Yusei Kikuchi - Regression
The 2023 campaign was all kinds of fantastic for Yusei Kikuchi. He turned out to be a pleasant surprise, as he enjoyed the best season of his five years in the Majors.
Kikuchi set single-season bests with 11 wins, a 3.86 ERA, 110 ERA+ and 1.270 WHIP. He also tied a walk-rate low of 6.9 percent, while finishing with the second-best FIP and strike rate of his career, at 4.12 and 25.9 percent respectively.
It all resulted in the 32-year-old becoming a reliable fourth option in the Blue Jays rotation, as he tied his career-high of 32 starts from his rookie year. He also proved to be durable, by finishing fourth on the team with a career-best 167.2 innings pitched.
The question is, what can we expect for an encore from Kikuchi in 2024? Well, we've previously written that we believe he peaked in 2023, and it turns out FanGraphs have a similar outlook.
In reality it makes sense the 2021 All-Star is set to regress next year, or at the very least offer doubt given his erratic play during his time in the Majors. And in fairness, while projected to trend in the wrong direction, he's not expected to fall off the proverbial cliff.
In this respect, Kikuchi's projected 10 wins, 4.03 ERA and 4.25 FIP would all still be the second-best of his time in the Majors. Although we appreciate these statistics can just as easily be viewed negatively in respect of how underwhelming they appear.
The Japan native is predicted to have the same 1.27 WHIP as this past season, which is a positive. (It certainly isn't a negative.) Meanwhile, his 24.8 percent strike rate and 8.6 percent walk rate would both be the second-best of his career in their respective categories.
If nothing else, a factor in all of this which can't be quantifed, is that 2024 will represent the final season of Kikuchi's three-year deal with the Blue Jays. Assuming he harbours ambitions of landing another Major League contract somewhere, he will be supremely motivated to pitch well in Toronto.