Cameo Mr. WBC - 8 4 1 1 3 13
Iwakuma proves Orel right

Q.  What happened out there?

A.  Iwakuma's 82-83 MPH slider was popping a parachute.  Never mind the fact that it was diving on two planes, down and gloveside.  The Jays were done before the pitch ever got the chance to break.  Iwakuma would double-clutch, twirl the foot, fire the arm forward, the Jays would flinch for the fastball and ... whoosh, yank went the yo-yo string.  

The effect was pretty weird.  I've never seen an 82 MPH slider used as a straight change before.


Q.  Still, why should a plus slider mean 13 strikeouts.  The Jays had 18 swings and misses and another ten checked swings.  They looked like they were facing Pedro Martinez.  

A.  The slider meant that Iwakuma had three, not two, dangerous "lengths" to deal with.  Like Orel Hershiser said:  command one pitch in the strike zone, compete.  Command two pitches in the zone, win.  Command three pitches in the zone, dominate.

The Jays had to deal with an 82 MPH strikeout pitch, a slider that Iwakuma sold with really great arm action.  And of course they had to deal with the 87-88 MPH shu'uto / gyroball rolling off the table like a Felix power "changeup".  After the confusion set in, Iwakuma's 91-93 fastball -- painted -- was stinging like a bee.


Q.  What was the ratio?

A.  Brooks had him for:

  • 50x fastballs coming in sharply at 90-93
  • 26x sliders, coming in at 80-85 MPH, dropping 3" and cutting gloveside 3"
  • 24x shuutos, 84-90 MPH, dropping 1-3" and swerving armside 8-10" (!)
  • 9x change curves, 93 MPH

Saunders from center field remarked, after the game, wow, the pitches were moving every which way.  That's the effect.

Blowers was taken aback in the booth:  late in the game, Iwakuma continued to throw more offspeed than fastballs.  "Even though he's got a lead?"  Well, this is the WBC superstar we'd expected to teleport in as though beamed down out of a spaceship.  Foreign language, foreign gestures, foreign mathematics...

Iwakuma looked like the WBC star you draw up on a chalkboard.  Two different wipeout breaking pitches.  Sneaky, stinging little fastball for called strikes.  Baffling pitch sequences -- 82 MPH changeups high, weird gyroballs on the hands, just this ain't the way the game's supposed to be played.

Thirteen strikeouts.  Mariner rookie record, by the way.  Langston didn't do it, Felix didn't do it, nobody did it.  Big game.


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When he struck out Lawrie, in the 6th or 7th, on that 0-2 painted fastball and Lawrie never even pretended to move the bat then I knew that the Jays were completely bamboozled as too what to look for: Bamboozled, adrift, dazed and confused, hopeless.
Has Felix had a game this year where he had more command of the strikezone down and just a couple of inches out of the strikezone down than Iwakuma had last night?
When he threw the curve it buckled knees, he must have had superb arm slot consistency, because the slider was dominating, the shuuto is an awesome pitch to watch, and he was on (or better yet...just off) the black all night with a heater that isn't to sneer at.
Does anybody have the real story on why he was buried as the 12th guy on the pitching staff for so long....when he had such an interesting pedigree.
Sore arm or Wedge's misread?
But we have something here.
Domo arigato, Mr.

benihana's picture

The real story? Perhaps it was just because Iwakuma was still recovering from an injured shoulder.
Wasn't the teams handling of Iwakuma exactly the right way to allow him to regain strength and return to full health? Unlike what we saw with Carp, the team started him off slow with limited game use and worked him out in bullpen sessions, stretched him out to start and has babied his pitch count up to this point?
Seems a more likely scenario to me than some form of prejudice or bias.
- Ben.

OBF's picture

The Mariners showed Iwakuma great respect if this indeed the case, letting him take a whole bullpen spot basically while rehabbing. Hopefully this is the case.


June Recap:
Iwakuma has made strides since he showed up in spring training and alarmed coaches and team executives alike with a lack of velocity, poor command and a very slow recovery time after he pitched.

May Recap:
After watching Hisashi Iwakuma up close this spring, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik knew there was no way he could turn him loose on a major league mound when it mattered. Not as a starting pitcher, anyway.
Iwakuma kept giving up multiple baserunners in his Cactus League outings and more often than not, they came back to haunt him. But it wasn't just that. If you watched the opposing hitters step into the box against him, their comfort level seemed uncanny. They would plant their feet, crowd the plate and just dare Iwakuma to throw something they wouldn't like.
More often that not, he simply served up the dish of their choice. His pitches were flat as pancakes and the odd time he did get any decent movement on them, they sailed harmlessly out of the zone. When he'd fall behind in counts, Iwakuma would try to come back in with a strike and his velocity -- at times precariously lower than anyone expected -- enabled hitters to easily catch up. Even when he'd get ahead on hitters, sometimes with two strikes, he'd try to throw one of his breaking balls and have them stay flat, fat and hittable. He'd get lucky on a handful of occasions and have balls hit right at people to minimize the damage. But he did not look like a major league starting pitcher.
It didn't take long for Zduriencik, Eric Wedge and anyone who's worked with pitchers to notice this. Heck, even media members who don't work with pitchers were scratching their heads wondering how the Mariners could spend seven figures on Iwakuma.

Iwakuma was BAD in Spring Training.  He's absolutely crisp now.  That article is a GREAT rundown of how Iwakuma looked and how Jack made the decision not to get him BBQed in the rotation but to work on his arm strength and mechanics on the side while leaving him as the last man in the pen.  He did use the pen spot to gently rehab Iwakuma, actually, but that wasn't the intent.  The intent was not to have a starter spontaneously combust on the mound.
Sadly, we still had Noesi to fill that role.  Now that Iwakuma's fully recovered, has he looked good.  I want that guy.  Can somebody guarantee me that guy?


That gets it across.
Whether we are talking about a spot on assessment back then, or (somewhat of) an overreaction due to paradigm issues, is my question.
You think if he threw exactly the same way next March. They'd gauge the situation a tad differently? :)
There's a certain faith factor (or not) Involved when any Kevin Millwood or whoever isn't throwing that great in March.  Next year if Iwakuma comes in a little flat they will react differently.

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