New York Yankees: Tanaka’s Cy Young case

From “third starter” to Rookie of the Year and Cy Young award contender, Masahiro Tanaka has proven to be more of an asset to the New York Yankees than they might have thought.

It’s no surprise that Tanaka is a leading candidate for the AL Cy Young Award, but what is a surprise is that it was unexpected. Not only is he in contention for Cy Young, but also there’s talk about him being the first player for the American League to win both Cy Young and Rookie of the Year. How’s that for making a splash in the MLB?

[New York Yankees: Why Tanaka has been the biggest surprise]

NYY general manager Brian Cashman originally coined Tanaka as a “third starter”, but he’s better than that, obviously. Cashman either down played him, or didn’t realize he would be this good.

According to ESPN’s MLB Cy Young predictor for 2014, the current contenders for the award include:

Tanakas Fastballs are dreamyScott Kazmir (OAK)

Mark Buehrle (TOR)

Felix Hernandez (SEA)

Mark Scherzer (DET)

Sonny Gray (OAK)

Glen Perkins (MIN)

Rick Porcello (DET)

Dallas Keuchel (HOU)

Koji Uehara (BOS)

and Masahiro Tanaka.

I personally think his toughest competition is probably Kazmir or Hernandez. Right now Kazmir is 9-2 with a 2.08 ERA, and Hernandez is leading the league with 122 strikeouts. Both are veterans to Tanaka, but that might be the only pressing aspect they have against him.

Of course there are lots of predictions out there, and some of those guys deserve to be on there more than others, but I think Tanaka is the real star. He’s now 11-2 (thanks to Sunday night’s loss against the Orioles) and his ERA is now 2.11. He’s proven consistency, but most of all he’s proven to be a player that the team can depend on and that’s more than he was made out to be.

I’m also rooting for him to be Rookie of the Year, although he has some stiff competition there as well. White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu has now notched 21 home runs and 57 RBIs. He’s been a very impressive rookie so far this season.

It would be awesome if Tanaka won both awards, but I don’t think he will. I honestly believe he has a better chance of (hopefully) winning the Cy Young award because he’s proven himself for 11 straight straight that he’s worthy. His postgame interviews are always so humble and he holds himself accountable, always seeking to improve, never being completely satisfied with his performance. And that marks a respectable athlete.

“I truly believe that every day you have got to learn something new,” said Tanaka after Sunday night’s game. “I intend to keep on doing that, becoming a better pitcher in the future.”