Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka tossed a complete-game shutout against the Mets last night, improving to 6-0 with a 2.17 ERA eight starts into his rookie season.
I watched the game and was incredibly impressed with how Tanaka was able to keep Mets hitters off balance all night. His slider and splitter are huge weapons, but when he needed it Tanaka was also able to blow an above-average fastball past hitters in key spots. He’s the real deal.
It’s early to start breaking down numbers, but so far Tanaka has a 66/7 K/BB ratio in 58 innings. That would be by far the best strikeout-to-walk ratio ever for a 25-year-old pitcher who qualified for the ERA title:
MASAHIRO TANAKA 2014 9.43
Ben Sheets 2004 8.25
Walter Johnson 1913 6.39
Jose Lima 1998 5.28
James Shields 2007 5.11
Johan Santana 2004 4.91
Zack Greinke 2009 4.75
Roger Clemens 1988 4.69
Ervin Santana 2008 4.55
Pedro Martinez 1997 4.55
That’s a helluva list to be sitting on top of. Tanaka’s strikeout rate of 10.2 per nine innings would also rank sixth all-time among 25-year-olds behind only Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana, Nolan Ryan, Tim Lincecum, and Yu Darvish.
New York paid $155 million over seven years for Tanaka, so it’s not as if they got some sort of incredible bargain, but that price tag factored in at least some uncertainty about whether he’d be an elite pitcher in the majors or merely a good one. Eight starts are still only eight starts, but my guess is that Tanaka’s price tag would be closer to $200 million now.
Yankees’ special advisor and former outfielder Hideki Matsui expects to help the club “convince or recruit” Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani, according to a report from MLB.com’s Deesha Thosar. The Yankees are currently viewed as the favorites to sign Otani, though there still figures to be plenty of competition for his services when he finally becomes eligible to enter Major League Baseball.
Matsui also told Thosar that while he hasn’t seen a player find success as a hybrid pitcher/slugger in the majors, he’s taken notice of Otani’s success in both areas. “He’s done well in Japan, so as a baseball fan I’m looking forward to how he’s going to do here in the Majors and in the U.S.,” Matsui said, later adding, “If [pitching and hitting is] something he wants to do, and the team wants it, then why not?”
Neither the Yankees nor any other suitor should be too concerned with Otani’s ability to translate his .332 batting average and 3.20 ERA to MLB — at least, not just yet. There are still a few roadblocks in his path to the major leagues, most notably the lack of approval from the Players Association. Per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, the union doesn’t want to sign off on an agreement that would give the Nippon Ham Fighters a $20 million posting fee in exchange for Otani’s services. According to the posting system rules, Otani himself would be eligible to receive no more than a $4 million signing bonus.
The good news in all of this? The union agreed to reach a final decision by Monday, November 21, so there’s still a chance Major League Baseball will see the talented two-way player bring his unique skillset to the field in 2018.