The Seattle Mariners were going to have one of its players in Colorado for the All-Star game no matter what, but it was a bit unclear who would be representing the team this season. Until yesterday, fans were cheering on for Mitch Haniger, J.P. Crawford, and Yusei Kikuchi.
After yesterday’s victory over the Texas Rangers, Yusei found out that he was going to make his first All-Star game appearance surrounded by his teammates and coaches.
Yusei Kikuchi is going to Colorado to represent the Seattle Mariners
At the beginning of the season, I don’t think many were expecting Yusei Kikuchi to make the All-Star team this year. As a matter of fact, I had Marco Gonzales, Kyle Lewis, Tom Murphy, and Justus Sheffield as my candidates to make the All-Star team prior to the start of the season. Oof, don’t ask me for pre-season advice anymore.
But enough about me. What an accomplishment for Yusei Kikuchi! The 30-year-old starting pitcher is the 14th Japanese-born player to make an MLB All-Star team. An ever cooler Seattle Mariners-related record, Kikuchi is the 6th Seattle Mariners player born in Japan to participate in the mid-summer classic. The list: Ichiro, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Hisashi Iwakuma, and now Yusei Kikuchi.
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Yusei Kikuchi taught Seattle Mariners one important thing: be patient
Signing Yusei Kikuchi created a lot of buzz in Seattle, but he struggled right out of the gate. In 2019, he finished with a 5.46 ERA. He had some solid advanced metrics which made fans hopeful for his future, but his basic stats didn’t look great.
And then in the 2020 pandemic season, he improved his ERA but only by a margin. Kikuchi finished 2020 with a 5.17 ERA in nine games. Fans started to lose patience for Kikuchi, who had some spectacular years in Japan.
But now, Yusei Kikuchi’s hard work and trust in the process is paying off. The southpaw currently has a 3.18 ERA with a 6-3 record. He has also struck out 93 batters in 93.1 innings, and posted a 1.03 WHIP.
It is also interesting to note that many of his advanced metrics were actually better last year, compared to this year. Here’s a comparison of his 2020 and 2021 advanced numbers.
- xBA – .228 vs. .242
- Barrel % – 3.9 vs. 8.3
- xwOBA – .283 vs. .314
- xERA – 3.37 vs. 4.00
Regardless of what his advanced metrics say, Kikuchi has been the best pitcher in the starting rotation. The Seattle Mariners have a really good thing going now and a large part of that is because of Yusei Kikuchi. So, I think we can confidently say that Kikuchi isn’t a bust like some of you may have initially thought. Let’s hope that he keeps it up and finds himself in another All-Star game in the future.