4. Current ace Masahiro Tanaka
Shut down last year for all of August and the better parts of July and September in light of a slight tear in his UCL, the Yankee ace by way of Japan had a stellar season in 2014, putting together a 13-5 record behind a 2.77 ERA, 138 ERA+, and 141 strikeouts in 136 1/3 innings. The Yankees considered surgery multiple times in December and in spring training, but Tanaka put up enough of an effort to keep his place atop the Yankee rotation.
In 2015, Tanaka is striking out batters at a lower rate (8.3 K/9 IP in 2015 as opposed to 9.3 in 2014), and despite a lower WHIP (1.01 in 2015 to 1.06 in 2014), he is stringing together a relatively average season (his ERA+ is 109; an average player would produce a 100 ERA+) with a 9-5 record and a 3.56 ERA, which leads Yankees’ starters (figure dependent on innings pitched).[su_youtube_advanced url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZcVf2bXLs4″]
Tanaka, though, would save his best start of the season for Saturday, with his club battling the red-hot Blue Jays, the Yankees’ biggest threat to claim the AL East. In a complete game, Tanaka gave up only one run and five hits, striking out eight, remarkable considering his league-leading competition in the Jays’ formidable lineup.
In Tanaka’s last three starts in August, he is 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA, with opponents only managing a .181 batting average against him. Given the state of his elbow, the numbers and performance are promising, and it appears as though Tanaka has left the Tommy John threats long behind him.