What to expect from Masahiro Tanaka's first start?

Masahiro Tanaka takes the hill against the Blue Jays Friday (USATSI)
Masahiro Tanaka takes the hill against the Blue Jays Friday. (USATSI)

Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will make his long-awaited United States debut tonight against the Blue Jays. With most pitchers coming over from a different league, it's unclear exactly how Tanaka will perform. He dazzled during camp, posting a 2.14 ERA and striking out 26 hitters in 21 innings. Still, that was spring, where competition can be slim. Now that the regular season has begun, we can get our first good look at the Yankees new toy.

While we can't be sure what type of numbers Tanaka will put up, we can take a look at how some other prominent Asian pitchers have performed during their stateside debuts. 

PitchersIPHERBBSOERADecision
Hideo Nomo 5.0 1 0 4 7 0.00 ND
Hideki Irabu 6.2 5 2 4 9 2.70 W
Daisuke Matsuzaka 7.0 6 1 1 10 1.29 W
Kei Igawa 5.0 8 7 3 2 12.60 ND
Yu Darvish 5.2 8 5 4 5 7.94 W
Wei-Yin Chen 5.2 7 2 1 6 3.18 ND
Hyun-Jin Ryu 6.1 10 1 0 5 1.42 L
Kazuhisa Ishii 5.2 2 0 3 10 0.00 W
Hiroki Kuroda 7.0 3 1 0 4 1.29 W

What does this tell us about Tanaka? Not much, really. Tanaka isn't any of these players, and it's lazy, and unfair, to compare him strictly to other Asian starters. The main takeaway here is not to overreact to one start. Irabu and Dice-K didn't have great careers despite getting off to a strong start. Darvish is probably one of the best pitchers in the game today. Chen and Ishii have been about average. 

No matter what happens to Tanaka tonight, there's no reason to adjust your expectations. Keep in mind, aside from maybe Dice-K and Darvish, Tanaka comes to the United States with a better scouting report than many players on the list. He's expected to be pretty good, so there's no reason to panic if he tosses a dud the first time out.

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