Realistic Expectations for Yusei Kikuchi

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Photo: Hamish Blair/Getty Images

In the beginning of January, the Mariners announced the signing of a highly-touted Japanese LHP: Yusei Kikuchi. The details of his contract are conveyed below by Jeff Todd and Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors

The first three years of Kikuchi’s contract will reportedly pay him $43MM, and at that point he’ll have a player option for the 2022 season that is valued at $13MM. However, the Mariners can also preemptively exercise a four-year club option on Kikuchi that would promise him an additional $66MM.

Long story short, Kikuchi is guaranteed $56 million over the course of his deal.

In this investigation, we will attempt to estimate how Kikuchi will perform in 2019 through looking at how the transition fared early on (in their 1st season in the MLB) for other talented SPs who came from pitching in Japan — Kenta Maeda, Shohei Ohtani, Yu Darvish, Mashiro Tanaka, and Miles Mikolas.

Kenta Maeda

2013 – 15 stats in the JPCL (per Baseball Reference)

Year 1 (2013) / age 25 season

  • GS: 26
  • IP: 175.2
  • ERA: 2.10
  • WHIP: 0.96
    • BB/9: 2.0
  • K/9: 8.1

Year 2 (2014) / age 26 season

  • GS: 27
  • IP: 187
  • ERA: 2.60
  • WHIP: 1.10
    • BB/9: 2.0
  • K/9: 7.7

Year 3 (2015) / age 27 season

  • GS: 29
  • IP: 206.1
  • ERA: 2.09
  • WHIP: 1.01
    • BB/9: 1.8
  • K/9: 7.6

Here is his stat-line from his 1st year with the Dodgers (his 1st year pitching in the MLB)…

2016 / age 28 season

  • GS: 32
  • IP: 175.2
  • ERA: 3.81
  • WHIP: 1.14
    • BB/9: 2.56
  • K/9: 9.17

We can now compare the metrics above (from 2016) to a weighted average (formula: {[2013 metric * 0.25] + [2014 metric * 0.3] + [2015 metric * 0.45]} / 3) of Maeda’s stat-line from his final 3 years in Japan…

2013 – 15 / age 25 – 27 seasons

  • GS: 28
  • IP: 193
  • ERA: 2.25
  • WHIP: 1.02
    • BB/9: 1.91
  • K/9: 7.76

His percentage change (from 2013 – 15 in Japan to 2016 in the MLB) for each metric can be seen below…

  • GS: +14.29%
  • IP: -9.22%
  • ERA: +69.33%
  • WHIP: +11.76%
    • BB/9: +34.03%
  • K/9: +18.17%

Shohei Ohtani

2015 – 17 stats in the JPPL (per Baseball Reference)

Year 1 (2015) / age 20 season

  • GS: 22
  • IP: 160.2
  • ERA: 2.24
  • WHIP: 0.91
    • BB/9: 2.6
  • K/9: 11

Year 2 (2016) / age 21 season

  • GS: 20
  • IP: 140
  • ERA: 1.86
  • WHIP: 0.96
    • BB/9: 2.9
  • K/9: 11.2

Year 3 (2017) / age 22 season

  • GS: 5
  • IP: 25.1
  • ERA: 3.20
  • WHIP: 1.26
    • BB/9: 6.8
  • K/9: 10.3

Here is his stat-line from his 1st year with the Angels (his 1st year pitching in the MLB)…

2018 / age 23 season

  • GS: 10
  • IP: 51.2
  • ERA: 3.31
  • WHIP: 1.16
    • BB/9: 3.8
  • K/9: 11.0

We can now compare the metrics above (from 2018) to a weighted average (formula: {[2015 metric * 0.25] + [2016 metric * 0.3] + [2017 metric * 0.45]} / 3) of Ohtani’s stat-line from his final 3 years in Japan…

2015 – 17 / age 20 – 22 seasons

  • GS: 14
  • IP: 93.1
  • ERA: 2.62
  • WHIP: 1.08
    • BB/9: 4.58
  • K/9: 10.75

His percentage change (from 2015 – 17 in Japan to 2018 in the MLB) for each metric can be seen below…

  • GS: -28.57%
  • IP: -45.00%
  • ERA: +26.34%
  • WHIP: +7.41%
    • BB/9: -17.03%
  • K/9: +2.33%

Yu Darvish

2009 – 11 stats in the JPPL (per Baseball Reference)

Year 1 (2009) / age 22 season

  • GS: 23
  • IP: 182
  • ERA: 1.73
  • WHIP: 0.90
    • BB/9: 2.2
  • K/9: 8.3

Year 2 (2010) / age 23 season

  • GS: 25
  • IP: 202
  • ERA: 1.78
  • WHIP: 1.01
    • BB/9: 2.1
  • K/9: 9.9

Year 3 (2011) / age 24 season

  • GS: 28
  • IP: 232
  • ERA: 1.44
  • WHIP: 0.83
    • BB/9: 1.4
  • K/9: 10.7

Here is his stat-line from his 1st year with the Rangers (his 1st year pitching in the MLB)…

2012 / age 25 season

  • GS: 29
  • IP: 191.1
  • ERA: 3.90
  • WHIP: 1.28
    • BB/9: 4.2
  • K/9: 10.4

We can now compare the metrics above (from 2012) to a weighted average (formula: {[2009 metric * 0.25] + [2010 metric * 0.3] + [2011 metric * 0.45]} / 3) of Darvish’s stat-line from his final 3 years in Japan…

2009 – 11 / age 22 – 24 seasons

  • GS: 26
  • IP: 210.2
  • ERA: 1.61
  • WHIP: 0.9
    • BB/9: 1.81
  • K/9: 9.86

His percentage change (from 2009 – 11 in Japan to 2012 in the MLB) for each metric can be seen below…

