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Sports Illustrated on Tanaka

15 Apr

Sports Illustrated had a very insightful profile on Tanaka:

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)
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)。


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」。




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。



2014 Season Preview Part IV (Translation Updated!!!)

2 Apr

I’ve wanted to post/translate this article since March 25th but just couldn’t find enough time to do it! However, the Opening Day just wrapped up today so I have no choice but post it without translation! Sorry about that!


I originally planned to have 3 season previews — Nova, Pineda, and Tanaka (Again, C.C is as important as they are to Yankees and maybe more so this season because of his disaster last season. However, there is little new analysis we haven’t talked about so I didn’t (won’t) put C.C. on the season preview list) — but I think this one is a must-have. You need to know as much as possible about your opponents in order to have the most wins, don’t you? XD~

Notable Additions: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, OF Nelson Cruz, RHP Ryan Webb, RHP Suk-Min Yoon, OF/DH Delmon Young
Notable Losses: RHP Scott Feldman, RHP Jason Hammel, RHP Jim Johnson, OF Nate McLouth

This isn’t a loss in the sense that he was on the team and now he’s not, but it’s certainly worth mentioning that third baseman Manny Machado will start the season on the DL following offseason knee surgery. He should return sometime in April.

Baltimore is better than they were last season because of Jimenez and Cruz, though I’m not sure if they’re good enough to make a serious run at a wildcard spot. I guess it depends on how long Machado is out, which Jimenez shows up, and how the bullpen shakes out without Johnson.


Notable Additions: RHP Burke Badenhop, LHP Chris Capuano, RHP Edward Mujica, C A.J. Pierzynski
Notable Losses: RHP Ryan Dempster, SS Stephen Drew, OF Jacoby Ellsbury, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Boston has earned some leeway after winning the World Series, but they lost a lot of good players this winter and are counting mostly on internal solutions to replace the lost production. That’s dicey, especially when talking about prospects. If Bogaerts or either of the center fielders don’t produce, the Sox will be left scrambling. Luckily for them, the pitching staff is deep and stalwarts like Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are still around to anchor the lineup. The Red Sox have a great farm system and a ton of money, so they have the wherewithal to address any needs at midseason. That said, they won the division by 5.5 games last year and the gap appears to have closed a bit.


Notable Additions: RHP Grant Balfour, RHP Heath Bell, C Ryan Hanigan
Notable Losses: RHP Roberto Hernandez, RHP Fernando Rodney, DH Luke Scott, RHP Jamey Wright

The Rays will be without Jeremy Hellickson for a few weeks following offseason elbow surgery. They still have David Price and Alex Cobb to front the rotation, but Matt Moore is having a real problem throwing strikes this spring. Like 15 walks in 14.1 innings problem. Chris Archer had a strong rookie season and rookie Jake Odorizzi will replace Hellickson for the time being. Tampa always seems to crank out quality young starters, but with Moore struggling and Odorizzi projecting as more of a back-end arm than anything else, their staff seems more vulnerable than it has been at any point in the last five of six years.

Full seasons of Wil Myers and David DeJesus should boost an offense — DeJesus isn’t great, but remember, he’s replacing Sam Fuld — that ranked third in baseball with a 108 wRC+ last summer. Tampa improved this winter after winning 92 games a wildcard spot a year ago, so of course they’ll be right back in the thick of the race this year.


Notable Additions: C Dioner Navarro
Notable Losses: C J.P. Arencibia, OF Rajai Davis, RHP Josh Johnson

It’s unbelievable the Blue Jays did nothing this winter, isn’t it? They made all those moves last offseason and were such a colossal disappointment in 2013, yet nothing.

I guess the good news for Toronto is that their offense is dynamite, at least when healthy. The Blue Jays are banking on health and steps forward from guys like Hutchison and Rasmus to improve the team, and even if they get that, they still might only be the fourth or fifth best team in the division.


On paper, I think you can argue the Yankees are anywhere from the best to fourth best team in the division. They’ve obviously upgraded but so have the Rays and Orioles, all while the Red Sox lost some key pieces. The top four teams in the division are more scrunched together this season, which means the race will be more tougher and more exciting deep into the season. Injuries and unexpected performances, both good and bad, will play an even bigger role in determining the AL East this summer. The division is again very good and there are four teams to be reckoned with. (Sorry, Blue Jays.)


