Remember that bald guy in the wheelchair who was flying Bond around in a helicopter? "Mwahaha. I have waited for this moment for a lonngggg time, Meester Bond. I intend to enjoy it to the full." You and I have one gorgeous, precious week to enjoy leading the major league standings.
YUSEI KIKUCHI - CAPT. OBVIOUS
1) The young Barry Zito used to run records like 23-5, 2.75 and it was all based on a shellshocking change curve. Zito would reach back, come through with the fastball arm action... and the ball would just pop a parachute, drop in from 45 degrees.* Batter after batter found it completely impossible to pull the trigger.
Or a Trevor Hoffman changeup. Glorious the way he could toss 3 in a row and get three ice poses in a row. That stiffening up of the batter's pose was so fun to watch.
Prediction here is that Kikuchi will have a sky-high taken strike percentage. Not since Zito have I seen the change-curve action on a curve ball. Greeeeeaaaaatttttt deception, neh?
And supposing they did get a swing off. You had an Erik Bedard situation, the hook crackling so hard that they couldn't square it anyway. Ohhhhhh man. That was sooooo dee-lish last night :- D
2) Of course Bedard had another problem. 50% nobody able to make contact, and 50% a fair amount of balls thrown by Bedard, he often hit 100 pitches by the 5th inning.
Dr. D will fight the good fight until they carry him out feet first, that 5.0 IP 0 ER (or 5.2 1 ER) is going to give your ballclub about a 14-4 record. The writers' paradigm is, or was, that 7 IP was more important than a win. But things are changing quickly in baseball these days. I expect they'll adjust quickly to 5 IP, 1 ER being a major victory for the defense.
3) Of course this was spring training, EARLY spring training. Kikuchi had thrown all of 9.0 full innings this calendar year. So his fastball was 87-92, as the young Zito's was, and he threw a fair amount of balls (not missing by a lot).
I'm *hoping* that he'll build arm strength from here -- add velo, and add first-pitch strikes. That's the natural way. If not he's pretty much the young Zito. If he DOES add the reported 93-97 MPH then ..... whoa gramma. That's lights out. Noooooo chance, bab-eh.
He was an All-Star last night and if he sharpens up, if he adds any arm strength, he is a certified Cy Young contenda. B'lee DAT.
3a) He has had some shoulder issues in the past; I'm hoping ML pitch counts will steer him clear of that. We can hope.
3b) What do you think of the idea of an "opener" for Kikuchi?! He would take it well, for sure, and that could get the camel's nose under the flap of the tent for everybody else.
IF the innings issue persists -- not saying they will -- but if they do, Dr. D would have a lot of fun watching a mystery platoon man face the first three hitters -- stars -- and then watching Kikuchi tee off on the next 2.5 times through the lineup. Somebody like Rosscup against lefties, Gearrin against righties, y'know?
4) $14M per year for this guy is highway robbery. $25M is the right value.
5) Which would you rather field for a big series? Kikuchi and Sheffield? Or Paxton and Felix?
6) I'm a little intrigued by the idea of Mike Leake as bullpen help. Strike one, and a putaway pitch also (the slider). Good tunnel action and good poise. Not that the bullpen wasn't parsecs better than we expected, especially Elias.
7) So that's 1.5, maybe 2.0 All-Stars running for us already. We've got a Big Two to bring back and throw at Boston. We're one promotion away from a Big Three. Most years there is a surprise team, usually based on surprises in the rotation. Joe Posnanski said last week:
I think people underestimate how fast it can change in baseball. The ‘17 Braves won 72 games. The ‘17 As won 75. The ‘16 Brewers won 73. The ‘14 Cubs won 73. And so on.
We've got a week to bask in our perfect series; how about some impressions in the comments thread below? First series couldn't a gone any better.
8) I flat-out enjoy Kikuchi's happy, forwardgoing, team-oriented personality. .... the anti-Felix? ;- ) j/k. What were the odds that an NPB pitcher would come in here on 2 hours'* notice and make me forget* James Paxton?
Ya, Dr. D is feelin' purty giddy this mornin'. He's only too happy to bid Zeus adieu and hop steeds over to the Japanese stallion gallopin' down the trail alongside.
Dunno what the Best Bet bids are but Dr. D assumes he's in a big pack of Denizens who expect All-Star performance out of this Zito/Bedard comp.
Thanks so much to all our sponsors who continued their subscriptions while I was in the hospital! Talk about generosity. Fully 90% of Patrons continued to toke their longtime (1995-present) dealer. You guys rock SO hard.
Original plan was that if we hit $150 per month donations, we'd add a 7th article on D-O-V. Almost the week we set that up, I hit a big health hiccup and it all went sideways. I always felt terrible about that. :- /
As it happens, the quota this year has changed from last year's 6 to now 8 this year, so the 7th article (and an 8th!) will be coming automatically. Works out, I hope, for those who were patient.
And thank you again for your generous sponsorship. It's so much appreciated.
Classy, classy exit for Ichiro in the 'Dome (compare to Griff's). Don't think the NPB fans didn't notice Servais did EVERYTHING he could to get Ichrio that last hit.
Back in 2001 we started out with a nice edge in this realm, like Rickey in the late 40's with the Negro Leagues, and it sez here that LAST NIGHT, last night alone, put another nice gust of wind in the sails of the Mariners in Japan. Kikuchi himself might be here 'cuz of Ichiro and there could of course be others shortly.
Included in this weekend is the fact that we can probably assume that Ichiro will go into the HOF in an M's cap. For me, I hope he hangs around the club as a semi-coach, semi-ambassador the way he did last year.
But first of all, less' get 3-4 starts in and then let's get a Big Three rollin'. The displaced SP's can help us out in the pen.