Hisashi Iwakuma
Hisashi Iwakuma
36-Year-Old PitcherSP
 Free Agent  Foreign
Free Agent
2018 Fantasy Outlook
Iwakuma's 2017 season was completely derailed by shoulder issues, and he's not expected to be ready until May or June after having the shoulder cleaned up in late September. The shoulder was found to have some structural damage, which is especially troubling for a player approaching his 37th birthday. Iwakuma's peripherals had been in steady decline in recent seasons, with his once-elite walk rate more than tripling since 2014 (from 1.1 BB/9 to 3.5). Meanwhile, his strikeout rate has fallen from an already-modest level, down to just 4.7 K/9 in the abbreviated sample last season, and his home-run rate has gradually ticked up (to 2.03 HR/9). Prime Iwakuma wouldn't have been worth stashing for two months, and this lesser version certainly isn't, so he should be left for the waiver wire in nearly all leagues to begin the season. He agreed to return to the Mariners on a minor-league deal after the team declined his $10 million option. Read Past Outlooks
RANKSFrom Preseason
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$Signed a minor-league contract with the Mariners in November of 2017. Released by the Mariners in September of 2018.
Heading overseas
PFree Agent  F
Shoulder
September 11, 2018
Iwakuma (shoulder) will attempt to play in Japan in 2019, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports.
ANALYSIS
Iwakuma has been sidelined all season while recovering from a shoulder injury. Given his age (37) and recent injury history, this likely signals the end of Iwakuma's major-league career. The veteran right-hander posted a respectable 3.42 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 63-39 record across parts of six big-league seasons with the Mariners, highlighted by a 2013 All-Star appearance.
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Pitching Stats
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Left/Right Pitching Splits
Since 2016
 
 
-12%
BAA vs RHP
2018
No Stats
2017
 
 
-54%
BAA vs RHP
2016
 
 
-5%
BAA vs RHP
BAA Batters K BB H 2B 3B HR
Since 2016vs Left .296 439 70 23 121 26 1 15
Since 2016vs Right .260 525 93 35 124 24 1 20
2018vs Left 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2018vs Right 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2017vs Left .340 56 5 6 17 6 0 4
2017vs Right .156 72 11 6 10 1 0 3
2016vs Left .290 383 65 17 104 20 1 11
2016vs Right .276 453 82 29 114 23 1 17
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Home/Away Pitching Splits
Since 2016
 
