Since day one the New York Yankees have had faith in the man from Japan, Masahiro Tanaka, who was known internationally for his pitching technique. He has faced more obstacles than many MLB players face, some of which include coming from a foreign league, pitching for the first time in the United States, tweaking his pitching style in order to better fit in in the majors and more. Now the Bronx Bombers are realizing the potential more than ever before as Masahiro has officially been labeled “better than anyone imagined” by the folks at ESPN Magazine.
The New York Yankees spent over $150 million signing Tanaka for seven years to wear the world famous blue pinstripes. At first the team declared that Tanaka would barely be a top 3 pitcher in his rookie year, but after seeing more than half their starting lineup hit the bench with injuries, the need for Tanaka to step up became more and more clear. It has never been denied that Tanaka has starting potential and the strength and accuracy the Bombers have been looking for, but expectations have been downplayed as an attempt at avoiding disappointment.
For more about Tanaka’s fastball and the shock he’s created with it, go here.
I believe that Tanaka has done more than just fill in for the pitchers now missing from the lineup, he has become the front runner carrying the team on his back as they fall to shambles. With Ivan Nova out for the year after Tommy John surgery, Michael Pineda still about two weeks out from ending his suspension and CC Sabathia out for a knee injury, the Yankees have had to start two of their relief pitchers and bring up a triple-A rookie to start. The pieces are falling everywhere except into place for the team and having Tanaka to fall back on has been a relief for just about everyone.
“We’re going to have to wait and play it out. Whether you’re worried about things or not, it’s not going to change what it is.”- General manager Brian Cashman
Tanaka is 6-0 with a 2.17 ERA so far this season. With statistics like those it’s clear that Tanaka is looking more like a leader than a follower and the New York Yankees are counting on him maintaining that status. With the end of the Jeter era just around the corner and losses adding up on the team’s schedule the New York Yankees are looking for any sign of hope, and Tanaka has provided a silver lining to what has been looking more and more like a hot-mess season for the team.
Once Pineda returns some of the weight will lift of Tanaka’s shoulders but until then it is almost completely on him to get the team through. For being a newbie in the League and in the United States he is surely thriving above the expectations placed upon him.
Well done Mr. Tanaka.