POTD Hisashi Iwakuma - the Cone, Mussina, Hudson family


Q.  Okay -- a located 90 fastball, two breaking pitches one left and one right, and a wipeout forkball.  Who is like that in the majors?

A.  Also known as the Mike Mussina / David Cone type family.  Precious few pitchers execute 4+ pitches effectively.  Precious fewer do it while using a forkball.

Here is the complete list of the ten ML pitchers who, at any time during 2009-11, threw 10% forkballs or more (Iwakuma throws 20%).  As you can see, there are varying degrees of competence within any given family ...


SP % forks, splits
Halladay 16%
Penny 14%
Kuroda 14%
Pelfrey 13%
Haren 13%
Dempster 12%
Hudson 6%
Jeff Neimann 10% in 2012
Zambrano 15% in 2009
Iwakuma 20%


As a group, these guys make a fair amount of money, especially in All-Star bonuses.  

There you go.  That is the list of ML pitchers who feature splitfinger and forkball pitches.  As you can see, it's a template that leads the template field.



Zambrano - featured the split in 2009 and 2010 only during his career, running 3.77 and 3.33 ERA's in Wrigley Field

Neimann - Borderline if he belongs here; features FB and power curve 85%, mixes in slider and fork a bit. Good pitcher.  

Halladay - throws four pitches in David Cone style:  FB 25%, cutter/slider 45%, fork 15%, and curve 15%.  What a template

Penny - Has no glove-side breaking pitch (no slider or cutter).  Everything is FB, curve, fork

Kuroda - Borderline if he belongs here.  Very weird 3-pitch arsenal:  Fastball, slider, forkball.  Excellent SP

Dempster - See Kuroda

Mike Pelfrey - Uses Kuroda arsenal.  Along with Ryan Franklin, serves as the bottom floor of what this kind of SP can be

Haren - 3 pitches like Kuroda ... instead of FB-SL-SF, uses FB-cutter-SF, which is far more effective

Nolasco - true 4-pitch, forkball SP.  Would be a star except for execution from the stretch (terrible ERA with RISP)

Tim Hudson - also a true 4-pitch guy at this point


It's possible that F/X will wind up seeing Hisashi Iwakuma as a 3-pitch guy, if it reads his Shuuto as a fastball.  But if it did, it would still see the ratios as 50% fastball, 25% slider, 25% forkball - many fewer FB's than the other guys' cutters and FB's combined.

(By the way, I was surprised to see that Dice-K came to America and stopped throwing slow stuff.  It was all fastball-cutter-slider, three pitches instead of four or five.  Sigggghhhh.)


Q.  Is our old friend Ryan Franklin in this category?

A.  As a starter, he was the lower boundary for this category, but Franklin was an extreme flyball pitcher.  Iwakuma is a groundball pitcher.

Honestly, you've got a ways to go to --- > find a 4-pitch "Polished Pro" guy with a forkball, who throws grounders.  It's just a very sophisticated game, one that is difficult to execute, and obviously difficult to hit.


Q.  So who are Iwakuma's comparables?

A.  He is in the Mussina / Cone family, but red-shifted towards ground balls.  None of these other guys throw a GB-happy Shuuto.  Also, Iwakuma's splitter induces a bizarro GB ratio, and even the FB gets topped.  Iwakuma's GB ratio is over 2:1.

If you're using GB + Diverse Arsenal as the paradigm, you get Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and Trevor Cahill.

All things considered, I'd go with Hudson as the best comp ... if Hudson threw 20% forks.


Q.  Is this template really such a slam dunk?

A.  If Iwakuma were becoming an Oakland Athletic, my main hope would be that he wasn't going to execute his pitches crisply in 2012.  I wouldn't hold out a lot of hope that his game, properly executed, wouldn't work.

If Iwakuma throws his shuuto the way he does on YouTube, and if he locates his fastball, and if he mixes his pitches 40-20-20-20, he is going to be effective.




Taro, IceX ...Q on Iwakuma's velocity ...
He came back quickly last year on the shoulder, and at times was down to 86 mph ... I think his last start was 86 average and the one before that, 89 or somesuch.
At 89 mph he is an impact pitcher in the bigs ... Jered Weaver is frequently 88-90 mph and it hurts him not one whit...
If Iwamura is tossing 85-87 mph that is a different situation; that makes him Brad Radke plus a forkball ... also a good pitcher, probably, but it makes his job easier if the hitters have to respect his fastball to some extent ...
You have a feel for where Iwakuma is likely to be, after a winter off?

Taro's picture

Velocity declined late in the season and hes never been durable with the arsenal and mechanics. Early-mid season he was the same guy hes always been.
Good buy low IMO, but fragile and needs to be treated such.
He needs to be babied. Skipped starts occasionally, pulled quicker, etc.


