The stigma that Japanese pitchers can't succeed in the United States has disappeared quicker than a Kei Igawa fastball that's been blasted into the Yankee Stadium bleachers.
The success of pitchers like Rangers ace Yu Darvish and Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda shows that Japan not only offers suitable rotation alternatives, but true, top-of-the-line talent.
The current big name headed to the states (and the Yankees) is righthander Masahiro Tanaka, who went a sparkling 24-0 (not that wins matter, but it is a fun number) with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013.
There's plenty to like about Tanaka, who turned 25 on Nov. 1. He sports a four-seam fastball in the low-90s that can ramp up to 95-96 mph, a two-seamer, a slider and one of the finest splitters you'll ever lay eyes on (see the video below).
Darvish, like Tanaka, spent seven seasons pitching in the Japan Pacific League. Here's how the pitchers compare:
|Strikeouts per nine innings||8.9||8.5|
|Walks per nine innings||2.4||1.9|
|Strikeout to walk ratio||3.75||4.5|
|Home runs per nine innings||0.4||0.5|
And here's video of Tanaka doing his thing:
App users can watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Acu_tWYNNpA