The New York Yankees have gotten an ace and more out of Masahiro Tanaka as he has anchored a dismal pitching staff to utter perfection.
Simply put, New York would be bona fide sellers at this point in the season with one of the worst pitching staffs in all of Major League Baseball.
On the year, the 27-year old righty owns a 7-2 record with a 3.00 earned run average and despite the fact that his strikeouts per nine innings are the worst of his three-year major league career, his .625 opponent’s OPS is the lowest since coming to the States.
In his last four starts, the Japanese native is 2-0 and owns a 1.48 ERA to go along with an opponent’s slash line of .242/.287/.347 and OPS of .634.
But in order to be a “Hiro” like Tanka, your conventional statistics won’t manifest just how greatly the Yankees’ ace has saved his team time in and time out.
For starters, following games in which the Yankees have lost, Tanaka has played the role of the stopper by being 4-1 following games in which New York enter with a losing streak.
Overall, New York owns a 15-5 record when their ace takes the mound and haven’t lost a contest in which he has started since June 11 when he was tagged for five runs on six hits including two home runs against the Detroit Tigers.
Since then, the Yankees are 16-13 but 7-0 when Tanaka starts. Putting that into a shocking perspective, their ace has accounted for 44% of their wins since his last loss.
Even if he only had a winning decision in four of the seven wins, his win probability added by pitcher – how much your action contributes to the odds of winning – has been at 2.89 which is considered by FanGraphs to be in between “above average” and “great.”
Now, WPA is not profoundly extraordinary. Ordinarily among sabermetric analysis, the statistic is not incorporated to project the future or tell how a pitcher has performed over a specific time frame. But what it does do, is give us an idea on how a certain player has benefited their team’s chances at coming out on top during the course of a contest.
What it also doesn’t incorporate, is just how clutch Tanaka was last night in the Yankees’ dramatic 3-2 prevailing effort against one of the best teams in baseball, the San Francisco Giants.
His overall performance read six innings of shutout ball in which he allowed a mere four hits. You might also find the fact that it was the 14 time in his 20 outings in which Tanaka suffered two earned runs or less.
What his outing doesn’t read, however, is the fact that in the second inning, the Giants planted the first two batters on via a walk and single before New York’s ace struck out Conor Gillaspie before getting the next two batters to go down quietly.
Then, in the fourth, after two hits, a strikeout, and a walk Tanaka found himself in a bases-loaded, one out jam. However, the cold-blooded right-hander got former Yankee Ramiro Pena to pop out in foul territory and then fanned Gregor Blanco with a 95 mph fastball with a rare emotional outburst soon after.
— Max Wildstein (@MaxWildstein) July 23, 2016
“I guess I can say just the situation in the game made me become emotional at times,” Tanaka told the NY Post through his interpreter. “I’m not doing anything in particular to get any velocity. Just doing my thing.”
What you don’t read on the scorecard is just how clutch he was.
So let us retreat back to the question asked in the opening statement: Where would the Yankees be without their ace?
The rotation’s record would be 23-35 featuring an earned run average of 5.18 instead of the 30-37 record it has coincided with an overall ERA of 4.67 with Tanaka as the anchor.
More importantly, even if we say the Yankees would be .500 if any other starter not named Masahiro Tanaka took the hill in his place, their overall record would be 44-52 and 11.5 games out of first place in the American League East.
His value? Impeccable. His dominance? Extraordinary. His passion? Immeasurable.
This organization simply could not create a better ace than Tanaka has been. And guess what? They won’t have to.