POTD Hisashi Iwakuma - scouting report, 4 pitches

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Q.  Okay, the #1, the fastball.

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A.  At the 0:21 mark on this video, he takes a Cuban hitter up the ladder and you can see the excellent life on the pitch.

After the shoulder problems in early 2011, Iwakuma was clocked 89-92 later in the year.  David Cone had this happen, constant shoulder problems off-and-on, pitched through the pain the last eight years of his career.  Am sure that MLB teams are not worried about the shoulder and velo, and I certainly wouldn't be, not based on Cone and similar pitchers.

At the 1:00 mark on the vid, you can see two 90-mph, pound-the-knees fastballs with nice life.  The pitches are straight, and if Albert Pujols were sitting on the heater he'd give it a ride.

Scouts use the idea "his fastball plays up" because Iwakuma pitches backwards, using 50% or fewer fastballs, like Mussina and Cone did, like Matt Garza learned to do in 2011.  Iwakuma has a knack for getting batters into a passive mindset before he starts pounding the knees with the heater.

As we'll discuss in a minute, Iwakuma is aggressive with the heater and spots it nicely.  Think Jered Weaver.

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According to this article, Iwakuma gets a crazy hop on his fastball a la Byung-Hyun Kim.  Hopefully Taro or IceX can comment.

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Q.  Who or what is a shuuto?

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A.  BP makes the mistake of thinking that a shuuto is a two-seam fastball ... an American 2-seamer runs armside, and sinks a little, compared to a 4-seam "hopping" fastball.

Um, no.

You remember that Steve Delabar pitch, the one that broke armside and yet sharply down, like a screwball?  That's a shuuto.  It's a 2-seamer that has a vicious little dive at the end.

Don't believe me?  Check the first two pitches on this video.  You're telling me those are 2-seam fastballs?  Watch the catcher's glove on the slo-mo at 0:11.  Also the Delabar-type pitch at 0:30.  These swerveballs are 87-88 mph!

ML hitters will make contact with this pitch, usually, but they will two-bounce them to third base.  Check Fangraphs' data on the shuuto.  325 shuutos in 2010, of which 53 were groundballs, and only 14 fly balls.  You tell me.  How do you hit this pitch in the air?

This is one of the main differences between DiceK and Darvish.  Like Felix, Iwakuma is genuinely happy to get a 2-bounce hopper to the left side.  Iwakuma can miss bats just fine, but he chooses not to go for strikeouts only.  He knows when he can saw bats off, and when he's got them set up for that, that is exactly what he'll do.

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Q.  What's the slider?

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A.  Check the 0:40 mark on this video.  Down-and-in to a LHB's wheelhouse - makes him look like Jeff Clement.  (Which that particular batter probably is.  He'll have to watch that pitch to AL'ers.)

Also the 0:18 mark.  He throws the slider 80-82 mph, like a curve ball, gets batters out in front with it.  Functionally speaking, that's what it is, a power curve with a little tilt.

He gets 8% or 9% swinging strikes with it, not bad.  It's not a great slider, just a fairly good one, and it "plays up" due to the fact that the shuuto breaks the other way.  Remember Jamey Wright's and Jason Vargas' "snake-tongue" cutters and fastballs that break opposite ways?  That.

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Q.  The forkball?

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A.  A devastating weapon, like Sasaki's.  This chart says that he throws it a mortal ton, 20% or more, and still gets 19% swinging strikes with it.

See the 1:25 mark here.  Enjoy.  Note especially the fastball-like followthrough on the forearm and hand crack.  He sells it huge.  Look at the 0:34 mark - there's the Sasaki "thang" thrown high, with a bill-to-knees type break.

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Q.  The curve?

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A.  As far as I can tell, he only throws 1 or 2 a game.

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Comments

When I first watched the first video I thought his first two pitches were just wildly wicked forkers, but then on the 4th or 5th pitch you see his normal forker, which just completely falls off the table, without much movement armside.

He has two wicked out pitches there.  They set up his located FB, because batters eventually try to lay off the low/on the black stuff, assuming it will move out of the zone.

I like that he throws his Shuuto to lefties, too. 

Looking at the chart above, I wonder how many of those "splitters" that are in the top/left quadrant are really Shuuto's.  There isn't much difference in speed or movement between those and the labeled Shuutos. 

To me it looks like his forker just goes down, mostly, and arrives at more of a change-up pace.

Either way, he can pitch.  I like the Cone comparison. 

Tiant, Doc.  Didn't Tiant pitch like that?  Palm ball, slider, palmball, slider, palmball, fastball.

And now my attitude is, who is he heck is Millwood?

Hope we get this guy.

moe

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I hadn't thought of that.

