To save you from having to read a depressing series recap, this report comes to you a little early with a bit of a startling move by Tomoaki Kanemoto and the Hanshin Tigers. Pitcher Yuta Iwasada, who once again struggled mightily (with perhaps his worst start of the year), was sent home to the Osaka area while the game that he was pulled from was still being played out. After the game, Kanemoto commented that he was going to be farmed immediately.
How bad was his outing? Well, he walked the first batter he saw, and ultimately that runner came around to score the opening run. Then he allowed a home run in the second inning, and then the worst of it all: a third inning that went like this:
Walk, walk, lucky line drive double play, hit, walk, bases loaded walk, hit, intentional walk, hit (by their pitcher), strikeout. This tied a club record for most walks in a single inning with FIVE.
The next inning (which he was only given because Kanemoto did not want to wear out his bullpen this early in the week), he gave up a leadoff hit, but then recorded three straight outs.
Still, this is hardly the lad who made last year’s all-star team and won Pitcher of the Month for September. In fact, he seems to have regressed to his 2015 form, in which he was unable to find the strike zone, and looked to be yet another first-round bust for the Tigers.
So the question is, do you think Kanemoto’s decision to send him home right away was appropriate? Did Iwasada deserve to be farmed? (The nine losses on his record suggest he does.) Will he get another chance at the top squad this season? How many chances are too many?
Just looking at his last four starts (since the all-star break), he has had one good one – a tough-luck loss in which he pitched 8 innings and allowed just a single run – a solo home run to Tsutsugo. But the other three outings (also all losses) saw him give up 16 runs in 11 innings of work. He walked 11 men and hit two others. He has only had one good month so far (June), and for some reason has had less success against lefty hitters than righties. Last year he was particularly deadly against the Yomiuri Giants – an ERA of 0.58 in four starts. This year, against that same team, he has an ERA of 10.00 in four starts.
In my uneducated opinion, he has lost his balance. It seems as though his form is a bit off, and he has problems hitting the target given to him by the catcher. However, I also heard someone commenting yesterday on how catcher Seishiro Sakamoto kept calling for breaking pitches even though the Giants were struggling to hit his fastball. The club has paired him exclusively with Sakamoto since they farmed backup Taichi Okazaki in early July. I have also heard that he has done better with veteran guidance behind the mask than with the younger guys. Perhaps that is also part of the problem.
Either way, the lonely, embarrassing bullet train ride back to Osaka must have been a hard one for Iwasada. I have heard of other teams (Chunichi, Orix) giving players the same treatment, but this was a first for Kanemoto. On the whole, he seems to be fairly kind to the young developing players (Shintaro Fujinami‘s 161-pitch outing last season being the other exception), so hopefully this is a one-time disciplinary measure.
While I wish Iwasada a full return to the pitching rotation, I do not foresee it happening this season, unless he really shows something special on the farm.