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Hisashi Iwakuma: Early Season Validation

Solid after entering the Mariner's rotation, some fantasy owners still had questions about the 32 year old Japanese Import entering the 2013 season. It's just one start, but Kuma didn't miss a beat in his season debut.

Al Messerschmidt

Despite posting near elite numbers from July on, many fantasy owners wanted to see it again before believing in Mariner's starter Hisashi Iwakuma. Drafted on average at pick 230 in ESPN live drafts, I was able to scoop up the pitcher known as Kuma in the majority of my leagues.

I am a firm believer in the numbers don't always tell the entire story, when it comes to baseball and fantasy alike. While Iwakuma did make significant strides in both his control and dominance rates after entering the rotation last year, you really had to watch how he pitched and got his outs to truly appreciate and feel like it was repeatable the coming season. Kuma did nothing to change my mind Tuesday night as he mowed down the Oakland lineup.

In his 6 innings of work (88 pitches), Iwakuma gave up 2 hits, no walks, 1 earned run and struck out 7 batters. Kuma was able to change speeds to set up his fastball and put hitters away with his nasty split finger fastball. He looked like the pitcher we saw over the second half of last season.

Something else to consider is the Mariners offense appears to have a pulse this season which should could lead to more wins for Iwakuma. Wins are often a knock against a Seattle arm, even one as talented as King Felix, but more runs never hurt any pitchers chances at acquiring the tricky fantasy stat. For owners who use Quality Starts instead of wins, your chances are even greater for success as Kuma was able to throw 9 Quality Starts in his half of a season worth of starts in 2012.

More than likely Iwakuma is not available on your waiver wire unless you're playing in a 10 team mixed league. Kuma does seem like the type of pitcher fantasy owners would try to stream however, and if he becomes available on your waiver wire jump at the chance to add him.