The Drought, Part III: The 10 Most Underrated Mariners Since 2001 – Final Five
By Ty Gonzalez
#4: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
Hisashi Iwakuma basically came out of nowhere. He was a really good pitcher over in Japan but didn’t make the kind of buzz we’ve seen with guys like Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani.
After starting 2012 in the bullpen, Kuma made his way to the Mariners’ rotation and cemented himself a permanent role there. With all the hype surrounding the eventual arrival of the “Big Three” of James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, and Danny Hultzen at the time, Kuma was quietly becoming a significant pitching commodity for the M’s.
While Kuma was never flashy, he was always consistent. From 2013 forward, he and Felix Hernandez were one of the MLB’s most deadly one-two punches. Kuma didn’t miss many bats, but he also never walked anyone. Through his first three full seasons as a starter, Kuma’s highest BB/9 was 1.86.
In 2013, Kuma was selected to the American League All-Star team and finished third in AL Cy Young voting. But that wouldn’t be the greatest accomplishment of his career.
No, that would come in 2015 versus the Baltimore Orioles on a hot and rainy August Wednesday in Seattle. For what seemed to be your average matinee ballgame, Kuma suddenly snagged the world’s attention by no-hitting the playoff-bound Orioles.
It looked as if Kuma was on his way out after 2015, agreeing to a three-year, $45 million deal with the Dodgers. But he failed his physical, and ultimately returned to the Mariners a one-year contract.
Kuma had a solid 2016, then injuries eventually caught up to him. He was shut down early in the 2017 season with a shoulder injury and hasn’t pitched in a Major League game since. He’s still looking to return to the diamond eventually, currently rehabbing with the Mariners’ system.
It’s unlikely that we’ll see him pitch again for the Mariners, but if he does, he’ll be welcomed back as one of the most underrated Mariners in recent history.