All of the pitches in Texas

Alessandro Zilio
8 min readApr 24, 2021

One of the quirks about baseball is the fact that it has its own language, a dictionary that encompasses generations of games, players, broadcasters, mythological figures that built the pastime we love.

To everything happening on the diamond there’s a term designed for the occasion: a double play is the twin killing, a 12–6 curveball is a hammer or even Public Enemy N°1 according to the great Vin Scully, and the list goes on.

Recently there are more acronyms: a TOOTBLAN is for guys running themselves out on the bases, a NOBLETIGER means being unable to score in a no-out bases loaded situation and the LOOGY…well that doesn’t exist anymore, damned be the three-batter rule.

Personally, the baseball term that is the most fascinating is an odd one: when a pitcher throws the kitchen sink. You’ll have surely heard this expression a myriad of times and not always in a positive connotation: when a guy throws the kitchen sink it means that he’s going for quantity over quality, trying to baffle hitters with a lot of different, yet average or below, pitches rather than trusting a couple of elite offerings.

Is it the truth though? Maybe, maybe not. What really irks me about the negative reputation of being a kitchen sink pitcher is that actually some of the best pitchers in the game are going for it, running the Enigma machine with their catchers and digging deep on the bag of tricks when it comes to their arsenal.

So how is a kitchen sink pitcher defined? Well…nobody knows! There’s no real set of conditions telling you about it, there’s no spoken nor unspoken rule to go for, it’s just a term that came out of the blue when someone started throwing too many different pitches to be labeled as a 3/4 pitch guy.

What I created is a kitchen sink vocabulary definition out of thin air, because why not!? On my terms only I’ll consider a kitchen sink pitcher one that throws a minimum of 6 different pitches at least each 5% or more of his total number of pitches thrown. Why? That is 100% subjective: the 6 pitches threshold is done to further highlight those pitchers who really go for a wider variety of offerings, while the 5% limit is a way to be sure that there’s an actual kitchen sink, not just 3 pitches and a couple of once-in-a-blue-moon oddities.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll consider only starting pitchers. To my knowledge I’ve never heard of a guy throwing the kitchen sink out of the pen, at least in recent times, and if anything that was probably a starter working as long reliever, as Josh Lindblom is doing in Milwaukee.

Considering SPs who have thrown, so far in 2021, at least 250 pitches only a select few can be anointed as kitchen sink pitchers, and they are a nice club to belong to: a couple of them are into the Padres starting rotation, which may very well be the one with the highest potential in all of baseball injuries aside, then another pair comes from Texas on the Rangers side and finally there’s one each for Oakland and Cleveland, obviously.

Some of you may have guessed at least a Padre, none other than Yu Darvish, he of a hundred thousand weapons, the Supreme among them, a freak of the nature that learns pitches at will, just by asking the grip, let’s say Craig Kimbrel’s knuckle curve, throwing a couple and then straight to the game it goes. The other San Diego representative is hometown Joe Musgrove, you know, the pitcher who threw the first no-hitter in Padres history, no big deal.

Another couple of names are almost household at this point: Aaron Civale is just the last #4 turned possible ace by Cleveland’s unreal player development system for starting pitchers, and one of the most interesting guys to follow as he remade his repertoire from last season. You may also have heard of Chris Bassitt, his loopy windup and slow curve, as he’s the steady eddy in an A’s rotation with oft-injured Sean Manaea and talented yet inconsistent frontline starters (Luzardo, Montas).

On to Texas, one of the kitchen sink pitchers has been here a long time, former Minnesota stalwart Kyle Gibson, among the most consistent mid-rotation arms in the game, a mid 4 ERA innings eater that is the poster boy of kitchen sinking.

The other? Someone you may not know as he’s a rookie, just for MLB standards though: former Nippon Ham Fighter Kohei Arihara.

As one who’s been following NPB, Nippon Professional Baseball, a long time, Arihara represents all good and bad about pitching and being an “ace” in Japan.

You may remember the Fighters as Shohei Ohtani’s former team, and he was without a doubt their most talented player, yet the man atop the rotation, the one who was called to pitch season openers and big games was Kohei:

Kohei Arihara, NPB career stats

Wait, are those the stats of a true ace? Not really, right!? That speaks of a couple of issues: first the Fighters weren’t, and aren’t today, a really good team, and playing in the same league as perennial powerhouse Fukuoka Softbank Hawks doesn’t help. Second, look at what happens when you divide IP, Innings Pitched, by G, Games.

Arihara was the ace not only stuff-wise but also on pure reliability: provided of a rubber arm, he went out there and averaged almost 6.2 innings per appearance, considering also a brief stint in the pen in 2018. That is to say that, rain, snow, sun or hail, Kohei was sent out to provide the bulk no matter what.

