Masahiro Tanaka has burst onto the Major League scene, living up to the hype that circulated the Japanese starter when he first signed with the New York Yankees. So far, he has compiled a 2.15 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP, a 3-0 record and 35 strikeouts over 29 innings. In the short sample we have of Tanaka, he has already been showcasing his highly touted weapon, his splitter.
Whilst his whole arsenal of pitches have been devastating, his splitter has been particularly effective. Throwing it 79 times over his four starts, he has been able to keep it down in the zone whilst getting batters to swing and miss. Against left-handed hitters, Tanaka is yet to throw one in the top third of the strike zone, clearly conveying the control he possesses. If he continues to locate his splitter, which has topped off at 89 mph, Tanaka will rake in the Ks.
Tanaka has a 0% walk percentage compared to a remarkable 58.3% strike percentage. Although many critics were skeptical over his diminishing strikeout rate when in Japan last year, Tanaka has proven everyone who ever doubted him wrong. He has held hitters to a 0.83 batting average, a 0.83 on base percentage and a .250 slugging percentage with the splitter. When a pitcher boasts such an effective strikeout pitch, it truly is majestic to watch.
Only two hitters of the 24 he has faced have actually hit Tanaka’s splitter, yielding one double and one home run. Even when hitters are making contact, the damage has been very limited. 60% of the time, the splitter results in a groundball. 30% of the time, the batter will fly out – and 33% of the time when a batter does fly out, he has popped it up into the infield.
When the splitter has been thrown inside the strike zone, batters have swung 68% of the time. When thrown outside the strike zone, hitters have swung 61% of the time. More remarkably, batters have only made contact with 32% of the splitters outside the strike zone. The splitter utterly is a swing and miss pitch.
If you still have doubts over Tanaka, don’t. The Japanese pitcher really is a bona fide ace. Pitching against the Angels tonight in the series finale, watch for Masahiro Tanaka to stun the Anaheim hitters, and destroy them with his splitter.
(All pitch information taken from Fangraphs.)