Now that you mention it, for sure the F/X system is going to blur shuuto's and splits... good catch Moe...

I like his shuuto really well, love the forkball, love the all-around game in context as well as in MLB context ...

Looks like a 3-4 WAR pitcher to me ...

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SO, I've somewhat fallen out of the NPB loop, as I stopped watching TV, but some notes on Iwakuma.

Iwakuma is definitely much more of a pitcher compared to Darvish. Cone/Mussina are good comparisons.

I would actually say that Darvish v. Iwakuma is a good debate for the next 3 years. Where Darvish has stuff, Iwakuma has a more complete game.

Darvish has been getting away with nuking the NPB because of the level of play. The NPB hitting talent decline only helped his value. He will need to adjust and learn a lot and will not be much unlike throwing in a young Verlander or David Price... And so, though I would love him on the M's, the possibility of Darvish having a long adjustment period is very high. Especially in Arlington (good for us).

Iwakuma, however, will probably be able to produce as soon as he hits the tarmac, especially in a spacious park like Safeco. I would bet on a slow start, but I think he'll comeback quickly like Sasaki. As long as he can control his stuff, I have no doubt we'd be getting our roll on the dice for a Kuroda/Old Nomo level pitcher.

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Plan B . . .

Appears to be Iwakuma and . . .

dangle the young arms for a major bat?  If so, whom . . .

-- Ryan Zimmerman, yes (stock up on those UVa boys!); but I don't think the Nats would do it until they have no choice

-- David Wright?  I don't know if he's worth a Taijuan package anymore

-- Andre Ethier?  Definitely not worth a Taijuan package, and Seth Smith, frankly, looks almost as good for a lot less

I do like the idea of getting a major player for 3b or OF instead of at positions that we've got well-covered at the moment.

Could they be lurking on Yoennis Cespedes in the same way that Iwakuma was not widely rumored until the end?  I'm not sure what to think about him, but he seems like a decent bet to be something akin to an Upton ... but there's that risk of Yuni underachiement.

Folks may need to be resigned to Iwakuma, Seth Smith, Jaso and keeping the powder dry on the young arms to see what develops on the trade market.  It's a steep drop from Fielder, but I do think that Smith and Jaso could add a decent amount of ballast to the batting order.

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I agree with adding Zimmerman or Wright if the opportunity presents itself. 

I'd be interested in prying a bat out of KC, and Gordon seems like the best option for both teams - he's got 2 years left of arb before free agency and even with the Melky Cabrera trade they still need arms in KC.  But because of that trade, it might not happen.  You never know with KC. 

Ethier's knee, dollar cost and prospect cost makes me pause.  I would have paid it before last year, but not before this year.

I'd give a LOT for Logan Morrison - and we'd have to.  But that's a long-term MOTO solution, IMO.

But I'm with you, I expect that if and when Prince passes on the engraved invitation to the NW, that we'll go with an Iwakuma and Jaso offseason.  Which means relying - AGAIN - on the pitching staff to carry the team.

I'd like to give them a little more offensive help with that...

~G

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Gordon or Morrison: thumbs up.

Don't see either happening, though.  Missed the chance to buy cheap on Gordon.  He's been a verrrrry slow-burning fuse, and I don't see KC bailing on him right when he finally explodes (.879 OPS season).  All things being equal, he's local-ish (KC considers Nebraska part of its market) and, as badly as they might need pitching, it doesn't seem like a good PR move for a team that's awfully low-profile to start with.  If they're ever going to shake off their mediocrity, it's gonna be with Hosmer, Moustakas, Butler and Gordon -- I think they'll keep those guys intact and hope to find arms some other way.

Morrison is a great young LH bat, and would be worth a Taijuan Walker+ package.  I don't know why the Marlins would do it other than thinking he's worn out his welcome, which they say he hasn't (though I guess some think he has).  The Reyes-Hanley combo (if it works) won't provide the power, and I assume they'll want both Stanton and Morrison to do that.  Morrison isn't even arb-eligible until 2014.

Any thoughts on Cespedes, G?  Even worth tossing around the idea as Plan B?

6

Justin Upton, Justin Morneau, Joey Votto ...

About a month ago, Jason mentioned Morneau and about six other surprise names (which escape me now) that are supposed to be well into the trade market.

Reds traded for a pitcher, to be sure, but that can actually mean the pressure is increased to disposition Votto elsewhere.  Come at them with the Taijuan - Franklin - etc package and who knows...

Am sure there are other names that Z could deal for, but he wants to hold on to his prospects...

7

A creative way to become a big-hitting team...

James recently published his article "Teams On Paper," by which he identified (among other things) baseball's most overperforming teams...

