Every few weeks for the last couple of seasons, somebody goes to great pains explaining just how good, and how underrated, Hisashi Iwakuma has been since taking his place in the Mariners' rotation.
But he's still underrated! Maybe because he pitches for the Mariners, maybe because hasn't pitched in October, maybe because he doesn't throw real hard, maybe because he's not even the best pitcher on his team. None of which he can do anything about, by himself anyway. So these reminders remain useful, and this latest from Katie Sharp is a classic:
He is easily the most anonymous ace in baseball, and all the proof you need is in this list of qualified American League starters that have a lower ERA than Iwakuma (2.63) since his first MLB start on July 2, 2012:
Yup, that would be no one.
It's hard to imagine where the Mariners would be without their dynamic duo of Iwakuma and Hernandez at the top of the rotation. The playoffs would certainly be a pipe dream. But thanks to the combination of baseball's most anonymous ace (Iwakuma) and most deserving ace (Hernandez), Seattle is now in prime position to give its fans something besides football to cheer about in October.
I will mention in passing that the M's had their dynamic duo last season, too. Of course both Hernandez and Iwakuma have been even better this season, which wouldn't have predicted.
Maybe the biggest different this season, though? Aside from Robinson Cano? Last season the M's finished with a 4.58 relief ERA, 14th in the American League. This season they're at 2.48 ... You want to see the list of teams with lower ERAs?
Yup, that would be none. The M's went from having nearly the worst bullpen to quite possibly the best.
Oh, and one more thing about Iwakuma ... As brilliantly as he's pitched, highlighted by his historically low walk rate, Iwakuma also owes a fair bit of his success to his .265 career BABiP allowed, which ranks fifth-lowest among the 65 pitchers with at least 450 innings in these last three seasons.
It's the defense, right? Maybe, except Felix Hernandez has given up a perfectly normal .296 BABiP in the same span.