He is no longer just a fast pitcher. Yusei Kikuchi (32) stood side by side with Ryu Hyun-jin (36)’s record at the height of pitching with a sense of stability every day.
Kikuchi started in the 2023 Major League (MLB) regular season home game against the Philadelphia Phillies held at the Rogers Center in Toronto, Canada on the 16th (Korean time) and pitched well with 4 hits, 4 hits, 7 strikeouts and 1 run in 6 innings. Even after adding a quality start (6 or more starting innings, 3 earned runs or less), he failed to achieve 10 wins in the season, but thanks to his good pitching, Toronto won 2-1 and continued the journey toward fall baseball.
It was a game that was kept stable without any major risks. Kikuchi, who started with 7 batters in a row from the 1st inning, continued scoreless innings without much difficulty until the 5th inning. After Edmundo Sosa’s hit in the 6th inning, Johan Rojas’s timely double hit allowed one run, but the crisis was not prolonged and the pitch was finished without additional runs.
Kikuchi, who pitched in 24 games this year, is 9-4 with an ERA of 3.44. His pitching is still strong enough to strike out 132 in 128 1/3 innings. He has yet to win 10 games since his debut with the Seattle Mariners in 2019, but this year is a strong one.
Above all, the changed pitching and ERA stand out. Last year, his walks per nine innings reached 5.2, and his career ERA over four seasons was 5.02. However, this year, as of mid-August, the average ERA and walks per 9 innings have gone down to 2.5, which is half of the level.
It was not easy for Kikuchi, who had been sluggish every year in Seattle, to survive in the Toronto starting lineup. Last year, Toronto had a solid one-two punch with Kevin Gausman and Alec Manoa, Jose Berrios, who had a sluggish season but also had an outstanding career, and Chris Bassett, a free agent transfer student. If it was Kikuchi before, when Ryu Hyun-jin returned, he could not be confident of surviving in the starting lineup. However, Manoa could not get out of the slump this season, and Kikuchi pitched well. In addition, Ryu Hyun-jin also fought hard after returning, and Toronto decided to readjust by sending Manoa to the minors.
It is survival made by skill. Since the match against the Arizona Diamondbacks on the 17th of last month, Kikuchi has had one earned run or less in the last six games in a row. Dave Stippe in 1988-1989 and Ryu Hyun-jin in 2020 are the only Toronto starting pitchers to have one earned run in six consecutive games.
Toronto’s decision to boldly recruit Kikuchi also paid off. The reason why Toronto recruited him, who came out of the FA (free agent) market after failing to achieve significant results during his Seattle days, was because he had the confidence to make good use of his speed and make him fight hard. Toronto has already made Robbie Ray an American League Cy Young Award winner in 2021. It was well worth it for Kikuchi to save his pitch with an aggressive pitch like Rei, and he finally achieved it.
MLB.com, the MLB official website, pointed out that “Kikuchi is having the best season of his life.” The media said, “The number of pitches with less than one earned run this year is 13 times, surpassing Shohei Ohtani (LA Angels), Blake Snell (San Diego), Kevin Gausman (Toronto), and Braxton Garrett (Miami), and is first in MLB. The average ERA for the season is also 19 overall. It’s on the top (3.44)”, highlighting Kikuchi’s performance.먹튀검증
MLB.com said, “For those who saw Kikuchi a year ago, these figures will feel like a dream, but he has become one of the hottest starting pitchers on the planet. It is very dramatic in that talent is showing up all at once.”
“I always thought I had the qualities to be successful in MLB,” Kikuchi said.