The Seattle Mariners are one of MLB‘s hottest teams right now, having won a season-high five straight games after picking up a 2-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field Wednesday. Hisashi Iwakuma avoided losing three straight starts for the first time in his career after he tossed a brilliant game against the Braves. He went seven scoreless innings, allowed six hits, did not walk a batter and struck out seven.
His ERA this season is at 2.66 and he has a ridiculously low 0.93 WHIP. Iwakuma was one of baseball’s most underrated pitchers last season and actually posted the kind of numbers sabermetricians believed warranted serious Cy Young consideration. Iwakuma finished third in the Cy Young voting after he chalked up a 7.0 WAR and a 5.0 WAA according to Baseball Reference.
He started this season on the DL and while the Mariners waited for his return, they were able to stay close to AL West front-runners Oakland Athletics to keep things interesting heading into summer.
The Mariners are loaded with starting pitching talent with Felix Hernandez leading the pack and rookie Roenis Elias having a tremendous season so far. This makes Iwakuma the most important player on the team. Iwakuma needs to come close to the numbers he had last year when he posted 2.66 ERA and a WHIP of 1.006. Those numbers are even more impressive because he did this over 219.2 innings in 33 starts.
It is not unreasonable to say he was the Mariners’ best pitcher in the 2013 season. He does not need to be that this year, but he must be close to it. Iwakuma has the advantage of pitching home games in a still very pitcher-friendly Safeco Field and he does not have the pressure to perform like Hernandez.
The Mariners are definitely in position to compete all the way into September, but if they want to be serious contenders for an AL playoff spot, Iwakuma must be a consistent for the remainder of the year.