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Hisashi Iwakuma moves ahead of Clayton Kershaw for best ERA among starters since last year

Jun 6, 2013, 10:47 AM EDT

Hisashi Iwakuma Reuters

Last year Hisashi Iwakuma spent the beginning of his rookie season mopping up for the Mariners, but the veteran right-hander from Japan thrived when given a chance to join the starting rotation and has quietly been one of the best pitchers in baseball since.

Lost in the craziness of yesterday’s 16-inning White Sox-Mariners marathon is that Iwakuma tossed eight shutout innings, making him 14-5 with a 2.31 ERA in 29 career starts in the majors. During that time he has a 157/41 K/BB ratio in 183 innings and has held opponents to a .220 batting average.

But wait, here’s the most impressive stat: Among all MLB pitchers at least 175 innings worth of starts since the beginning of last season Iwakuma’s 2.31 ERA as a member of the rotation is the best, followed by Clayton Kershaw at 2.35. No one else is below 2.65.

  1. specialkindofstupid - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    So through the years the M’s have snagged Ichiro, Hisashi Iwakuma, Kaz Sasaki, etc. from Japan. The Braves dip their toes into the Japanese waters and come away with Kenshin Kawakami. Wonderful.

    • AK47 - Jun 6, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      Hey, that’s better that the Twins – all we got was Tsuyoshi Nishioka. He was so bad he abandoned his contract to get back to Japan!

  2. billybawl - Jun 6, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    In 2010, the A’s won the rights to sign Iwakuma from his Japanese team for $19M. The A’s offered $15.25M over 4 years, about what Iwakuma made in Japan. So the A’s would have been out about $34M for 4 years of Iwakuma (in the same ballpark as what they will owe Yoenis Cespedes for the 4 years they have him). Iwakuma wanted Barry Zito money and a long-term deal. So no deal was struck.

    Iwakuma stays in Japan gets hurt, and eventually signs as a free agent (no posting fee) with Seattle for $1.5M in 2012. Now he has a three year deal through 2014 for a total of $20M, which includes a $7M team option in 2014.

    Had he signed with the A’s, it’s possible he would have looked like a bust for the first two years, maybe been solid to great last year as he garnered national attention in the playoffs and been a stud this year, in what would have been the final year of his 4-year deal. I don’t understand all the rules, but I think he would have been arbitration eligible for 2014 at age 33. However that played out, I think he would be looking at a sizable contract — and possibly a long-term deal — next year. Now he’s tied up until age 35.

    Major win for the Mariners. Major loss for Iwakuma and his advisor, Dom Nomura. Maybe the A’s found other pitchers to fill their rotation that they wouldn’t have if they signed Iwakuma, but I sure would have liked Iwakuma in the A’s rotation in 2012-13.

  3. humanexcrement - Jun 6, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    This is a better mariners team than we’ve seen in awhile. They’re still a couple of pieces away from being truly good, but they’re headed in the right direction.

  4. mmason0071 - Jun 6, 2013 at 5:59 PM

    Aw, he’s not so great. He only pitched half the game yesterday. A starting pitcher in the good ol’ days would have sucked it up and gone the full 16.

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