Seattle Mariners Win Late, Servais Decision Leads to Controversy
It wasn’t a great night for the Mariners. The defense was mediocre most of the night. The bullpen suffered another blown lead. And the offense was shut down by a pitiful Royals bullpen. Oh, and they still won.
However, the biggest question from the Mariners game on Wednesday came from the decision to remove Yusei Kikuchi from a 5-3 game after throwing just 80 pitches through 6 innings. There are legitimate arguments on both sides of the coin.
Let’s take a look at the pro-Servais side of things. We all know that Yusei Kikuchi is going to be on a pretty strict plan in an attempt to ease him into the culture and workload change of the United States.
If you are unaware, the Japanese leagues do things differently than MLB. The starters make just one start a week, and as such, throw 120+ pitches per outing on a regular basis. The baseballs are also different, the Japanese ball has bigger seams.
But Kikuchi was reportedly sold on the Mariners thanks in large part to this plan put forth to ease him into the Major League Baseball. This was the first time Kikuchi was being asked to throw on the MLB standard 4 days off. So, not asking him to try and get one extra inning for you, might be the right choice.
From a long-term basis, perhaps it is. You can certainly understand this side of the argument. The Mariners aren’t chasing every win, so why push him this early in the season?
However, on the other side of the coin, we need to remember that not all 6 innings, 80 pitch outings are created equally. High-stress pitches is a term you need to remember. How many of those pitches came with guys on base? The pitches can create higher stress on the arm and can mentally drain as well.
Early on, this was the case for Kikuchi, who battled with runners on and an inconsistent strike zone through the first 3 innings. However, YK found his grove and didn’t allow a single base-runner from the forth until the end of his outing.
He also didn’t experience any long cool down periods. The Mariners offense was contained for most of the night, so he was working with a nice rhythm and didn’t sit in the dugout for long stretches.
Kikuchi almost certainly felt good after 6 and was likely able to get through 7. But that isn’t a part of the plan. Manager Scott Servais loves his plans, and rarely deviates from them. Of course, the biggest wild card in this discussion is whether or not YK was done. Perhaps he asked to be removed from the game. It is a possibility. It was also possible YK would blow the lead himself.
Whether or not Scott Servais made the right decision is a toss-up. You can certainly see the argument from both sides of the coin. Overall, it is a tough decision to make and one that would have likely been questioned on both sides.
The Mariners earned a hard-fought victory all the same, so this topic may lose a lot of steam for now. The Kikuchi plan will be nitpicked all year, with everybody claiming they “know” exactly what the plan is.
Us fans have a good idea of what the plan looks like, but we cannot assume we will ever know the details or every contingency levied on it. Tonight was perhaps the first debate we will have of the Kikuchi usage plan, but it will almost certainly not be the last.