Seattle Mariners: Hisashi Iwakuma retiring at end of season

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 12: Starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma #18 (center) of the Seattle Mariners is congratulated by teammates after throwing a no-hitter to defeat the Baltimore Orioles 3-0 at Safeco Field on August 12, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 12: Starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma #18 (center) of the Seattle Mariners is congratulated by teammates after throwing a no-hitter to defeat the Baltimore Orioles 3-0 at Safeco Field on August 12, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /

Former Seattle Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma will hang up his cleats at the end of the Nippon Professional Baseball season.

Hisashi Iwakuma began his MLB career in 2012 with the Seattle Mariners when he signed a one year deal after leaving Japan. He announced that he would retire at the end of the season.

Who is Iwakuma you may ask? He decided to make the move to the MLB as a 30 year old after a very successful career in the Nippon Professional Baseball league. Like many other Japanese players that made the move to the big leagues, Iwakuma attracted the attention of several teams that year.

Iwakuma’s Seattle Mariners Career

Iwakuma had the opportunity to sign a multi-year contract with other teams but he chose Seattle after enjoying his visit, and it turned out to be a great choice for him and the organization.

Iwakuma played for the Mariners from 2012 to 2017.

It is quite impressive what he did in his six years with the struggling Mariners franchise. He started 136 games, and had an impressive 63-39 record with a 3.42 ERA, 714 strikeouts, and a 1.143 WHIP over his MLB career.

More Mariners. Healthy Griffey could have been the GOAT. light

Iwakuma was known for his great control of the strike zone and his split finger. As you can see, he did not accumulate too many strikeouts but he was very effective.

His best MLB season was in 2013, his sophomore year.

It was easy to overlook Iwakuma’s prominence in the rotation because the Mariners had the former Cy Young winner, Felix Hernandez, who was peaking during Iwakuma’s time with the Mariners.

He was selected as a 2013 All-Star where he went 14-6 with a 2.66 ERA. Iwakuma also finished third in AL Cy Young voting that season.

One of the big highlights for Iwakuma while in Seattle was his no hitter in 2015. The crazier part is I was at the game and it was amazing to be a part of it.

It was the fifth no-hitter in Mariners history, and Iwakuma became the second Japanese pitcher in MLB history to throw a no-hitter.

Iwakuma has quietly been one of the best starting pitchers in Mariners history. According to Greg Johns, Iwakuma is his third best right handed pitcher in Mariners history.

Not only is he an important part of Mariners history, he is among one of the many influential Japanese players to play in the MLB. He is not quite as influential as Ichiro Suzuki or Hideki Matsui, but he could easily be compared to a Daisuke Matsuzaka, or a Koji Uehara.

A side note, the Mariners organization made plenty of memorabilia of Iwakuma because he was well liked. They made cute bear hats, because “Kuma” in Japanese translates to bear.

Iwakuma’s 19 year baseball career

Before signing and playing with the Mariners, Iwakuma started his professional career as a 20 year old in Japan.

He started with the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes in 2001 and would play for them until 2004. He struggled in his rookie season but found his way after turning 21 years old.

Iwakuma made his way to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2005 as a 24 year old and he really struggled with a 4.99 ERA. Very unlike his excellent 3.01 ERA from the previous season.

After a few seasons with the Rakuten Eagles as a middle of the rotation type of pitcher, he had his best season in 2008 when he held a 1.87 ERA. That year, he was named the Pacific League MVP and given the Sawamura Award as Japan’s most outstanding starting pitcher.

This was when his career was starting to take off and his name was gaining traction. Because of his 2008 performance, he was an integral part of the Japanese World Baseball Classic team in 2009.

That was the year team Japan defeated South Korea in the finals. This team was stacked with famous names including Ichiro Suzuki, Norichika Aoki, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and a young Yu Darvish.

Iwakuma led the tournament in innings pitched.

While at Rakuten, Iwakuma played alongside Masahiro Tanaka as well, and they became close friends. Some even considered Iwakuma a mentor for Tanaka who was 20 years old in 2009.

Iwakuma’s final season with Rakuten was in 2011 where he posted a 2.82 ERA right before making the move to Seattle.

After his short but impactful career in the MLB, he failed to find time at the big league level after struggling with injuries. He would return to Japan in 2019 to play for the Yomiuri Giants.

When combining his entire professional baseball resume, he has a 3.31 career ERA along with a .611 win percentage in 369 starts, 2460 innings pitched, 49 complete games, seven shutouts, and 1919 strikeouts.

Iwakuma will be known as a fantastic Japanese pitcher, and to be quite honest, he might be forgotten in the MLB. But as a Mariners fan, there is a lot to like and remember about Iwakuma.

Next. Mariners Mount Rushmore. dark

I hope at least Seattle Mariners fans won’t forget Iwakuma and his amazing All-Star year where he out-pitched Felix Hernandez