Masahiro Tanaka does not enjoy losing baseball games. So he doesn’t do it. The Japanese right-hander is 3-0 on the 2014 campaign with the New York Yankees a year after going 24-0 for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. He has not lost a regular season game since August 19, 2012. When you haven’t lost a game in nearly two years, you can be pretty confident. Tanaka believes he can go through his first major league season without a loss.
“Honestly, it’s hard to say. But the percentage I would say is not zero percent. I say this because I go on the mound to try to beat the other team every single time. … So I don’t want to look at it as something that’s impossible to do. If there’s a possibility, I want to go towards that. … Every time I take the mound, I try to win. So that’s what I’m trying to do. And I fully understand how difficult of a task (24-0) would be.” (h/t Ian O’Conner, ESPNNewYork.com)
Confidence is good, even when it borders on arrogance. Tanaka’s dominance in Japan and so far this season has earned him the right to be confident. But let’s get serious, odds are Tanaka will not go 24-0 this season. No one has had at least 15 decisions in a single season and won them all. Baseball does not allow for such a season. When Bob Gibson posted an unfathomable 1.12 ERA in 1968, he had an equally unbelievable nine losses. The highest winning percentage in MLB history was in 1959 when Roy Face went 18-1. No pitcher has even ever won twenty straight decisions. The longest unbeaten streak in MLB history occurred in 1912 when Rube Marquard started the season 19-0. He would go only 7-11 the rest of the way to finish at 26-11. The best winning percentage by a Yankees’ hurler was Ron Guidry in his dominating Cy Young year of 1978 when he went 25-3. More recently for the Yankees, Roger Clemens went 20-3 and won the Cy Young in 2001. The Yankees would gladly sign up for a similar full season from Tanaka.
But realism aside, this is the exact type of attitude that has personified the Yankees throughout history. The shooting for the stars optimism that nothing is impossible just because it hasn’t been done yet. Records were made to be broken. The Yankees mission statement each season is to win the World Series, a goal they do not meet most seasons. However it is a goal they have met more often than any other team in baseball history. Tanaka should believe he can go 24-0, and if he eventually loses a game, he should believe he can go 23-1 this season.