New York Yankees: Expectations for Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka must put forth a Cy Young caliber season if the Yankees want to have a shot at the playoffs. Is he Cy Young bound? Or will we see a drop off from the New York Yankees ace in 2017?

The New York Yankees have shed some excess weight and finally a appear on the up-and-up. Their offense looks threatening and well-rounded, and their bullpen looks to be among MLB’s best. Starting pitching, however, has been the primary question mark since the focus has transitioned to 2017. The durability of C.C. Sabathia and the readiness of the young arms in the rotation are prominent concerns. But, most importantly, anything short of an outstanding season from ace, Masahiro Tanaka, and any and all playoff aspirations will disappear into the sunset.

Tanaka is coming off his longest season. A primarily healthy 2016 saw 31 starts from Tanaka and saw him one out shy of his first 200-inning season. That’s exactly what the doctor ordered for the Yankees.

Masahiro Tanaka surprisingly flew under the radar last year, though, he was a major reason why the Yankees made a late push for the postseason. Tanaka went 4-1 in the month of August with a 3.00 ERA. He followed August with an even better September/October, going 3-0 and posting a 2.70 ERA.

He’s taken that momentum into spring training. Masahiro Tanaka has practically been untouchable this spring as he has not yet given up an earned run in 13.1 innings pitched. He’s literally been untouchable considering his 19 strikeouts in such short work. Spring training is no guarantee for regular season success; however, it’s very encouraging for a veteran like Tanaka.

Expectations should not lessen for the 28-year-old in 2017. After all, expectations for Tanaka have been off the charts ever since he stepped foot in the United States. To this point, Tanaka has been close to what everyone thought he would be. His complex repertoire has resulted in high strikeout totals and he’s posted quality numbers across the board in all three big league seasons.

As good as he’s been, you still get the feeling he hasn’t quite reached his potential. 2017 may be the year he does. Tanaka’s splitter/sinker combination is lethal. He’s easily one of the more difficult pitchers to hit in baseball. Pitch quality has never been an issue for the Yankee ace, it’s the amount of pitches he throws that can often strain him. Look for Masahiro Tanaka to pitch more economically this season. He increased his innings per start from 2015 to 2016, perhaps he can continue the upward trend in 2017.

That’s all the Yankees need from Tanaka. They know he will keep the team in the game, it’s simply a matter of whether or not he can hold the fort until Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman take the stage. Of course, even more ideal would be a complete game from Tanaka, however, he’s only accomplished that three times throughout his three-year major league career.

Barring any health setbacks from Masahiro Tanaka in the coming season, expect him to surpass the 200 inning mark for the first time. He’ll continue his ERA success, potentially notching a sub-three ERA in 2017. Given the Yankees improved offense, the area Masahiro Tanaka will benefit most is in the win column. Expect Tanaka to earn 18+ wins in 2017. All together, those number should place Tanaka in the top five in AL Cy Young voting at the season’s end.

We’ll see how his success transitions to the team’s overall success, but it’s safe to expect Masahiro Tanaka to be the life support to the New York Yankees’ playoff hopes in the coming season.

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