What up world? Welcome to the last edition of The Blog About Nothing for the year 2013. Right now 7Poundbag is doing the Year In Review, and I welcome you to read about how we feel about the year that was 2013. Yes, it’s not over, but we must look ahead to 2014. I’m ready for it. Are you? However, before we get to 2014, I have to finish this week’s blog. I’ll keep it brief this week and discuss just one topic: the posting of 25 year old Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka.
25 year old Masahiro Tanaka was recently posted by his Japanese baseball club the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. Tanaka is coming off a season where he finished 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA. His team won the Japanese Pacific League, and competed in the Japan Series in which they won, by defeating the Central League champion the Yomiuri Giants. Tanaka is also a two time winner of the Samawura Award which is awarded to the top professional starting pitcher in all of Japan. It’s with all of these accolades that Tanaka will be taking with him as he looks to sign with a Major League Baseball team at some point in the next 30 days.
Ma-Kun, a nickname of Tanaka, is a 6’2″ righty with solid control and a tough split finger fastball. By all accounts he has all of the tools necessary to succeed at the Major League level and MLB teams and fans hope he’s more Yu Darvish than Hideki Irabu, or Kei Igawa (I’m so sorry Yankee fans). Since the new posting system requires teams to pay $20 million just for the right to bid, and only the winning team will actually have to pay that $20 million, there is going to be a lot of action for Tanaka’s services. Expect all of the big boys to get involved. The Yankees, the Dodgers, the Angels, the Rangers, the Cubs, and the Mariners, who thanks to their success with Ichiro is a known commodity in Japan. All these clubs will be after Ma-Kun but I have to ask will it all be worth it in the end?
No doubt Masahiro Tanaka is a special pitcher, but if I were a General Manager or an Owner I would be skeptical of offering big money to any Japanese pitcher. There are no pitch counts in Japan. Japanese baseball takes pride on their star pitchers being monsters. Star pitchers are referred to as kaibutsu. Kaibutsu are monsters. Monsters who throw insane amount of pitches as they lead their team to glory. High school baseball is notoriously competitive in Japan. Twice a year Japanese high schools participate in the Koshien. There is the spring Koshien and the summer Koshien. The spring tournament is an invitational tournament, and the summer tournament is for the National High School Baseball Championship. It is not unheard of for pitchers at the Koshien to pitch more than 9 innings in one appearance. In Tanaka’s 2006 Koshien appearance he threw 742 pitches in 6 appearances over 52 and a half innings, and he pitched 12 innings in a 15 inning game. My point is that while he is only 25 years old there is a lot of wear and tear on his arm.
Most analysts compare Masahiro to Yu Darvish, who also came to MLB at a young age, but Yu didn’t pitch much in high school. His Iranian born father didn’t allow it. He was aware of the damage all that pitching would do to his son, and stressed that his son be on a limit. That may be the reason why Yu has been so effective in MLB to this point. If I have to compare Ma-Kun to anyone it would be to current MLB pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. Daisuke, who signed with the Boston Red Sox after being posted by the Seibu Lions, had came over to MLB with a ton of wear and tear in his arm as he too was a noted kaibutsu. Daisuke had initial success with the Red Sox, until the injuries came. Last season Matsuzaka likely ended his MLB career struggling for the New York Mets. The 33 year old looks done, and it’s clear that all of the innings earlier in his career has had a significant toll on him.
As I stated earlier I’d sign Masahiro Tanaka but I’d sign him with the knowledge that while he will have an immediate impact on and off the field, he’s going to break down at some point. It’s a signing that you enjoy today, but be weary about tomorrow. So, when you see Ma-Kun, Masahiro Tanaka, on a Major League mound next season take notice that you’ll be seeing a phenomenal arm and enjoy that phenom for the moment that you have him. Like his predecessors before him, that initial dominance won’t last.
That’s it. I’m done. I hope y’all learned something about Japanese baseball, and I hope you’ve enjoyed some of my blogs this year. Actually, I hope you’ve enjoyed everything we at www.7poundbag.com have done this year. As I like to say, we’re just a bunch of guys from different parts of country, and from different walks of life, chasing the same dream. We need your support, and we thank you for being a part of it. I hope your 2013 was good, but I pray your 2014 is even better. Happy New Year. Peace.
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