Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka Is A Legitimate Cy Young Candidate

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

The Yankees ace has been Masahiro Tanaka ever since they paid out $155 million for him nearly three years ago. The right-hander has had a solid career for the Yankees so far, but 2017 looks like his year.

The Yankees finally got their ace in 2016, with Masahiro Tanaka putting up career-best numbers. Tanaka would finish the year 14-4 with a 3.07 ERA, third-best in the American League. His 1.08 WHIP would be fifth best. Tanaka’s 199.2 innings and 165 strikeouts were also career highs.

His dominant season would see him finish seventh in the American League Cy Young award voting, the first time in his Major League career he had gotten consideration for the award.

After his career best year, 2017 looks to be an even bigger year for the Japanese-born pitcher. So far this spring, Tanaka has looked better than 2016. He allowed his first earned run of the spring against the Tigers, in his sixth start.

His first five starts of the pre-season were lights out. Tanaka went 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 18.2 innings, allowing only six hits, three walks while striking out 22. After such a showing, is Masahiro Tanaka a serious candidate for pitching’s most prestigious award?

Masahiro Tanaka is more of a strategic pitcher than a dominant one, and that fact shouldn’t be overlooked.

Masahiro Tanaka is an artist when it comes to pitching, carving up hitters and keeping his ERA low. Despite not allowing a lot of runs, Tanaka’s career high in wins is 14.

Since 2011, the American League Cy Young award has been giving to the pitcher who leads the American League in wins. The league leader in ERA has not won the Cy Young award since 2012.

The winner of the Cy Young award is more likely to be given to a pitcher who gets a lot of wins and records a lot of strikeouts. A pitcher’s ERA is looked at, but not among the main factors. Dominance is something the voting committee looks for, and they find that in staggering strikeout and win numbers. Masahiro Tanaka is more of a strategic pitcher than a dominant one, and that fact shouldn’t be overlooked.

Tanaka is going to go out every start and give the Yankees a chance to win. He might not get the run support that some pitchers do, which accounts for the low win totals.

He also doesn’t possess a blazing fastball, but does know how to locate it and has other pitches with movement. Tanaka knows how to get hitters out, and that’s the primary goal of a pitcher. Get guys out, and prevent them from scoring.

Masahiro Tanaka has been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball since he broke into the league in 2014. He has been well worth the Yankees investment, and 2017 looks like the year he could break out.

During Spring Training, his strikeout numbers have been up, and he has barely allowed anyone to cross home plate. Masahiro Tanaka is a serious contender for the prestigious Cy Young award, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him walk away with it after another career year in 2017.