 3.79 SIERA. Gibson has upped his K-BB% from 121 to 18.4 by having even better command this year. Unlike Boyd and Giolito his velocity has been the same as last year. But Gibson is utilizing his strengths by showing great control and using his breaking pitches more often. His F-Strike% is at a career high at 69.4, opposed to 57.6 last year. He has dropped his usage of his fastball for more breaking pitches as you can see below. This has resulted in an increase in SwStr% and O-Swing%. Gibson is a smart pitcher and by shying away from the fastball, I think he will continue his success and keep creating more strikeouts.

gibson b7QThgCW

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