Welcome to late June, where it feels like we are a decent way through the season, but we aren’t even halfway done. At this point a few things are clear – the AL East will be a dogfight until late September, Manny Machado is a self-entitled jerk, and Masahiro Tanaka is in the driver’s seat for the 2014 Cy Young Award.
Unlike the MVP award, the Cy Young generally actually goes to the best pitcher in the league. Well through his latest start, Tanaka is just that. He is 11-2 with a 2.11 ERA and 119 strikeouts His win total is tops in all of baseball, his ERA is best in the American League, and his strikeouts are tied for third best in the American league. Even more remarkable is Tanaka’s 0.96 WHIP, just .01 behind AL-leader Felix Hernandez. He has given up a high number of home runs, but no one is ever on base. What was a somewhat confident experiment in the off-season, has turned into one of the best signings of the last decade for the Yankees.
The usual suspects are near the top in the American League, Hernandez, David Price, but here is Tanaka. Without him, the Yankees would be near last place. There is no doubt he is the ace of this team, heck, the ace of this league. However, there is still a long way to go this season. Not only will hitters be learning about his pitches before he comes to town, but he may begin to succumb to the different schedules here versus Japan. In Japan, Tanaka had one day a week to pitch. In MLB, he pitches every five days. Although he was throwing more pitches per game, pitching more often is something that may begin to affect him more in August and September than it did in May and June.
Just as some final food for thought on Tanaka, it might not be too early to examine his contract. What everyone seems to remember is that we gave him a seven-year deal. What everyone seems to forget, is that he can opt out of his contract after four years. Certainly this is nothing to worry about this month or even this year, but it does remind me of a certain formerly fat-now useless pitcher named C.C. Sabathia. He opted out of his contract when he had the chance, and now we are on the hook for him through 2016 at least. The team just needs to keep their minds in check that when he is a free agent after the 2017 season, we may have seen the best of Tanaka. There is no point in paying another pitcher $140M over 6 or 7 years for the work he’s already done. With that said, let’s all enjoy the ride that is Masahiro Tanaka for at least the next four years.