Masahiro Tanaka is 9-1 so far this season. That’s the second most wins in the American League, one behind leader Mark Buehrle‘s ten. He leads the league in ERA (2.02) and WHIP (0.957). His 92 strikeouts are good for sixth in the AL. He is tied for the highest WAR among pitchers in the American League. He has been one of the most exciting pitchers in the majors since he signed a $155 million contract with the Yankees in the off season. By nearly every measure, Tanaka is one of the top pitchers in the American League and a worthy All-Star. John Farrell, manager of the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox and the 2014 American League All Star team, should name him the starter.
There are other candidates for the honor of All Star Game starter. Buehrle leads the league in wins for the surprising first place Toronto Blue Jays, and is second in ERA to Tanaka. Tanaka’s fellow countryman, Yu Darvish is 6-2 with a 2.36 ERA and second in the league in strikeout with 106. King Felix Hernandez is 8-1 with a 2.39 ERA for the Mariners. Scott Kazmir is 7-2 with a 2.20 ERA for the team with the best record in the league, the Oakland A’s. Tanaka, Buehrle, Darvish, Hernandez and Kazmir would all make a worthy starter in the All Star Game and Farrell would be justified in choosing any of them. But one choice rises above the rest, and that choice is Tanaka.
Tanaka and Darvish have been more valuable to their respective teams than the other worthy starters. The Blue Jays are built on the long ball, and Buehrle is reaping the benefits of a strong lineup and a ton of run support. The Mariners have been getting great pitching from not just Hernandez, but Chris Young, Hisashi Iwakuma and Roenis Elias. The A’s ace is not Kazmir but Sonny Gray. Darvish and Tanaka are the only top starters for Yankees and Rangers respectively. However, Darvish has been in the league for a few years and everyone knew he was the Rangers’ ace. Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman claimed he “hoped” that Tanaka could be a “third starter” this season. It took injuries to CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda and ineffectiveness from Hiroki Kuroda to thrust the ace label upon Tanaka. Although, with the way he is pitching, it would have happened regardless.
The bottom line is that the best players, having the best seasons should go to the All-Star game. The MLB All-Star Game is by far the best and most entertaining of all of the major sports. Baseball is perennially able to mold the two most important aspects of an All-Star Game together, player showcase for the fans and a competitive game. The NBA has the better showcase but the games are rarely competitive in any of the other three major sports. When was the last time anyone played defense in the NBA All-Star game or saw a fight in an NHL All-Star game or had the original players picked play in the NFL Pro Bowl? Baseball gets it right. American League manager John Farrell needs to get it right. He needs to select Masahiro Tanaka as his starting pitcher.