New York Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball and a tough decision may have to be made.There’s no sugar coating it anymore: New York Yankees “ace” Masahiro Tanaka has struggled in every facet of the game as of late en route to becoming one of the worst pitchers in baseball.
Following a loss to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday in which he surrendered five runs on five hits including three homers on just 62 pitches, the 28-year-old’s 6.55 ERA is the highest in the American League and second-highest to only Bartolo Colon of the Atlanta Braves among qualified Major League starters.
Over his last five starts, Tanaka has allowed three or more home run on three occasions. From 2014-16, he served up three or more long balls just five times. His overall total allowed of 17 is the third-most in the majors and tied with David Wells for the second-most homers allowed within the team’s first 55 games in franchise history.
Not only can’t he keep the ball in the yard, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio has reached a career-low (3.22), the Yankees have lost seven of his 12 starts this season and he’s being the polar opposite of everything he was supposed to be in 2017 — a rotation stabilizer.
“I have been inconsistent,” Tanaka said following his sixth loss of the year. “Obviously I’m trying to fix that. The bad pitches tonight were crucial mistakes … I’ll just try to move forward and keep working.”
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As Tanaka attempts to keep working on finding consistency, perhaps it’s time for his organization to attempt a fix of their own and give the starter, who’s undoubtedly despoiling the greatest surprise of the Major League Baseball season with a dud every five days, some time off. No one could have possibly guessed that Tanaka — out of all starters in what was presumably shaping up to be the shakiest rotation in the sport — would be producing this type of narrative. Yet, here we are.
“This guy has been the ace of our staff for the last three years,” manager Joe Girardi said of Tanaka, who finished seventh in the AL Cy Young Award voting in 2016. “I don’t think you just forget how to pitch. For him, it has been inconsistent stuff that has really killed him. We have to find a way to get him back on track.”
There’s no need for a phantom stint on the disabled list. No need to flip over the 40-roster. No need to demote your ace into a long-relief bullpen stint for a month before throwing him back into the rotation.
Call-up whoever you’re more comfortable with for a spot start against the Baltimore Orioles this Sunday when Tanaka is scheduled to make his next start. They’re a team that slapped him around for seven earned runs on May 31 and are destined to do it again at Yankee Stadium — where Tanaka has let up 10 home runs in six starts this season.
That’ll give him five days of rest, get him away from the bandbox of Yankee Stadium and pitch against the Los Angeles Angels, a team in which he owns a 1.73 ERA in three starts against. Their isolated power of .146 ranks 26th in baseball and with some extra rest, it could be a start that brings some confidence back to Tanaka.
“It’s something we can talk about,” Girardi said. “We can talk about having a bullpen day, but then you fry your whole bullpen. It’s kind of difficult.”
In his place, a spot start for Chad Green or perhaps a promotion for Luis Cessa could be in order. Green looked filthy in relief on Tuesday (3.1 IP, 5K’s, 0 H, 0 BB) and Cessa is an option that doesn’t mess with the 40-man roster. The popular decision amongst Yankees’ fans would be to turn to Chance Adams, but why rid yourselves of an option?
Adams is 3-2 with a 2.17 ERA in five starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with a strikeout rate of 10.6. As impressive as his numbers have been, Tanaka won’t be given a permanent timeout and at this moment, no other starter in the rotation deserves a boot.
Whatever the change may be, the Yankees can’t afford to continue to send this version Masahiro Tanaka out to the mound. Sure, they own sole possession of first place in the AL East, but the Red Sox have a genuine shot at changing that this week.
If Tanaka was anything like his 2016 form, the divisional lead could be pushing six games. He’s hurting New York’s chances at the division title and they have to figure out a way to fix it. Step one is taking a step back to breathe, assess and attack. Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild have a golden opportunity to do that over the next week.