Masahiro Tanaka is among the leaders in who the OV crowd predicts the Cubs will sign and not too surprisingly, we've already learned they are interested. According to Phil Rogers, Tanaka will be the Cubs top priority this offseason. There's good reason for that, but I wanted to compare him to some other Japanese pitchers, as well as taking a look at his scouting report.
While MLB and Nippon Proffesional Baseball (NPB) have begun negotiations that would alter the posting system, no changes have yet been made. It seems a late date at this point for any changes to affect this year's posting system, but keep an eye out for it.
Masahiro Tanaka turns 25 years old in November and he stands 6-2 and weighs 205 pounds. His fastball sits in the low 90s and he can touch 96. Some scouts have said the ball comes in on a flat plane and doesn't seem as though it's as good as you'd expect. He has two plus offspeed offerings in a very good splitter that rates as a 70 on the 20-80 scale and a plus slider. He also throws a curve
He's shown good command and has struckout a lot of batters in Japan. Only Yu Darvish has been the same age at the time of posting.
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Before I do that, I want to point out that there has been a lot of press about the ball being juiced in 2013. The league even admitted as much and offense is way up this year. It's one thing to consider when looking at what Tanaka has done this season.
However, not everyone agrees with that despite the commissioner's resignation. His argument is that the ball was dead in 2011 and 2012 and returned to normal in 2013. It would take more work than I'm interested in to figure out who is correct. It was just something that should be pointed out.
Below are Tanaka's stats.
|Masahiro Tanaka Stats|
Those are some impressive numbers. Especially the last three years. Clay Davenport provides translations to these stats and they are below.
|Masahiro Tanaka DT Stats|
His age 22-24 season would match up against any pitcher in MLB if those translations are accurate. Not just any young pitcher, but any pitcher in baseball. He wouldn't have the strikeout rate that others have, but his fantastic control would still make him a very good pitcher.
If the ball was juiced in 2013, those are ridiculously impressive. If the ball was deadened in 2011 and 2012, they're not nearly as good as they appear to be. I would assume whoever is going to be targeting Japanese talent will have looked into this issue and feel confident they have an answer. Whichever it is, it's important information to know.
So how do they compare to the others? I wanted to look at 3-year averages, or in the case of Colby Lewis, a 2-year average (he only played 2 years in Japan). This will tell us how they performed, on average, over the three previous seasons before making the jump to MLB.
And here are their translated stats.
Darvish's 3-year average isn't greatly affected by the controversy surrounding the dead/juiced ball in Japan. Neither is Iwakuma's. Tanaka's potentially is. None of the others pitched in those years so are unaffected.
Tanaka's numbers stack up well against Yu Darvish who the Rangers paid $56 million to after a $51.7 million posting fee. That's probably a good ballpark as to what it will take to get Tanaka. It could be a bit more if the CBA has affected free agent salaries as much as some think. I don't have an opinion on that matter yet.
Why are the Cubs interested? Because he's sit either at the top of the rotation or slot nicely behind Jeff Samardzija. If the posting fee doesn't get out of hand, it's a nice investment. He's right in his prime and that's the age group the Cubs are targeting long-term.
He's a good pitcher and probably the best pitcher on the market (assuming he is available to teams in the US).