WBC-san goes to his Greg Maddux impersonation

Puts Justin Verlander's head on his wall

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Q.  What would make you compare Hisashi Iwakuma in any way to an MLB pitcher with over 100 WAR?

A.   He's reminding me of Greg Maddux in the same way that Chris Sale is reminding me of Randy Johnson.

The opposing pitchers he has just faced, back to back to back, might be the three best in the league right now, and all pitching for ALCS contenders:

  • Justin Verlander, Detroit - W, 2-0 (decision to pen)
  • Yu Darvish, Texas - W, 3-1
  • Chris Sale, Chicago - L, 3-4 (decision to pen)

The only scalp you'd really like to see to added to that would be Felix's.  Maybe Hisashi can figure out a way to pull that one off too.

We won't even count the #2 pitcher for the A's, also defeated by WBC-san this year; you don't put a deer rack on the same wall with your trophies of man-eating tigers and 2,000-lb. wildebeest.

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Q.   Why only two strikeouts today?

A.  He had a lousy fastball.

The fastball was 87 to 89 mph most the day, dropping down to 86. He was taking a short step, steering the ball, rather than the zinging it. As a result, the Tigers were not  "in between", not late on the fastball or early on the shuuto or slider.

Give them credit, too; WBC-san would throw a gorgeous shuuto that dropped 4 inches below the knees and the Tigers would leisurely check their swings.  That's a tough lineup -- 108 OPS+ even after Wednesday night's 14-IP lockdown -- and it was as sharp as a tack during the game.

So, of course, throwing his B game against a Cabrera-Fielder lineup that was on top of its game,  Iwakuma shut them out.

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Q. How?!

A.  Best thing you could do would be to go to the game day and watch the animation. Actually watching that animation will convince you a lot faster than Dr. D could.

Dave Magadan remarked, according to Ken Sims, that Iwakuma is remarkable for his ability to change the eye level with his fastball. He authentically does use the entire zone in a strategic fashion. Then he goes back to his breaking pitches right on the edges of the plate.

Last time out, Kuma had a sharp fastball and he pitched off that.  This time, he didn't, and he tortured the Tigers with fastballs to six parts of the zone, following with change-speed-sliders and shuutos.

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Q.  Who else pitches like that?  Precision slowballs up and down the zone, followed by located breaking pitches?

A.  Greg Maddux.

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Q.  Is SSI rethinking its reservations about calling this guy a TOR?  An ace?

A.  Taking them as a cluster, Iwakuma just beat Sale, Darvish and Verlander.  That commands RESPECT.  PHXTerry said, before the Sale game, he didn't sweat the matchup because of WBC-san.  Okay, fine.  If you're fine with Iwakuma vs. David Price, then we've got to give it up for him.

............

His ERA is 1+ and that's about where it's been since he entered the rotation last year. At this point he's looking more and more like a WBC superstar.  Kicking the Americans' keisters the same way Japanese aces do it in the WBC.

At the moment Iwakuma is an ace; he's making Dr. D forget about the pain of Fister, Bedard, and Pineda.  Like they say, you ain't gonna get over losing your girlfriend until you get a new one.

............

The change curve emerged as a dangerous weapon today. The American hitters, laser-focused on his three-pitch 83-88 MPH game, were frozen every time he mixed it in.  Things ain't getting easier against WBC-san as we go along here.

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Q.  Leaving the M's where?

A.   Gordon is handling the questions about the offense, which is a little bit like Brandon Morrow carrying around a pink backpack as a rookie.  So we'll take the cushy job...

Aaron Harang threw the stuffing out of the ball, I kid you not - he probably had more swings and misses on fastballs (in one game) than Felix has had in a year (in any single game).

Joe Saunders has followed up on his preseason, lifetime 1+ ERA at Safeco, by lowering it in 2013.  Don't look now, but we're a Brandon Maurer schuss away from --- > having a championship-level pitching staff.  

Two aces, two solid vets, and a hotshot rookie, that's about as good as it gets.

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Q.  The Felix-Bedard-Fister-Pineda-Vargas rotation didn't take us anywhere.  Well, it took us into June or July, kind of.

