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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Verducci: “How will Masahiro Tanaka’s workload impact his value in MLB?”

Let’s examine the rarity of Tanaka’s workload. In addition to Tanana, only two other pitchers since 1961 have thrown 1,315 major league innings through age 24: Larry Dierker (1964-71) and Bert Blyleven (1970-75).

But what’s even more rare is that he carried an unusually high burden as a teenager. At ages 18 and 19 with the Rakuten Eagles, Tanaka threw 359 innings. Only two pitchers in major league history ever threw more innings as a teenager and they did so ages ago: Bob Feller (1936-38) and Pete Schneider (1914-15) [...]

Pitch counts and innings limits have little influence in Japan. Tanaka had nine complete games as a teenager in Japan. Only 13 pitchers in major league history completed nine games as a teenager—none of them in the past 48 years. The most “recent” teens allowed to complete that many games were Dierker (1964-66), Wally Bunker (1963-64), Mike McCormick (1956-58) and Chuck Stobbs (1947-49).

Japanese coaches believe in throwing more than do American pitching experts. However, their pitchers throw with more days of rest (generally every sixth or seventh day rather than the fifth day) in a shorter season against less imposing lineups. Tanaka, for instance, for all of his many innings, never made more than 28 starts in a season for the Eagles.

When pitchers leave Japan for the majors, the more rigorous schedule and lineups tend to exact a toll on them after two or three seasons. Eleven pitchers born in Japan have made 25 starts in a major league season. Only two of them were able to do so more than three times: Hideo Nomo and Hiroki Kuroda.

If you raise the bar to 30 starts—and Tanaka will be expected to be that kind of pitcher with the money he will get—Nomo and Kuroda are the only ones to do so more than twice. And Nomo is a more of a cautionary tale: a two-year wonder followed by 10 years a journeyman.

bobm Posted: December 28, 2013 at 06:00 PM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: masahiro tanaka, pitching

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   1. Bug Selig Posted: December 29, 2013 at 11:59 AM (#4625577)
I don't like the comparison to only MLB experience. 18 and 19 year old major-leaguers are rare, period - so the fact that few of them threw X number of innings doesn't have a whole lot of meaning.

   2. depletion Posted: December 29, 2013 at 12:54 PM (#4625631)
Eleven pitchers born in Japan have made 25 starts in a major league season. Only two of them were able to do so more than three times: Hideo Nomo and Hiroki Kuroda.

Double-Spin, does this make you feel any warmer about Tanaka's long term changes? A 5 year deal for him could be an extreme overpay for years 4 and 5. I believe the author's point that the Japanese and MLB workloads do not equate.
   3. JJ1986 Posted: December 29, 2013 at 01:05 PM (#4625638)
Eleven pitchers born in Japan have made 25 starts in a major league season. Only two of them were able to do so more than three times: Hideo Nomo and Hiroki Kuroda.


Two of the eleven will be in their third season in 2014. And one of the 11 was Mac Suzuki who came to the USA at 16. Good stat, Verducci.
   4. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: December 29, 2013 at 01:19 PM (#4625648)
And one of those who haven't started thirty games twice is Darvish, who pitched 191 innings in the year he made 29 starts.

I think Tanaka's dropping K rate is a real concern, as is the milage on his arm, but the generalization to all Japanese pitchers isn't a good one.
   5. puck Posted: December 29, 2013 at 04:16 PM (#4625799)
Is there something magical about the 360 innings coming in the age 18 and 19 seasons rather than the age 19 and 20 seasons?

Seems like there must be a number of pitchers who threw around 360 innings in the minors in their age 19 and 20 seasons. Maddux threw 378, Glavine 354. Though I'm sure there are plenty of guys who got hurt, too.
   6. Shoebo Posted: December 30, 2013 at 01:41 AM (#4626179)
Here is a list of guys over the last 20 years with at least 700 MLB innings by age 24. Most of these guys top 1000 innings when you add in their minor league totals, and some get pretty close if not exceed Tanaka's workload through age 24

I think this is little more representative. Yeah, minor league innings not as demanding as major league innings, or so the story goes. But JPL is not quite up to major league level either, at least in terms of depth of lineups.

