Q. Upside for Iwakuma?
A. It's hard for me to visualize Iwakuma making the All-Star team. Suppose he fans 6.0 men per game, mostly on swinging forkballs and on called FB's and sliders. That's great, but Tim Hudson doesn't get Cy Young votes.
Well, I take it back. Iwakuma's two offspeed pitches -- 80 slider, 83 forkball -- are tailor-made to exploit MLB arrogance and over-aggressiveness. Mussina fanned 7 men a game even after he lost his stuff.
The UP scenario resides in MLB batters getting overly frustrated with the soft stuff, and Iwakuma getting into their heads. I could see a 17-8, 3.35 season that way.
Q. Downside for Iwakuma?
A. Comes only in the possibility of his getting injured, or in the possibility of his not executing his pitches nearly as well as he has been.
The baseball is a little different in the U.S., so there's always a bit of anxiety about the execution part. I don't notice the Rangers worrying about Darvish, though, do you? Hiroki Kuroda is better here than he was in Japan; many of the best relievers in MLB are from Japan... Koji Uehara's K/BB is 188:22 or something.
The WBC uses the MLB ball, with cowhide, as opposed to the horsehide used in Japan. Iwakuma was at his best in the WBC. For what that's worth.
Whereas Darvish is a lotto ticket at a Cy Young, even HOF starter, Iwakuma sheds both the very high upside and also the downside. He's much more predictable.
Wouldn't worry about the DWN much - no more than with a good NL #2-3 starter having to transition over and face the heavy lumber in the AL. ::shrug:: What would be Jordan Zimmerman's chances of a bad year, coming to the AL? I wouldn't worry even that much.
Q. How is the shoulder?
A. Last we heard, it was fine. ... he had problems in 2011 and also earlier in his career, always bouncing back.
In this respect he mirrors David Cone. Hey, these guys are throwing tilted sliders and then they're coming back with forkballs over the top. It's a tough combo on the shoulder.
Starting at age 32, Cone skipped five starts a year, missed most of one year, just learned how to go 29 or 30 starts a year and pitch through the pain.
Mussina hit the wall eventually -- lost his stuff at age 35 -- and spent his last five years in a dreary mediocrity.
Q. Does HQ have a projection?
A. On their Top Japanese Players For 2012 and Beyond, they say:
... the 30-year-old could very well be the best SP in Japan after Yu Darvish. Coming off a shoulder injury in July, his fastball returned to around 90 mph.
If you competitors think that Japanese pitchers are overrated, a capable #3 SP could be yours on the cheap.