A.  The offense?  ... It is making Dr. D as ill as it's making you.  Could they start hitting tomorrow?  Sure.  Could they finish with an 86 OPS+?  Sure.  

You don't need a blog author to tell you that this offense (A) is a joke right now, and (B) is, at minimum, a Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse better than the old versions.

How's Dustin Ackley looking this week, Gordon?  Help a bro' out here man.

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Comments

Watching a ST game in 2012, sitting next to a knowledgable fan from Japan -- the fellow told me Seattle got the better pitcher over Darvish. Been an Iwakuma believer ever since.

1

Like 40%, 50% of NPB fans expected Iwakuma to fare better in MLB than Darvish.  More willing to throw his breaking pitches for called strikes.

Great little story Terry.  And could be the guy was right.

2

Though getting his bum handed to him by the Hanshin Tigers in the 2012 preseason didn't help, there was a large chance that Iwakuma would hit his stride faster than Darvish, who is hitting his stride now too.

Iwakuma's limit is all in his shoulder.

3

The Game Day video highlights show: FB up, FB down, a sneaky/snakey fastball against lefties that starts inside and grazes the black, and then the shuuto.

Greg Maddux would be proud of the location on the FB's.

Gaylord Perry would be proud of the movement on the shuuto.

Once Iwakuma has established the heater at the knees, that shuuto is deadly.

Domo arigato, Kuma.

moe

4

I got home from work and went to the only free on line newspaper left, the Everett Herald, to try to get the scoop on today's game and how Iwakuma did. So, what do I find? The AP national story with this about the pitching, "Verlander struck out 12 -- two short of his career high -- and gave up nine hits, two runs and walked one." That was it. Iwakuma's name wasn't even mentioned. What's the guy gotta do to get noticed?

5

Iwakuma under the radar is better for getting good odds on the M's whenever he pitches. I hope the national press never finds out about him. Vegas (and the general sports public) just don't realize how good Iwakuma is. Since the 2012 All Star Game through yesterday, Iwakuma has started 19 games, with a 10-4 won/lost record, 2.31 ERA, 92 Ks and 24 BBs in 116.2 innings, and a WHIP of 1.06. That's No. 1 starter stuff for lots of teams.

6

I would have Maurer charting Iwakuma's starts. Every single one. Dude is a pitcher. A smart, precise pitcher. I just hope he can get that blister taken care of.

7

what the M's pitching did to Detroit.

Detroit pitchers were awesome as well, but they did it against a still-suspect lineup. The Mariners did it against one of the most stacked lineups in baseball. Making Prince Fielder become the King of whiff for the series was astounding.

8

Rockies Jeff's picture

Rockies Jeff

Right on DaddyO! The top of Detroit's lineup is as good as it gets. Win or lose that was incredible pitching!

