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Masahiro Tanaka, the object of your future affection

Uh oh. Looks like his delivery has the dreaded "inverted 仮"  Photo -
Uh oh. Looks like his delivery has the dreaded "inverted 仮" Photo -
Koji Watanabe

For the first time in my life, I wanted to break out in song after a Buster Posey strikeout.

Usually, I want to break out into song when Posey hits a home run, or throws a runner out, or looks over his shoulder to get the sign from his third-base coach, or is on TV, or when someone on TV says "just hoard cozies." But this time, it was one of Posey's strikeouts that got me. It was a fastball looking, and while they didn't have the velocity reading at the stadium, it got to the plate in a hurry. I'm embarrassed to say that I was unaware of who was pitching until that moment.

It was Masahiro Tanaka. And he's good.

Soon, you'll have opinions about Masahiro Tanaka. You'll know exactly how much you'll want your team to sign him for. You'll have strong opinions about what his posting fee should be. You'll use Yu Darvish as a metric with which to gauge Tanaka, and he'll be a burning trash can that we'll all huddle around in the cold of the offseason.

Unlike my last international crush, Alfredo Despaigne, there's no mystery about Tanaka's future intentions. He wants to come to the States

Tohoku Rakuten ace Masahiro Tanaka told the Eagles he wants to play in the major leagues in the near future as the All-Star right-hander signed off on a three-year, ¥1.2 billion extension Saturday.

There will be a bidding war.

Ned Colletti: We would like to offer your client 1.4 billion on a three-year deal. That's .2 more than his last deal, which we feel is fair.

Masahiro Tanaka's agent: That's absurd. We're expecting close to five times the annual amount, and twice the contract length.

Masahiro Tanaka's agent: Wait, you're talking about yen, right?

Ned Colletti: …

Tanaka's agent: …

Ned Colletti: Yes.

Ned Colletti: …

Tanaka's agent: …

There are two ways we can learn about Tanaka. The first is through detailed statistical evidence:

2007 18 Rakuten 3.82 186.1 17 68 196 1.347 3.3 9.5 2.88
2008 19 Rakuten 3.49 172.2 9 54 159 1.303 2.8 8.3 2.94
2009 20 Rakuten 2.33 189.2 13 43 171 1.123 2.0 8.1 3.98
2010 21 Rakuten 2.50 155.0 9 32 119 1.232 1.9 6.9 3.72
2011 22 Rakuten 1.27 226.1 8 27 241 0.875 1.1 9.6 8.93
2012 23 Rakuten 1.87 173.0 4 19 169 1.035 1.0 8.8 8.89
6 Seasons 2.50 1103.0 60 243 1055 1.140 2.0 8.6 4.34

The second way is through moving pictures.

The standard disclaimers apply to those stats -- it's a crazy, 1968-kind of era in Japan now, and it's extremely pitcher-friendly. A 1.27 ERA in the 2011 Pacific League isn't the same as a 1.27 ERA in the 2009 or 2010 Pacific League.

(But hot damn.)

Those kilometers-per-hour readings translate to a guy who sits at 93 m.p.h. The curve is outstanding, but Tanaka's not infallible. In a couple of those highlights, there were hanging curves that were inexplicably taken. And in Thursday's game, he gave up three hits in two innings, a run, and a couuple hard-hit outs. I don't want you to think that he's going to ctrl-c those stats, come over to MLB, and neatly ctrl-v them into his new league. There will be an adjustment period.

Tanaka is still probably the best international pitching prospect in the world. He just turned 24, remember. That's the same age as Joe Kelly, Chris Archer, and Jarrod Parker -- all bright, young pitching stars in baseball. Tanaka has dominated in a highly competitive league already, and that's a statistical point in his favor that few prospects have.

There's no real point or thesis to this. Masahiro Tanaka exists, and he's good at pitching. Look at those stats, he's good at pitching. Watch the video because he's good at pitching. And I watched him pitch today, so I can confirm that he's good at pitching. Baseballs, specifically.

In about 10 months or so, you're going to have really strong opinions about Tenaka. And in about 24 months, you'll have a pretty good idea of just how good he'll be against major-league hitters. I can't wait.

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