Now we’ve gotten to the point where we have to worry about ERAs.
Nippon Professional Baseball has a strong pitching staff. The average ERA per three runs is also average. The fact that even the 3-run average is being threatened is a huge crisis.
This is the story of Masahiro Tanaka (35, Rakuten), who was once revered as a “child of God” in the Japanese professional baseball world.
Tanaka was the best pitcher in Japan.
In his prime, he won every title imaginable.
He won the Sawamura Award, Japan’s highest pitching honor, twice (2011 and 2013).
He even made the jump to Major League Baseball, where he was the ace of one of the most prestigious teams in baseball, the New York Yankees.
Today, however, Tanaka is a below-average pitcher. Even the media, which had been following his every move since his return to Japan in 2021, has stopped following him.
The only time we see him is when he’s announced as a starter or in game results.
In terms of stats, there’s not much to say.
In nine starts this season, Tanaka is 3-3 with a 3.96 ERA.
In 52.1 innings pitched, he has allowed 24 runs (23 earned) on 56 hits (5 home runs) with 35 strikeouts and 11 walks.
His BABIP is 0.279 and his WHIP is 1.28, which isn’t great. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.18 is nothing short of embarrassing.
His ERA, which hovers around the 4-run mark, is the most glaring. Once again, an ERA in the three-run range is only average in Nippon Professional Baseball, a league with a high pitch count.
Anything above 4 is considered below average. That’s where Tanaka is right now.
Tanaka ranks 12th in ERA, but that’s not because he’s a good pitcher, it’s because he hasn’t pitched a lot of innings due to his long outings. He’s second from the back among pitchers who have pitched a regulation inning.
The main reason for this is the decline in his pitches. They can’t overpower hitters with their power anymore.
As one Japanese baseball commentator put it, “In the past, Tanaka would switch gears in crunch time and throw the ball at a higher level. He would get out of trouble with a harder, heavier ball, but you can’t expect that anymore. Tanaka no longer has that ability. He’s transforming into a pitcher who can take hitters’ timing off with a savvy mix of pitches. I wouldn’t call it successful yet. He needs to let go of his old flair. You can’t progress if you’re stuck in a rut,” he said bitterly.스포츠토토
Tanaka posted a mythical record of 24 wins and no losses in the 2013 season. The nickname “God’s Child” wasn’t just made up.
It’s the impermanence of time, and we don’t see the same Tanaka anymore. Instead, it’s Tanaka’s reality that he’s on the brink of falling below average.
Can Tanaka overcome the crisis and become an upgrade with his new pitching style? This will be a very important test this season.