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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moethedogAnd a BTW: I would have bet anything, when I heard of the deal, that the next would basically be Smoak for Rios...and that it would follow within the hour. I was wrong.2 hours 58 min ago
moethedogWas on the way to pick my youngest daughter up at basketball camp today, listening to MLB Radio, when they announced the Morales trade. They gave kudos to Jack for pulling it off, saying he had been at if for weeks. If this trade took weeks to work out something is amiss. They ask for ERam, we offer Pries, we meet in the middle with Pryor. This one should take 3 minutes.3 hours 16 min ago
moethedogIf trading a 25 year old pitcher with 32 MLB innings for a guy signed for the next 55 games takes weeks then any complicated trade might take decades. It is time to release Hart and Endy, btw. Hart was a good/low cost roll of the dice...but one that crapped out. We've got more out of Endy than we could have expected. Remember the 70's line, "If you love something set it free!?" Let's free these guys. BTW (again) there must be a follow up move to the Morales/Pryor trade. This does nothing...nothing...for our gaping COF hole...unless you believe that Hart is a RF'er. At least Stubbs would be something...but he was available more than a month ago. I believe we vapor locked, focusing on the Rays so much.3 hours 17 min ago
phxterryRandom thoughts on tonight's game: 1) If Hart fields that hot shot cleanly in the third inning and turns a DP, Iwakuma gets out of the inning with only 2 runs against him instead of 4. IMO, both LoDog and the Smoakamotive field that ball and turn the DP. 2) I had no idea that Chen was such a good pitcher. Or maybe the M's just made him look good. 3) From the "How the Mighty Have Fallen File" - Endy freakin Chavez pinch hit for Hart tonight in the 9th inning. Can the end of the Hart era be far away? 4) M's officially behind both the Yankees and the Blue Jays for the second WC spot after tonight. 5) M's 12th shutout loss this year. 6) Are the M's the worst base-running team in the AL?4 hours 47 sec ago
bsrGood thing we had our "lefty masher" Montero up for this game against a mediocre lefty. Unfortunately he's not a righty masher, so he had to sit in the 9th inning. Thankfully we had situational weapon LoMo on the bench, focused and ready to hit some weak foul balls then watch a 79 MPH pitch float by him for a called strike three to end the game.4 hours 1 min ago
bsrBut hey, he's got company. That's 12 shutouts against the M's in 102 games this year.4 hours 6 min ago
bsrHey now, Hector Noesi has thrown 9.2 shutout innings against us this year...4 hours 9 min ago
bsrEndy Chavez, pinch "hitting" for Corey Hart. Yeah, I think the Hart signing has not worked out as hoped.4 hours 14 min ago
tjmWow. PH Endy for Hart. What's that tell you about Hart? Why is he on the team if you're pinch-hitting him with one of the worst hitters in MLB?4 hours 14 min ago
SABR MattBrutal game. This team is a friggin' joke. And I don't get it.4 hours 23 min ago
MtGrizzlyFun gif for the Montero fans: http://gfycat.com/ImprobableAptAmericancrayfish#5 hours 4 min ago
Gordon GrossHector's still got a 5+ ERA for the year, terry. He has those good games when he can keep guys off base. Giving up a .800+ OPS against EVERY hitter this year. He might get better, but one game does not a good season make. Halama threw a no-hitter AND a perfect game.5 hours 28 min ago
IcebreakerXHart is like a falling tree at first. And Kuma is having an awful night.6 hours 4 min ago
Bat571Cooper is some kind of pitching coach.6 hours 7 min ago
phxterryFrom "They Always Get Better After They Leave" File: Hector Noesi through 7 innings tonight against the Twinkies: 0 runs, 1 hit.6 hours 39 min ago
phxterryIsn't there general agreement in the latest ballball theory that Teams should bat their best player second in the line-up?? Kind of like how the Angels bat Mike Trout second? Well, the Angels have nothing on the M's. Tonight, playing right field for the M's and batting second is ........... (drum roll)..... Stefen Romero, he of the .199/.240/.317 2014 slash line. Hope Iwakuma is sharp tonight. Go M's.7 hours 3 min ago
IcebreakerXMy favorite comment on LL about this (slightly modified)... Howie: "You have proven your superior intellect and defeated the plans of Kendrys Morales. You do not need to defeat him again." Z: “He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him. I’ll chase him round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition’s Flames before I give him up!”7 hours 42 min ago
phxterryLatest rumor is that GMZ has traded a sore-armed reliever to KC for Rauuuuuuul, traded a used back-up catcher to SF for Michael Morse, and traded a PTBNL to ESPN for Eric Wedge. And that was before he finished his breakfast Wheaties. Go Jack!!!7 hours 43 min ago
tjmThis pathetic. Z: I have got to thank ownership for allowing us to do this. They have said all along if we get a chance where we think we are in it, then we are going to give you the resources, in this particular case they stepped up and this was great. I really, really appreciate it, we all appreciate it. My hat is off to them. I don't know what else will happen, we will continue conversations."7 hours 49 min ago
GLSI like Stubbs, but his production this year is all about Coors Field. On the road, he's Ackley.7 hours 49 min ago