By Ed Baylor: After just 5 games for his new team the New York Yankees, Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has already struck out 46 batters with just 6 bases on balls in 35 innings pitched. He has an ERA of 2.27, and a won-lost record of 3-0. The 25-year-old Tanaka hasn’t lost a game since 2012 after going unbeaten with a 24-0 record in the 2013 season in the Japanese Baseball League for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
In last Sunday’s game against the LA Angels, Tanaka struck out 11 batters with 4 walks, 2 earned runs in 6.1 innings pitched. He didn’t get the win due to the Yankees only getting 3 hits during the entire game, but he certainly pitched well enough to deserve a victory. Tanaka’s control wasn’t there early in the game, but he was able to settle down later and start mowing the Angels’ hitters down one after another.
The 11 strikeouts that Tanaka registered in the game was surprisingly the most for a Yankees pitcher since way back in 1998, when former Yankees pitcher Orlando Hernandez struck out 13 Texas Rangers on August 13th of that year.
Tanaka’s start of the season is phenomenal in terms of the strikeouts that he’s putting up. With his 46 Ks to start the season, Tanaka is the third all-time in strikeouts to start a season. He only trails Herb Score, who started a season with 50 strikeouts after 5 games early in his career, and Stephen Strasburg with 48.
It’s going to be interesting to see if Tanaka can keep striking out batters at this pace for the remainder of the season, because usually hitters adjust to pitchers after the first time they see them. In the five games that Tanaka has pitched this season, he’s facing teams for the firs ttime and the hitters are clueless right now in how to hit him. This will likely change as the season goes by, as he doesn’t have overpowering stuff like Nolan Ryan or Sandy Koufax did.