Again, as much as I would like to translate this preview like did in the previous 3, I really don’t have time >_<‘. I’ve got 2 ~ 3 hours of sleep most of the days during the past 2 weeks (I only remember three days of 7 ~ 8 hours of sleep, which was a luxury!). If I have time after next Monday, I will come back to add this translation!



要。點。精。譯 (終於有時間補上翻譯了 ^^!)
增添的新兵:Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz, Suk-min Yoon, Delmon Young
離隊的舊雨:Scott Feldman, Jason Hammel, Jim Johnson
重要傷兵:三壘手Manny Machado,應該四月回得來。

增添的新兵Ubaldo Jimenez和Nelson Cruz,金鶯比去年好,不過不確定他們進不進的了外卡,大概看Machado啥時回來、Jimenez骰子骰到哪一面以及沒有Jim Johnson的牛棚表現如何

增添的新兵:Edward Mujica, A.J. Pierzynski
離隊的舊雨:Ryan Dempster, Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia


增添的新兵:Grant Balfour
離隊的舊雨:Fernando Rodney
光芒Hellickson去年季後手肘手術,所以開季幾週會在傷兵名單,。前段輪值仍然是David Price和Alex Cobb,但Matt Moore春訓投不進好球帶,14.1局祭出15個保送。Chris Archer去年新人年表現優異,今年的新秀jake Odorizzi會暫時替代Hellickson。光芒好像永遠有源源不絕的優質年輕投手,但隨著Moore好球帶掙扎中與Odorizzi大概是後段輪值,他們整個輪值應該是近五年來最弱的

進攻方面,Wil Myers打整季與David DeJesus對打線都有幫助(即使DeJesus沒有很棒,但他取代的是Sam Fuld)。去年夏天,他們的wRC+是108,大聯盟排行第三。


離隊的舊雨:J.P. Arencibia




Season Preview Part III: The Next Great Yankee

25 Mar

As said in Wild Card – Pineda, this is part II of my 2nd favorite RAB’s take on 2014 season preview :

There are three reasons why I think Tanaka can pretty damn successful right away for the Yankees. One, he pounds the zone. The scouting reports indicated as much and we’ve seen it so far in his two outings. Tanaka’s shown a very no nonsense approach, getting ahead in the count and not nibbling. He controls the at-bats when he’s on the mound. Two, 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.

And the third reason why I think he can be successful right away is his makeup and competitiveness, which people smarter than I have rated as through the roof. The grind of a baseball season is tough enough, but going through that grind for the first time in a new country with a new team in a new league against new batters in a new ballpark and yadda yadda yadda can be overwhelming. Does his makeup and competitive guarantee he will be successful? Of course not. But they do make me feel better about his chances.

On the other hand, there are some reasons to think Tanaka might not be so successful this season. First and foremost is the the five-day schedule rather than a seven-day setup. Tanaka had some big individual game workloads with Rakuten over the years but he also had two extra days of rest between each start. The Yankees won’t ask him to throw 130+ pitches each time out, but how will he adjust to pitching every fifth day instead of every seventh? Seems like everything is going well so far, but what happens in a few months when it’s 90 degrees with 90% humidity every start? It’s something to watch, no doubt about it.

Secondly, Tanaka likes to pitch up in the zone. That was the report coming over from Japan and he’s done it in his two spring starts so far. He had one high pitch smashed into the right-center field gap for a double and another hit out to deep right for a fly out in his last start, a ball that might have been gone in Yankee Stadium. 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. I don’t think Tanaka will be Phil Hughes when it comes to fly balls and dingers or anything, but the potential for the ill-timed gopher ball is there.

I don’t think there is any way we can reasonably estimate what Tanaka will do this season. Can he give the team 180 innings of 3.50 ERA ball? I’d love that in his first year in the show. The first year has typically been a transition year for recent Japanese imports with the second year being the big breakout, so I’d take that 180/3.50 performance no questions asked. Based on everything we’ve heard and the little bit we’ve seen, Tanaka has the tools to be an excellent starting pitcher in MLB. Not just good, but one of the top 20-25 pitchers in the game. There are more factors at play here than stuff and command though. The new culture and routine will affect his performance.