One such, the 1977 White Sox.  They punted fielding and put four DH's on the field.  I remember them torturing the Mariners with 8-hit innings :- ) ... Richie Zisk, Chet Lemon, Oscar Gamble, Ralph Garr etc...

Putting Wells in CF, Carp in LF, buying a DH, putting Mark Reynolds at 3B, that kind of thing ... you can always fix your offense if you reallllllly want to ...

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Fixing the offense's picture

Fixing the offense

I believe the Manny in LF or Reyndolds at 3B types of decisions should be no-brainers for this team. 

When you have great pitching you don't need great defenders.  Personally, I think that the major flaw in Z's initial roster construction was that he doubled down on the defense and as a result the gains were marginal and not nearlly enough to offset the subsequent loss in offense. 

If Z had added a bunch of great defenders to a squad with bad pitching I think the moves would have worked much better.

However, with a team that's gonna run a rotation of Felix, Pineda, Vargas, Iwakuma and Hultzen - you don't need defenders.  You need bats.

- Ben.

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Cespedes is Cuban.  I intensely dislike Cuban hitters with VERY few exceptions.  The attitudes, the approach at the plate, the lack of fire...

I understand taking a risk on Cuban pitchers, but I'd stay away from investing in Cuban hitters.  IMO, even if he worked out he's not likely to be a true masher, and unless he can stay in CF...

I dunno man.  Not my kind of bet.

As for Gordon or Morrison...you'll pay.  You'll really pay if you want them - they are NOT gonna be bargain gets by any means (though with KC you might swindle them anyway).

But Morrison and Guillen are gonna start a forest fire's worth of friction, especially if Hanley is throwing gas on the fire.  And Gordon is 3 months away from a potential "not signing an extension" availability at the trade deadline.  Maybe he'll sign that extension with the Royals, but if not then they've got to trade him before he's a FA, and most likely with a year or more left on his deal so they get more than with a 3 month rental. 

Neither guy is being pushed by his team, but IMO both are available.  We may view the price as too high, as we did with Upton last offseason, but we have the talent to pull off the deal.

Whether we want to spend it is another matter.  Somebody make Prince sign with us so I don't have to worry about it.

