Putting Hisashi Iwakuma’s brilliance in perspective
By Gary Hill
Hisashi Iwakuma devoured another American League batting order on the way to his third win of the season Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas. His surgeon-like abilities were on full display as he dissected a potentially-potent Rangers lineup and rendered it harmless. He pitched eight strong innings for the third start in a row as his season ERA continues to hover in frigid territory.
Iwakuma’s barely visible 1.76 ERA would lead the AL if he were qualified. Opponents are only hitting a silly .189 against him and the opposition has only managed to squeeze out a grand total of two bases on balls. He has only yielded two earned runs in his last 24 innings.
His sensational surge to start 2014 has simply continued an historic birth to his MLB career. The right-hander boasts the best ERA in history as a starting pitcher since 1920 (minimum 50 starts). The company he keeps is incredibly impressive:
1. Hisashi Iwakuma (2.58)
2. Clayton Kershaw (2.64)
3. Hoyt Wilhelm (2.68)
4. Whitey Ford (2.71)
5. Sandy Koufax (2.71)
6. Spud Chandler (2.78)
7. Jim Palmer (2.80)
8. Tex Hughson (2.83)
9. Tom Seaver (2.86)
10. Bob Gibson (2.88)
Iwakuma has obviously started significantly fewer games than many names on the list, but that should not strip away the significance of his achievement. Iwakuma is pitching at an elite level. He has amazingly thrown seven innings or more while yielding just two runs or fewer in 20 of his 53 major-league starts.
To narrow it further, “The Machine” has tossed 11 games of seven-plus-inning ball without giving up a run. He has essentially shut out opponents for seven innings or more every five times he takes the hill. Compare those 11 games to a great duo in M’s history with Mark Langston and Freddy Garcia. They each threw 15 games of seven or more innings without giving up a run. Iwakuma is only four back from each of them despite the fact Langston started 120 more games in a Mariners uniform while Garcia took his turn 113 more times.
Since Iwakuma entered MLB there is only one pitcher who has thrown as many innings as he has while sporting a better ERA – Clayton Kershaw at 2.28 to Iwakuma’s 2.77.
The Cy Young Award candidate has picked up exactly where he left off a year ago, which is troubling news for hitters scattered throughout baseball as his march through opposing lineups and into history continues.