 
-23%
ERA on Road
2018
No Stats
2017
 
 
-77%
ERA on Road
2016
 
 
-7%
ERA on Road
ERA WHIP IP W L SV K/9 BB/9 HR/9
Since 2016Home 4.75 1.30 100.1 8 5 0 7.2 1.3 1.5
Since 2016Away 3.68 1.33 129.2 8 9 0 5.8 3.1 1.2
2018Home 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2018Away 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2017Home 10.13 1.75 8.0 0 0 0 6.8 1.1 2.3
2017Away 2.35 1.09 23.0 0 2 0 3.9 4.3 2.0
2016Home 4.29 1.26 92.1 8 5 0 7.2 1.3 1.5
2016Away 3.97 1.39 106.2 8 7 0 6.2 2.8 1.1
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Defensive Stats
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Stats Vs Today's Lineup
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
He signed with the Mariners amid whispers that his throwing shoulder was compromised, and though Iwakuma posted the highest ERA of his MLB tenure in 2016, he also pitched 199 innings -- the second-highest total of his five years in the bigs. His fastball lost another half-tick of velocity while the strikeouts dropped from the steady 21.5 percent of the previous three seasons to a mere 17.6 percent. Strikeouts were never a big part of Iwakuma's value proposition in fantasy, but he maintained his stinginess for walks last season and the baseline skills are largely intact from the pitcher that was a plus in the WHIP category for three years. The Mariners were also careful with his workload, capping him at 102 or fewer pitches in every start, and there is little reason to expect that to change, so he needs to be efficient with pitch counts in order to get through the sixth inning. Treat Iwakuma as a low-upside source of innings and wins late in drafts.
A blindspot in the fantasy world is understanding the residual effects of injuries. Too often we as a community think that if a player is on the field, he is healthy, but injuries can have an impact beyond the DL time. That has been the case with Iwakuma over the last two seasons as finger and lat injuries have cost him chunks of each season and likely played a role in the increased ERA when he was on the mound. In his excellent 2013 campaign, we saw the very best of Iwakuma as he maximized his skill set for 33 starts. In his 48 starts since, the base skills are actually better (6.3 K/BB compared to 4.4 in 2013), but the smaller samples have shrunk his margin for error and his off-days have hit the bottom line harder. In 2013, he allowed five or more earned runs in a start just three times. He’s had eight such starts the last two seasons. With his return to Seattle during the offseason, you should pay for the premium WHIP that he can provide.
Iwakuma missed the first month of the season last year with a finger injury, but when he returned it was business as usual. Iwakuma dominates with impeccable control. His 1.1 BB/9 was second in baseball and his 7.3 K/BB was third. Groin and back injuries and fatigue knocked him off his game down the stretch, however. In his last seven starts, he was rocked for a 7.88 ERA, and he walked nine in that stretch, only three fewer than he had walked in his previous 21 starts. Despite the ugly finish, Iwakuma's FIP was 3.32. He returns this season to take his place as the second starter in the rotation behind Felix Hernandez, giving the Mariners an excellent one-two punch.
A strong finish to the 2012 campaign springboarded Iwakuma into 2013 where he dominated from start to finish. Iwakuma finished second in the AL in WHIP, third in ERA, BB/9, BAA and innings, and fourth in K/BB. Had it not been for Max Scherzer's dream season, he might have won the Cy Young award. As it was, he finished third in the AL voting. A groundball pitcher, Iwakuma has a solid strikeout rate (7.6 K/9) with great control (1.7 BB/9). He went through a summer stretch where his ERA peaked over 3.00, but he straightened out by posting a 2.14 ERA over his final 13 starts, including scoreless outings in four of his last five for another strong finish to the season. Iwakuma proved one of the best fantasy values last season, considering his average draft position. He won't be as profitable this year – and it could go the other way – but he should still turn in another quality season.
It's not often a player goes from a complete non-factor to a $14 million contract in six months, but that was Iwakuma's fate in 2012. Iwakuma signed with Seattle out of Japan as a starting pitcher but was relegated to the bullpen to begin the season. It took 15 games for him to see his first action, and by June 1 - 54 games into the season - he had made just five appearances, mostly in low-leverage long-relief situations. He finally got his chance to start, though, in July, when the Mariners jettisoned Hector Noesi, and he more than held his own. He has good control (2.65 BB/9) and a decent strikeout rate (7.39), posting a 2.65 ERA in 16 starts. While his season home/road split is stark, as a starter he fared much better (2.56/2.80 ERA, .243/.254 BAA), and as a groundball pitcher (65.4 percent) he shouldn't be impacted by Safeco Field's reconfiguration this season. In addition to his two-year contract signed shortly after the season ended, Iwakuma enters spring training with a rotation spot locked up and looks like a good fantasy value this season.
Iwakuma is considered to be Japan's best pitcher behind Yu Darvish and signed a one-year deal with the Mariners after becoming an international free agent. He tried to move to MLB last season but he wasn't able to agree to a contract with Oakland after the A's won his rights via the posting system. Iwakuma posted a somewhat disappointing season in 2011, with his 2.42 ERA tempered by a 6-7 record over only 119 innings pitched. He missed two months last season with a shoulder ailment, but returned in July and remained in his team's rotation through the remainder of the season. When he's on his game, Iwakuma has proven capable of using his forkball to generate plenty of swinging strikes and groundballs against NPB competition. The key to his MLB success will be continuing to command his forkball with the slightly different Major League baseball. Iwakuma doesn't have a great strikeout rate (just 6.8 K/9IP last season), but could provide quality innings as Seattle's No. 3 or 4 starter.
Iwakuma was made available via the posting system by his team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, and Oakland won the negotiating rights to the Japanese star with a bid reportedly in the $19 million range. After an apparently contentious series of negotiations, the two sides were unable to work out a deal, so Iwakuma will remain with Rakuten and the A's got their money back. Iwakuma will meet the service time requirements for international free agency early in 2011, and has already announced plans to move over to MLB. The groundballer had a very good year in 2010 with a 2.82 ERA and 1.095 WHIP in 201 innings pitched. He's considered to be Japan's best pitching prospect behind Yu Darvish, so he's one to keep an eye on with 2012 in mind.
More Fantasy News
Big-league return in '18 unlikely
PSeattle Mariners  F
Shoulder
September 9, 2018
Iwakuma (shoulder) is still considered a long shot to pitch in a major-league game in 2018 according to manager Scott Servais, David Gottlieb of MLB.com reports. "He'd love to get in a game at some point, but we really haven't talked about it," Servais said. "I think he felt OK and his stuff was just OK. It's been a long time since he's pitched, so the expectations need to be realistic."
ANALYSIS
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Uneven in third rehab appearance
PSeattle Mariners  F
Shoulder
September 6, 2018
Iwakuma (shoulder) was charged with the loss in short-season Everett's defeat at the hands of Spokane on Wednesday, allowing three earned runs on four hits and three walks over two innings. He recorded one strikeout.
ANALYSIS
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Another encouraging rehab outing
PSeattle Mariners  F
Shoulder
September 1, 2018
Iwakuma (shoulder) tossed two scoreless innings in short-season Everett's loss to Vancouver on Friday, walking one and striking out two.
ANALYSIS
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Gets back in game action
PSeattle Mariners  F
Shoulder
August 27, 2018
Iwakuma (shoulder) allowed an earned run on two hits over one inning in short-season Everett's win over Hillsboro on Sunday.
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Logs significant rehab workload
PSeattle Mariners  F
Shoulder
August 22, 2018
Iwakuma (shoulder) threw a 25-pitch bullpen session and a 20-pitch live batting practice session Tuesday, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports.
ANALYSIS
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