The Yomiuri Giants announced yesterday that veteran right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma will retire at the conclusion of the current Nippon Professional Baseball season. Shoulder problems have kept Iwakuma off the mound in 2020, but he will hang up his glove after a combined 17 seasons of action in NPB and Major League Baseball.
Iwakuma is best known to North American fans for his six-year run with the Mariners from 2012-17. The righty posted a 3.42 ERA, 3.86 K/BB rate, 47.6% grounder rate, and 7.3 K/9 over 883 2/3 innings at the big league level, starting 136 of 150 games. Highlights of Iwakuma’s Seattle tenure included an outstanding 2013 season that saw him finish third in AL Cy Young Award voting, and a no-hitter against the Orioles on August 12, 2015.
It’s easy to wonder what might have been had Iwakuma arrived in the majors prior to his age-31 season, and also perhaps what he could have been able to accomplish in both NPB and MLB had he not been bothered by shoulder injuries and some other health woes for a good deal of his career. This injury history cost Iwakuma some money in his initial contract with Seattle, and even more notably, a potential three-year, $45MM free agent deal with the Dodgers in the 2015-16 offseason that Los Angeles abandoned after concerns about Iwakuma’s physical. Even Iwakuma’s return to Japan resulted in only two innings with Yomiuri’s minor league team in 2019.
Over 1541 innings for the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Rakuten Golden Eagles from 2001-11, Iwakuma posted a 3.25 ERA, 3.44 K/BB rate, and 6.9 K/9. 2008 was his greatest year, as Iwakuma captured both league MVP honors and the Sawamura Award (Japan’s equivalent to the Cy Young Award) after posting a 1.87 ERA, 4.42 K/BB rate, 7.1 K/9, and a 21-4 record over 201 2/3 innings for the Golden Eagles. Iwakuma was also a member of Japan’s winning squad in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, with Iwakuma being named to the all-tournament team.
We at MLB Trade Rumors congratulate Iwakuma on an excellent career, and wish him the best in retirement.