There was plenty of buzz surrounding the arrival of newest Yankees starting pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka, today at his introduction press conference. Obviously, I have never seen him throw a baseball so when I get a chance to listen to someone who has, I pay attention.
In an interview with WFAN’s Mike Francesa today Yankees radio color commentator Suzyn Waldman said that when she was looking at video of Tanaka’s performances in Japan she was impressed by his signature split fingered pitch, but not so much with his fastball. When asked to compare his fastball to his countryman, Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish, she chose a compare him to a former Yankee pitcher instead:
“He’s not Darvish, he doesn’t throw that hard. His fastball is a high fastball. From what I saw watching from film it doesn’t have a lot of movement… it’s a Phil Hughes fastball and if he throws that and nibbles with that it’ll end up in the upper deck”
No offense intended to Phil Hughes but no Yankee fan wants to hear that you are paying $155 million to a guy with a “Phil Hughes fastball”. Granted, Waldman is not a scout, she’s an announcer, but she has been around the game for a very long time. I am not, and nor was Waldman, suggesting that he will not be a success in the Bronx, but I can not feel confident about a pitcher coming over from a foreign league being inserted into an American League East rotation drawing a comparison to Hughes, who was routinely batted around in recent seasons. When that comparison comes from an employee of the team he is coming to, you and I both know that Waldman is pulling for Tanaka to be a success here in the States, I take an even keener interest in the comparison.
His secondary pitches are, apparently, his bread and butter, but he will have to throw fastballs effectively to reach his potential in the big leagues, there’s no way around that.