M’s are locking down arms
Headline: Below are the reasons the Iwakuma 2-year, $14 million extension was a great move for the Mariners
After a first half of the season that gave Mariners fans a perfect game (the wrong end of one), a combined no-hitter (the better kind), and the self-destruction of newly acquired Hector Noesi, the team was looking for some consistency.
How can one pitcher change that by pitching once every five days?
He didn’t do it alone, but the combination of a Cy Young Candidate (Felix), a career year from Jason Vargas, and a 2.50 second half ERA from Iwakuma made a good Mariners staff lethal.
The offense also got their butts in gear a little bit, and the result was the best record in baseball for a month following the All-Star Break.
Just who is Iwakuma?
For those that don’t know/remember/care, Iwakuma was the prized Japanese acquisition only two years ago.
Both he and Texas Rangers SP Yu Darvish were a part of the 2009 World Baseball Classic team for Japan, and behind their electric pitching (and Cleveland Indians SP Daisuke Matsuzaka) won the Classic.
In order to negotiate with Japanese pitchers, MLB teams have to pay a pretty price.
Matsuzaka cost the Red Sox $51 mil just to negotiate a deal, the Rangers paid a similar number for Darvish.
How much did the Mariners pay to talk to Iwakuma? Nothing. The Angels did that, but failed to sign him, so a year later he wound up with the M’s on the cheap. Feels good to beat the Angels at something.
Rough waters gave him his shot
Iwakuma started the year as a long reliever in 2012, but after the rotation got a little shaky, (both Blake Beavan and Noesi were optioned to triple-A a year ago) Iwakuma was given a chance.
In the 16 games that Iwakuma started he finished 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA, 1.232 WHIP, and a 7.4 K/9.
Those are fantastic numbers, and 16 starts is not too small of a sample size to get excited about. Opposing teams had time to watch film, adjust to his incredibly slow pace, and face him multiple times, but no one could figure him out.
It will be difficult to duplicate those second half numbers over a full season because he will hopefully start 30-34 games and the SafeCo Field dimensions have changed to a more neutral park, but Iwakuma has adjusted before.
The good ones adjust.
His flexibility and willingness to come out of the bullpen, or start, or whatever the team needs, is only a bonus for the Mariners signing him to a two year extension with a team option for the third year.
31-years-old may not seem like the prime of someone’s career, but it is perfect for a veteran pitcher that knows the game so well.
For all you fantasy players, Iwakuma’s RP eligibility is nice too.