New York Yankees Player Profiles: Masahiro Tanaka, does he still have it?

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

The New York Yankees Masahiro Tanaka was born in Itami, Hyogo Japan, on November 1, 1988. He didn’t waste much time; he started playing baseball in the first grade as a catcher in little league. He played
alongside Hayato Sakamoto, who was then the team’s ace pitcher.
They hit next to each other in the lineup.

He continued to play until he reached junior high school when he played both catcher and pitcher due to his strong throwing arm. He played for the Takarazuka Boys but was chosen to the Junior All-South Kansai team in his third year of junior high. He started solely pitching when he moved to Komazawa University in 2004.

In the US, this is like a preparatory high school. While he was there, he led his team to the 87th Championship. With this win, he was given the #1 jersey indicating that he was their ACE pitcher.

Tanaka had developed a good fastball and a hard slider. In the Summer of 2006, his school earned it’s 88th championship and earned a place in the finals. Even though he was ill, he was called in, in the third inning, and he held the opponent to 1 run while he struck out ten. His school was forced into a rematch as it went 15 innings per regulation, and they lost the rematch. But the pitching in both games was so good both pitchers were chosen to play for Japan in the United States-Japan High School Baseball Tournament. In the Japan high school draft, Tanaka was selected by many teams. The Golden Eagles won the draft and signed him to a pro contract.

Tanaka pitched well, but Tanaka got off to an utterly dominant start to the 2009 season, pitching a four-hit complete-game shutout against the Hawks in his first start on April 7. That was followed by a one-run complete game against the Marines. Tanaka had an MVP career with the Eagles and became a national hero. Still, on On September 13, 2013, Tanaka set a new NPB record with his 21st consecutive win in the 2013 season in
a 6–2 complete-game victory over the Orix Buffaloes.

Baseball scouts took notice, particularly the New York Yankees. To make a long story short. The Yankees paid the posted 20 million dollar fee to the Japanese league and signed Tanaka to a seven-year $155 million contract.

Masahiro Tanaka becomes a New York Yankee

Tanaka made his Major League debut on April 4, 2014, against the Toronto Blue Jays and gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, ex-Yankee Melky Cabrera. Tanaka would receive his first MLB win in the game, pitching seven innings with eight strikeouts in the Yankees 7–3 win against the Blue Jays.

This is the last year of Tanaka’s contract, and he has had a winning season in each of those years. His best season was 2016 when he went 14-4 for a .778 winning percentage. This past year had a bit of a rough time. The New York Yankees were turning to Masahiro Tanaka this season to take
Luis Severino’s ace role. However, Yankee fans were let down as Tanaka has was not dominant.

He finished the season with an 11-9 record and an ERA of 4.45, which doesn’t scream the dominance that he can have. His inflated ERA was due to a couple of poor outings where Tanaka didn’t survive past the first or second inning. On July 25, he gave up 7 runs in the first inning in a loss to the Red Sox. A big reason for his struggles is that his split-fingered fastball is nowhere near as effective this year as it has been in the past. Yankee hopeful love Tanaka and hope he can regain his previous dominance.

On July 4th Tanaka was hit in the head from a line drive off the bat of fellow teammate Giancarlo Stanton.  His MRIs came out negative, but he has been under concussion protocol, working his way back to his first start of the season tonight. Fans and the Yankee brass will be watching with interest tonight after Tanaka had an excellent spring training. They will be looking to see if he still has it.

Tanaka is a big-time music lover and follower of several Japanese music groups. Tanaka is married to Mai Satoda, former member and former supervisor of the idol group Country Musume and television personality. The wedding ceremony was held in Hawaii in December 2012.  The couple gave birth to a baby boy on February 15, 2016. Masahiro Tanaka will become a free agent upon the completion of this shortened baseball season.