World Series Champion Boston Red Sox’s manager, John Farrell took questions from audience at Boston Chapter of Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) meeting at the Baseball Tavern in Boston, January 20, 2014. He was very good, very articulate, very knowledgeable, but sincere and respectful, I could see why players and media likes him. I was there in the audience and was able to ask Farrel a question (around 19:10). He was with Daisuke Matsuzka as the pitching coach of the Boston Red Sox from 2007 to 2010. He experienced a Japanese pitcher’s transition to MLB first hand. I asked him, what would it take for Masahiro Tanaka to be successfull in US?
Here is Farrell’s answer:
There are number of things that they are going to encounter here for the first time.
In Japan there is one time zone, here, we are transitioning three.
You got a composition of the mound. In Japan, it is sand-based and your feet slide a little bit, as supposed to clay mound here. It puts more stress on lower half, they are going to have to condition themselves physically for that.
The baseball is completely different. The surface of the Japanese baseball is tacky, it’s sticky. Here, it is rubbed up with mud, there is a film to it and it’s much more slippery.
The strength of the line up that they are going to face in States versus the line up in Japan, not being condescending in anyway, but there is a difference.
The strike zone, I think here, it can be smaller more consistently.
And the fact is that they go from pitching once a week, to now every five days. So there are number of things that is challenging and It will be interesting to see how Tanaka transitions.
But in terms of overall game execution, the ability to use the fastball here in the States, I think, is much more important than it may be in Japan. Just that being different styles of pitching. Now there is a willingness to use the whole count there where they may throw a 2-1 breaking ball and pitch to the full count little bit more than we will. There is less strictness for pitch counts there. Largely because there is more recovery time, you are pitching every 7 days versus every 5th day. There are number of things that will challenge him regardless of the talent that he comes here with.
It is very interesting. Listing to the whole conversation by poressing the play button on the embeded player. People also asked him about Koji Uehara.
As I write this post, there is a news that Masahiro Tanaka signed a seven year, $155 million contract with the New York Yankees. Tanaka will be the 7th Japanese Yankee, following Hideki Irabu, Hideki Matsui, Kei Ihawa, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki. Yankees also have a prospect in Gosuke Katoh who was the 66th pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.