Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees Starting Pitcher
Brian Cashman has fortified the Yankees starting rotation. But there’s a sleeper in the group whom the Yankees need more than ever…
Safe to say, Masahiro Tanaka was the Yankees most consistent and reliable starting pitcher coming down the stretch last season.
Looking beyond the overrated won-loss record (hello Jacob deGrom) and you’ll find a vastly improved ERA, fewer base on balls, and decidedly fewer home runs during the second half. Quietly, Masahiro Tanaka elevated himself when no one was looking, even to the point of attaining the Yankees sole win against the Red Sox in the ALDS.
While the Yankees may be secretly hoping James Paxton leapfrogs Luis Severino earning the title as the team ace starting pitcher, Tanaka looms in the background as the sleeper who can overtake both – if he can maintain the consistency shown in the second half of 2018.
Given Severino’s demise in the second half, continuing on into the playoffs for two consecutive seasons, coupled with the tendency in Paxton’s past to lose time to injuries, Tanaka has demonstrated signs he is transforming himself into a pitcher built of guile and deception, in the mode of teammate CC Sabathia in the twilight of his career. This, despite pitching on a tender shoulder some say is one pitch away from disaster.
Uniting Tanaka’s years in Japan with his time with the Yankees, he is still only 30 years old, despite having pitched at this level since he was eighteen. Tanaka is a pitcher’s pitcher who enters every start with a game plan, while still having the arsenal to move from one pitch to another when something isn’t working that day.
Over the last few years, the Yankees have had good arms on their staff, but what’s been missing is Aaron Boone‘s, and before him, Joe Girardi‘s confidence in know what he’s getting from start to start.
Masahiro Tanaka can provide that consistency, and make no mistake; the Yankees need him to do precisely that.