With the Boston Red Sox finishing off the 2013 World Series with a win and the MLB settling into offseason mode, it is a perfect time to review the 2013 season and its Top 50 players. Starting off this Rant Sports series is the Seattle Mariners’ Japanese starting pitcher, Hisashi Iwakuma.
At 32 years of age, Iwakuma has only just finished his second major league season after playing 11 seasons in his native country, but the 6-3 righty has proven to be a valuable international signing. There is always a risk associated with non-domestic contracts because MLB and foreign leagues are difficult to compare. Nevertheless, the Mariners took a chance on Iwakuma and he has not disappointed.
After a promising 2012 season in which Iwakuma split playing time half in the starting rotation and half coming out of the bullpen, the switch to being a full-time starter was clearly a smart move. In 2013, Iwakuma finished with a 14-6 record despite playing for the Mariners who ended the season at 20 games under .500. Iwakuma’s 2.66 ERA and 1.006 WHIP land him in the top three in each category among all AL pitchers. Further, his strikeout to walk ratio of 4.40 was extremely impressive and starting 33 games and throwing 219.2 innings proves him to have been an effective workhorse for Seattle.
Heading into the 2014 MLB season, Iwakuma will likely continue to grow and become a better pitcher. He will be in his third full season as a major leaguer and the experience Iwakuma has picked up in his first two seasons will be crucial to his continued success. I expect Iwakuma to have a fantastic 2014 season with an ERA dipping into the low 2s and nearly 200 strikeouts. He may even give teammate Felix Hernandez a run for his money as the team’s ace.