Q. Where did this "#2 Starter" thing come from?
A. At the Bakery, they've not been at all quick to buy in on Mr. WBC-san. But dig the tone of this article, captured neatly at the moment on which the curtain comes down.
Geoffy, an ex-athlete himself who has been standing on ground zero for a year or twenty, has a hair-fine feel for the ebb and flow of battle. He groks the fact that Iwakuma's fastball becomes a pivot point and his articles generally reflect, or at least show an awareness of, what the professionals are seeing.
Q. Give me a feel for why the raves?
A. One time some local radio jocks took a cab in New York to a Sonics game at the Garden, like, the first year they were good in the Payton era. The cabbie asked, "Can your guys play?" The jocks go, um, they're 40 and 15. The cabbie goes, "Yeah, but can they PLAY."
The jocks were laughing at the cabbie on the show later in that week, making it a double-inside joke that they weren't in on. By "can they play" the cabbie meant, "If the Knicks play their best, can the Sonics beat us anyway."
Jered Weaver, the Angels on a roll, their OPS+ 117, the whole sheeee-bang, and Iwakuma kicked their cans from here to Disneyland.
NOW people grok it. Iwakuma can PITCH.
Q. That is Iwakuma getting better, or people's eyes clearing up? Has Iwakuma improved THAT much? In spring training they thought he was a joke. Now he's the tag-team sempai to the King?
A. Dig this scenario, which echoes the Pineda scenario in 2011. People say "no absolute way even if turtles turn purple, Myrtle" and then the guy goes and does it. Three choices to yer:
- You can say you shanked the tee shot into the river.
- You can say man, the guy really improved a lot, didn't he? Aint it cool how good he got, how fast?
- You can have some combo of the two.
With Pineda 2011, it was "no absolute way" and then in May it was "wait till 2nd time around the league" and then what? It was "Wow, look at how different Pineda is."
If it wasn't there, we might add with our typical modesty, how did anybody see it?
After his 2nd start we said, we'll take Mr. WBC, not Vargas. Cash on the barrelhead, same salary, 2013, gimme Iwakuma and send Vargas on down the road. Based on what, dart throws? Iwakuma is the real deal. That he crushed the Angels is great. It wasn't no blinkin' accident.
Q. So the undersell was baseless?
Actually Iwakuma does have three games: (1) A GAME: sharp as a tack, like tonight ... (2) B GAME: battling his command, like Minnesota ... (3) COMING OFF WINTER: out of synch, like in March.
Q. Why did he look so bad at times early on?
A. Did he really look that bad? Or did he look weird, unfamiliar, and it was just that MLB talent scouts hadn't had a chance to see him the way he is now?
Suppose the 1997 Jamie Moyer fell out of the sky, in a March spring training, and was a little out of synch, no command. Jamie Moyer off his game, and you'd never seen him go 17-8, 3.27 before. You don't think people would shake their heads sadly and say, no chance?
Sometimes it can't be helped. There are command-and-deception guys where you would have no way of visualizing them when they were in form. Most guys like that, such as Moyer, have to prove it first. Who knew that young long man Jeff Fassero was going to become a 200-strikeout guy?
Q. Okay, anyway, what does SSI see as the difference between his A Game (vs. the Angels) and his B Game (vs. the Twinkies)?