Given his age — Tanaka turned 25 in November, so he’ll spend the entire season at that age — the amount of money the team sunk into him, and the rest of the roster (both MLB and MiLB), I think Tanaka is the single most important player in the organization. Not necessarily for 2014, but going forward. He’s not the only one trying to make a transition, you know. The Yankees themselves are transitioning out of the dynasty years with Mariano Rivera retired and Derek Jeter following him after the season. Tanaka is the key player going forward, the young cornerstone player they can build around in the future. That’s a lot of responsibility and his first step towards becoming the next great Yankees begins this year.













Season Preview Part II: Wildcard

21 Mar

As said in Breakout Candidate – Ivan Nova, it is my favorite post so far of RAB’s take on 2014 Season Preview. Today I am going to talk about part 1 of my 2nd favorite RAB’s season preview: Wildcard.

Now for the kicker: we have no idea what to expect out of Pineda this summer. He looks good now, but how will he look facing actual big leaguers every fifth day? What happens once he get 50 or 100 or 150 innings under his belt? Can he hold his stuff for 100+ pitches per start? These are all questions we can’t answer. Remember, the Yankees said they expected Pineda back last June. That didn’t work out. They can’t count on him for anything. Whatever he provides has to be treated as gravy.

And yet, if the season started today, I’m pretty sure Pineda would be the fifth starter. He’d have to be, right? He’s healthy and throwing well enough, plus he has the highest ceiling of the fifth starter candidates by frickin’ far. Actually, forget about ceiling. Pineda might be the best pitcher for the 2014 season out of the lot, never mind 2015 and beyond. I also think there’s a “let’s finally get something out of this trade” line of thinking as well. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but I do think that mentality exists.

Even though he’s on a staff with an unknown in Masahiro Tanaka and the enigmatic Ivan Nova, Pineda is the biggest wildcard in the rotation heading into 2014. Probably on the entire roster, really. He could be a non-factor like the last two seasons or he could be their best pitcher. Well, maybe not. That’s probably a stretch. Pineda could wind up being their second best starter though, legitimately too. Not in a “everyone else fell apart so he’s number two by default” way. That ability is there. It’s just unclear if we will actually see it this summer.

The Yankees sunk a ton of money into Tanaka this winter to be the future of their rotation, but that does not lessen Pineda’s importance to the franchise going forward. It would be a big blow to the organization if he is unable to re-establish himself this season. The farm system doesn’t have much impact pitching on the immediate horizon and free agency is becoming a less effective to build a roster with each passing year. Pineda can still be rotation solution in both the short and long-term, but until he shows he’s up to the task, the Yankees can’t count on him.







Service Pact Brings Little Benefit: US Academic

18 Mar

The cross-strait service trade agreement is a “perfect political agreement” to bring Taiwan into China’s fold and presents no economic benefits to Taiwan, US academic John Tkacik said.

The cross-strait service trade pact, signed in June last year, and the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed in 2010 are incomparable with other trade agreements Taiwan holds with other nations, such as the Agreement between New Zealand and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Cooperation (ANZTEC) or the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP), said Tkacik, a retired US diplomat with 35 years of service in Taiwan, China and Mongolia.

ASTEP and ANZTEC were signed under the WTO framework and enjoyed legal protection such as third party mediation and other resolutions and the equal stature of WTO members ensured a real increase in Taiwan’s export, whereas the cross-strait service trade agreement does not fall under such a category of trade agreements, he said.

Chinese industries opened to Taiwan in the agreements are in Fujian Province and are excessively restricted, Tkacik said, adding that this observations led him to believe the Chinese were simply treating Taiwan as an extension of Fujian Province.

Taiwan as a whole would suffer if the agreement was ratified, Tkacik said, adding that he was perplexed why Taiwanese businesspeople needed more liberty when there is a far more illberal investment environment in China than other nations.

On President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s claims that the service trade agreement would help Taiwan’s bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Tkacik said the opposite would probably be true as the service trade agreement would only muddy waters on increased economic integration between Taiwan and the US due to the pact’s lack of transparency.


If a senior fellow at the Virginia-based International Assessment and Strategy Center & retired US diplomat with 35 years of service in Taiwan, China and Mongolia can see the pitfall, why hasn’t the Ma Ying-jeou’s administration been able to? Dubbed as a bumbler by The Economist in 2012 (one of the posts that has generated the most traffic for this blog~ XD), he is foreseeably as dumb as ever, isn’t it? /)_(\