Masahiro Tanaka
(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Masahiro Tanaka Returns to Japan

Former New York Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka has decided to leave the United States for the upcoming 2021 season and pitch for his old team, the Rakuten Eagles in Japan. The starting pitcher played seven seasons with New York posting an earned run average of 3.74 and 78 wins over that span.

The Yankees made big moves in the off-season signing former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and trading for Jameson Taillon from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team seemed to make no accommodations for Tanaka as both Kluber and Taillon are right-handed starting pitchers as well as the ace of the staff, Gerrit Cole.

Health seemed to also play a factor in Tanaka’s decision. With Covid-19 still raging in the United States, Japan is a refuge currently with only 5,000 deaths compared to 429,000 in the United States.

Last season, Tanaka went 3-3 with a 3.56 earned run average. In his time as a Yankee, he has been an all-star twice in 2014 and 2019 battling injuries during his time. His statistics in Japan have fared even better posting an unbelievable 2.29 Earned Run Average with 99 wins in seven seasons.

Some players from the Japan Pacific League have a hard time acclimating to Major League Baseball. Another big example of this is Daisuke Matsuzaka. Daisuke absolutely dominated the Japanese leagues having a 3.04 ERA to show for it along with 119 wins. When signed by Boston in 2007, the hype was so extreme and the expectations were astronomical. He somewhat proved himself the first two seasons but the injury bug hit him hard and didn’t complete a full season in the Majors ever again. He went back to Japan in 2015. Tanaka has seemed to fare better than Matsuzaka, but certain overseas baseball programs have different regimes making it more difficult for players to acclimate. Tanaka is the latest victim.