“He left that pitch up” Yankee fans collectively said when they watched Melky Cabrera jack a home run in the bottom of the first inning. That home run put a lot of fear into fans. Had his strong spring been a fluke? Did the Blue Jays know something the other teams didn’t?
Luckily for Masahiro Tanaka, the rest of his night was nearly flawless. He left the game after 7 innings with 2 earned runs, 8 strikeouts, and zero walks. He did not leave more pitches up. Quite the contrary – Tanaka looked like Picasso with his ability to strikeout Blue Jays low in the zone, especially with his splitter. All his pitches were reacting well, and he was able to mix them in accordingly.
A few weeks ago I touched on Tanaka’s mechanics when we saw his first spring training start. His first major league start did not look that different, which is a positive for the Yankees and Tanaka. Tanaka is used to pitching much more than he is with the Yankees, so the delay in between pitching may actually affect him eventually. For now, he looked spot on.
Tanaka’s sinker was his favorite pitch of the night, throwing it 30 out of 97 times. He only used his four-seam fastball 12 times during the night. The fastball averaged over 93.5 miles per hour, while the sinker sat right at 92 miles per hour.
In my previous article I had mentioned Tanaka’s arm movement possibly hurting his career later on. Tonight, we saw much of the same. Rushing his pitching arm through in order to catch up with his legs, gives Tanaka an element to improve, as arm rushing will drag the elbow and shoulder almost immediately. Again, this is nitpicking and his delivery looked like he was in mid-season form tonight.
Masahiro Tanaka looked incredibly strong in his major league debut. He faced an AL East rival, and made them look silly for most of the night. After the 4th inning he only faced one more than the minimum until he left after the 7th. Considering how much he still needs to learn about scouting reports and major league tendencies, Tanaka is firing on all cylinders. Just imagine what he will be able to do once he makes his early adjustments and has full knowledge and confidence going into his starts every week.