Should the Texas Rangers be worried about Kohei Arihara?
By Seth Carlson
As one of the prized acquisitions of a surpassingly busy off-season, Kohei Arihara was brought in from Japan to help stabilize a Texas Rangers rotation that had many holes to fill.
For two years and $6.2 million, taking a gamble on the right-hander seemed like a no-brainer for all parties.
And when you take a gamble, you’re going to experience highs and lows at various points.
Arihara started out the season strong, pitching a quality start in Kansas City. He was on the losing end of a Joe Musgrove no-hitter despite a decent, two run outing for the righty. The 28-year-old even has two scoreless starts to his ledger, doing so in consecutive appearances against the Rays and Angels, the latter of which involved him out-dueling fellow countryman Shohei Ohtani in their first stateside battle.
Recently, though, the Japanese righty has struggled mightily.
Weather might have had something to do with his poor command and bad outing in Chicago against the White Sox, or perhaps, dare we say… tipped pitches?
Kohei Arihara’s first season with the Texas Rangers has been inconsistent.
In any event, Arihara lasted just two innings in Chicago, surrendering five earned runs and walking four batters.
Looking for improvement in his last start, at home against the Red Sox, Arihara did not find it, getting bombed for six runs by Boston’s high-powered offensive attack in a 2.2 inning span.
A concerning trend, for sure. But is it time to panic as we begin the month of May?
We’ll put it this way: a 5.76 ERA after the first month of the season is unflattering, to say the least. The 25 inning sample size is still relatively small, but it could be larger: Arihara doesn’t stay long into games, having pitched into the sixth inning just once so far this season.
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The 28-year-old throws seven pitches, which is a lot! He doesn’t control any of them particularly well, which likely explains the struggles on the surface. To remain effective, he’ll probably have to hone in on three or four that he can expertly control on any given day.
Underlying metrics paint a darker picture of Arihara, though.
According to Baseball Savant, the 28-year-old ranks poorly in nearly every percentile ranking from K% and Hard Hit% to Chase Rate and Average Exit Velocity.
Batters are hitting the ball at an average of 94 mph off Arihara’s offerings.
So is his xERA of over seven, which measures Arihara’s expected ERA if he was completely unlucky this season. He hasn’t been, obviously, since he’s had some good starts in 2021.
As it is, the Texas Rangers don’t have many alternatives to fill rotation innings. It’s not like we didn’t anticipate them having this problem, but outside of Kyle Gibson, the starting pitching has been extremely suspect for the team.
Kohei Arihara was brought in to mitigate this issue to a degree. And we want to believe he can right the ship and be the pitcher the Texas Rangers believe he can be.
We’re not seeing the results yet, though, and the metrics make it fair to wonder if we ever truly will.