What I knew Monday night was that Hisashi Iwakuma faced Brett Lawrie four times, and struck him out four times. I knew that we didn't really think of Iwakuma as a strikeout pitcher, and I knew that Lawrie is among the game's better young talents. Striking out anybody in the major leagues four times in a row is an accomplishment - striking out a guy like Lawrie four times in a row is laudable.
Something I didn't pick up on right away is that Iwakuma didn't throw Lawrie a single ball. The first time it took four pitches, all strikes. The second time it took three pitches, all strikes. The third time it took three pitches, all strikes. The fourth time it took three pitches, all strikes. I don't know why I'm confirming that all three pitches were strikes. That's how you get strikeouts. Three strikes.
Something else I didn't pick up on is that Lawrie doesn't strike out all that often. This year he's struck out in 14.5 percent of his plate appearances. The American League average is a strikeout in 19.0 percent of plate appearances. Lawrie has about the same strikeout rate as A.J. Pierzynski and Mike Aviles, if that means anything to you, which it probably does not. Lawrie does not strike out like many other young hitters strike out.
I prepared .gifs of all of Iwakuma's called or swinging strikes against Lawrie last night. I skipped the foul balls, of which there were five. I don't know what, exactly, I'm going for, but this seemed like a thing to do, and I enjoy making .gifs. Iwakuma really left Lawrie looking pretty helpless. Note the two borderline outside fastballs that Iwakuma got called in his favor. It was a good job by Iwakuma of hitting his spots, and a good job by Jesus Montero of framing close pitches. Those both came in 0-and-2 counts, and that's generally when strike zones shrink the most. Alternatively maybe this had little to do with Iwakuma and Montero, and more to do with umpires having it out for Lawrie since his one tirade. Based on Lawrie's strikeout rate, no! So we're back to Iwakuma and Montero. All right, .gifs.
Additionally, here's Iwakuma throwing a curveball to Edwin Encarnacion. I remembered Encarnacion bailing out more than I guess he actually did, but Iwakuma still tricked him, and this is about as feeble as one can ever get Edwin Encarnacion to look. Edwin Encarnacion is an intimidating man.