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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SABR MattI looked up every baseball team i the 30 years that had an ERA+ of greater than 115 in any one season. Those clubs had an average ERA+ of 118.5. Want to know what their ERA+ was the following season? 104. Yep. 104. Assuming typical regression, the Mainers will lose about 10 ERA+ points in 2015. Probably mostly from Iwakuma becoming old and not as good and the struggles of young pitchers like Paxton and Walker...and some regression for the bullpen. 10 ERA+ points is about 35 points of ERA or about 56 runs. We need to add 60 runs on offense to TREAD WATER in 2015.58 min 42 sec ago
Gordon Gross2009 was good enough if you thought we were building something off that season. Instead, in 2010 all the young players crashed and burned and the old players got broken. We don't have too many old players to get broken (Kuma aside)... but the young players have to step up, and we need a bit more lumber. If we don't get it and we crash and burn, then no, 85-87 isn't enough. I have a hard time blaming the 2002 or 03 Ms (on the field) for winning 93 games and missing the playoffs. But we need to build a perennial 90+ win team, not a .500 team that has to get really lucky to make the playoffs. There are lots of pieces on this team that would fit in well on a perennial contender - but this is gonna be where Jack makes his bones as a GM and not just a talent scout. TL;DR: Next year will tell me how to feel about this year.2 hours 45 min ago
SABR Mattwe may not even get to 85 wins this year. Was 2009 good enough for us? Why not? Just because the 2nd WC didn't exist?4 hours 30 min ago
IcebreakerXG, totally so. The only thing I worry about is whether the M's will look at in context (M's compete in an unusually soft wild card race that LL pointed out), egocentric optimism (M's compete in the new look wild card race) or absolute insanity (M's are awesomez!1!). I just fear the M's will go with option 3, like they have in the past.5 hours 25 min ago
SABR MattI think we have here a team that is growing together (a good thing) and, for most of them, this is their first chance to reach the post-season...and they just tensed up and got out of their game...happens all the time.5 hours 58 min ago
GLSYikes! What happened tonight?14 hours 26 min ago
rick82Well, we have our stopper going tomorrow. That's what a stopper is for. To stop. Stuff like this. Right?15 hours 8 min ago
Bat571In a way, if they fall short in the very last week, it might help make them each and all hungrier next year.16 hours 34 min ago
Bat571If Miller, Ackley, Zunino, Saunders, Morrison, and Jackson all commit to being in shape and hitting like they have in their good months for more of the season, Cano rebounds a bit, Seager keeps it up, and Felix, 'Kuma, Paxton, Elias, and Walker commit to coming in to again be the best staff in baseball, it will be fun again next year. Taylor, Jones, Sucre, and Romero need to be ready for anything asked of them, and able to give the others breaks without a performance falloff. It's actually a pretty nice core - but a Tomas or Kemp sure wouldn't hurt!16 hours 35 min ago
Bat571Hicks, Marlette, Peterson, Lara, Marte, TySmith, Kivlehan, Blash, Guerrero, Henry, Pike, Sanchez, Morban, Pizzano, and more at Jackson or Tacoma next year. Wilson, Jackson, Reinheimer, Gohara, Diaz, Missaki, Morgan, O'Neill, Fontaine, and more finding it at Bakersfield or Clinton. The M's have avery good chance at being better next yer and better still in 2016. Looks like they miss it this time, but it isn't like the Phillies or Yankees with the cupboards bare.16 hours 52 min ago
Gordon GrossJust so, bat: meaningful games. I hope those kinds of games mean something to the bean counters and not just the players and fans.16 hours 59 min ago
Gordon GrossThis team was only built to go as far as its pitching would take em, Ice. But it's a good experience for all of them to have: playing with a purpose instead of playing out the string. They should be better for it next year, and will understand what it takes. Can't rely on a 128 OPS+ to give you even a WC shot.17 hours 33 sec ago
Bat571Meaningful games. And the meaning the M's front office ought to be seeing is that the team is still short on offense, and is tired. Work hard in the off-season, sign a Tomas or, at least, a Rios, trade for a Kemp or Van Slyke, keep developing prospects, hope Hultzen can help by mid-2015, but in any case, commit to winning.17 hours 2 min ago
Gordon GrossWhen those of us who watched Paxton in the minors say, " there will be days he can't throw it in the ocean"... THIS is what we meant. On the plus side, he tends to be a killer the rest of the time, so his implosions only cost you one game. I might even prefer my starters to be nails or worthless, rather than mediocre all the time. On the minus side... we REALLY needed this game.17 hours 3 min ago
IcebreakerXThe M's were running on NOX the whole season, which isn't a good way to run a ball club. This isn't a GOOD ball club. It's an okay ball club that was over-performing.17 hours 31 min ago
MtGrizzlyIt. Is. Over. The M's just ran out of gas down the stretch.17 hours 41 min ago
Tacoma RainSlip sliding away... the closer our destination, the more likely we are slip sliding away... :(17 hours 53 min ago
Gordon GrossBrutal. Just BRUTAL.18 hours 20 sec ago