Hisashi Iwakuma Goes Dangerous, 2

Surrender now?  Or do you still require incentive?


The Decent, Dept.

Our own post-Texas script axed Iwakuma to get him some respect, as Moyer and Vargas and Maddux and etc. had to do in order to pitch with 80-something fastballs.  To go inside and up the letters with the fastball, and then to go below the knees with breaking pitches on two strikes.  

In the first inning Friday, Iwakuma-san seemed to be (inadvertently) following Dr. D's prescription.  His very first pitch to B.J. Upton was a crisp fastball letter-high, where Upton might swing underneath it.  As opposed to "pitching to contact," you know.

Later in the AB -- #6 on the GameDay -- he seemed to throw a ... forkball?!  And on pitch 7, he challenged Upton with a humped-up 92 fastball.  Struck him out.  One batter into the game, Iwakuma had exceeded his Texas strikeout total by a ratio of infinity.

The command was still not impressive in the first, but the attack factor was much much much much better.  Iwakuma finished the inning with an 8-pitch battle against Jeff Keppinger... pitches 6 and 7, Iwakuma set him up with two 86 MPH pitches an dthen pitch 8, Iwakuma humped up again and blew a 93 fastball by him for an IN YO' FACE strikeout. 

Game on.  Okaaaayyyyyyyy.

He's got two starts' worth of handwarming, out of the walk-in freezer, and already he's able to defend himself.


With One Out In the Third, We've Got a #4-5 Starter ... 

Iwakuma led off the second inning with a 91 fastball to Luke Scott, well up over his hands.  This is not a pitch-to-contact idea, and Dr. D raised a Vulcan eyebrow in ... not hope yet, but intrigue.

Then, after getting jobbed by the ump for a 1-0 count, Iwakuma threw a real live Jamie Moyer jam pitch to Desmond Jennings: 


It was the first of many pitches thrown not only in on the hands, but actually in off the plate, like let's say he knew what he was doing or something.  Check out the precision grouping of the inside pitches he threw to RHH's:


You'll also notice a lot of centered fastballs.  But the difference was, Iwakuma set up the challenge fastballs with see-saw pitch sequencing.  Against RH's, for example, he had a near-perfect mix of 22 offspeed pitches against 28 fastballs.

In the third inning, Iwakuma led off with his third haymaker in as many attempts:  a 91 fastball up over the hands, four inches over the top of the zone.  We're still thinking that Jesus Montero can't call a game?

Dr. D relaxed.  This Iwakuma would be all right.  

The rest of the third inning was to quickly diabuse him of this notion.





That 93 mph heater got my attention, too.
"Hmmmmmmmm," I thought, "Now this is worth watching."
That pitch had unanticipated hop, too. If he throws at 91-93, rather than 88-90...then he gets some velo separation over the shuuto.
Doc, it seems to me that there was one game, in particular, in ST where the shuuto really appeared to be a weapon. We scribbled, agog, about it, IIRC. Nice to see it again.
Maybe it's the rhythm of starting, maybe it's that he feels validated when he starts, maybe Wedge just blew it by burying this guy in the end of the pen......
But I suspect that Iwakuma has something, as advertised, that is worth some investment.
Rokkunrooru, Iwakuma-san!


I'll trust Baker on this one. He says that during ST and early in the season, it would take Iwakuma days to recover and be ready to pitch after just a couple of innings. Baker's perception is that Iwakuma just wasn't ready. He would know, being around the team day in and day out. Gotta remember that the guy was coming off a shoulder injury last year. I think it's just taken him this long to get himself back to the pitcher that Beane paid that posting fee for.
The real question is where his ceiling is. If he keeps getting stronger and more confident over his next few starts, the M's might really have something.


Kind of like Bedard's curve ball or Vargas' changeup.  The Shuuto was there too when he had some bad outings.  Problemo is, if it's only the Shuuto plus mush, they can fight it off...
If there were one pitch that would be massively fun to throw, it might be the shuuto/gyroball.  How do you throw an overhand curve that breaks armside?


... and that Taro correctly predicted would spell disaster for Michael Pineda...
Iwakuma threw 1,500 innings in ten years at Rakuten.  I wonder where his shoulder's going to be from here out.  DiceK was pretty trashed when he got here.
The M's gave him a medically pleasant half year off, so maybe he'll rally for a few years?


Is not dropping as much as it did last year - it's an inch or two shy of the more-extreme-than-gravity effect.  Here's the chart.
But he is throwing 94-95, touching 96, and that mini-shuuto is still one whale of an offspeed pitch.  Delabar's got the two pitches to set up or even close.  We'll see how sharp he can get as far as command and execution.

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