Hisashi Iwakuma as a Starter

Dave · August 17, 2012 at 11:11 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Since moving into the rotation, here are Hisashi Iwakuma’s numbers:

48 IP, 43 H, 17 BB, 42 K, 3.37 ERA, 3.75 xFIP

Hopefully, we’re all well past that whole silly “he doesn’t have Major League stuff” phase, and it should be pretty clear to most everyone now that Iwakuma is a perfectly capable back-end Major League starter. He gets groundballs, he gets strikeouts, and his command has improved with regular work. After he was essentially ostracized for the first several months of 2012, I figured he’d end up going somewhere else next year and show the M’s what they were missing out on. Now that they’ve actually seen it for themselves, it’d probably be worth exploring a 2013 contract extension with him.

With The Big Three all looking like they should probably begin 2013 in the minors as well, the team is still in need of big league starting pitching, and Iwakuma is showing that he is a capable big league starter. It’s too bad it took the organization a few months to figure that out, but now that we’re here, keeping him from getting to free agency is probably a worthwhile goal.


21 Responses to “Hisashi Iwakuma as a Starter”

  1. justinh on August 17th, 2012 11:26 pm

    Dave I must admit I thought you were wrong a few months ago when you were saying Iwakuma is a capable starter. I give credit where it is due, and props to you Dave. Iwakuma has looked great as a starter.

    I actually came on USSM tonight to read the comments after I just saw the score. I was going to mention it definitely looks like it is time to lock up Iwakuma to a 1 year deal with an option.

    Nice call bro.

  2. B13a on August 17th, 2012 11:54 pm

    My only question is: will Iwakuma be willing to come back for 2013? I’d like to think that he isn’t too miffed about the way he was used early this season, but you never know.

    One more thing that’s pleasantly surprising is that Iwakuma throws a lot harder than I originally thought.

  3. jmcwalter on August 18th, 2012 12:18 am

    Would it be possible that the M’s keep Iwakuma in the bullpen for as long as they did in order to not pay his salary incentives that kick in at 20 starts and 140 innings? He is on pace for 16 starts and roughly 135 innings (assuming he averages 7 innings per start for his last eight starts as he did for his first eight). As far as I can tell, looks like they will be saving the entire 3.4 million while still getting an extended look at Iwakuma in a year where they knew they weren’t going to make a playoff run anyways.

  4. justinh on August 18th, 2012 12:19 am

    Hey fella’s I took this video at the Perfecto game and put it up on YouTube. Thought maybe some people would like to see the reaction from the stands. Feel free to share.

    Check out this video on YouTube:


  5. bilbo27 on August 18th, 2012 1:21 am

    With so many teams needing decent starters and presumably that Iwakuma can’t be overly pleased with the way he was used/treated early in the season (and if not for some injuries and what not, the fact that he’d still be being used that way), I’d guess he’ll choose to test the free agent market unless the Mariners want to blow him away with a deal, which I’m guessing they won’t for someone like him and where they’re at right now.

    Really glad to see him taking advantage of his opportunity. When I heard he was going to get his first start, I took the day off and went to the game, thinking that perhaps even it might be his only one with the M’s if he did poorly, given how Wedge’s apparent opinion of him at the time. I was really excited when the M’s first signed him and really dumbfounded by Wedge’s use of him early on. I mean, it’s not like Iwakuma’s got ace potential, but he makes practically nothing and seemed like at worst he’d be a decent backend starter and at best a decent number 3-ish. For the money he’s making, either is a steal.

    I hope perhaps next season Wedge will have learned a little lesson about judging people based on Spring Training performance *cough Iwakuma* *cough cough Jaso*. Clearly from Wedge’s quotes he loves both now, which is a 180 from his quotes about them early in the season.

  6. maqman on August 18th, 2012 2:26 am

    As a free agent I’m guessing he might get up to a 3 year contract at something in the $5MM to $7MM AAV range from some team hard up for pitching. He does’t owe the Ms much considering what he’s produced and what he’s being paid. It only makes sense for him to wait to be a free agent and gauge his market value. I think they should try and sign him and Vargas as there are no guarantees any of the pitching prospects will ever be major league starters. If they do end up with a surplus of proven starters they are the coin of the realm in the trade market and the Ms will be rich.

  7. MKT on August 18th, 2012 3:32 am

    “I hope perhaps next season Wedge will have learned a little lesson about judging people based on Spring Training performance *cough Iwakuma* *cough cough Jaso*.”

    Although it’s speculative, Wedge probably cost the Mariners what, 2 or 3 wins this season by favoring Olivo over Jaso, and Beavan/Noesi over Iwakuma? It takes Wedge far too long to recognize what the weaknesses and strengths of his roster are.

  8. dc24 on August 18th, 2012 4:58 am

    Sounds like a good plan. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Iwakuma.

  9. djw on August 18th, 2012 6:51 am

    I’d like to think that he isn’t too miffed about the way he was used early

    Based on what? Psychological speculation through the TV screen without any evidence has a pretty poor track record.

  10. bookbook on August 18th, 2012 7:03 am

    Relax, djw. That post wasn’t attempting to make any guesses, just pointing out that he would have just cause to be miffed.

  11. stevemotivateir on August 18th, 2012 9:12 am

    I caught a little of the game before crashin’ out last night. He really looked dialed in. Look forward to seeing more of him this year. Just hope Ramirez is able to come back to do the same.

