New York Yankees: 5 Takeaways from Masahiro Tanaka’s 1st-Half Performance

This winter, the New York Yankees took a chance by signing Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year contract worth $155 million (according to New York’s Daily News). Tanaka hasn’t been here long, but there are five big takeaways from his performance so far. 


Tanaka Is the Yankees’ Ace

This may not seem like a bold statement now, but at the beginning of the season Tanaka was the third starter in the rotation.  After injuries to CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova, the Yankees needed Hiroki Kuroda and Tanaka to step up in their place.  

Unfortunately for the Yankees, Kuroda has been mediocre this season, posting a 4-5 record with a 4.23 ERA.  

With three pitchers hurt, and another pitcher underperforming, Tanaka has carried this club.  

Everyday it seems a new Yankee player is hurt or in a slump, but Tanaka has been consistent throughout. 


Tanaka Can Strike Batters Out

As of June 24, Tanaka is tied for fourth in the MLB in strikeouts. He has recorded 119 K’s, averaging over 10 per nine innings.  

Tanaka‘s key pitch is considered the best split-finger fastball in the world.  

As seen in the video below, Tanaka‘s movement and location has batters completely off balance.

According to ESPN, if he continues this pace, he will have 257 strikeouts by the end of the year.  


Tanaka Struggles Early in Games

Several times this year Tanaka has struggled in the first inning. In his two appearances against the Toronto Blue Jays, he gave up leadoff home runs to the first batter he faced.  

In his most recent outing against the Baltimore Orioles, he gave up two hits to start the game, but then proceeded to retire the next three batters.  

Even though this may seem like a flaw, it shows Tanaka‘s ability to shake off a rough start and finish the game strong. 


Tanaka Is a Workhorse.  

In nine out of Tanaka‘s 15 starts, he has thrown at least seven innings, and twice this year he’s thrown a complete game.  

If he continues this pace, he will throw 229.2 innings by the end of the year. Even in Japan, he was known for having a rubber arm.

According to Newsday, Tanaka once threw 160 pitches in Game 6 of the Japan Series this past November.  

Tanaka‘s endurance may be tantalizing, but the Yankees must refrain from overusing their Japanese star. 


Tanaka Is a Cy Young Candidate

Almost halfway through the season, Tanaka has the lowest ERA (2.11) and most wins (11) in the AL. Normally having a spot on the Yankees rotation benefits a pitcher, but this year their offense has been mediocre. 

According to ESPN, the Yankees rank 15th in team batting average, and 20th in runs scored.  

Even with barely any offensive support, Tanaka still manages to lead the league with 11 wins and only two loses.   

Tanaka is on pace to win 24 games this year, and if the Yankees make the playoffs, he might find himself in the MVP race as well. 


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