The New York Yankees’ starting rotation has been without a doubt the biggest question mark of the season for the team so far.
One of those question marks is Masahiro Tanaka. He has been a bit inconsistent this year with an 8-6 record, a 4.64 ERA, and a 1.26 WHIP (MLB At-Bat). However, he was elected to the All-Star game, in Cleveland this year, and earned a win in his one-inning appearance. In his outing on August 11th, 2019, Tanaka was able to give the Yankees the start they needed by posting 8 innings, 3 hits, no earned runs, and 4 strikeouts (MLB At-Bat). Unfortunately, this kind of start only happens about once a month, mixed in with his below-average starts.
One concern that has seemed to go unnoticed by the Yankees organization; Tanaka’s elbow stability. He suffered a slight UCL tear in his right elbow that did not require surgery in 2014 (Newsday). His fastball and splitter velocities have been declining every year since that tear. Tanaka cannot recall the last assessment with the team doctors and the injury does not seem to worry him.
Tanaka has been very reliable in the postseason for the Yankees
In his career, he has only given up 5 earned runs in 30 innings pitched, which equates to a 1.50 earned-run average. Last year, he made one appearance in the playoffs against the Boston Red Sox. He allowed one earned run, on 3 hits, in 5 innings (Baseball Reference). His performance was the only win the Yankees achieved in a 3-1 series loss to the defending World Series champions.
Tanaka seems to turn up to another level when he makes a start in the postseason. The Yankees expect him to continue his dominance against the competitive American League this postseason as well. To get to the World Series, the Yankees are going to have to defeat Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and the newly acquired Zack Greinke of the Houston Astros. This is assuming the Yankees and Astros take care of business in the American League Division Series. All hands are going to be on deck to take down the familiar foe in the Astros. Especially, Tanaka, who has the potential to forever enshrine his legacy as one of the greatest postseason pitchers in New York Yankees history. As for the rest of the rotation, other than German, they will need to be on their “A-games” to hopefully bring the 28th crown back to the Bronx.