Sports Illustrated on Tanaka

15 Apr

Sports Illustrated had a very insightful profile on Tanaka:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mlb/news/20140326/masahiro-tanaka-new-york-yankees/

Because Americans discourage splitters, Tanaka has a distinct advantage over major league hitters: They are not trained to hit it. They don’t see it regularly. Against the six pitchers who threw it the most last year, for instance, major league hitters batted no better than .201 against the pitch. (Kuroda and the Mariners’ Hisashi Iwakuma threw it most often.)

As much attention as Tanaka’s splitter gets, his slider, which he throws more often, is underrated. Yankees scout Brandon Duckworth (Tanaka’s teammate last year with the Eagles) needed to watch him throw only one live batting practice session this spring to see that Tanaka’s slider had even more bite than he remembered. “Best I’ve seen it,” says Duckworth. The slicker surface of the major league ball creates later and sharper tilt on the pitch.

If you get a good grip of the ball, the slider is more crisp than in Japan … a better slider,” adds Tanaka. “The problem could be that sometimes the balls can slip.” Says Darvish, who has held major league hitters to a .160 average on his slider, “I totally agree.”

Very few pitchers throw a slider where the dot disappears,” says Yankees special assistant Trey Hillman. “A hitter looks for that dot on the baseball as it spins to identify the slider. But only a few pitchers spin the slider so fast that you can’t see the dot. I’ve only had two of them: Darvish and Zack Greinke. Now I’d put Tanaka’s slider with them. It’s that good.

If there is vulnerability in Tanaka’s repertoire, it is in his fastball, even though he has good velocity and commands it well on both sides of the plate. Unlike most American pitchers, who stay tall through their deliveries to generate a downward plane and movement on their fastballs, Tanaka is a drop-and-drive pitcher, a technique that generates power through the legs but results in a lower release point, which limits the downward plane of his fastball.

“He’s definitely not Darvish,” says one talent evaluator for a team that bid on Tanaka. “We see him as a No. 2. He’s not a No. 1. His fastball is pretty flat. There’s a good chance in Yankee Stadium he’s going to give up a lot of homers to lefties. But he’s got a legit split, he commands really well, and he’s a competitor.”

 

Just like RAB had it, one of the two reasons Tanaka might not be so successful this season is that Tanaka likes to pitch up in the zone. Pitching up in the zone is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself — it’s a great way to get swings and misses — but in the Bronx more fly balls mean more homers. Also, RAB reckoned that Tanaka has two above-average offspeed pitches. We all know about the splitter …but he also throws a very good slider. It’s not as good as the splitter, but it’s not a show-me pitch either. Tanaka isn’t some two-pitch pitcher. Far from it.

 

運動畫刊 (Sports Illustrated) 精闢側寫田中 (Tanaka)
要。點。概。譯
因為美國不鼓勵指叉球,這對田中面對大聯盟打者而言是個優勢,因為他們沒訓練過打指叉球,也不常見到此球種。去年投最多指叉球的六個投手,面對大聯盟打者的對戰打擊率是0.201 (黑田和水手的Iwakuma最常投指叉球)。

 
雖然田中最受注目的是指叉球,他常投的滑球卻被低估。大聯盟的球表面較平滑,所以滑球傾斜較慢且幅度較大。田中補充說:「如果球握得好,滑球會比在日本投時更乾脆俐落,是更好的滑球」。達比修(Darvish)說:「但問題在於有時候球可能會滑」。大聯盟打者面對達比修滑球的打擊率是0.160

 
洋基特別助理Trey Hillman說:「很少投手投滑球時球上面的“點”會消失,當球旋轉時,打者找球上面的點來判別滑球,但只有一些投手可以把球快速旋轉到看不見那個點,我只看過兩位投手可以做到那樣:達比修和Zack Greinke,現在我把Tanaka也算進來。他滑球就是投得那麼好」。

 
如果說田中的球種有弱點,那是他的快速球。雖然他球速快,控球好,投在好球帶兩邊,但他是“下墜型”投手,投球力量來自於腿,放球點較低,也限制了他快速球的平面位置。

 
一個當初提合約給田中的球隊評估員說:「他絕對不是達比修,我們預估他為2號先發,不是1號。他快速球軌跡相當平。在洋基球場他很有可能被左打者轟一堆全壘打。但他的指叉球很“正統”,控球非常好,是個競爭者」。

 

譯者感想:如同River Avenue Blues (RAB)講的,Tanaka這一季可能表現不會很好的原因之一是Tanaka喜歡投高球進好球帶。投高球進好球帶本身不是壞事,很容易讓打者揮空,但在洋基球場,越多高飛球表示越多全壘打。另外RAB也認為田中有兩種平均水準之上的變化球,其中之一是大家都知道的指叉球,但他滑球也投得很好,雖然沒有指叉球來得好,但他的滑球不是投投看而已,完全不是那樣。

 

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