Just how we pictured it ...
Reminds of Cone and Mussina as they got on in their careers.  The combination of tilted slider, and the splitfinger or knuckle curve, takes a lot out of the shoulder.
Cone and Mussina, even on their very last legs, weren't exactly Anthony Vazquezes :- )


Looks like the M's are going to land him. Iwamura himself stated that his best fit is in Seattle and is closest to signing a deal to play there.
This is a great move. He sounds like quality player yet shouldn't cost a ton because he prefers Seattle and there isn't much of a market for him. Could be one of the best value signings of the offseason. This will increase the team's flexibility since they can more comfortably trade away their young pitching. And if they keep all of their pitchers there won't be as great a need to rush them.
It should also give Jack more leverage with Fielder, since he can say that he already has made a big aquisition and so he doesn't need to sign another major free agent.


Hey CPB, Taro -
Suppose you're playing fantasy baseball next year, and Iwakuma is throwing an easy 89-91 next spring -
Where do you take Iwakuma on draft day 2012, cf. to Latos, Bedard, Gio, Matt Garza, Buehrle, Saunders, Dempster, Fister and whoever ...

Taro's picture

I'm with Doc on this one. I think Iwakuma is a very nice value signing and he wants to come to Seattle. As long as you baby him.
I'd take Iwakuma in the middle-end of that list Doc.
Nevermind on Cespedes. After watching more vid of him hitting not as sold on the bat.

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Chat: 7/27/15 1:42am
Interests: (201025)
    Shouts update every 10 seconds.       
2015-07-27 17:27

Yeah, the big thing now I guess is he did the whole rehab thing. Veterans are saying he is first one in and last out. Hasn't been doing all the crazy nightlife stuff,so he is putting himself.in good position. Carroll definately has it figured out. Love him as a coach

2015-07-27 16:07

Would be fun to see Manziel in the league. I dunno how much the 'persona non grata' factor is keeping him out, but that is one of Pete Carroll's huge advantages. He doesn't let his personal frustrations dictate his decision making.

2015-07-27 15:32

doc, im not seeing a thumbs up option anywhere. The other thing that would be nice is being able to click on the comments number at the bottom of the posts and when it loads it goes straight to the top of the comments rather than the top of the article, and in the article if you click that same comments number it takes you down to the top of the comments....

2015-07-27 14:54

He has just been great. Glad to have him. As far as the browns qb thing in concerned I think manziel will start game 1. Everyone is saying otherwise..but you have to see what you have with him and give him a whole season to grow and show you if he is gunna be there long term.

2015-07-27 14:04

Ya Brownz ... standard saber dogma is that there is no such thing as a hot hitter. Dunno how you can watch a guy like Cruz and believe that. Of course, many real-world phenomena are very hard to *measure* ... BTW, what is your read on the Browns' QB situation? :- )

2015-07-27 15:27


2015-07-27 14:03

Everybody noticed that Klat put in a Thumbs Up vote for comments? One of my fave li'l features in a comments thread ...

2015-07-27 13:06

Also I knew Cruz was doing amazing, but I just read he is batting near .500 in the past 9 games. Remarkable.

2015-07-27 12:29

Glad to see the rookie on the hill tonight. Even though he has been getting rocked, he has shown some streaky behavior good and bad. Think his last 3 starts were a 9.something ERA though. Really needs to bounce back.

2015-07-27 10:34

With Baron, Marlette, Littlewood, and Hicks still working on their futures, but all seemingly capable of being a legit BU to Zunino, Ruiz looks just about right as a guy with remaining skills to bridge to whichever of those guys steps it up. And he'd be a decent mentor to Zunino (where A.J. Pierzynski might be less decent).

2015-07-27 10:20

Royals definately looking to sure up everything right now too... I could see that as landing spot. Very surprised they landed Cueto

2015-07-27 10:12

Ackley may have some value to the Royals, as they are looking for a backup 2B and a backup OF. Sounds like a match. Do they have a couple of AAA/AA relief arms throwing 100 to spare? Offer Romero OR Jones and Baron OR Marlette and Lara OR Morban and a lower level infielder (Ascanio, Mejia, Peguero, ??) to the Phillies for Ruiz, Papelbon, and Brown. Get Brown a change of scenery and Van Slyke to work with and see what happens. Drop Rodney off at the DFA desk. Platoon Brown and Guti.

2015-07-27 10:05

Royals get Cueto...they mean business, and why not?

2015-07-27 08:18

Yeah. Imagine what the last 5 years would have been like with a healthy Guti.

2015-07-27 07:15

What say we offer the Phillies Ackley and some cash for Papelbon and Ruiz, ey?

2015-07-27 07:14

Gutierrez...has always been and continues to be one of my favorite Mariners despite his problems staying healthy.

2015-07-27 07:12

Washburn existed before the QO system, but the lack of interest in him was caused by his disastrously bad performance in #Detroit.

2015-07-27 01:42

Not sure Washburned is a good reference point, Matt. No one signed him after the M's traded him to the Tigers. Even after a relatively okay campaign. I can see the floor fall out from under Happ, both talent and market-wise, making him a dangerous QO and lower-value player.