Starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka of Japan's Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles is already a rising star and hot commodity in the baseball world.
After all, the 25-year-old right-hander has enjoyed celebrity status since leading his team to the Japanese national high school championship as a junior in 2005. And after a 7-year career in the Nippon Professional Baseball league that saw him rack up 1,238 strikeouts in 1,315 innings with a 2.35 ERA, Tanaka now sits atop the holiday wish list for a number of Major League Baseball teams.
But before embracing his future, Tanaka had a chance to celebrate his past this weekend. Thanks to an incredible performance streak that ran from Aug. 26, 2012 to Oct. 27, 2013, Tanaka received official certification on three Guinness World Records achievements:
1.) Most consecutive games won by a pitcher (30)
2.) Most consecutive regular-season games won by a pitcher (28)
3.) Most consecutive games won by a pitcher in a single regular season (24)
"I appreciate my teammates, the staff, and everyone who supported me," Tanaka said in exclusive comments to GWR. "I didn’t imagine that I could get the Guinness World Records [title] so I’m surprised and I feel very honored at the same time."
To qualify for the records, only professional players in a national top-flight league are eligible, meaning achievements in the minor leagues, collegiate ranks, or high school competition are not included.
Tanaka's amazing run began in the 2012 season, in which he ended the campaign with four wins. He then won 24 straight decisions in the 2013 regular season, earning him both records No. 2 and 3 referenced above. Record No. 1 takes postseason victories into account, and Tanaka reached 30 wins without a loss after notching two more victories en route to the Golden Eagles' eventual 2013 Japan Series title.
"I tried to do the same as always in every game," Tanaka said. "It was no pressure. I just thought about how to win the games and contribute to the victory for my team."
His achievements outpace those of Americans Tim Keefe and Rube Marquard, who each amassed 19 straight winning decisions (regular and postseason) in 1888 and 1912, respectively. Carl Hubbell - who did suffer postseason defeats between seasons - won 24 consecutive regular-season MLB decisions in 1936-37. And Tanaka's countryman Kazuhisa Inao held the previous mark for the single-season achievement with 20, in the NPB's 1957 season.
Tanaka finally lost a decision in Game 6 of the Japan Series, bringing an end to his overall mark. But his record for most consecutive regular-season games won is still technically active. As he most likely finds his way to Major League Baseball competition next season, Japan and the rest of the baseball world wait to see just how long Tanaka can ride his winning ways.
"I can’t think of [the] future," Tanaka said, "but I would like to keep concentrating on playing brick by brick, one match by one match."