From the moment the New York Yankees signed Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million contract, fans questioned what he could bring to the table. So far this spring, those questions have started being answered.
While Spring Training stats rarely mean anything in MLB, Tanaka has looked beyond impressive in his first spring in the big leagues. In 21 innings pitched this spring, Tanaka has a ridiculous 26 strikeouts and only three walks to go with a very impressive 2.14 ERA. He ended his spring on a very impressive note on Friday as well. In a relief appearance, he pitched six innings in relief allowing only three hits and striking out 10.
While many baseball fans have criticized the Yankees for spending big money on players with question marks this offseason, Tanaka seems at least so far, to be worth every penny.
It is way too early to gauge what Tanaka will be this season or in the future for the Yankees, but the front office has to be happy with what they have seen from his thus far. If you look at his numbers last season in Japan, there is reason to believe that his dominance this spring may not be a fluke.
Last season for the Japanese Pacific League, he went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and a 0.943 WHIP to go along with 183 strikeouts in 212 innings. Perhaps most importantly, he showed unbelievable control, walking only 32 hitters on the season last year. To put that into perspective, he walked a hitter roughly once every seven innings, or once per game.
If he can keep that up in the Majors, he could be one of the most dominant pitchers in the game for years to come. One thing is certain for Tanaka, if he pitches anywhere near the level he has so far this spring in regular season games, he will be a household name sooner rather than later for the men in pinstripes.