The Rise of the Samurai Pitcher

October 2, 2014

(This article was first published on Graph of the Week, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Masahiro Tanaka stands on the mound, rubbing the ball vigorously between his hands. It’s a crisp, cool night in the Bronx. Stepping back, he digs his right foot into the rubber, winds up and, with a seven-foot stretch, steps towards the catcher, unleashing a blistering four-seam, 95 mph fastball. Less than half a second later, it explodes into the catcher’s mitt with a loudpop. The batter can only stand and watch as it flies by. Strike one!

It’s a common scene when Tanaka takes the mound for the New York Yankees. With the focus and discipline of a Samurai warrior, their star rookie pitcher has taken Major League Baseball (MLB) by storm in 2014. His stats[1] (as of August 15, 2014) are gaudy: 2.51 ERA(Earned Run Average), 12-4 record and a 1.01 WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched). Further, the guy’s a strikeout machine, fanning 135 hitters vs only 19 walks. Tanaka is the latest Japanese ace to infiltrate MLB. Twenty years ago, you’d have to look long and hard to find a Japanese pitcher in this league (in fact, you’d find only one: Hideo Nomo, aka the “Tornado”), but today, it is an increasingly common site. What’s going on?

This article was written by Patrick Rhodes – the the author of “Graph of the Week” – for Statistics Views and published on January 30, 2014. Read the rest of this article there.

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