Hisashi Iwakuma made his first start of the 2012 season and his first start in America that counted. He had been in the bullpen after the team read a lot into his Spring Training performance. Here are some notes from his start:
His first inning was very good, getting a weak grounder, a strikeout swinging, and an infield fly-ball. He wasn’t really hitting Olivo’s glove, as his command was not sharp. The first fastball he threw at 93 MPH was way off and hit the backstop. His splitter/sinker didn’t have hard break (why it is normally considered a splitter) but was effective early on. He stared the game with an 89 MPH inside fastball to Andino and got a swinging strike on his first slider, at 82 MPH. He got some good rotation on the pitch and got it moving vertically and horizontally when it was going right. It may actually be his best pitch when it is going. However, it is hard to dismiss the plus fastball Hisashi broke out, blowing Hardy away with a 92 MPH fastball.
A slider that sort of hung on the outside corner was a weak ground-ball by Adam Jones. He blew away Jim Thome with a 91 MPH fastball up high. He also threw a 90 MPH pitch that basically acted like the splitter, but had harder break and is called a sinker by GameDay. He lost control of 5 straight pitches way out of the zone. A 91 MPH fastball low in the zone was hit hard by Chris Davis for a double off the wall. He hung a slider to Mark Reynolds, but he fouled it back and Iwakuma proceeded to blow him away with two straight 93 MPH fastballs. His sliders against Steve Pearce weren’t the best, but he got him to whiff for a strikeout. A hung slider was another infield fly-out and he got his 4th strikeout on a 92 MPH fastball on the outside corner that Hardy just looked at. Hisashi threw a lot of bad sliders but the Orioles weren’t taking advantage of it early on. After he gave up a really hard line drive single to Jim Thome on a 91 MPH fastball that was middle-low, he walked Wieters again. Chris Davis then crushed an 85 MPH slider (his slider was more effective when it was slower, but at times got up to 86 MPH) for a 3 run homer:
The control problems resurfaced to start the 5th when he walked the first hitter on 4 pitches. He basically lost control of his slider and had one hit hard for an out and was done after 5 innings.
Overall, Iwakuma averaged 91.45 MPH on his fastball, just a slight tick under average. The splitter got him the most whiffs, with 3. Overall, he just got 7 whiffs. Over half of his sliders were strikes that weren’t put in play. He never had to throw more than 16 pitches in an inning. His release point was consistent:
However, it didn’t lead to great locations:
That is too many pitches in the middle of the plate and too many pitches not even close to the plate. He does have some decent stuff with a variety of speeds and decent movement.