~G

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SABR Mattblah.4 hours 48 min ago
SABR MattSaunders hasn't even gone on rehab assignment yet...he's at least 3 weeks away.8 hours 21 min ago
Bat571I think Hart gets put on waivers tonight, and if he clears, gets offered to Milwaukee for considerations. That saves some face, and if he is done, lets him announce it wearing a Brewers' cap. But his roster spot will be needed soon for Saunders.9 hours 9 min ago
Bat571Romero and Jones to Tacoma with the flat statement they will be back up September 1 - classy; send 'em out, but make sure they know you appreciate them. McClendon apparently told the reporters that the move for Paxton would come from the pitching side. I expect to see Bawcom (or possibly Leutge) DFA'd and maybe Leone (someone they've already used an option on) go down for a week to 10 days and they'll rotate through the BP for rest.9 hours 12 min ago
SABR MattFor now, the Mariners have a few decisions to make before game time tonight. Denorfia and Jackson must be added to the active roster. Stefen Romero and James Jones seem like the likeliest bets to go down to AAA for that. Then the Mariners need to clear a 40-man roster spot for Paxton...to do that, I recommend DFA'ing Corey Hart for now.9 hours 35 min ago
SABR MattMike Carp DFA'd by Sox. he worth a look?10 hours 31 min ago
SABR MattThe real issue with the trades, from Beane's perspective, has got to be that he has no room to add POWER to his line-up...and he's only got three power threats. Moss, Donaldson, Norris. The 2015 team, unless he trades Samardzija or something like that, is going to be a pitcfhing/defense club relying heavily on OBP and small ball.10 hours 36 min ago
SABR MattGLS: http://blogs.seattletimes.com/mariners/2014/07/31/video-mariners-general-manager-jack-zduriencik-discusses-trades/10 hours 38 min ago
SABR MattWith no additions next year, their line-up would look like: LF) Crisp DH) Vogt/Jason 3B) Donaldson 1B) Moss C) Norris RF) Reddick CF) Gentry 2B) Sogard SS) Punto OF4) Fuld IF) Freiman BC) Jaso PH) Barton Rotation) Gray/Samardzija/Kazmir/Chavez/Parker Bullpen) Cook/Doolittle/O'Flaherty/Abad/Pomeranz/Scribner/Lindblom10 hours 54 min ago
GLSWhere is that video?11 hours 2 min ago
SABR MattAgreed with csiems that Beane does not get to kee his payroll at +25 mil form norm. If you look at the permanent pieces in Oakland for next year, they've got Kazmir (13 mil), Cris (11), Samardzija (~9), Moss (~8), O'Flaherty (5.5), Reddick (~4.2), Jaso (~3.7), Punto (3 option), Gentry (~2), Chavez (~1.8), Barton (~1.5), Donaldson (~1.4), Abad (~1.1), Fuld (~1), Sogard (~0.8), Cook (~0.8), Parker (~0.7), and, if they made no other additions, the rest would all be 0.5 roster spots (4). Which totals 72.5 million dollars. I think they will be capped somewhere juuuust north of there around 75 million. The minimum wage players include Gray, Scribner, Pomeranz, Norris, Doolittle, Freiman, Vogt, Lindblom. They have both of their catchers, 1B, 2B, 3B, CF, LF, RF, DH, all five rotation spots, and their entire bullpen filled. They would need to acquire a cheap fourth outfielder and SS.11 hours 2 min ago
csiemsYou could be right, Terry. Oakland still has Norris, Donaldson, Gray, and Doolittle all pre-arb next year. Crisp and Kazmir, though aging, are under contract for ~$11 mil each. Jaso (Arb3), Moss (Arb2), Samardzija (Arb3) and Chavez (Arb 1) are getting expensive though. Lester, Hammel, Gregerson, and Lowrie are all free agents and leaving holes. My guess is that Beane is exceeding his normal payroll because they are going for it this year and he will have to slough off some salary in the offseason.11 hours 30 min ago
SABR MattHow many of you all have overcome unfair obstacles, reached the end of a task successfully and then turned to your enemies and said "NOW WHAT??? WHAT DO YOU HAVE FOR ME NOW??? HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW??? EAT IT, SUCKA!!!" That was, IMHO what Z did yesterday.11 hours 32 min ago
SABR MattI re-watched the video from Zduriencik...I didn't have the same viscerally negative reaction that Doc did regarding his tone. It feels to me like he was really...REALLY ticked off at the offers he kept getting in trades...like he wanted to do more within his budget than the rest of baseball would even come close to allowing him to do, and like he felt he and his organization were being systematically targeted for particular disrespect. I also think he was responding to the back-channel leaked "Z is a bad dealer" comments. I'm not totally excusing him...but I think what we're seeing here is a guy trying to defend himself, getting a very creative and positive deal accomplished, and feeling justifiably VERY proud of his accomplishments...and then ROARING at the naysayers cathartically. Not the most productive thing to do...but certainly understandable.11 hours 34 min ago
SABR MattI think we should let Kuma walk and take the draft pick and make a trade for another young, controllable starter in his place. But I agree that extending K-Money and Jackson should be the top priorities in the offseason along with adding an outfielder (even if it has to be another flier like Hart was...they don't all flop and adding one is better than NOT adding one).11 hours 39 min ago
MtGrizzly...or there will not be an OF splurge and we will get another 'plug the holes with old vets and reclamation projects'. That would not surprise me one bit. Extending Jackson and maybe Kuma plus signing Seager to a longer term deal just about have to be priorities.11 hours 42 min ago
SABR MattSpec...I'm guessing their OF splurge will be a Cuban (Castillo) or a flier again...or they may use Walker in a trade in the offseason.12 hours 9 min ago
SpectatorThe interesting thing will be whether the M's make a free-agent run at Lester. (I think they'll lose Kuma after 2015.) The free-agent OF list is pretty much the same names we've been hashing over in July (Willingham, Rios, Gomes, etc.). The issue, as always, will be whether they take on a third big contract.12 hours 22 min ago
phxterryCsiems, I wouldn't count Billy Beane out yet for 2015. Now that he has more payroll allotment to work with, he can be active in the free agent market to offset trading away a number of good prospects. E.g., BB made a very savvy FA pickup last offseason with the signing of Kazmir to a 2-year deal to bolster the A's starting rotation. Ditto for the Nick Punto signing. And he did these signings early in the off-season, while teams like the M's were just dithering. If BB makes 1 or 2 similar deals in this coming offseason, he can fill roster holes without the benefit of good prospects.12 hours 43 min ago
csiemsAn unmentioned silver lining to this deadline is that Oakland is going to have to dismantle its team in the offseason and they won't have much to fill the holes. Lester is leaving without a comp pick and they traded their competitive balance pick to Boston. They've lost one of their best bats in Cespedes and their best prospect in Russell. Gomes is a free agent and won't be offered a qualifying offer. Samardzija will have two years left, so Beane could possibly trade him. I'm not giving up on this year, but 2015 looks a little bit rosier for the M's.14 hours 6 min ago