After rookie pitcher Masahiro Tanaka handily beat the Red Sox 9-3 in his last start, the other uber-hyped Asian pitcher continued his ascendance into baseball lore. Yu Darvish, the third-year Japanese ace for the Texas Rangers, had his rookie season only two years ago. Let’s take a look and compare their first Aprils.
Tanaka: 4 starts, 29.1 IP, 35 strikeouts, 2 walks, 2.15 ERA, 3-0 record. Even the casual baseball fans know about Tanaka’s fantastic start. Most experts, and even some Yankees executives forecast the new multi-millionaire as a middle of the rotation pitcher this year. At this point, he is hurling like a bona-fide star. He is tied for eighth in the league in K’s, and has allowed only seven earned runs thus far. For those sabermetricians reading, he already has a WAR of 1.0, an ERA+ (a score detailing how much better he is compared to the landscape of MLB pitchers) of 189, and an FIP (fielding independent of pitching) of 2.61. Most importantly, he has brought excitement and buzz to New York, and the entire organization.
Darvish (April 2012): 5 starts, 33 IP, 33 strikeouts, 17 walks, 2.18 ERA, 4-0 record. Take a quick look at their stat lines, and the two pitchers have remarkably similar first month statistics. Minus the extra game, there is only one major difference in their performances: walks. Darvish was a very walk-prone pitcher during his first season (89 walks, 4th in the American League): 17 BBs in one month is a fairly high number. Tanaka however, has a grand total of two walks total! Tanaka looks to have almost complete mastery of his pitches, especially his disappearing splitter. Plus, Darvish’s FIP in 2012 was 3.28, more than a full run higher than Tanaka.
While he won’t be setting the modern day walks record (Carlos Silva of the Minnesota Twins with 9 walks in 188.1 innings in 2005), Tanaka could not be off to a better start. They say history repeats itself; at this point it would seem very possible for Tanaka to emulate, or surpass, Darvish’s 2012. And 24-0 is still in play.