  • GS: +11.54%
  • IP: -9.09%
  • ERA: +142.24%
  • WHIP: +42.22%
    • BB/9: +132.04%
  • K/9: +5.48%

Masahiro Tanaka

2011 – 13 stats in the JPPL (per Baseball Reference)

Year 1 (2011) / age 22 season

  • GS: 27
  • IP: 226.1
  • ERA: 1.27
  • WHIP: 0.88
    • BB/9: 1.1
  • K/9: 9.6

Year 2 (2012) / age 23 season

  • GS: 22
  • IP: 173
  • ERA: 1.87
  • WHIP: 1.04
    • BB/9: 1.0
  • K/9: 8.8

Year 3 (2013) / age 24 season

  • GS: 27
  • IP: 212
  • ERA: 1.49
  • WHIP: 0.94
    • BB/9: 1.4
  • K/9: 7.8

Here is his stat-line from his 1st year with the Yankees (his 1st year pitching in the MLB)…

2014 / age 25 season

  • GS: 20
  • IP: 136.1
  • ERA: 3.10
  • WHIP: 1.06
    • BB/9: 1.4
  • K/9: 9.3

We can now compare the metrics above (from 2014) to a weighted average (formula: {[2011 metric * 0.25] + [2012 metric * 0.3] + [2013 metric * 0.45]} / 3) of Tanaka’s stat-line from his final 3 years in Japan…

2011 – 13 / age 22 – 24 seasons

  • GS: 26
  • IP: 203.2
  • ERA: 1.55
  • WHIP: 0.96
    • BB/9: 1.21
  • K/9: 8.55

His percentage change (from 2013 – 15 in Japan to 2016 in the MLB) for each metric can be seen below…

  • GS: -23.08%
  • IP: -33.02%
  • ERA: +100%
  • WHIP: +10.42%
    • BB/9: +15.70%
  • K/9: +8.77%

Miles Mikolas

2015 – 17 stats in the JPCL (per Baseball Reference)

Year 1 (2015) / age 26 season

  • GS: 21
  • IP: 145
  • ERA: 1.92
  • WHIP: 0.90
    • BB/9: 1.4
  • K/9: 6.6

Year 2 (2016) / age 27 season

  • GS: 14
  • IP: 91.2
  • ERA: 2.45
  • WHIP: 1.17
    • BB/9: 2.3
  • K/9: 8.2

Year 3 (2017) / age 28 season

  • GS: 27
  • IP: 188
  • ERA: 2.25
  • WHIP: 0.98
    • BB/9: 1.1
  • K/9: 9.0

Here is his stat-line from his 1st year with the Cardinals (2018)…

2018 / age 29 season

  • GS: 32
  • IP: 200.2
  • ERA: 2.83
  • WHIP: 1.07
    • BB/9: 1.3
  • K/9: 6.5

We can now compare the metrics above (from 2016) to a weighted average (formula: {[2015 metric * 0.25] + [2016 metric * 0.3] + [2017 metric * 0.45]} / 3) of Mikolas’ stat-line from his 3 years in Japan…

2015 – 17 / age 26 – 28 seasons

  • GS: 22
  • IP: 148.1
  • ERA: 2.23
  • WHIP: 1.02
    • BB/9: 1.54
  • K/9: 7.68

His percentage change (from 2015 – 17 in Japan to 2018 in the MLB) for each metric can be seen below…

  • GS: +45.45%
  • IP: +35.18%
  • ERA: +26.90%
  • WHIP: +4.90%
    • BB/9: -15.59%
  • K/9: -15.37%

Here is an average percentage change (which encompasses all 5 pitchers: Maeda, Ohtani, Darvish, Tanaka, and Mikolas)…

  • GS: +3.92%
  • IP: -12.29%
  • ERA: +72.96%
  • WHIP: +15.34%
    • BB/9: +29.83%
  • K/9: +3.88%

We can now utilize these percentage changes to project how well Yusei Kikuchi will do in his 1st year in the majors…

Yusei Kikuchi

2016 – 18 stats in the JPCL (per Baseball Reference)

Year 1 (2016) / age 25 season

  • GS: 22
  • IP: 143
  • ERA: 2.58
  • WHIP: 1.29
    • BB/9: 4.2
  • K/9: 8.0

Year 2 (2017) / age 26 season

  • GS: 26
  • IP: 187.2
  • ERA: 1.97
  • WHIP: 0.91
    • BB/9: 2.3
  • K/9: 10.4

Year 3 (2018) / age 27 season

  • GS: 23
  • IP: 163.2
  • ERA: 3.08
  • WHIP: 1.03
    • BB/9: 2.5
  • K/9: 8.4

Here is a weighted average (formula: {[2013 metric * 0.25] + [2014 metric * 0.3] + [2015 metric * 0.45]} / 3) of Kikuchi’s stat-line from his final 3 years in Japan…

2015 – 18 / age 25 – 27 seasons

  • GS: 24
  • IP: 165.1
  • ERA: 2.62
  • WHIP: 1.06
    • BB/9: 2.87
  • K/9: 8.9

Yusei Kikuchi’s 2019 projected stat-line (generated through applying the average percentage change for each metric) is as follows…

  • GS: 25
  • IP: 144.2
  • ERA: 4.53
  • WHIP: 1.22
    • BB/9: 3.73
  • K/9: 9.25

Those numbers resemble that of a #4 SP. Comparable starting pitchers include LHP Steven Matz (293 overall ADP per Fantasy Pros), RHP Reynaldo Lopez (296), and RHP Kyle Gibson (306).

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