Comparing Masahiro Tanaka to some past NPB exports

Iwakuma and Darvish finished second and third, respectively, in AL Cy Young voting in 2013.
Iwakuma and Darvish finished second and third, respectively, in AL Cy Young voting in 2013. (USATSI)

MORE: FA tracker: position players | FA tracker: pitchers

Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka has signed with the New York Yankees.

True to form, a deluge of commenters are already comparing Tanaka to past pitchers who came to the majors by way of Nippon Professional Baseball, most notably busts for the Yankees in Kei Igawa and Hideki Irabu.

Just for the sake of comparison, below are two charts comparing Tanaka to an assortment of NPB exports, including the aforementioned Yankees busts. 

Hint: Tanaka is a rock star compared to most pitchers who come from Nippon Professional Baseball.

Here are the combined numbers for the last three seasons in NPB before coming to MLB from Tanaka and other prominent pitching names from the recent past.

Last 3 years in NPB before coming to MLB
Name W-L ERA WHIP K IP
Masahiro Tanaka 53-9 1.44 0.94 593 611.1
Yu Darvish 45-19 1.64 0.91 665 616
Hisashi Iwakuma 29-23 2.87 1.16 364 489
Daisuke Matsuzaka 41-24 2.40 1.03 553 547.1
Kei Igawa 41-29 3.50 1.26 567 581.2
Hideki Irabu 38-27 2.68 1.16 645 567.2

And the three-year averages, obviously rounded to the nearest number when needed:

Last 3 years in NPB before coming to MLB, average season
Name W-L ERA WHIP K IP
Masahiro Tanaka 18-3 1.44 0.94 194 203.2
Yu Darvish 15-6 1.64 0.91 222 205.1
Hisashi Iwakuma 10-8 2.87 1.16 121 163
Daisuke Matsuzaka 14-8 2.40 1.03 184 182.1
Kei Igawa 14-10 3.50 1.26 189 194
Hideki Irabu 13-9 2.68 1.16 215 189.1

Only Darvish is really comparable, and he just finished ninth and then second in AL Cy Young voting in his first two seasons. It's worth noting that Tanaka is the youngest of the bunch in terms of when the jump to MLB was made (by a few months over Darvish).

Also, Baseball America's Ben Badler put together an excellent scouting report on Tanaka, including some GIFs of his better pitches. Like this splitter:

The splitter sits between 85 and 90 and, as can be seen above, falls off the proverbial table.

We can never be sure -- as it's a big transition to come to the majors for anyone, let alone someone leaving his home country -- but everything we know about Tanaka points to sustained success in the majors. If you even think about comparing him to Irabu or Igawa, hopefully the above charts will help you make a better argument, because Tanaka's work is substantially better than the work Igawa and Irabu did.

Tanaka might fail. He might not. Time will tell. One thing is for sure, though: His track record in NPB is as good anything we've ever seen come to MLB from Japan.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered the last five World Series beginning with the epic 2011 Fall Classic. The former Indiana University... Full Bio

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