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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Gordon GrossWe're gonna strand enough runners to lose this game. *sighs* C'mon man, just one more run for the good guys and none for the bad guys. Memo to the baseball gods: WE are the good guys...18 min 21 sec ago
Gordon GrossI really wish we weren't stranding so many dudes. Again with a game where we should have a lead that we some how don't have.39 min 14 sec ago
Gordon GrossCOREY HART IS THE MAN43 min 10 sec ago
Gordon GrossCano's pathetically shallow fly out with the tying run standing on third hurts my soul a little. Not a 24 million dollar swing there.46 min 23 sec ago
Gordon GrossHas anyone seen Zunino's missing plate discipline? Last seen in 2012 (33 walks against 129Ks since then, and no unintentional walks this year). Reward offered for its safe return, no questions asked.58 min 48 sec ago
Bat571Marcus Littlewood is really looking legit - first two ABs tonight a HR and a 2B. If he gets hitting down, he could move fast - we've already heard he's picked up catching pretty well after coming through the draft as a SS. A C hitting .417, even in the MWL, is making himself interresting.59 min 6 sec ago
Bat571If Saunders or Smoak has a near-term replacement, it's Jones, so might as well see what he can do.1 hour 4 min ago
Bat571I want to see James Jones either in the OF or at 1B before they send him down again.1 hour 8 min ago
Gordon GrossOr 5 decent innings from a starter, even.1 hour 34 min ago
Gordon Gross*sighs* Who needs runs anyway?1 hour 35 min ago
Gordon GrossThat was terrible, Ackley.1 hour 37 min ago
Gordon GrossFINALLY Seager smashes an extra base hit somewhere. C'mon Dustin...1 hour 38 min ago
Gordon GrossWow. Upper deck in Marlins Park. That's some batting-practice stuff right there. Salty DEMOLISHED that. 85 mph, 2-0 count, center of the plate... still think Young is lapping Erasmo and Roenis for a rotation spot, Matt?1 hour 48 min ago
OBFYEAH! Ackley with a Little League Home Run!!! Too bad they counted it as a single and an error :) Seriously M's... this is a must win... Get it together Young!1 hour 58 min ago
MtGrizzlyYoung's 85 mph 'fastball' is red meat2 hours 28 min ago
rick82If you begin at exactly two months following his shoulder injury in 2013 ( see http://www.lookoutlanding.com/2013/8/9/4604956/take-these-broken-wings-and-learn-to-fly), Saunders hit .815 OPS in 244 PAs. The other night against Darvish, he drew a walk and stole a base. He can make things happen. I don't see better alternatives right now. He's also playing strong defense in RF. Put him in RF and leave him there through May. He'll produce at both ends.3 hours 15 min ago
JDDubI've lost hope for Smoak but somehow the flame still burns for Saunders. Probably because his flashes of upside look so good. He's got to be running out of time though.....3 hours 53 min ago
moethedogI may have missed one or two, but by my count, there were 93 guys who played more than 100 OF games last year, 18 (a quick count) had worse OPS's than Saunders. Of those guys, only Josh Reddick, Ichiro, and BJ Upton have ever been widely acclaimed as being fine offensive players. Others: Lorenzo Cain, Brandon Barnes, Chris Young, Eric Young, Justin Ruggiano, Gregor Blanco, Ben Revere, Juan Lagares, JB Schuck, Rajai Davis, David Murphy, Craig Gentry, John Mayberry and Sam Fuld. Eeeeeesh! A bunch of those guys are CF's, as Saunders has been for two years (primarily). I get it, if you're not very good you don't play 100 OF games. I know, I know. But as a RF Saunders is icky gross.4 hours 12 min ago
phxterryMoe - I feel the same way about Seager. I automatically pencil him in as an out, particularly with RISP.4 hours 48 min ago
moethedogHonest to goodness, I cringe whenever I read Saunders' name in the lineup. It is almost stupidly irrational, I know. But even against RHP I just hate to see him in the lineup. Last year, his career year, he was ,249-,338-,414 vR. The league average was .256-.320-.406. In his career year, getting the split advantage, he was a league average bat (and far below it vL). '12 was about the same as he was just below the league vR average. I really don't want to see him in RF anymore. Let us see if Romero can slug a bit or Blash. I am done with Saunders as anything other than our BU CF. Other than that, I don't want to see him anymore. As my daughters would have said 9 or 10 years ago, he's icky gross.5 hours 5 min ago