How Does Tanaka Compare to Matsuzaka Through Three Starts?

Way back in a more innocent age, when Boston gleefully believed in the gyroball, Daisuke Matsuzaka was taking American baseball by storm. His much ballyhooed big-league debut featured seven innings of one-run ball, as well as 10 strikeouts. He followed that up immediately with two more quality starts — though in his fourth start for the Red Sox his mortality was exposed by the Yankees, who reached him for six runs.

Tonight at Fenway Park, Masahiro Tanaka takes the mound on the opposite side of the rivalry, but facing somewhat similar circumstances. The right-hander who followed in Matsuzaka’s footsteps by coming to the United States after dominating in his native Japan has so far lived up to the enormous billing that preceded his arrival in the Big Apple, striking out at least eight in each of his first three starts, whiffing 14 hitters for every walk he’s issued, and at times looking downright unhittable.


Now, though, he encounters the reigning world champs for the first time, so we thought it might be worth comparing Tanaka’s numbers through three starts to those posted by Matsuzaka at the start of the 2007 season. It’s a small sample size, obviously, though that hasn’t stopped some parts of the hype machine from already seeming to declare the Yankees’ $155 million deal a sound investment — even if his numbers thus far aren’t dramatically better than what Matsuzaka had given the Red Sox to this same point. And Sox fans know how that ultimately turned out.

Here are those numbers:

Matsuzaka Tanaka
1-2 Win-loss record 2-0
20.0 Innings pitched 22.0
6 Earned runs allowed 5
2.70 Earned run average 2.05
17 Hits 15
5 Walks 2
24 Strikeouts 28
1.10 WHIP 0.77
.233 Opponents’ AVG .185
.288 Opponents’ OBP .205
.616 Opponents’ OPS .489
1 HR allowed 2
.327 BABIP .255
2.39 FIP 1.95

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