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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merksA's acquire Ike Davis for international slot and cash.7 min 49 sec ago
Bat571I think Condor is working back into the good graces, starting with the agent change. He will be expensive for a 4th OF, but if he is the LF (e.g., if Ackley goes for Gattis), I think the Ms will keep him around because of the versatility. With Gattis (~~) able to play LF, Condor could move to CF if needed - not optimum, maybe, but more than adequate until Jones or Kivlehan could be summoned. I agree that the Ms should (and will) put Kivlehan in the OF part-time starting in ST. He'll put in the work and will be pretty good by the AS break, and will get better. All you could ask for.57 min 3 sec ago
moethedogOne Cardinals' site giggles over the acquisition of Ty Kelly. Sigh: http://www.stlcardinalbaseball.com/a-redesigned-offense BTW, unless you guys figure than James Jones is on the opening day roster or that Bloomie gets the role, we still need a 4th OF who Mac will be willing to use in CF. That was certainly not true with Ackley or Saunders, and one of those guys will be gone. Kemp would do, not so Upton. Ethier has had nearly 120 CF starts over the last two years, BTW. Brad Miller, given the opportunity, would could handle CF, too. Kivlehan will get some early Tacoma CF time...but we need one for Seattle. Perhaps we keep Saunders and he goes there. Not Jones, please. I've soured....6 hours 4 min ago
Bat571And, as I noted in another shout, a deal for Kemp will probably also cost at least 1 bullpen arm; which could mean another chunk off the final amount if it's Wilhelmsen, and a trim if it's Furbush. I'm making the assumption that Erasmo is gone, either to Atlanta in trade or, being out of options, is traded for a propect; that Ackley makes the most sense for the Braves in trade for Gattis; and that Taylor would be an MLB piece in a trade for Kemp. I assume any remaining pieces will be prospects (Guerrero, Morban, Choi), even if Terdoslavich would come with Gattis.19 hours 44 min ago
Bat571Just using the TNT tool -- http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/11/04/3467689/seattle-mariners-2015-free-agent.html -- and adding Gattis ($0.5M - using another FA as proxy), Kemp ($16M - using another FA as proxy), Young ($7M), and HanRam ($22M), and then manually subtracting Ackley, Taylor, and Erasmo ($3.8M total) gives ~$137M. Take HanRam's $22M out and that gives ~$115M, which is $8M more than the $107M. The TNT tool uses the $5M figure for Seager and the $7M figure for Iwakuma. Given the offers for Martin and VMart, I think there's more than $8M in headroom, in any case.19 hours 56 min ago
SABR Mattnot sure where you get 8 mil, Bat...Gattis is cheap but Kemp at 16 mil, Young at 5-6 mil, Iwakuma at 7 mil, Seager at 5 mil...did you factor those in? I get roughly 14 mil up from 107 if we add just Kemp/Gattis.20 hours 20 min ago
Bat571And after Mather promised substantial budget increases, $8M wouldn't be substantial in my mind.21 hours 4 min ago
Bat571Well, If The Ms got Kemp and Gattis and re-signed Young, it'd be a dandy off-season, for sure. But it's Christmastime and I've always got to hope Santa's bringing me that new Volvo XC-90 with the 450HP hybrid drive train that gets 34mpg, even while I'm still driving my 2003 Honda Pilot!21 hours 14 min ago
moethedogToo many moving parts, Bat. Hope for one big guy....or Gattis plus21 hours 27 min ago
Bat571If Wilhelmsen went in trade for Kemp, that takes another $2.1M off, Furbush $1.0M, Medina $0.5M. In any case, I really believe it's doable. And if Chris Young would sign to smooth innings, I continue to think rotating Elias, Walker, and Paxton to Tacoma for 10+ day stints of 4-5 inning starts to keep their totals down would be workable. Then Young could skip starts in places like Texas as well. BOAPW! (apologies to Prof. Pangloss and Voltaire).21 hours 45 min ago
Bat571$30M increase, not $20M - typo.21 hours 54 min ago
Bat571I put the numbers in the TNT payroll tool (since it doesn't do trades, I used a Chone Figgins FA signing @ $16M as a proxy for Kemp - I know, SICK!). With HanRam @ $22M, Kemp @ $16M, and Chris Young @ $7M, it totals to $141.1M. Subtract Ackley, Taylor, and Erasmo, and it looks like ~$137M - a $20M increase over the $107M end number last year that Mather implied was the starting point for increases.21 hours 57 min ago
SABR Mattif we could get the Dodgers to front-load their subsidy...pay us like 15 mil in 2015, 12 mil in 2016 and 8 mil in 2017 and then off the hook thereafter...we could ease the transition, from a payroll perspective...soften the blow to the finances on the front side.22 hours 14 min ago
moethedogLA will have a RH bat in the pipeline, perhaps Hanley, if they are really trading Kemp. Matt is right. We get only one big ticket guy. That's it.22 hours 16 min ago
SABR MattI hope you're right Bat...because a rational analysis of the team at this point says it's stupid not to spend big and win now...Cano and Felix in their primes for only so long...kids maturing and just got valuable play-off race experience, attendance tentatively rising...if you were ever going to fight hard...this would be the time.22 hours 17 min ago
Bat571Gattis is still pre-arb, so his price is the trade cost (Ackley?), but little initially to the payroll. If Kemp came at a payroll cost of $16M (~2/3-1/3 split), and HanRam comes in at the MLBTR prediction of $22M (AAV), that's a $38M add. From where they're at now, that looks like <$140M - but they would still have another signing (Chris Young) and extensions to Seager and Iwakuma to add to that, if it worked out like I'd like.22 hours 18 min ago
Bat571It would depend on how much subsidy the Ms could get with Kemp, but the amount they bid on VMart and Martin makes me believe they may be willing to go near $140M at least -- they seem to understand the amount spent on Cano and Felix will be wasted unless they go for it starting now. And that would be enough.22 hours 29 min ago
Bat571And a bench of Saunders (OF); Terdoslavich (1B/3B/COF); Bloomquist (IF/OF); and Sucre (C) - with Bloomquist and Sucre ceding to Kivlehan and Hicks by the AS Break.22 hours 34 min ago
SABR MattGetting both Ramirez and Kemp is not possible...unless the Mariners suddenly decide they want to spend 150 million on payroll.22 hours 38 min ago
Bat571Meanwhile, we can dream of a Jackson-HanRam-Cano-Kemp-Seager-Gattis-Morrison-Zunino-Miller lineup laying waste to the AL.22 hours 46 min ago