Jays fans hellbent on overreacting to the club’s failure to land Yu Darvish two winters ago by being insistent that the club go hard after Masahiro Tanaka, the latest supposed big time NPB talent to be set for a move to North America, have some potential reason for disappointment today. (Or… well… actually like five days ago, actually, but it’s still a topic worth exploring).
To wit, via David Lennon of Newsday:
Multiple sources told Newsday that significant changes to the current posting system for Japanese players seem to be imminent and could take effect as soon as this November. That would enable the next coveted Japanese ace, Masahiro Tanaka of the Rakuten Golden Eagles, to benefit from an expanded — and presumably more player-friendly — process should he follow through on his reported desire to play in the United States next season.
. . .
According to sources, one of the proposals for a new system would have as many as three teams chosen among the top bidders, with the Japanese player then allowed to choose the club he’d prefer to play for and negotiate with.
Now let’s not maybe get all apoplectic about this too quickly. As advantageous as the current posting system’s blind bid and single winner setup is to a team like the Jays who aren’t as desirable a landing spot as other suitors– which was precisely why going after Darvish made all the sense in the world, as I argued from the outset– we’re not talking about Darvish level talent here with Tanaka, as everybody seems to be quick to point out.
They would appear to be right, though.
Yes, the numbers are gaudy, but let’s not forget that they’re gaudy numbers in a league where Munenori Kawasaki was twice named among the “Best Nine” and sports a career .294 average and .345 OBP (he’s at .214 and .301 as a big leaguer). And while Tanaka’s third straight season of a sub-two ERA– it currently sits at 1.23– is impressive, as is the low walk rate (27 in 190 innings), it’s the ability to strike guys out that separates Darvish from his countryman, and some other red flags to be wary of as well.
In his final year in Japan, Darvish struck out 276 in 232 innings, while Tanaka has struck out just 163 batters in 190 innings this season. He was, however, closer to a strikeout per inning last season (169 in 173) and was better than that in 2011 (241 in 226.1). That maybe suggests this year’s low total is a blip, but it also is a little troubling, especially given the number of innings on Tanaka’s young arm. He turns 25 on November 1st, and has logged 1293 innings since 2007, which is more than all but eighteen big league pitchers, none of whom is within two years of Tanaka’s young age. (Felix Hernandez is two years older, while the next-closest of the 18, Matt Cain, is four years older).
None of that necessarily means anything– taking any pitcher for any amount of time is a gamble, frankly– and we certainly can’t know too much about a pitcher by “scouting the stat line,” as they say, but those are certainly pretty clear reasons to maybe think twice about insisting that Tanaka is the answer. Which isn’t to say he won’t be good, he just won’t be Darvish. And, if MLB and NPB manage to get the changes to the posting system through in time, he that much less likely to be coming here anyway.
The Jays could certainly still wind up landing him, if he’s the target the club really zeroes in on, but I don’t know… I don’t know. You’d figure Alex Anthopoulos maybe ought to look to something that better resembles a sure thing. Then again, he’s obviously got to do something.
2013, you guys!