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The Season That Was: Yusei Kikuchi

A look at Kikuchi’s 2022 season.

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles - Game Two Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Oh this won’t be fun.

The Blue Jays signed Yusei Kikuchi back on March 12th, 2022. It was a three-year, $36 million contract, front-loaded, with Yusei getting $16 million in the first year and the next two at $10 million.

He had pitched three seasons with the Mariners, with a 15-24 record and a 4.97 ERA in 70 starts. The hopeful sign was that he struck out 24.5% of the batters he faced in 2021 and threw hard, averaging 95.3 MPH on his fastball.

The team had struck gold with Robbie Ray, and they were hoping to do the same with another hard-throwing left-hander, and they were hoping for the same. The three-year contract can be attributed to them not locking down Ray when they could have done it fairly cheaply.

There was potential with Kikuchi. He made the AL All-Star team in 2021 (yet another first-half All-Star).

The problem with learning from past mistakes is the opportunity to make all-new, all-different mistakes. For example:

Standard Pitching
31 6 7 5.19 32 20 4 1 100.2 93 67 58 23 58 0 124 9 0 3 454 75 5.62
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/13/2022.

Baseball Reference had him at a -1.1 WAR. FanGraphs -0.7 making him worth, well, a -$5.8 million to the Blue Jays.

He had a .292 BABIP (.289 last year). 72.8% of his baserunners were left on base (down from 74.6% last year).

Yusei’s FIP was 5.62, and xFIP 4.07.

His line drive rate was 19.1% (21.3 last year). Ground ball 43.9% (down from 48.4 last year). Fly ball 37.0% ( up from 30.3 last year). An amazing 23.7% of his fly ball left the park (20.6 last year). So pretty much all the same as last year. That 23.7% was the worst number in the AL for any pitcher with 100 innings or more.

Kikuchi’s strikeout rate was 27.3% (up from 24.5), and his walk rate was 12.8% (up from 8.3). The walk rate was also the worst among pitchers, with 100 innings in the AL.

His soft contact rate was 12.9% (up from 11.2), and hard contact was 41.1% (up from 33.9).

Yusei was better vs. left-handed batters (.198/.286/.369) than right-handed batters (.256/.372/.535).

He was much better at home (4.58 ERA, batters hit .205/.295/.500), than on the road (5.91, batters hit .284/.412/.486).

And he was more or less the same in the first half (5.12 ERA, .249/.367/.490) as in the second half (5.30, .232/.327/.500).

Kikuchi by month:

  • April: 0-1, 5.52 ERA in 4 starts. Batters hit .263/.394/.544 in 14.2 innings.
  • May: 2-0, 2.36 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .177/.269/.260 in 26.2 innings.
  • June: 1-3, 7.17 ERA in 6 starts. Batters hit .314/.416/.721 in 21.1 innings
  • July: 1-1, 6.14 ERA in 2 starts. Batters hit .174/.375/.348 in 7.1 innings.
  • August 0-2, 7.27 ERA in 7 games, 3 starts. Batters hit .250/.374/.544 in 17.1 innings.
  • September: 2-0, 1 save, 4.05 ERA in 8 relief games. Batters hit .245/.310/.491 in 13.1 innings

I remember having high hopes at the end of May. High hopes that crashed to the ground in June.

The Jays were 6-14 in his starts. The team averaged 4.24 runs/start in his games. They scored 3 runs or less in 8 of his starts, 2 runs or less in 5 games.

In his starts:

  • 4 days rest: 6.82 ERA in 8 starts.
  • 5 days rest: 4.58 ERA in 8 starts.
  • 6 or more days rest: 3.78 ERA in 4 starts.

As a starter:

  • 1st time through the order, batters hit: .221/.384/.436.
  • 2nd time through the order, batters hit: .242/.370/.500.
  • 3rd time through the order, batters hit: .260/.305/.510 in just 35 PA.


  • As a starter: 5.25 ERA, batters hit .244/.357/.492.
  • As a reliever: 4.91 ERA, batters hit .236/.337/.500.

Yusei’s best start by GameScore was a 73 on May 16th, at home against the Mariners. In 6 innings, he allowed 1 hit, 3 walks with 6 strikeouts, with no runs.

The worse start was a 32, on July 5th, in Oakland. In 2.1 innings, 2 hits, 5 walks, 0 strikeouts, and 4 earned.

He averaged 4.1 innings per start.

By bWAR, Kikuchi’s 2022 season was tied for the 18th worst season in the history of the Jays. The worst? Roy Halladay’s 2000 season, when he had a -2.8 bWAR. Shall we take that as a hopeful sign? I didn’t think so.

There were good moments. I’m not sure if the good moments can become the norm, but I’m afraid we will be subjected to trying to find out. When you are paying a guy $10 million, he is getting more chances. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to throw hard?

There is always the mistake of confusing the person with the performance. We saw it when Bo had a bad game, people made up all sorts of personality flaws for Bo. The same happened with Kikuchi. He pitches poorly, so there must be some personality or mental flaw that causes it, and we all become armchair psychologists. But he seemed like a good teammate and seemed to get along with everyone. The problem seemed to be on the mound.

I’ll be interested in watching what Pete Walker does with him in spring training next year. Life would be much better if they could get him throwing strikes.

Before the season, we asked:

  • If the over/under on Kikuchi’s ERA was 3.79. 78% of us were right taking the over.
  • Over/under on innings was 140. Only 25% of us got that one right, taking the under.


For his 2022 season, I’d grade Yusei Kikuchi an

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