So I am usually one to use Fangraphs in order to research an individual player’s stats. With right-handed, submariner Kazuhisa Makita, that wasn’t an option, as the Japanese righty does not yet have a Fangraphs’ page at present. Rather than use a non-existent Fangraphs’ page, I turned to Baseball Reference.
The 33-year-old Makita’s Japanese pitching career goes all the way back to 2011 when he first debuted with the Seibu Lions.
In his first season, Makita appeared in 55 games, with 10 of those coming as starts, and compiled a 2.61 ERA. Makita struck out 86 batters to just 16 walks in 127 and two-thirds innings in total. That 5.38 strikeout to walk ratio would be the second best of his Japanese career. Makita followed with nearly identical numbers in 2012, throwing 50 more innings and striking out 108 with 36 walks. With a decline in his strikeout rate and increase in his walk rate, Makita’s numbers didn’t look nearly as good, although his ERA did drop to 2.43 on the year.
Makita once again put together a solid all-around performance in 2013, throwing 166 innings with a 2.93 ERA. However, he took yet another step back in his strikeout to walk ratio, which fell to 2.23 with only 87 strikeouts and a career-high 39 walks. 2014 ended up being an even worse year, as Makita threw 170 and two-thirds innings and posted a career-worst 3.74 ERA. Makita ran into more problems in 2015, posting a 3.66 ERA in 137 and two-thirds innings with the worst strikeout to walk ratio of his career.
Going into 2016, the Lions did something kind of radical and shifted Makita to the bullpen full-time. For the first time in his career, Makita did not make a single start, making 50 appearances out of the bullpen. It definitely paid off, as Makita had the most success of his career in 78 and two-thirds innings of work. With a career-low 1.60 ERA and the lowest hit rate of his career, it seemed like Makita had found a new niche in the bullpen.
After turning around his career out of the bullpen in 2016, expectations were high for Makita in 2017, and he did not disappoint. Although Makita’s ERA jumped up to 2.30, he posted easily the best strikeout to walk ratio of his career, with seven strikeouts for every walk. In total, Makita walked only five hitters in 62 and two-thirds innings, making a career-high 58 appearances. Although the ERA wasn’t nearly as good as it had been in some previous years, Makita gave up only four home runs and he was able to do a solid job of limiting hard contact. All in all, it was yet another solid season of relief for the submarining righty. And that submarine motion sure is wild.
2018 Projection and Long-Term Outlook
Going into 2018, there isn’t really much of a projection for Kazuhisa Makita given his lack of big league experience. It’s hard enough to project big league performance for Japanese pitchers, let alone relievers. Given Makita’s pitch mix, which includes a low-80s fastball, a sinker, a curveball, and a slider, it really could go either way. On one hand, Makita could come out and find lots of success with his deceptive throwing motion. On the other, Makita could get eaten alive by big league hitters. I know it’s a cliche, but there is really no way of knowing how Makita will do until he gets out there. Of all the players who are likely to make the 25-man roster, Makita is easily the biggest unknown. But regardless of what happens, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch that submarine motion on a weekly basis.