Yusei Kikuchi experienced the full gamut of emotions last year. He followed in the footsteps of Prince Akeem and came to America, where he had to learn a new language, culture, and game. His father passed away from cancer, while becoming a father for the first time himself. On the mound, he experienced glory by pitching a complete-game, two-hit shutout with eight strikeouts against the Toronto Blue Jays and struck out 10 Indians in seven innings back in May. On the flip side, he allowed 5 earned runs in a game three times, 6 earned runs four times, and 7 earned runs once. He did start 32 games, so there’s that, but the final line was 161.2 innings pitched, 5.46 ERA, 16.1% strikeout rate, and 6.9% walk rate. On average, he’s being drafted as the 434th overall player and 178th pitcher being selected in NFBC drafts from 2/1 to 3/11. Am I writing up Kikuchi as a peace offering to Donkey Teeth (noted Kikuchi lover) after hating on his other love, Luis Robert?  Kind of, but for full disclosure, I’ve drafted Kikuchi everywhere. Here’s why:

For those who have read me in the past, you know I have a need for speed, especially when it comes to velocity on pitches. I do really blame Maverick and Goose. Last season, Kikuchi averaged 92.9 mph on his fastball. So far this spring, it’s been clocked at 95 mph and above. Yusei what now? To be fair, he did throw 44 out of 2,721 fastballs last season at 95 mph or higher, but the consistency at which he maintains the speed could be heightened this year because he simplified his mechanics over the summer.

Last season, Kikuchi tinkered with his arm slot and release point all year, as the command and velocity weren’t up to his standards. As a result, he’d throw 89 to 90 mph one game and 95 mph another. After the conclusion of the season, he went to Driveline Baseball, where the things that the Mariners told him were reiterated: “It was my hand placement when my front leg hit the ground. It was just too low, too late. That was probably the reason behind the velo going down.” To correct it, he was told to throw like a catcher, “nice and short, straight to the ear.”

With a compact, repeatable delivery, the velocity on the fastball should be consistent, but more importantly, it should help him mentally. He won’t be constantly trying to tinker with his mechanics to find a solution to his control and velocity issues.

An increase in velocity for a fastball does wonders by itself. From 2015-2017, on pitches near 90 mph hour, the batting average was close to .300. At 95 mph, it was near .250. At 100 mph, it was under .200. The slope is a gradual one to the downside for each mile per hour added to velocity. The increase in velocity hasn’t been exhibited just for the fastball, though. The slider has been in the 90 mph range during the spring, after clocking in at 88 mph last year.

Last season, Kikuchi threw a fastball 49%, a slider 27.9%, a curveball 15.7%, and a changeup 7.6%. In his most recent spring outing, which was a sim game, he made it a focus to develop and throw the changeup more. Keeping hitters off balance is a key for pitchers, so if Kikuchi can successfully throw the changeup more with the increased velocity on his fastball (don’t forget about the slider and curveball), then he could be a problem.

The new delivery could also harness his control. Last season, the WHIP was 1.515. In 8 NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) seasons, Kikuchi had a 1.179 WHIP. So, control has rarely been an issue for him.

For younger pitchers, I focus on stuff and natural development. When it comes to veteran players, I search for extraneous reasons for improvement, like a new delivery, increased velocity, etc. Kikuchi checks a lot of the boxes for me. What makes it even better is that he’s basically free in drafts, so if he has a mental meltdown of sorts, you can cut him and replace him with another arm. With that said, I don’t think that happens and there’s a ton of upside with Kikuchi this season. TREASURE

(Editorial note from the Donkey: Welcome home my wayward Son)

 

 
  1. Hater Bell

    Grey says:
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    Treasure?!

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Donkey, stop writing posts and putting Son’s name on them

    • Son

      Son says:
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      One man’s trash is another’s treasure

      • Grey

        Grey says:
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        That’s Donkey’s treasure you are co-opting

        • Son

          Son says:
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          I know. I did it as peace offering for shitting on his other love, Luis Robert. He welcomed me home.

          • Grey

            Grey says:
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            You guys made up, so I’m happy to hear that

            • Grey

              Grey says:
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              (It’s still no excuse)

              • Son

                Son says:
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                As the Just For Men CEO was also a customer, so am I with Kikuchi. Have drafted him everywhere. Oh boy….

                • Grey

                  Grey says:
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                  You regret that at all!

                  • Son

                    Son says:
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                    I’m so confused with this:

                    If ?, then I have no regrets….at least until I need to bring out the seppuku knives to die honorably if Kikuchi bombs.

                    If it is a statement that I will regret it for all leagues, then so be it. I unfortunately often have a one-track mind. Sometimes it ends in a blaze of glory while other times it allows for a quick death

                    • Son

                      Son says:
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                      You want to see me die in a blaze of glory or lift my arms at the top of mountain while screaming victory? I hope it’s the latter

                    • Coolwhip

                      Coolwhip says:
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                      screaming victory is probably more entertaining, but either is good theatre. :)

                    • Son

                      Son says:
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                      I’ll scream for joy from victory then perform seppuku because life would be meaningless at that point. You get the best of both worlds

                    • Coolwhip

                      Coolwhip says:
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                      awesome. as long as you pour a perfect cup of tea first.

                    • Son

                      Son says:
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                      Lol. Tea and popcorn? Is good?

            • Son

              Son says:
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              Just in time for baseball season. Wait….

        • Donkey Teeth

          Donkey Teeth says:
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          Yeah, Son, stay out of my treasure garbage can!

          • Son

            Son says:
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            Hey! You welcomed me in. Now you kicking me out? I guess I shouldn’t have expected much from a Donkey!!!

            • Donkey Teeth

              Donkey Teeth says:
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              Donkey kick! Ok, ok , come back!

              • Son

                Son says:
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                As long as you stop using Teeth!

  2. Member Berries says:
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    I always knew Bauer trained different but that last piece on HBO talking about Bauer going to Driveline piqued my interest. Pitchers are coming out throwing harder and/or with more spin rate. They break down pitchers release, change their form, and focus on the smallest details…

    Driveline guys: Bauer, Kikuchi, K. Jansen, JKelly, Alex Wood… Reds, Angels, and Dodgers hired employees from Driveline to to their pitching staff.

    Kikuchi now has purpose in life is to rectify Big Balls Donkey Teeth’s word. BBDT Redemption Tour coming in 2020 (maybe?) – only the coronas can stop him

    • Son

      Son says:
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      Lol. I hope I’m worthy of a back stage pass for the BBDT Redemption Tour!

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