Akinori Iwamura returns to Japan after four MLB seasons

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Akinori Iwamura left Japan in November of 2006 at age 28, signing a three-year, $7.7 million contract with Tampa Bay after the Rays paid a $4.55 million posting fee just for the rights to negotiate with him.

He gave the Rays a solid return on that investment for two-and-a-half seasons, hitting .281/.354/.393 with good defense at second base and third base, but suffered a knee injury in mid-2009 and never really recovered.

Traded to Pittsburgh last offseason, Iwamura was released by the Pirates after hitting .182 in 54 games and then batted .129 in 10 games after joining the A’s down the stretch.

And now he’s headed back to Japan, with Kyodo News reporting that Iwamura has agreed to terms with the Rakuten Eagles.

Knee surgery was especially tough for Iwamura to come back from because speed and defense are such big parts of his game, but he’s still just 31 years old and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him put together a couple strong seasons in Japan to resurface on the MLB radar.

Aaron Judge set a new postseason strikeout record

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For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:

The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).

It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: