Masahiro Tanaka was given $155 million before throwing a major league pitch. Some felt it was too much of a risk, while others felt he was the real deal. Thus far, Tanaka has most certainly lived up to the hype. Halfway through the season, the rookie phenom is a league leading 11-3 with the best ERA in the American League at 2.10. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is an unbelievable 7.06 and has the sixth most strikeouts in all of baseball at 127.
One of the largest concerns with Tanaka coming into the season, was his durability. In Japan, the righty threw over 1300 innings over seven seasons. To put it in perspective, at age 18, Tanaka threw 186.1 innings with four complete games. That’s more than half of the Yankees total complete games last year as a staff. At age 22, he threw 226.1 innings, to go along with 14 complete games. Are you kidding me? The last pitcher to throw that many complete games in a season is Curt Schilling, who threw 15 in 1998 at age 31.
As you can see, Tanaka is used to a heavy workload each season. This year, he has three complete games, and has thrown 115.2 innings. The adjustment for the righty coming over to Major League Baseball is the rest in between starts. In Japan, Tanaka is used to throwing once a week. Over in America, the typical starting pitcher throws once every five days. While Tanaka has not shown any fatigue, the Yankees typically give him an extra day off whenever the schedule allows. When asked how he feels about it, the phenom suggested it is not affecting his ability.
“I feel that I’ve been doing it a number of times now, going into games every fifth day so, obviously, I’m getting used to it,” Tanaka told Jorge Castillo of NJ.com through an interpreter Wednesday afternoon. “I’m getting used to it.”
Coming off his first back to back losses in four years (how would you like to be able to say that?), Tanaka is putting those games behind him, and focusing on his next one tonight in Minnesota. Besides, it’s not like he was deserving of either loss: three runs over seven innings in Baltimore, and a complete game 2-1 loss to Boston, where the anemic Yankee offense was to blame.
“What’s important right now is not looking back at those two losses, but looking ahead and trying to win the next outing.”
With that attitude, it isn’t hard to see why this rookie is so successful. As long as he can stay healthy, the Yankees should have a reliable ace for the next seven years. Seems to me like Major League Baseball is having a harder time adjusting to him than he is to them.