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Tsuyoshi Wada’s Unique Journey to Chicago

July 24th, 2014 at 6:00 AM
By Tim Duxbury

Wrigley Field from Flickr via Wylio? 2009 Sergio Goncalves, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada is different from the other Japanese imports who have come before him because here he is, at age 33, and just yesterday he made only his second major league start. The Concept of an established foreign pitcher coming to the MLB and spending a number of years in the minors sounds outlandish to us given our experience with guys like Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka who were on big league rosters from day one. The Difference between these guy and Tsuyoshi Wada is that Wada wasn’t a superstar in Japan. Matsuzaka, Darvish and Tanaka were all superstars from a young age and chose to make the jump to the big leagues in their mid 20’s (26, 25, 25 respectively) where as Wada was 31 when he made his first appearance in America. In Japan, Matsuzaka won 14 or more games in six out of his eight seasons, Darvish had an ERA under 1.88 in five of his seven seasons and Tanaka’s ERA was under 1.87 in three of his seven seasons, including his 2013 campaign in which he went 24-0. Wada, on the other hand, was a relatively average pitcher for his first seven years in the league. It wasn’t until 2010 & 2011, when he was 29 and 30 years old, that he became dominant. 

Wada’s delayed success combined with his age are what prevented teams from jumping at him the same way that they jumped at Matsuzaka, Darvish and Tanaka. That is also what made his price tag significantly smaller too. Wada was originally signed by the Baltimore Orioles and made 20 starts for their AAA affiliate between 2012 and 2013. The results were unimpressive. Wada went 5-7 with an ERA of 4.44; a far cry from his last season in Japan in which he went 16-5 with a 1.51 ERA.   He never made it to the major leagues with the Orioles.

The Chicago Cubs signed Wada this past off season as part of Theo Epstein’s “arms race”, adding veteran pitchers for cheap. Wada again found himself in AAA due to his unimpressive minor league track record. But after a great start to 2014 and with the recent shake up in the Cubs’ rotation Wada has been given the chance to prove that he belongs in the major leagues. In his first major league start on July 8th, Wada earned a no-decision in a solid 5 inning effort in which he allowed no runs on five hits while striking out three. However, last night he allowed five runs on five hits and four walks in four innings.  Which Wada is the real Wada remains to be seen but Cub fans everywhere are hoping to its for former and not the latter as the team begins its search to build its rotation of the future.

(all stats in this article are per baseball-reference.com)

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