Now that it is pretty clear that Masahiro Tanaka is going to be posted by the Tokohu Rakuten Golden Eagles, what can we expect from him in the Major Leagues?
The last successful Japanese pitcher to come to the MLB was YU Darvish, but he was one of the few Japanese players who’s had similar success in the United States. Below I listed some Japanese players that have been starting pitchers in Major League Baseball. I included their stats for their last year in Japan before being posted, as well as their career stats in Japan.
Tanaka 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA. / 99-35 with 2.3ERA in 7 seasons
Darvish 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA / 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA in 7 seasons
Matsuzaka 17-5 with a 2.13 ERA / 108-60 with a 2.95 ERA in 8 seasons
Kei Igawa 14-9 with a 2.97 ERA / 91-70 with 3.20 ERA in 10 seasons
Hiroki Kuroda 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA / 103-89 with a 3.69 ERA in 11 seasons
Based on these statistics you would assume that Tanaka and Darvish are the most likely candidates to have successful careers in the Majors. While Hiroki Kuroda, the pitcher who dominated the least in Japan, would have the least successful career in the US.
Stats in MLB:
Yu Darvish 29-18 with a 3.34 ERA in 2 seasons
Matsuzaka 52-40 with a 4.52 ERA in 7 seasons (18-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 2008)
Igawa 2-4 with a 6.66 ERA in 2 seasons
Kuroda 68-70 with a 3.40 ERA in 6 seasons (Never had an ERA above 3.76)
Despite Kuroda having the least dominant career in Japan, he has proven to be the most effective pitcher in the Majors. He has been a consistent Major League pitcher for 6 seasons, as he has never posted an ERA over 3.76.
When signing pitchers from Japan, it is often very hard to know how their game will translate into the MLB and it often forces us to over analyze statistics. Now that Tanaka is being posted, we can most comfortably compare his career in Japan to Darvish’s. They are both powerful pitchers who have similar pitches, which makes us think that Tanaka could have as much success here as Darvish.
After seeing Darvish pitch these past 2 seasons, I would be very disappointed if the Yankees did not sign Tanaka. We can be pretty confident that we are getting a proven pitcher who can have similar success to Darvish. If Tanaka joins the Yankees, he will join a team that has Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda, two of the most sucesfful Japanese players in the Majors (probably the best situation a Japanese player could ask for).
If the Yankees don’t sign Tanaka, this offseason will have been a waste.