Rk             Player     IP  WAR SO/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERAOPSGDP
1     Felix Hernandez 1154.2 25.0 8.12 2.78 0.76  132   79 117
2         CC Sabathia  972.2 14.6 7.04 3.54 0.87  107   90  83
3     Clayton Kershaw  944.0 24.3 9.29 3.25 0.59  138   71  64
4    Jeremy Bonderman  923.1  6.3 7.49 2.92 1.06   93  100  88
5           Matt Cain  872.1 19.8 7.52 3.60 0.79  125   80  48
6       Rick Porcello  868.2  6.7 5.45 2.30 0.96   94  103 107
7       Ismael Valdez  821.2 16.8 6.71 2.50 0.79  120   82  58
8    Dontrelle Willis  817.1 16.4 6.73 2.83 0.72  121   92  86
9         Jon Garland  788.0  6.2 4.98 3.75 1.27   99  102  98
10      Trevor Cahill  783.0 11.1 5.87 3.34 0.93  107   95  85
11     Javier Vazquez  768.1  9.2 7.68 2.64 1.16  100   96  67
12    Carlos Zambrano  763.0 18.5 7.73 3.92 0.65  133   75  70 


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/30/2013.

Full table link with clickable player lines so you can look at age 25 and beyond.


Looking at this list from age 25 on I see

3 Studs (Felix, CC, Kershaw)
4 Workhorse innings eaters, (Cain*, Garland, Vazquez, Zambrano)
2 TBD's , (Cahill, Porcello)
3 Flameouts, (Bonderman, Valdez, Willis)

*Some might put Cain in the Studs group, but I wouldn't.
   7. Fancy Pants Handle doesn't need no water Posted: December 30, 2013 at 03:22 AM (#4626196)
Looking at this list from age 25 on I see

3 Studs (Felix, CC, Kershaw)
4 Workhorse innings eaters, (Cain*, Garland, Vazquez, Zambrano)
2 TBD's , (Cahill, Porcello)
3 Flameouts, (Bonderman, Valdez, Willis)

Well, if you are trying to extrapolate from that set, you can't just look at raw IP, quality of IP also matters. Tanaka has already demonstrated that he is a stud (albeit against somewhat sub-MLB level opposition). My understanding is that most projection systems expect him to be in the 120's in terms of ERA+. So comps like Bonderman, Garland and Vazquez, who at that age had only demonstrated that they are thoroughly mediocre, aren't really at all relevant. Was anybody expecting Garland or Vazquez to be anything but a cromulent innings eater type?
   8. Shoebo Posted: December 30, 2013 at 04:08 AM (#4626200)
Actually, in Javy's case, expectations WERE higher. At age 24 he threw 223 IP at 130 ERA+ and went 16-11.

Regressed to 109 ERA+ age 25, and then at 26 had a 139 ERA+ in 230 IP.

Age 24 and 26 were essentially 6 WAR seasons, and then he went to the Yankees, and I think expectations were pretty darn high.

I agree that Bondermen and Garland are not your ideal comps....it's just they were on an already very short list of guys the last 20 years that have thrown that many professional innings through age 24

Willis and Valdez were both pretty good through age 24, as was Zambrano of course.

Really I wasn't trying to "extrapolate" so much as just look at what was out there. I think the main thing is guys that tend to be durable early are often durable later, but eventually all but a few get hurt.

Tanaka is as good a bet as any to give 1000 good innings over the next 5 years, simply because he has shown he can throw this many innings without getting hurt so far, and of course he has been great.....in that league.......with a declining K rate. I don't think he is going to be as good as Darvish, but I think he will be better than Dice K.

   9. depletion Posted: December 30, 2013 at 09:28 AM (#4626228)
Darvish doesn't belong in this discussion yet, with only 1 year in MLB. I believe the crux of the issue for Japanese pitchers is the 5-man vs. 6-man rotation. DiceK and Nomo were excellent and both broke down after several years. Of course, they might have broken down in Japan, too, but the trend is not in Tanaka's favor.
   10. Shoebo Posted: December 30, 2013 at 11:23 AM (#4626285)
Did you miss 2012 ? Darvish has two seasons. Just sayin.
   11. depletion Posted: December 30, 2013 at 01:26 PM (#4626429)
Oops. Perhaps Darvish will be the counter example.
   12. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 30, 2013 at 01:50 PM (#4626461)
Nick Cafardo says the Phillies, Jays, and Royals will be in on Tanaka. I did not expect KC.
   13. Jim Wisinski Posted: December 30, 2013 at 04:04 PM (#4626577)
Nick Cafardo says the Phillies, Jays, and Royals will be in on Tanaka. I did not expect KC.


KC certainly needs him but I was under the impression that they were nearing their budget limit already. I'd think that Glass would have to authorize a significant increase for them to afford Tanaka's contract plus a $20 million lump sum payment.

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