Masahiro Tanaka has been better than the Yankees could have ever asked for as of late, but where is this newly found dominance coming from?
Despite having the second best record in baseball, the Yankees have recently been dealing with their fair share of struggles. The conversation seems to be centered around Luis Severino’s prolonged slump, Greg Bird’s disappearance (not literally), and the health of Aaron Judge and Aroldis Chapman. While these problems are worth discussing, they have overshadowed the recent success of Masahiro Tanaka.
In his last 15 starts, Tanaka is 7-3 with a 2.98 ERA. He has tallied an impressive 97 strikeouts in 90.2 innings pitched and has only given up 22 walks. In his most recent start, Tanaka shut down a hungry Mariners team with eight shutout innings, three, hits and 10 strikeouts. The long ball has been Tanaka’s kryptonite this season, but he has only surrendered one home run in his last five starts.
Tanaka’s success, along with trade deadline acquisition J.A. Happ, has given the Yankees stability in a time of uncertainty. Even ex-Yankee Robinson Cano had praise for the right hander:
“He was the same guy you always see. He threw the ball wherever he wants.” Cano said. “When he’s throwing the slow pitches for strikes, you know he’s going to be good. He never gives you anything to hit. He’s going to throw the pitch where he wants and he mixes everything.”
For the Yankees to have success in October, they will need Tanaka to maintain this approach, bringing consistency each time he steps on the hill. It’s uncertain who will start the Wild Card game vs. Oakland, given both teams make it, but Tanaka is undoubtedly a strong candidate.
Of course, of all people, Tanaka has been the most critical of his performance. Following his Seattle start, Tanaka told the media:
“To be honest with you, I felt like I didn’t have my best stuff. But as the game went on, I felt like I was really able to get my focus locked in and able to pitch the way I pitched today.”
If eight innings of shutout ball isn’t a result of Tanaka’s best stuff, then we may be seeing even more dominance out of Tanaka next time he is on the hill.
Tanaka will be one of the x-factors for the Yankees hopes of going deep into the playoffs this season. If he is on his A-game for the rest of the season, opposing hitters better be afraid.