Seattle Mariners' Hisashi Iwakuma Flirting With Dangerous Trend Going Into All-Star Game

By Thom Tsang
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being chosen to represent the Seattle Mariners as an AL All-Star, Hisashi Iwakuma won’t actually get to pitch in Midsummer Classic.

And you know, that might actually be a good thing.

Not just for the M’s, who are going to be carefully watching the right-hander’s workload as he’s already exceeded his innings count from 2012, but also for the AL squad itself because, well, the Japanese import hasn’t pitched very much like an All-Star at all recently.

Sure, he did go into the break with a victory following a hard-fought win over the division rival Los Angeles Angels on Sunday, but it was nearly not to be as he ran into more than his fair share of troubles in both the fifth and sixth innings, loading the bases in the latter with an intentional walk and giving up a pair of runs before settling down and finishing with a seven-inning quality start.

Iwakuma was bent, but didn’t break; that said, this hasn’t always been the case over the past month, and if the dangerous trend he continued on Sunday keeps rearing its ugly head, no amount of luck or resilience is going to save the hurler’s numbers from tumbling/regressing to his 3.88 FIP in the second half of the season.

I’m referring to the home run, which was limited to a solo shot by Mark Trumbo in the 31-year-old’s latest turn, and that wouldn’t be so alarming … if it wasn’t the fifth straight game in which he’s allowed a long ball, anyway.

In fact, considering that Iwakuma has given up a whopping 11 homers over his last six starts (36 IP) — or a 2.75 HR/9 that would make Joe Blanton circa 2013 look like Adam Wainwright — you might even say that the M’s starter is maybe a little fortunate that his ERA/WHIP is only at 6.25/1.25 over that stretch.

One of the reasons why that’s the case might be the fact that the righty just doesn’t get fazed when he gets hit, maintaining a very good 1.25 BB/9 through the last month in spite of this struggles.

Control and effectiveness are two different things in this case, however, and even though Iwakuma’s healthy line drive rate (10.5 percent over three starts in July) suggests that there’s a little bit of flukiness over the lopsided home run rate, taking his homer-prone ways into an appearance against the best in the NL was probably not the best method to figure out what adjustments he needs to make to stop folks from crushing the ball.

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