We Yankee fans often times have lofty expectations, and in order for them to be fulfilled Tanaka has to stay healthy. Tanaka and his health will be the biggest key in the event that the Yankees do indeed find themselves in the playoffs. Every team need a guy they can count on to carry them to success. The Core 4 provided that, but now they are just memory of another era. Moving forward the Yankees need a star who can put the team on his back during rough patches in the season, and keep the club competitive yearlong. Masahiro Tanaka is that superstar who needs to deliver.
Some people undervalue starting pitchers, saying that they only contribute once every 5 games. However Yankee fans who watched the first 72 games of the 2014 regular season know that isn’t the case. Masahiro Tanaka went 12-2 with a 1.99 ERA, while the Yankees were just 24-34 when he didn’t pitch. It was Tanaka early in the season who helped keep the Yankees at .500, when they would have been at the bottom of the AL East. For a man who was making $25M a year, he seemed to be worth every penny.
Then things headed downhill. Over his next 4 starts, Tanaka had a 4.23 ERA. He was shut down after his July 8th start, and was found to have a torn ligament in his elbow. Remaining humble, Tanaka apologized for the injury and was eager to return to his reign of dominance. The good new is that doctors determined that plasma injections, not surgery, was the way for an effective recovery. The bad is that in Tanaka’s return in late September, he made two starts and had a 7.71 ERA.
Perhaps that can be chalked up as lack of facing Major League hitters for over 2 months. Or maybe this torn ligament is interfering with his delivery and effectiveness. Perhaps it is just that his ERA was the highest when facing the American League East, and has no bearing on future success. We can always speculate, but the truth is the Yankees did Tanaka healthy. With many former Yankees stars regressing over the past few years, Tanaka is the go to man. Now we just need him to make 30 starts and be the workhorse the team is missing.