Re: MlbTradeRumors Top 50 Free Agents
Hitoki Iwase (Gan-san, Mantaro)
* Bats Left, Throws Left
* Height 5' 11", Weight 173 lb.
* School Aichi University
* High School Nishio Higashi High School
* Born November 10, 1974 in Nishio, Aichi Japan
Hitoki Iwase broke Kazuhiro Sasaki's single-season record for saves in Nippon Pro Baseball and enters 2007 with a career ERA of just 1.91, the lowest of any NPB pitcher with 400 appearances.
Iwase was an outfielder for most of his college career and did not start pitching until he was a senior. After spending time with NTT Tokai in the industrial leagues, he was picked by the Chunichi Dragons in the second round of the 1998 draft.
At age 24, Hitoki debuted with a strong 10-2, 1.57 record and one save in 65 games. He struck out 73 and walked 22 in 74 1/3 IP as the most effective hurler on a very good staff. He led the Central League in appearances and won the first of three Middle Reliever of the Year awards. In the 1999 Japan Series, he pitched four innings of one-hit ball, striking out six and allowing no runs and three walks. Iwase again won 10 and saved one in his second season; he lost 5 and had a 1.90 ERA. He made his first CL All-Star team that year. In his only career start, he gave up just one run in seven innings. He was again the Middle Reliever of the Year.
Returning to the All-Star team in 2001, the southpaw was 8-3 with a 3.30 ERA (the worst in his 8 seasons to date) with 62 K and 16 BB in 62 2/3 innings. Iwase was 4-2 with a miniscule 1.06 ERA in 2002; he allowed only 38 hits and 15 walks in 59 2/3 innings while whiffing 66 batters.
Iwase was 5-2 with four saves and a 1.41 ERA, 47 hits allowed, 12 walks given up and 69 strikeouts in 63 2/3 innings in 2003. He made his third All-Star team that year. He won his third Middle Reliever of the Year Award.
In 2004, Hitoki replaced Akinori Otsuka as closer for the Dragons and went 2-3 with 22 saves and a 2.80 ERA. He missed time due to the 2004 Olympics, during which he pitched scoreless ball for the bronze medalists. In the 2004 Japan Series, Iwase pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out five and allowing three hits and a walk. He had no decisions or saves in Chunichi's loss in 7 games.
Hitoki was 1-2 for the 2005 Dragons but saved 46, one more than Sasaki had notched 7 years prior. He made his fourth All-Star team and had a 1.88 ERA. He walked only 8 while striking out 52 in 57 1/3 innings pitched. He won his first Fireman of the Year award. In 2006, the left-handed closer remained dominant with a 2-2, 1.30 season with 40 saves. He walked 8 and fanned 44 in 55 1/3 IP. He made his fifth All-Star squad, led the CL in saves again and again was the Fireman of the Year. He became the first NPB pitcher ever to save 40 games in back-to-back seasons. He is also just the second NPB pitcher ever to throw in 50 games for 8 years in a row. He saved game one in the 2006 Japan Series for Chunichi, pitching one scoreless frame, but the Dragons dropped the next four. He had now pitched 10 1/3 career innings in the Japan Series without allowing a single run.
Through 2006, he is 42-21 with 114 saves and a 1.91 ERA. He has walked 123, struck out 484 and given up 413 hits in 517 2/3 IP.
Iwase reached 500 appearances in July of 2007; he was just the 4th NPB pitcher to have an ERA under 2.00 when he reached that level and the first since Kazuhisa Inao in the early 1960s. Shortly thereafter, he had the worst outing of his career - on July 16, he allowed 5 runs in 2/3 of an inning. He had never allowed more than 3 runs in a game before. Four days later, he was part of a committee that one-hit the Pacific League in the first NPB All-Star Game of the season; the other hurlers were Koji Uehara, Shingo Takatsu, Masanori Hayashi, Atsushi Kizuka, Hiroki Kuroda, Tomoyuki Kubota, Marc Kroon and Kyuji Fujikawa.
His fastball has peaked at 92 mph and his slider reaches 86 mph. He employs an odd delivery and some felt it made him injury-prone, but he has been relatively healthy throughout his career. He picked his uniform number of 13 because it represents a deity of death in Tarot.
Iwase will be a free agent after 2007 and there are rumors he may come to the USA. Iwase was expected to see how Hideki Okajima would fare, as the two had similar styles.