9

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TaroMontero's 2011 line in AAA for example was projected for a .261/.312/.435 line by ZIPS. He basically hasn't improved at all since then. Given his career line is .258/.302/.396 thats pretty close regressing for Safeco.28 min 33 sec ago
TaroBasically Montero was all projection, whereas Souza is good NOW with projection beyond that.37 min 55 sec ago
TaroI was huge on Montero's potential, and I was wrong. But to be fair Montero never put up the MLEs that Souza did. Souza projects as a 2-3 WAR player NOW based on what he did in AAA. Montero never did, he was incredible based on age related performance at his level and had massive power upside. But he never performed as well as Souza. His MLEs were in the 0-1 WAR range and he just never got better from there. Souza RIGHT NOW is above-average player. Montero never was.40 min 6 sec ago
moethedogI'm with Matt: Rios and Rasmus would be delightful! I'm with Taro: Souza will indeed be a player. But you could probably get both Rios and Rasmus for what Melky will cost per/year. 2X$8-$10M (with an option year) for Rasmus and something similar for Rios. Or just do Rasmus AND Souza, making all or us happy. You can get Souza fairly easily and sign Rasmus and have money to spend. Souza, btw, plays 1B, too. LoMo will need some breathers.1 hour 8 min ago
SABR MattHow much did you love Jesus Montero before we traded for him?1 hour 20 min ago
TaroJust think Souza is a player. I like his combination of athleticism, swing, and performance.1 hour 42 min ago
SABR MattRomero, Montero, Smoak, Peguero, Balentien, Clement...so...so many more. So many you won't possibly remember them all. And all but a scant tiny fraction of them have panned out. And that is not unique to the Mariners. There is a massive zero gravity moon step difference between an awesome AAA hitter and a proven major leaguer. All players have risks...but some are less risky than others. And for the record, Cruz's home run power transcends Safeco rather easily...and his hitter's park in Baltimore...has a mediocre at best HR factor to left. So...yeah...not worried about Cruz.2 hours 25 min ago
SABR MattTaro...love your insights and all...but how many guys have we promoted in the last 12 years who had great minor league numbers?2 hours 28 min ago
TaroEvery player you roster has some risk involved, included proven MLBers. Cruz will be a RH backspin 35 year old slugger with a career sub .330 OBP in hitters parks, and we've signed him for 4 years. I'd be more nervous about him than Souza in 2015, and especially beyond that. Souza has the performance in the high minors combined with insane athleticism. I think hes underrated due to being a football convert and a late bloomer.2 hours 37 min ago
SABR Mattyou don't take that sort of risk when this is the best chance you have of winning the WS. Souza can be a fourth outfielder option...not a starter.3 hours 1 min ago
GLSSouza is a risk, but a pretty good one.3 hours 3 min ago
SABR MattSouza is not reliable. That's not sufficient to this moment.3 hours 18 min ago
TaroI'm thinking Melky would want 'at least' 4 years gauranteed if hes looking for 5. If Ms stay hard at 3 they won't land him, vesting option for 4th or not. Just give him 5 with a lower AAV. 5/$55 or something in that range. Or deal for Souza (my favorite option).3 hours 49 min ago
SABR MattRasmus and Rios would be a fine platoon with CF helper potential and would be cheaper than Cabrera. I like Cabrera better even with more money involved, but Rios/Rasmus would also be fine with me.3 hours 55 min ago
Gordon GrossRios and Rasmus would be... extensive. By himself I'm not huge on Rios. A Rios/Rasmus platoon would be damaging. Playing with brass knuckles. I hope the Ms take the velvet gloves fully off this offseason. Zduriencik has waited half a decade to wade into the fight with fists flying - let's make it worth the wait. I'm fine with making Beane cry into his collapsing-budget cup o' coffee.3 hours 59 min ago
SABR MattRasmus. If you get Rios and Rasmus, the outfield aligns OK4 hours 35 min ago
moethedogThe Rios card might not bluff the Melky team guys: In '12 Rios was a heck of a player. In '11 he was a dud. In '13 and '14 he was basically a split heavy .280-.320-.420 guy with a pretty scraggly glove. There doesn't seem to be much Rios market out there right now, which might be a neat quality. You could probably get him for 2 years and not break the bank. Over the last two years Viciedo has hit RHP at a .738 and .689 clip. Rios has hit at .714 and .646 rate. Just saying. But he does continue to beat lefties up, so as a 4th OF-paired with Ackley, as Matt suggests, Rios would be great. He's been at .889 and .898 vL the last two years. That's rip-roaring. But it means that you need a RF who can play CF, as Rios no longer does.5 hours 33 min ago
moethedogRios and Miller would be a neat combo, perhaps. If the hint that we had interest in Seth Smith is true that might also be a place to go. Smith and Rios would be an interesting tandem. But you're still a CF short. Smith is what you hope Ackley becomes. And he's cheap for 3 years. But unless it's Jones, Miller or Endy...we need a CF glove to go with the one we've got. Bloomie? No thanks...5 hours 33 min ago
SABR MattWouldn't mind also getting Rios to pair with Ackley7 hours 31 min ago
jemanjiYep that 5.7 RC/27, delivered game-in game-out, is looking pretty sweet. Good Kendrys plus wheels7 hours 32 min ago