Masahiro Tanaka: Projections for Japanese Ace with New York Yankees

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps you heard, the New York Yankees signed the highly coveted Masahiro Tanaka. For a 25 year old pitcher, Tanaka comes with quite an accomplished resumé. 

Masahiro Tanaka: Japanese Career

GS
IP
BB
K
W-L-SV
H/9
BB/9
K/9
HR/9
ERA
WHIP
1721315281123899-35-38.11.98.50.52.301.10

When pitching in a different league, it’s sometimes unclear how well those numbers will translate. So, take a look at what this kid can actually do when on the hill.

Impressive, even though his accomplishments have been in the Japanese professional baseball league. While we’ve had plenty of success stories, not all pitchers who have come to the USA from Japan have enjoyed great success.  So what can we can we expect from the latest player to make the leap?

The one nice thing about Tanaka joining the Yankees is that he will joining other Japanese natives, Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda. When moving thousands of miles away it is great to have people around to help in the transition.

Aside from the cultural element, the fact that Tanaka will not be leaned on to carry the Yankees pitching staff will also help to ease the pressure he may already be feeling. Even though the Yankees pitching staff is far from intimidating, they have solid pitchers sharing the rotation with Tanaka. With C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova, the Yankees are bringing in Tanaka to a favorable situation for him to succeed.

Of course, pitching in the Bronx means pitching at the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, which ranked as a Top-10 park in both home runs and runs scored, according to 2013′s ESPN Park Factors. 

Yankee Stadium: 2013

Home Runs (Rank)
Runs (Rank)
1.128 (9)1.087 (7)

There is also the adjustment to Major League talent and strategic changes such as pitching every 5 days as opposed to every 7 days like in Japan. These changes will be harder to project because as I mentioned before, the results of Japanese aces pitching in the majors over the years have been mixed.

If we look at the most recent pitcher to come over—Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers — we see that he had solid success his first year and then blossomed into an ace in year two.

Tanaka is not the same pitcher as Darvish who had a 11.2 k/9, but Darvish also did not bring with him the control that Tanaka has. 

Darvish vs. Tanaka

Pitcher
K/9
BB/9
H/9
HR/9
Darvish (USA)11.23.86.80.9
Tanaka (Japan)8.51.98.10.5

The trick for Tanaka will be to stay ahead of the bats. Clearly he likes to attack the strike zone. and with the zone shrinking from what he has grown accustomed to, he will have to be sharp with his placement. 

2014 Projection Range: Masahiro Tanaka

Range
IP
K
BB
W
ERA
WHIP
Floor18516342103.591.39
Ceiling18517437153.211.11
Probable18517139133.331.24

Ultimately, I wish success for Tanaka, I am just concerned with his ability to miss big league bats right away and how well he’ll avoid homers in the AL East, specifically at Yankee Stadium.

So I’ll warn you to have realistic expectations for Masahiro Tanaka.

See Tanaka live by grabbing Spring Training Yankees tickets here!

Topics: Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees

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