What is happening!
Welcome to the SP Roundup, the morning article reviewing every starting pitcher performance from last night’s (or morning’s, I suppose) games.
This article and yesterday’s are a bit different from the regular flow of SP Roundups, which will kick off proper next Friday following “real” Opening Day games, containing streamer picks and games to watch.
And a much better opening paragraph.
All right, let’s talk about the two pitchers from Thursday’s early game:
Yusei Kikuchi – 4.2 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 3 Ks. I really liked what I saw here. I know, 91 pitches to get through just 14 outs is a bit disappointing, but there was a lot at play. There had to have been nerves, as not only was Kikuchi playing his first game as a Seattle Mariner, but he was also in front of his home crowd in Japan. It was a momentous occasion, and I believe he was slightly off because of it. Still, I liked what I saw. A great mix of fastballs and cutters that kept right-handers off balance often, giving a sense of a pitcher working on his craft instead of throwing. There’s a little bit of polish left, but it’s very believable he flexes it sooner rather than later. His breaker will miss bats, and I think if he had a little more faith in the pitch down-and-arm side, he’d rack up more strikeouts quickly (just 8 whiffs and 22 CSW in 91 pitches leaves a bit to be desired). Don’t look at the 4.2 frames and think this isn’t a QS arm—Kikuchi will contribute plenty through the year as he’ll earn poor contact constantly, allowing him to charge through frames quickly. My current rank around No. 40 seems just right, and I’m definitely interested in the southpaw as my No. 4 starter.
Marco Estrada – 5.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 0 BBs, 1 Ks. On the other side was Estrada, who didn’t put up a dramatically different line but looked dramatically different. He allowed two home runs on a pair of poor pitches, and if Estrada is to act like his former 12-teamer-relevant self, he’ll need to refine that changeup. The slow ball was up too frequently today and needs to fall beneath the zone more often, helping him get more pop-ups with high four-seamers as he changes eye levels. There was talk during the game of Estrada needing more from his curveball, and that may be correct if he can’t find his old changeup. However, an improved deuce doesn’t elevate Estrada to 12-teamer relevancy. I can see him having success in 15-teamers now that his home park is the spacious and fly-ball-friendly Oakland Coliseum, but that’s where I draw the line. Join me as I yell Polo, running outside the pool as Estrada helplessly flails in the water.
(Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)