An unknown entering the 2013 season, Boston Red Sox pitcher Koji Uehara quickly made a name for himself. As he worked his way through the ranks of the roster and into the closer’s role, he was borderline unhittable because of his uncanny ability to throw strikes and his one devastating pitch:
His splitter, aka his split-fingered fastball.
Uehara makes up for the fact he doesn’t throw hard with that pitch. It is proven to be effective in the Major Leagues. So as teams try to evaluate starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and how well his actual abilities will translate, it is not surprising that his splitter is getting some attention.
ESPN’s Jim Bowden compares it to the splitter that drove Dan Haren‘s success in his prime:
The best MLB comparison for Masahiro Tanaka is Dan Haren circa 2006-2011. Great command and a 70 split
— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) December 28, 2013
Not surprisingly, Bobby Valentine (who does possess knowledge about players from Japan) contributed an over-the-top opinion about Tanaka’s splitter, calling it the “best in the world.” As passed along by the legendary Peter Gammons:
Bobby Valentine’s “Tanaka has the best split-fingered fastball in the world” and Jim Bowden’s comp to prime Dan Haren add to the hunt
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) December 28, 2013
To date most of the hype surrounding Tanaka has focused on the posting process and the potential contract he will land. As that hype shifts to what he actually does on the field, that will start with his featured pitch.