70-89: The joyous 2013 of Hisashi Iwakuma

Otto Greule Jr

Mariners have now played well in two, TWO consecutive game.

Let's talk about Hisashi Iwakuma. Iwakuma pitched his final game of 2013 tonight and so we now have a final tally on his numbers. They are as follows:

219.2 IP, 69 R, 185 K, 42 BB, 2.66 ERA, 3.44 FIP

I sorted through pitching single seasons over on Fangraphs. You can find the chart here if you want to play around with it. A few notes from looking at it:

  • Iwakuma's 3.44 FIP is 23rd in franchise history, just behind 2011 Michael Pineda (3.42) and just ahead of 2001 Freddy Garcia (3.48)
  • In 33 starts Iwakuma failed to pitch 5 innings once. He failed to pitch 6 innings 5 times.
  • In 26 of those 33 starts Iwakuma allowed fewer than 4 runs. In 21 he allowed fewer than 3.
  • His ERA of 2.66 ranks 7th behind 2009 Jarrod Washburn! (2.64) and ahead of 2013 Felix (2.99).
  • His BB/9 of 1.72 is the 5th lowest behind 2010 Doug Fister (1.68) and 2008 Carlos Silva (1.88)
  • The K/BB ratio of 4.40 is 3rd behind 1995 Randy Johnson (4.52) and 2012 Felix (3.98) 2013 Felix (4.67)
  • Iwakuma had two 20+ scoreless innings streaks and the second one will carry over to next year at 23 innings.
  • Dave Cameron helpfully pointed out on Twitter tonight that by RA9-WAR, a stat that measures WAR based on runs allowed, Hisashi Iwakuma leads the entire American League.

The listing of stats could go on and on but you get the point. Mariners pitching history is not overflowing with greats (although I had forgotten how effective early 90's Bill Swift and Erik Hanson were) but the two greatest in franchise history are Felix Hernandez, who is hopefully about halfway through a hall of fame career and arguably the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time, and Randy Johnson, famed mullet survivor. But 2013 Hisashi Iwakakuma put in a season that ranks among the very best a Mariner pitcher not named Felix Hernandez or Randy Johnson ever had. He did it without amazing stuff. He did it without thrilling 1 hit, 15 k shutouts. He simply pitched well, almost every game.

In 2009 Franklin Gutierrez surprised baseball and us by having a break out campaign and posting a 6+ WAR season. We were thrilled but notice was given that career years are not often repeated and at times rarely approached again. That warning, sadly was well given. Sometimes things just go right for player in a given year. Be it health, luck, enhanced skill, what have you.

The Mariners have given us precious little to enjoy this year. We should gratefully lap up the success of Hisashi Iwakuma this season. We are, after all, the beggars of the baseball universe. We have been thrown a rare bone with choice meat. Feast on what is there my friends and for once do not be hungry. It's unlikely that we will get something so nourishing from the same source ever again.

  • Mike Zunino can hit a fastball. That's something that we knew prior to his promotion to the majors and theoretically it's something that major league pitchers know. However leading off the 5th with the score tied at Mariner to Mariner Ervin Santana tried to sneak a first pitch fastball by Zunino. Unfortunately for Santana he was less than inconspicuous:
    Screen_shot_2013-09-25_at_10
    In Grand Theft Auto you can get the one-star crime where the cops kind of chase you around for a few minutes before getting bored and you can get the five-star status where all of the National Guard hunts you to your death. Zunino deemed that fastball a five-alarm crime and threw everything he had at it. The ball came off the bat at 108.9 MPH according to Hit Tracker. There were 15 games in MLB today, hundreds of innings and thousands of pitches. Not one of them got hit harder than the one Mike Zunino hit in the 5th inning tonight.
  • In the 8th the Mariners played tack on by going back to back with Michael Saunders and Zunino. Saunders is the eternal tormenter. At 27 he should not get much better than he is right now. Jayson Werth never hit more than 16 HR in a season before turning 29 but never you worry about the idea of Michael Saunders becoming everything you've ever hoped he can be in 2015 for the Rays. That's just going to happen and you worrying about it today instead of enjoying a nice win isn't going to make it any easier.

    As for Zunino's 2nd blast, stick with the point I made about Saunders. Enjoy it. The last thing I would want to do is have you worry about the last time the Mariners had a no. 3 overall draft pick catcher that inspired hope with a 2 HR game.
  • I feel bad about that last sentence. I am very sorry.

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