The New York Yankees are going to need Masahiro Tanaka at the top of his game in 2018. So far this spring, we’ve yet to see him at his best.
Masahiro Tanaka’s spring with the New York Yankees reminds me of his 2017 season—good solid pitching with flashes of brilliance, followed by glaring mistakes. It was a season that spiked high and low, as Tanaka lacked consistency and command of his pitches.
Prior to Saturday’s game against the Detroit Tigers, manager Aaron Boone named Luis Severino as the Opening Day starter, a nod to the new ace of the Yankee staff, who had a breakout season in 2017 and finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting.
As Mike Mazzeo of the New York Daily News reminds us, that decision ends Tanaka’s streak of Opening Day starts:
“…had started the last three Opening Days, but the 29 year old righty was shelled in his last one against Tampa in 2017. He followed that up by going 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA and a career worst 35 homers allowed before dominating in three postseason outings.”
In fact, Tanaka spiked so high (23.62 ERA on Opening Day) and so low (0.90 ERA in the postseason) during the 2017 season that it is difficult to know which Tanaka to expect on the mound on a given day.
Spring training 2018 has mirrored the inconsistencies of Tanaka’s 2017 season. Take Saturday’s start, for example. After striking out five of the first seven Tigers he faced, Tanaka couldn’t get out of the third inning, giving up four runs and two home runs, in 2.2 innings of work in the Yankees’ 9-3 loss.
In three starts in spring training, Tanaka has an 11.25 ERA, allowing 12 hits, 10 earned runs, four home runs, three walks, and 13 strikeouts.
How much stock should fans put in spring training performances? Probably very little. Tanaka himself doesn’t appear to be too concerned, as he told Anthony Reiber of Newsday:
“I feel like I’m sort of getting a better preparation going into the season this year versus last year. Obviously, the results aren’t there [this year].”
I think we would have to agree, the results aren’t there this spring, but then again, spring training isn’t necessarily about results. Yankee fans can only hope the best version of Tanaka is on the mound when the season gets underway.