I still remember one of his starts as the weirdest in my NPB career: 8 innings, 10+ hits allowed and 7 ER, that is going beyond “leaving the man out to dry”, an old-school way of handling your starter, a reminder of the days when your ace had to go nine or die, the Gibson, Jack Morris, and everything a #1 was before baseball as we know it now.

That’s to say that poor Arihara has never been an ace, a Darvish/Tanaka that comes to the States and rocks: he finished his NPB career with an ERA of 3.74, good but not great, and profiled as a back of the rotation starter in the MLB, one that while walking nobody (career 2 BB/9) didn’t get that many K’s (career 6,74 K/9) and relied more on soft contact and groundballs to get through the game (career 0.96 HR/9).

The reliability of Arihara, him being sometimes almost mistreated by his kantoku and his drop and drive delivery, one of the simplest among Japanese pitchers, made him one of my favourites and his MLB debut is being quite beyond expectations: his last two starts have been spotless, 5.2 IP each, with a combined 5 hits allowed and 11 Ks, a boon for someone who was signed to a cheap contract by Texas to fill the last spot in the rotation.

As testimonied by a recent FanGraphs article, Arihara is a true kitchen sink pitcher, one that throws a lot of different pitches without discriminating too much, although in his last two starts he relied heavily on his splitter to rack up strikeouts. There’s a problem though: he’s getting extremely lucky

Kohei Arihara 2021 percentile rankings

When your Savant page looks like an ocean in a map, you are in trouble: Arihara is getting hit hard and barreled way above average, not to mention he is his usual self when it comes to (not) striking guys out. Thankfully he’s also walking close to no one and enjoying a friendly BABIP wind that is keeping a lot of flyballs in the park.

At a first glance Kohei is the embodiement of kitchen sinking, the good, a wide variety of pitches, and the bad, those pitches being average at best:

Kohei Arihara, pitch mix

That fastball jumps out at you, and not in a good way: among qualified starters Arihara’s 4-seamer is the only pitch thrown at least 20% of the time to allow an xwOBA higher than .700, and Kohei is throwing it almost a third of his offerings.

Arihara’s fastball is painfully bland, dropping slightly less but tailing a bit more than average, and he’s not helping himself location-wise:

Kohei Arihara, FB location

The idea of going inside RHB and painting outside against LHB is a good one but living in the middle part of the plate is deadly, and a rather anonymous pitch shape doesn’t help. There’s also a big problem when it comes to kitchen sink pitchers: they need to be unpredictable whether they are behind the count or up, and Arihara is not

Kohei Arihara, pitch mix per AB count

Going 0–1 or 1–0 makes all the difference for a batter against Arihara: fall behind and the kitchen sink is on full display, as there are multiple possible pitches that could come out of Kohei’s hand, but earn that first ball and then it’s all fastballs, straight, sinking or cutting, so take aim and pummel.

Unfortunately for Arihara, his 48% 1st Pitch Strike rate is well below the 60% league average: Kohei is starting behind more often than not, that means he’s throwing more fastballs to catch up and when your heater has no otherwordly velocity nor nasty ride you are in for a bad afternoon.

What should he do then? Dialing down on heaters for more cutters and sinkers seems a good idea, as those pitches are getting hit much less and far more on the ground, then I’d suggest to ramp up on the splitter, a weapon he’s throwing too few of and getting unreal results on (67% Whiff, 43% PutAway).

That said it’s not that easy of a fix, as for a kitchen sink pitcher without a plus offering it is much more important to tunnel and combine optimally his variety of pitches rather than focus on the “best” ones and shelve the others, so I’m not sure if trimming down the rate of four seamers could also have negative consequences on Arihara’s breaking ball and offspeed results.

Arihara is having a nice first month in the Majors although he’s also running hot: an xwOBA 100 points higher than the actual wOBA, an xERA triple, yes 3 times a lady, than the real ERA (2.11, a man can dream) and an alarming rate of line drives allowed (almost 26% of all batted balls) are warnings that the dog days are yet to come for the Japanese starter.

But so far so good: he’s doing what he’s being paid for and even more, as steady as always in taking the mound every five days and trying his best to fool Major League hitters with all the pitches he has to offer.

It’s not pretty, and it’s bound to go south, but Arihara is throwing them the kitchen sink and, while it’s expected to fail, it’s actually working. And I couldn’t be happier for him and all the kitchen sinkers out there.

Go wide, be unpredictable and get outs, Kohei!



Alessandro Zilio

Italian baseball stathead. I’ll write about MLB, NPB and Korean dramas. A lot of Astros related content and obscure references.