Seattle has been Felix Hernandez‘s town for years, and with good reason, Felix is really, really good. The King is our man, and we’ve rewarded him with a court, a hot sauce, and $135 million. When the rest of the major leagues start trashing the Mariners, we can all confidently say “well, at least we have Felix.” We’ve fallen in love with Felix and we’re so proud of him. What about Hisashi Iwakuma? It seems that Iwakuma fever still hasn’t hit Seattle.
Iwakuma has been lights out this season. Yet another dominating performance in Detroit this week as enshrined him in the 2013 record books as one of the best road pitchers of the season. How good is he? He’s so good, that he made Miguel Cabrera, arguably the best hitter in baseball (for a few years), whiff so bad that I thought I was watching old video of my little-league days.
2012 was Iwakuma’s first season in the MLB, and we could all see that he might actually be something special. That carried over exceptionally well into 2013. This season is the thing dreams are made of for the right-hander from Tokyo, statistically speaking anyways. He is sporting a record of 13-6 with an astonishing eight of those wins have been on the road. If Safeco-Joe Saunders was our guy at home this year (well, in May at least), then Kuma is our go-to guy on the road. Sporting a season 2.76 ERA, Iwakuma is 7th in the major leagues for ERA, ahead of big name pitching like Stephen Strasburg and Adam Wainwright. When you look at his road stats, Iwakuma’s ERA drops to 2.45.
Iwakuma is a dominating pitcher, an All-Star, and great asset to the Mariners. Why then, does it feel like he’s just another one of the guys? Felix gets fanfare everywhere he turns, 40,000 of us are willing to wear hideous yellow shirts to support the guy. But Iwakuma? I don’t know if I’ve seen more than 10 of his jerseys at a game, nevermind a whole section chanting his name.
I suppose I can accept that Felix is just Seattle’s guy, but lets go through the other fan-giveaways and events that we saw at Safeco this year. Dustin Ackley bat night. Michael Morse T-shirt night. Tom Wilhelmsen choo-choo train night. I understand that these events were planned months before any of these guys started to suck so bad we couldn’t even bear to watch them anymore, but at some point someone actually sat down and said “Ok, who do the fans love the most, it must be Tom Wilhelmsen, lets make him into a train.” Sure, Tom is a likeable guy and I want to see him back, but I have a hard time seeing why he’s the choice for train night.
It’s only ’Kuma’s second season here, so there’s still time to show him the love that he deserves. We don’t really need to create a Kuma-court, but maybe we can have a Kuma-train night. Most of you reading this will say “But Matt, I’ve known about Iwakuma since he came here, and I both like and appreciate him!” Yes, that’s true, but to the casual fan, he just doesn’t have the name-brand power of Ichiro or Hernandez. He’s an unassuming pitcher who just happens to be really good.
I’ve never talked to him, so I can’t presume to know what he’s thinking. I don’t know if he likes it here, I don’t know if he even wants the attention (we all remember Ichiro Suzuki and his hesitation to be famous), but here’s what I know:
He’s an All-Star, he’s a winner, he’s ours. Lets take pride in our guy.