Masahiro Tanaka was officially posted on Thursday morning and teams did not waste any time. Sources indicate that the Yankees are already in talks with Tanaka’s agent, Casey Close, who also represents Derek Jeter and Mark Teixiera. The Yankees will have a lot of competition for the skilled, 25-year-old right handed pitcher. Given the recent success of Yu Darvish, many are expecting ace-like performances right away from Tanaka. However, comparing the stats of some of Tanaka’s fellow statesmen may indicate what we can expect in his first season…
There’s a very short list of Japanese born pitchers that have at least 50 starts in MLB. The stat lines below display each player’s last three years in Japan and their first three years in MLB. I capped the list to just Yu Darvish, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Hiroki Kuroda. The results are quite interesting, so let’s take a look.
Masahiro Tanaka (25-years-old when entering MLB)
- Japan: 1.44 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 1.1 BB/9, 0.3 HR/9
- MLB: TBD
Yu Darvish (25-years-old)
- Japan: 1.64 ERA, 9.7 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 0.3 HR/9
- MLB: 3.34 ERA, 11.2 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.5 HR/9
Daisuke Matsuzaka (26-years-old)
- Japan: 2.40 ERA, 9.1 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9
- MLB: 4.00 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9
Hiroki Kuroda (33-years-old)
- Japan: 2.86 ERA, 6.7 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9
- MLB: 3.60 ERA, 6.6 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 1.7 HR/9
Each of three pitchers saw their ERAs increase by nearly one full run. The overall ERA increase for Japanese pitchers has been 150%, so we have to expect Tanaka to mirror the trends of past Japanese pitchers and give up more runs. Outside of Darvish, strikeout rates dropped. However, walk rates and home run rates increased, so facing better hitting has a clear impact on statistics. At the end of the day, it’s difficult to predict how players will perform in certain situations. It makes it even harder to project players that have never thrown a pitcher in MLB. Still, many scouts believe in Tanaka’s ‘stuff’ and believe he can rival Darvish for the best recent Japanese pitching import.
Projection: 3.30 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 1.5 HR/9