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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Blog: 

Comments

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

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.

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
The Neophyte's picture

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

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.

6

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.

7
Rockies Jeff's picture

Right on DaddyO! The top of Detroit's lineup is as good as it gets. Win or lose that was incredible pitching!

8

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.

9
IcebreakerX's picture

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.

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Chat: 6/30/15 11:58pm
Interests: Health (185903)
A question:  When was the last time a ML...Read more.
    Shouts update every 10 seconds.       
2015-07-02 21:04

The worst part of tonight... Billy Beane will now get more for Kazmir when he trades him, so today's lack luster game will haunt us for years to come.

2015-07-02 18:40

As expected, the first five minutes of the pregame show were spent gushing about Willie Bloomquist and what a shame it is His Belovedness has to move on. And my worst fear was realized. They opined about how once he hangs 'em up, perhaps he might come back and join the M's media team. Again, he's probably a nice guy. But I don't wanna see him. To me he represents all that is wrong with the Mariners.

2015-07-02 17:21

I think we, and alot of people, just expect so much of Felix. It was a rare game overall for him. Def disapointing, and he got hit up early. He will need a big bounce back that's for sure. I think alot of it is the high expectations any elite pitcher, or player in any sport,faces

2015-07-02 16:32

Thank you Matt. I feel better now.

2015-07-02 15:10

The change: his Pitches per inning ratio has dropped from 15.2 in 2009 to 14.5 in 2014. He's actually having a bit of an off year in 2015 overall, but that is largely due to getting absolutely shellacked twice at random.

2015-07-02 15:03

As for your question regarding pitch counts over time...Felix isn't losing 120 pitch games because he doesn't care to pitch deep into games and risk injury or because he's getting soft-shoed by the Mariners. He's losing 120+ pitch games because he's pitching more efficiently. His IP counts per season are steady and among the best in baseball.

2015-07-02 15:01

Neither, Tacoma. Felix was pulled from that game because he was visibly laboring late...throwing a TON of pitches and limping a bit on his bad ankle after having to field his position in the 6th. They yanked him because a laboring Felix who's struggling with his command can actually get really terrible really fast.

2015-07-02 14:48

I know I'm stomping on hallowed ground, but... is anyone else bothered by the last Felix start? Yeah, I know it was a no runs, 1 hit masterpiece in 100+ temperatures BUT.... leaving after 6 innings after throwing 96 pitches against a division rival in a game the Mariners really needed to win.
I realize the bullpen was fairly well rested, and Lloyd really mis-managed the bullpen to lose the game... BUT 96 pitches? And this highlights the fact that Felix has not thrown more than 120 in close to two years. Aren't aces / kings supposed to be horses that occasionally throw 130 pitches when it is needed?
Is Lloyd / Mariner's coaching treating Felix with kid gloves too much? Or has Felix decided that pitching another 7 to 10 years is more important than giving max effort this year?

2015-07-02 14:36

If he bombs like that Matt....in some extended trial....then I'm good with that.

2015-07-02 14:32

He'll at least get a September call-up. No reason not to.

2015-07-02 14:30

I am sure Guti gets at least 80 at bats before they cut ties with him... and based on the fact he can not play back to back days... that is easily well into August. I agree that Romero SHOULD get another significant look, but I doubt it happens until August... and possibly September.

2015-07-02 14:30

Most AAAA players get two shots at least. I'm sure Romero will too. And when he's finished hitting .198 with 5 HR and 100 K, hopefully we won't extend a third audition.

2015-07-02 14:00

Looks like the M's could get a young RHB who hit .352-.391-.599 at A+/AA and .321-.365-.559 at AAA. Well....I'm loading the dice. That's Stefen Romero, of course. And I dropped his first AAA year '13, which wasn't a disaster. In '13 Romero, in 411 Tacoma PA's hit .277-.331-.448 with 11 homers. Over 444 '14-'15 Tacoma PA's, he's hit .321-.365-.559 with 21 homers. Matt, I know you hate Romero based on the fact that he doesn't walk much and fizzled in #Seattle last year, but the guy has upped his game to the next level and can slug. If Guti doesn't hit, Romero should get a shot.

2015-07-02 13:20

The timing on this is weird just because it didn't make any sense to send him down lat time, but it is driven by this fact: Miller is hitting .143-.176-.153 vL this year, approx. .160-.215-.250 over the last two and .206-.260-.296 for his career. He's a hard hitting SS vs. RHP, but needs the vL help. Taylor isn't ripping up Tacoma right now (.701 over the last 28 days),but he's at .308-.370-.418 vL for the year, including his #Seattle stint. It doesn't make up a lot more flexible, but it helps us some.

2015-07-02 13:09

It had to be done. Taylor was hitting again in AAA, and we need someone who can actually play short up here to bench Miller against tough lefties.

2015-07-02 12:41

Oh no. They'll probably make Wille B the new manager, and all he'll want to do is talk about grit. jk. At least I won't have to listen any more to the incessant fanboy talk from the M's announcers and commentators.

I'm sure WIllie is a fine man personally. I'm just relieved to no longer be afflicted with his presence as a player taking the spot of someone who can contribute more.

I imagine there is a funereal atmosphere in the front office, where WIllie seemed to symbolize everything Fanboy Mariner-- overhyped and overrated.

2015-07-02 11:40

The end of Boom Boom. About...a year and a half too late

2015-07-02 11:33

Willie Bloomquist DFA'd and Chris Taylor brought up. Maybe some winning will break out.

2015-07-02 11:23

Take Luis Gohara for instance. He's now in #Everett kicking off his 3rd minor league season. It seems like he's been in the org forever, but he's only 18 years old. How he performs for the next 10 weeks or so in #Everett and then next year in full season ball is what will tell us if we actually have something of value.

2015-07-02 11:16

Vargas is a big, strong 16-year old. He's a $1.7 million lottery ticket. We'll see first if he can even play and progress in the minors. Probably, we won't even know if he's a prospect for at least two, if not three, years. It's a lottery ticket, a draw at the deck.

2015-07-02 11:05

Who gets booted really depends on how well Elias does today

2015-07-02 11:04

Another big athlete with unorthodox swing with contact issues. Chances high he moves to the OF, where he may not have enough hand-eye skills to succeed.

2015-07-02 11:03

Iwakuma: 1 R in 5.2 IP in AAA, with 6 punchies. Got a blister (says that happens every year when he starts throwing after a long hiatus) and expects to make his next start...soooooo....who do you send out of this rotation when Iwakuma arrives? I'm gonna be TICKED if they boot #Montgomery, the way he's pitching...but that is probably what they'll do, since he has options.

2015-07-02 11:00

Mariners sign Carlos Vargas (Dominican) to 1.7 M bonus. Thoughts?

2015-07-02 10:58

That would be very nice...but even if Bloomy doesn't retire, DFA'ing him can achieve the same result. But if you take Rollins off the DL, he has to be called up or sent back to his club that very moment. Who in the current bullpen leaves for Rollins? (I'd send out Beimel)

2015-07-02 10:27

Best case scenario? Bloomquist retires, Rollins onto the 40 man, Taylor in #Seattle.

2015-07-02 10:25

that would also be fine with me (Bloomquist DFA)

2015-07-02 10:23

@shannondrayer: Chris Taylor on his way up. Mariners could have another move Sat. as they must make a decision on Rollins by then.

2015-07-02 09:56

More likely WFB.

2015-07-02 09:47

Sounds like the club has come up with a miraculous, imaginary Ackley injury to get him off the roster and get Taylor up...I hope that is what happens here.

2015-07-02 09:24

I was driving in to work a little while ago and on the radio Salk mentioned something about Ackley being overweight and injured. Is that true? Maybe there's an injury, but he's never looked overweight to me.

2015-07-02 09:02

@ProspectInsider: Not hearing anything about a trade involving #Seattle. Taylor's call-up appears to be about an option, DFA or injury.

2015-07-02 08:24

Taylor apparently called up

2015-07-02 06:49

I noticed the Pizzano absence, too...GLS> He was removed mid-game a while back and hasn't been back. Drats. I want him in Tacoma. I did not watch Walker throw yesterday as I was listening to the game while tying flies....but I'm assuming he's still on that Buehrle-like rhythm where he gets a sign and throws. Little has been mentioned of that since the first game he did that....which was the game that began this streak.

2015-07-02 04:16

WOW...that...is some serious data-oriented managing. It explains why they yanked him after six today, as well. They must be watching the radar gun closely with him...looking for signs of the sort of fatigue that can lead to micro-tears.

2015-07-02 04:10

Lloyd came running out of the dugout with the trainer for apparently no reason to check Taijuan's #Health; even Taijuan was confused. Later, cameras showed that he scapula-shrugged twice on the mound, as if annoyed at a pain, and later later, Brooks showed it was three pitches into a little velo drop on the graph. (I don't support or not support him more or less but) Lloyd has a V-E-R-Y sharp in-game eye. Even sharper than Piniella's, looks like.

2015-07-02 04:05

Taijuan's command continues to spiral upward universes away from his first several starts. *Reminded* you even more today of the young Curt Schilling template, using the fastball alone to totally dominate. … also, his spikeball was the best it has ever been for him, absolutely the best ever, and yet he threw it only 2x per inning. ?!

2015-07-02 04:01

Quick reminder guys: no language at all, including *#@#$ marks. Thanks :- )

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