  12. ripperlv on August 18th, 2012 9:36 am

    He wasn’t exactly lights out in spring training when he was trying to win a job and getting used to the new ball.
    Early in spring training, Iwakuma struggled to throw a major league baseball as well as he’d thrown a Japanese baseball. The two balls are much different than you would think, pitching coach Carl Willis said. Iwakuma’s pitches had far less movement than the Mariners had seen when watching him pitch in Japan.
    Cobbe (Iwakuma’s agent) said Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik and the team “rolled out the red carpet” for Iwakuma and showed him “a lot of respect” during his visit. “This was Iwakuma’s first time in the U.S., and he found the city of Seattle and the people there were a really strong fit for him and his family,” Cobbe said.
    He has a $1.5 million contract with $3 million in incentives. I think he could be tempted to stick around with the M’s.

  13. Westside guy on August 18th, 2012 9:42 am

    I hope perhaps next season Wedge will have learned a little lesson about judging people based on Spring Training performance *cough Iwakuma* *cough cough Jaso*.

    Wedge has been managing for, what, a decade now? He’s not going to change, because he doesn’t see that he’s doing anything wrong. I’m sure he believes Iwakuma and Jaso did some magical “manning up” thing at some point during the season after not being good in spring training.

    All the complaints we have about Wedge now, people in Cleveland were saying from 2003-2009. He is who he is.

  14. onetreehugger on August 18th, 2012 11:03 am

    What if? I mean, most people here seem to think Iwakuma (and Jaso) were not used at the start of the year because of their poor spring training play. What if that wasn’t it at all? What if Iwakuma’s velocity and control needed work with the pitching coach and his arm needed more time after his surgery? What if Wedge was just waiting for him to reach certain levels of skills before using him? What if Jaso needed work on some catching skills and Wedge didn’t want to use him until those skills were up to some minimum level? The only reason I can think of to claim it was all spring training related is that we were told that by the “boss” here.

    Since Iwakuma lost out on the fortune he refused to take from Oakland I don’t think his signing an extension has anything to do with how he was treated. I think it has to do with the most money for the most years, as with just about all other players. I think he wants a long-term deal, just like other players do.

  15. vertigoman on August 18th, 2012 11:36 am

    As far as potentially reupping Iwakuma, one factor to keep in mind is that his agency recently dropped him stating “personal differences”.
    Not sure what that was about or if it’s the same agency that blew his chance with Oakland.

    The fact remains Seattle is a good destination for pitchers (especially one’s that live in Japan) so I’m pretty confident we can get something done. Maybe it becomes pertinent to do so before they figure out what to do with the fences.

  16. The_Waco_Kid on August 18th, 2012 12:28 pm

    “It takes Wedge far too long to recognize what the weaknesses and strengths of his roster are.”

    True, but Wedge may be limited by the front office and he could have a much better roster.

  17. IdahoInvader on August 18th, 2012 1:45 pm

    Jaso needed to work on his “catching skills?” Seriously?

    I guess his DH skills should’ve been deemed acceptable then. When the alternative is Olivo, that just underscores the lack of intelligence regarding personnel decisions from our fearless leader.

    Usually the obvious reason is the right one. No different here. Wedge is not good at recognizing what he has to work with.

  18. stevemotivateir on August 18th, 2012 1:51 pm


    Jaso’s catching skills were never a question. Even if they were, could they have been any worse than Olivo’s? Montero’s defense from the minors certainly wasn’t holding Jaso back.

    Wedge came out and said that they wanted to work Iwakuma in slowly, build up his arm strength. But he didn’t do that. He didn’t do anything! We didn’t see Iwakuma until that blow-out in Texas, if I remember correctly (someone please correct me if I’m wrong). Regardles, he saw minimal relief work for a considerable length of time. And he was suppose to be the long-relief guy to build up arm strength. If it was a question of skills, he wouldn’t have been on the roster.

    What gets me, is that nearly every game, there’s at least one move that doesn’t make sense. If you took the top 50 questionalable moves he’s made this season, and polled every other MLB manager, I would bet they would not have followed suit on most, if not all.

    What if Wedge is just a poor decision maker, uses bad judgement? Jack may influence some of the choices, but that wouldn’t let him off the hook for too many.

  19. IdahoInvader on August 18th, 2012 2:02 pm

    Wedge will have a hard time topping his pitching decision in the extra inning game at Oakland. Extra innings is when Wedge’s genius really “shines.” On that particular night he took out Perez (who actually gets RH hitters out BETTER than LH ones so far) and put in Delebar to face a power hitting righty.

    Hmmmm….Delebar’s “only” struggles had been vs RH hitters on the ROAD. Somehow that escaped Wedge, as did our chance for the win.

    I believe Delebar’s first pitch was hit about 19 miles.

  20. Flaco on August 18th, 2012 10:19 pm

    I love how so many here talk bad about Wedge. Who would you have replace him??? And how do you manage a team with so many young players at the highest level?

  21. stevemotivateir on August 19th, 2012 4:35 pm


    Any bench coach for a winning team would a good place to start looking. Joey Cora’s name would likely surface.

    As far as managing a young team…. You do the same thing you do with a team of veterans. Look at stats, play the odds, recognize the individual strengths & weaknesses, improvise accordingly, and keep open communication. The difference is that you probably talk more with the younger players. Having young players is no excuse for bad decisions. Take notes from Joe Maddon.

    If you have a problem with the views that some of us have, offer a rebuttal. Show evidence that supports your claims, and be open to the fact that you might have missed something. Many of us learn from each other on a regular basis.

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