Q. Okay -- a located 90 fastball, two breaking pitches one left and one right, and a wipeout forkball. Who is like that in the majors?
A. Also known as the Mike Mussina / David Cone type family. Precious few pitchers execute 4+ pitches effectively. Precious fewer do it while using a forkball.
Here is the complete list of the ten ML pitchers who, at any time during 2009-11, threw 10% forkballs or more (Iwakuma throws 20%). As you can see, there are varying degrees of competence within any given family ...
||% forks, splits
||10% in 2012
||15% in 2009
As a group, these guys make a fair amount of money, especially in All-Star bonuses.
There you go. That is the list of ML pitchers who feature splitfinger and forkball pitches. As you can see, it's a template that leads the template field.
Zambrano - featured the split in 2009 and 2010 only during his career, running 3.77 and 3.33 ERA's in Wrigley Field
Neimann - Borderline if he belongs here; features FB and power curve 85%, mixes in slider and fork a bit. Good pitcher.
Halladay - throws four pitches in David Cone style: FB 25%, cutter/slider 45%, fork 15%, and curve 15%. What a template
Penny - Has no glove-side breaking pitch (no slider or cutter). Everything is FB, curve, fork
Kuroda - Borderline if he belongs here. Very weird 3-pitch arsenal: Fastball, slider, forkball. Excellent SP
Dempster - See Kuroda
Mike Pelfrey - Uses Kuroda arsenal. Along with Ryan Franklin, serves as the bottom floor of what this kind of SP can be
Haren - 3 pitches like Kuroda ... instead of FB-SL-SF, uses FB-cutter-SF, which is far more effective
Nolasco - true 4-pitch, forkball SP. Would be a star except for execution from the stretch (terrible ERA with RISP)
Tim Hudson - also a true 4-pitch guy at this point
It's possible that F/X will wind up seeing Hisashi Iwakuma as a 3-pitch guy, if it reads his Shuuto as a fastball. But if it did, it would still see the ratios as 50% fastball, 25% slider, 25% forkball - many fewer FB's than the other guys' cutters and FB's combined.
(By the way, I was surprised to see that Dice-K came to America and stopped throwing slow stuff. It was all fastball-cutter-slider, three pitches instead of four or five. Sigggghhhh.)
Q. Is our old friend Ryan Franklin in this category?
A. As a starter, he was the lower boundary for this category, but Franklin was an extreme flyball pitcher. Iwakuma is a groundball pitcher.
Honestly, you've got a ways to go to --- > find a 4-pitch "Polished Pro" guy with a forkball, who throws grounders. It's just a very sophisticated game, one that is difficult to execute, and obviously difficult to hit.
Q. So who are Iwakuma's comparables?
A. He is in the Mussina / Cone family, but red-shifted towards ground balls. None of these other guys throw a GB-happy Shuuto. Also, Iwakuma's splitter induces a bizarro GB ratio, and even the FB gets topped. Iwakuma's GB ratio is over 2:1.
If you're using GB + Diverse Arsenal as the paradigm, you get Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and Trevor Cahill.
All things considered, I'd go with Hudson as the best comp ... if Hudson threw 20% forks.
Q. Is this template really such a slam dunk?
A. If Iwakuma were becoming an Oakland Athletic, my main hope would be that he wasn't going to execute his pitches crisply in 2012. I wouldn't hold out a lot of hope that his game, properly executed, wouldn't work.
If Iwakuma throws his shuuto the way he does on YouTube, and if he locates his fastball, and if he mixes his pitches 40-20-20-20, he is going to be effective.