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.

.

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.

.

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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GrumpyUgh. Worst case scenario for Choi. Other than breaking his back again at the same time.2 hours 3 min ago
Tacoma RainDutton says the Mariners expect Choi to miss at least 4 to 6 months... thus this is a lost year for Choi. And unfortunately for Choi, he will have a tough time getting attention with all the others coming behind him. I was really hoping for better things for Choi.8 hours 42 min ago
Gordon GrossVery true bat. I meant that it didn't affect Choi at all, but it is the smarter roster move for staying alert and able to be active in Spring Training.8 hours 52 min ago
Bat571But it does give the Ms a 40-man spot. The 60-day would also, but it doesn't start until ~ the week before Opening Day. But if Olmos is back, that's the roster spot they need for him until he officially clears waivers and can be outrighted to Tacoma. At that point the Ms would have a spot for Baker or a pitcher if they need it.9 hours 4 min ago
Gordon GrossChoi is not out of options, so it's effectively nothing. They designated him to go to the minors, using an option year they would have had to use anyway, and that way he's not clogging the roster. No big.9 hours 34 min ago
GLSWhat is the significance of the DFA move in this situation?9 hours 40 min ago
Bat571Apparently the Mariners have DFA'd Choi rather than wait to 60-day DL him.9 hours 45 min ago
Bat571Montero has 1 option left of 3. Ackley and Hultzen, who signed MLB/40-man contracts have a 4th option each. Erasmo is the only one out of options.10 hours 12 min ago
MtGrizzlyThe sports writers have all been talking about how Montero is headed to Tacoma. I guess they could be wrong.12 hours 32 min ago
moethedogKiv-le-mashing-han! Dustin whom?12 hours 59 min ago
mojicianOn further review, I think that restricted list time does not affect option years as long as the player actually spent 20 days in the minors while on the 40 man roster.13 hours 48 min ago
mojicianI don't think that Montero's 2012 option year counts because he never went to the minors during that year. I'm not sure how the 2014 restricted list stint factors into option years as well. Montero should be protected for 2015.14 hours 5 min ago
SpectatorStill with the M's from Bravai drafts? Mark Lowe ... ha! full circle, but he's not on the roster yet. Forrest Snow was drafted by both Bavasi out of HS and Jack out of UW. Didn't know that. Nate Tenbrink maybe still holding on by his fingernails. Everyone else has been flushed I think.14 hours 34 min ago
Gordon GrossAssuming we can get Montero there. He's out of options.14 hours 42 min ago
SpectatorAll coming off of Shawn Kelley. Amazingly, with Kelley, Morrow and Maurer, I think the Pods have more Bavasi draftees than the M's. In fact, that might be half of the Bavasi draftees left in the majors. (Though I think there was a Anthony Varvaro sighting recently ...) (Aumont maybe?) (OK Tillman, Fister and Josh Fields I guess + Condor of course.)14 hours 42 min ago
MtGrizzlyKivlehan, DJ and Montero in middle of that Tacoma lineup aught to be something.14 hours 46 min ago
Gordon GrossRomero walked! That's about as impressive for him as a HR would be. Do more of that, son.14 hours 51 min ago
Gordon GrossDJ grabs a single up the middle, much like Kivlehan was doing yesterday - seriously, with one of Taylor/Miller relegated to the Rainiers, and the returning Blash to join DJ, Kivlehan, Marte, Hicks, possibly Pizzano or Paolini... that lineup should hit. Whoever has Tacoma tickets might wanna go take a peek. Dunno how their starting pitching will be (depending on who makes the Ms rotation), but the offense shouldn't let you down.14 hours 53 min ago
Gordon GrossGlad you're on board, Matt. Kivlehan and DJ are both verrry good prospects. They just need to separate them positionally so that both of em can stick around. Kivlehan can replace Seth Smith shortly, and DJ can be in line to take over for LoMo. And if LoMo steps into being a full-time stud, then either of the two prospects can be traded. We'll see where that goes - but man, Tacoma should be an interesting lineup.14 hours 57 min ago
okdanHa, how did you beat me to that G? I came here to post the same thing :P14 hours 59 min ago