Godzilla isn't the only Japanese import wreaking havoc on American soil these days. And despite an estimated $93 million box-office haul this past weekend, he's not the the wealthiest either. No, that honor belongs to Mr. Masahiro Tanaka, he of the $155MM contract, 6-0 record, 2.17 ERA and .914 WHIP. He's also got a 9.4 K/BB ratio, just in case you're interested in stuff like that.
And just in case you're not familiar with him, he's the guy whose pursuit was the talk of the town in Chicago -- and, really, all of baseball -- this offseason. Much like his larger, louder, and...lizardier(?) counterpart, there was a great deal debate on Tanaka's value and the ability to make the leap to the States.
Japan's NPBL is on par with our minor league system, some said. Japanese pitchers haven't fared well in the past, they said. Never mind that Yu Darvish guy or the fact that Dice-K helped the Red Sox win a World Series, or that Hideo Nomo won the ROY and stuck in the majors for 13 years. Oh, and let's not forget Koji Uehara. The list goes on, but I'm trying to be less wordy than usual.
Comparing Tanaka to past Japanese pitchers is sort of like saying that since Roland Emmerich slapped together a thoroughly 90's destruction-porn flick thinly veiled as a monster movie 16 years ago, a Godzilla reboot wouldn't work. But far be it for me to stand in the way of false narratives. I was really excited for the movie from the start, and my desire to see the phenom pitcher on the North Side of Chicago was no less tempered.
Since being right isn't a regular practice, please allow me to indulge myself in the obligatory I-told-you-so boast as I share an article I wrote back in October. Of course, I was also one of the first in line to quote that bad mother-shut-yo-mouth, John Shaft, who said: "Not at these prices, baby!"
The money the Yankees put up for an "untested" rookie import seemed exorbitant at the time, but Tanaka's performance thus far is making it look like a fairly wise investment. At the very least, it's significantly better than putting your money in WWE stock. I mean, Vince McMahon took a huge haircut and is now wallowing with us po' folks, his net worth reduced to a piddling $750 million.
The Cubs got a first-hand look at what they had missed out on when they squared off with the Yanks in the Bronx just over a month ago. Tanaka got the better of his would-be teammates in that matchup, allowing just 2 hits while striking out 10 and walking just 1 over 8 innings of shutout work.
They'll get another shot at him on Tuesday night, coming out of an off day that followed consecutive victories over the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers. Unless they want a sequel of the first go-round though, the Cubs are going to have to significantly improve on their hitting vs. RHP (.225), which is nearly 40 points lower than vs. LHP (.262).
Here's to hoping the Cubs can stop the monster in his tracks and prove me wrong, even if it's only for a game. After all, sequels often fail to live up to the performance of the originals, right.
I'm interested to hear from the peanut gallery too. What were your thoughts on Tanaka prior to the season and have they changed based on what you seen so far from him? Knowing what you know now, would you have been okay with the Cubs throwing $160MM at him? Talk amongst yourselves.
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