Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Hisashi Iwakuma

Back to the retirement posts...

Hisashi Iwakuma announced his retirement last season.  He was a fifth round pick of the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes in the 1999 draft out of Horikoshi High School.  He made his ichi-gun debut in 2001 and was Kintetsu's starter in Game 2 of the Nippon Series that year, the only game the Buffaloes won (although he didn't pitch well as the Swallows got three runs off of him in 2 1/3 innings).  He had his best season in Osaka in 2004, going 15-2 with an ERA of 3.01, leading the Central League in wins and winning a Best 9 award and the Most Valuable Pitcher award.  It was his last season with Kintetsu as the team "merged with" the Orix BlueWave ("was absorbed by" is more accurate).  He was taken by Orix in the distribution draft held for Orix and Kintetsu players but he refused to join the team.  He wanted to join the new Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles because his father-in-law (Koju Hirohashi) was a coach with them.  Eventually a deal was worked out where Rakuten bought his rights from Orix.  

He started (and won) the Eagles' first game ever in 2005.  After a couple seasons where he struggled with injuries he had another monster year in 2008, going 21-4 with an ERA of 1.87 ERA, leading the league in wins and ERA.  He cleaned up in awards that season as well, winning Best 9 and Most Valuable Pitcher awards again along with the Sawamura Award and the Pacific League MVP.  Rakuten posted him following the 2010 season but he was unable to reach an agreement with the winning bidder Oakland and he returned to Sendai for the 2011 season.  

He joined the Seattle Mariners as a free agent for the 2012 season and spent seven seasons with them, although he missed a lot of 2017 and 2018 with injuries.  He threw a no-hitter against the Orioles in 2015.  He returned to Japan for the 2019 season and spent two years with the Yomiuri Giants.  His injuries continued to cost him playing time - he played in two games with the farm team in 2019 and no games at all in 2020.

He made the All Star team four times - three times in Japan (2003-04, 2008) and once in the US (2013).  He suited up for the Japanese National Team twice - the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2009 World Baseball Classic.  He was named to the All Tournament Team for the 2009 WBC.

His first card was #388 from the 2000 BBM set.  He didn't have another BBM flagship card until 2002 but starting that year he was in every 1st and 2nd Version set until 2011.  After he returned to Japan his only flagship appearance for BBM was in the 2019 1st Version set although he was also in Epoch's NPB set that year.  His first Calbee cards were #54 and #J-08 (from the "Jump Up To The Stars" subset) in the 2003 Series One set.  Here's a selection of his cards:

2000 BBM #388

2001 BBM Nippon Series #S38

2003 Calbee #AS-31

2005 BBM Eagles box set #E11

2007 Calbee #052

2009 BBM 1st Version #433

2009 Konami Baseball Heroes WBC #W09A002

2011 BBM Touch The Game #M11

2020 BBM Giants #G08

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