Pirates' Infielder Iwamura Paying For Failure
Fuseiseki. That's Japanese for "failure" or "poor result."
Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Akinori Iwamura has had exactly that so far this season, and he is now paying the price. The club has announced that former first-round draft pick and hometown kid Neil Walker will be the everyday starter at second base, leaving Iwamura to collect his roughly $30,000 per game paycheck from the bench.
The move comes as absolutely no surprise to anyone who follows the Pirates. After a rather long and arduous minor league career that saw him move from catcher to third base and now to second, Walker has always been a good defender but has finally hit well consistently enough that there was no keeping him down any longer.
Paving the way for Walker was Iwamura, who the Pirates took a flier on (few teams were willing to take on a $4.85 million salary for a player who missed half of last season after knee surgery). Iwamura was, not unlike Walker, a good defending, decent hitting infielder with Tampa, but his bat fell off a cliff here in Pittsburgh.
From April 16 to May 22, a span of exactly five weeks, Iwamura started 23 of the 33 games the Pirates played and posted a .309 OPS - that's nine hits in 92 at-bats, and only one extra base in the lot. No team, not even one at the bottom of the standings like Pittsburgh, can afford such a severe lack of production from any regular player.
Since ending that slump, Iwamura has shown glimpses of turning things around - he hit .280/.733 to finish off the month - but questions remain about a body that requires icing on a daily basis.
Iwamura is reportedly very unhappy with this latest transaction, but he brought it upon himself. All else being equal, a team that knows what is good for them will choose the younger and cheaper option any day, especially when the younger cheaper model is performing significantly better at the moment.
There's a chance of redemption in the future for Iwamura, but this is much more likely the end of his major league career. The Pirates will push him even further down the food chain when players like Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez are promoted during the coming weeks and months, and I doubt any team is interested in picking up a prorated multi-million dollar contract for a guy with two bad knees.
Miokuri, Akinori; it was fun while it lasted.