Tanaka-Time, meet Nakata-Time (who was actually the original #ShoTime before Shohei Ohtani made it popular in MLB).
Masahiro Tanaka (Rakuten Eagles) made his first reappearance in a spring training practice game on February 20 against the Nippon-Ham Fighters. While he struck out the first batter he faced, he ran into some trouble later in the inning and ended up giving up a three-run home run to slugger Sho Nakata. Tanaka pitched another scoreless inning and declared it a good day, but not before jokingly telling Nakata to go easy on him. Nakata replied that he had just gotten lucky. Since this was obviously just a spring fling of sorts, neither player put much importance on this matchup, though naturally, it made national headlines. The media here were extremely excited about Tanaka’s return to an NPB mound, and had hoped to see complete dominance over his opponents. Here are some of the numbers they reported about Tanaka’s mound: (1) It had been 2666 days since his last NPB appearance; (2) The only other Nakata home run against Tanaka was 3849 days prior; (3) Tanaka’s fastball topped out at 148 km/h; (4) The Fighters won, 6-3.
The talk of Okinawa has been Hanshin Tigers first-round pick Teruaki Sato. The 21-year old has wowed scouts, coaches, the media and (non-present) fans since February 1, but has really taken it to a higher level in the past week. He has recorded hits in each of the last 7 games (practice & intrasquad), including two home runs, one of which traveled an estimated 460 feet. Overhyped players in February are nothing new to Hanshin fans, and the media have already started to compare Sato to Pacific League MVP Yuki Yanagita (career .981 OPS). No pressure, kid.
With regular-season baseball just over a month away, perhaps it is time for you to follow a few really good social media accounts and websites this coming season…
Jason Coskrey (Japan Times)
Jim Allen (Kyodo News)
Rob Fitts (author of many great books on Japanese baseball)
NPB on Reddit (Daily scores, standings, stat updates)
Aozora (lots of interesting stats – Japanese only)
Pacific League TV (highlights & more – Japanese only)
Pacific League TV (subscription to be able to watch half of NPB’s games)
English NPB Blogs/Podcasts
Graveyard Baseball (Seibu Lions)