“Players continue to surprise us.”
Yusei Kikuchi (32, Toronto Blue Jays) hasn’t done much of that since starting his major league career with the Seattle Mariners in 2019. He’s never won 10 games or had an ERA in the triple digits. He had a fastball, but his velocity and command were up and down.
He signed a three-year, $36 million contract with Toronto ahead of the 2022 season, joining Ryu in the rotation. He did not lose his starting spot when Ryu underwent Tommy John surgery in June. He was bumped from the rotation midseason. In 32 games, he went 6-7 with a 5.19 ERA.
Coming into the season, expectations were understandably low for Kikuchi. The general consensus was that he would lose his spot in the rotation once Hyun-jin Ryu returned midseason. As early-season acquisition Chris Bassitt did a decent job with a solid off-speed pitch as a weapon, concerns about Kikuchi grew.
However, Kikuchi has since returned to lead Toronto’s starting rotation alongside Ryu Hyun-jin. Part of this is due to the downfall of Alec Manoa, who was dubbed the “Ryu hopeful,” but Kikuchi has made himself valuable. The effectiveness of his balanced delivery is evident throughout the season. Gone are the unnecessary four-seamers and the so-called “ball movement.
He went 4-0 with a 3.00 ERA in five games in April, 2-2 with a 5.83 ERA in six games in May, 1-0 with a 2.28 ERA in five games in June, 1-0 with a 3.91 ERA in five games in July, and 1-0 with a 2.28 ERA in four games in August. A steady streak, except for a bit of a slump in May.
Kikuchi was named one of MLB.com’s eight players who have exceeded expectations this season on Saturday. I was surprised to see Ha-Sung Kim (San Diego Padres) not on the list, but I’ll give Kikuchi the benefit of the doubt. He’s 9-4 with a 3.52 ERA in 25 games and is on pace for his first 10 wins of his career.
According to BaseballSabermetrics, his fastball has a similar strikeout rate to last year. However, his slider has dropped from .289 last year to .219. The changeup is up from .116 to .259, but the slider more than makes up for it. Against lefties, an outside slider is a powerful weapon.온라인바카
According to MLB.com, “He walks just 2.4 batters per nine innings, compared to a projected 3.9. His hard-hit rate is down 7.5 percent, and his barrel hit rate is down 6.3 percent. Opponents aren’t hitting his slider as well as they did last year. While Toronto’s offense hasn’t lived up to expectations, Kikuchi has become part of an excellent, very stable Toronto starting rotation.”