Mariners Japanese Player Review: Ichiro, Kawasaki and Iwakuma

野球 (やきゅう

How do the new Seattle Mariners from Japan compare with previous stars?

Ichiro’s Legacy

He was not the first Japanese player to play in Major League Baseball, but Ichiro has been by far the best of all time to hit the majors and will be a sure-fire first ballot hall of fame candidate.

His excellent play made him a star on the diamond, with his five tool skills (though he does hold back in the power department in the place of hits). In addition, Ichiro’s impact on ticket sales and team revenue due to merchandise sales has been just as impressive as his athleticism.

The Mariners have tried to replicate that success at times with other players from Japan, with very mixed results to date.

Past Japanese Players Review

Kazuhiro Sasaki and Shigetoshi Hasegawa were terrific relievers, especially Sasaki who managed 129 saves in the majors and was the 2003 AL Rookie of the Year.

Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui

Ichiro's batting average is on track to be his worst in the majors

Mac Suzuki and Masao Kida on the other hand rate as highly struggling pitchers at the MLB level, with career Era’s in Seattle of 8.78 and 7.71 respectively.

Kenji Johjima was the first Japanese born catcher in MLB and was very solid for four seasons with 48 home runs and 198 RBIs, despite not playing a full season in any of those years.

Present Japanese Players Assessment

This season has also been very mixed. Ichiro has been solid, but is now clearly in a decline, a slow one for sure, but still a decline.

His batting average is on track to be his worst in the majors, and he also looks as though he will have fewer than 200 hits for the second year in a row, with last year being the first sub-200 hitting season in his MLB career.


The 2012 season has also seen the play of two new Mariners shortstop/ second baseman Munenori Kawasaki, who is the third Japanese position player for Seattle, and pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma.

Kawasaki has been a utility player at best, who appears to be destined for a short stay. His batting average has been very poor at a .158 clip and the manager Eric Wedge has used him quite sparingly.

The spry infielder has been a great clubhouse presence, practically bursting with energy and has great practice and warm-up antics with his slides and base running fun.

However, the productivity just has not been there.


Hisashi Iwakuma

Iwakuma is a hard working import. But he doesn't play.

Hisashi Iwakuma is another hard working import from the land of the rising sun, who finally achieved his first save of the year, albeit allowing 3 runs in 3 innings on the back of a 21-8 Seattle victory over Josh Hamilton and Texas.

Not exactly the most glorious of triumphs to trumpet.

He has featured in a feeble five games total this season, but has mustered an unimpressive 6.00 ERA so far.

As Ichiro faces the inevitable drop off in performance that all great players eventually suffer, the Nintendo ownership will need to go back to the well to find someone else to be the new Japanese icon for the Mariners without any immediate replacements when he finally leaves.

Barring that, does anyone know if Super Mario knows how to swing a bat?

How can we forget the season started in the land of the rising sun.

Did you see what the Mariners did there? Read my essential Tokyo Japan Mariners to do list.


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About C-Mac

Born in Northern Ireland. Lived in Japan. Resides in BC. Followed the Canucks through thick and thin his entire life, while also trying to grow his Dave Babych moustache. He's a Seahawks 12th man, and since he's played the 'Beautiful Game' for 30+ years he's a Vancouver Whitecaps diehard as well. Connect with C-Mac today!
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