Hisashi Iwakuma’s Outing Today

marc w · March 29, 2017 at 6:07 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

It’s easy to be paranoid on a day when we’ve just learned that Drew Smyly may not be ready to pitch when the season starts. I look forward to laughing about this in a month after Hisashi Iwakuma twirls a few gems against Houston, Texas and Miami. It may be premature, given that there are questions about the Pitch FX calibration in Peoria, so maybe the velocity readings aren’t as bad as they look.

But here, look at this:
Iwakuma velocity chart
This was Hisashi Iwakuma’s velocity today in his abbreviated start against the Dodgers. This is from BrooksBaseball, who’ve taken the raw MLBAM Gameday data and adjusted it to measure the speed at 55′ from the plate as opposed to 50′. That means that these readings are actually faster than what you’d see in the Gameday app, where Iwakuma appeared to throw a blizzard of 82 MPH “change ups.”

The first inning looks OK (through pitch 27 in the chart), with a couple of sprightly 88 MPH fastballs to Tyler Holt, followed by an oddly slow slider that Holt singled on. But look at the stubbornly low velocity immediately after that. He begins the 2nd inning with a walk of ex-Mariner Chris Taylor, and none of the pitches exceed 84, leading Gameday to call them changeups. The problem is that they very clearly aren’t. His velocity gets slightly better towards the end of his outing, but it’s still far below where it was in the first inning.

Clayton Kershaw’s velocity was slightly lower than usual today too, so it may be that after further adjustments, Iwakuma’s 83 MPH fastballs were really 85-86 MPH sinkers – something low, but not THAT low. The problem is that while the M’s are saying there’s nothing physically wrong with him, and Iwakuma himself blames mechanical issues for his wildness, that picture is exactly what an injury looks like.

There are, of course, other explanations. This spring, Iwakuma’s been a little slow out of the gate with his fastball. Here’s a velo chart from a few outings ago, where we started off 85-86 and then worked up to 88.
3-18 speed.php
Since his outing ended in the 2nd, maybe he just never got loose. That might explain the velo and the wildness (four walks? From Hisashi Iwakuma?), but is a warning sign of its own.

Still, it’s scary to see such a drop after a frankly odd-looking slider; it’s not good to be able to look at the chart and instantly spot where…something happened. Iwakuma’s thrown a few sliders this spring, but none as slow as that 75 MPH hanger to Holt. It’s 5 MPH slower than he averaged last year, and it appears to be the only slider he threw in today’s game. I sincerely hope Iwakuma just tried to work on his mechanics in the 2nd, and, for whatever reason, it didn’t work. But this is now something to watch, in between watching for news on Drew Smyly’s health.

Please stay healthy, M’s.


2 Responses to “Hisashi Iwakuma’s Outing Today”

  1. Westside guy on March 30th, 2017 11:10 pm

    Man, I don’t want to hear about a potential injury to someone we need as bad as Kuma this early…

  2. mrakbaseball on March 31st, 2017 12:16 am

    Get healthy and stay healthy. That velocity is shades of Jered Weaver.

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