The New York Yankees have had quite the bumpy 2014 season thus far. The oft-injured bullpen has struggled, and the team as a whole is barely a .500 ballclub. Every few days, however, the Yanks have the opportunity to catch their breath. That is because the ominous cloud disappointment from prior losses begins to vanish as soon as their bright ray of sunlight takes the mound: Masahiro Tanaka.
When the Yankees first announced they had signed one of Japan’s most touted ballplayers, the ceiling of promise was as uncertain as it was bright. The former ace for the Rakuten Golden Eagles was untested in the heavy hitting American game. And Tanaka was no small investment. The Yankees reached far into their deep pockets and pulled out a whopping $175 million offer that ultimately beat out all bidders. It was quite the gamble, even for America’s richest ball club, and concerns of whether or not the Pinstriper’s investment would pay off were looming.
Those questions have more or less been answered by now, and a May 14 shutout provided the exclamation mark on Tanaka’s emphatically dominant statement that put the rest of the American League on notice. Tanaka’s performance was close to perfect in a crucial moment, as the Yankees attempted to put an end to an embarrassing losing streak against the New York Mets. The Japanese born star pitcher threw the ball like a legend, tallying up eight strikeouts, no walks, and only allowing four hits in the Yankees’ 4-0 squashing of their New York rivals.
“I knew what was coming and I couldn’t hit it”, Mets’ infielder Daniel Murphy said.
Tanaka’s performance last week was no isolated incident. The Yankee’s favorite weapon is undefeated through his first eight starts, the first Yankee rookie to accomplish such a feat in nearly 65 years. He is also the first Yankee rookie to pitch a shutout since Orlando Hernandez in 1998. Tanaka’s 2.17 ERA places him near the top 10 in MLB, and a full 2.07 bellow that of the Yankees bullpen as a whole. The stud’s 66 strikeouts to 7 walks ratio is the best rookie ratio in history. Across the league, Tanaka is near the top 10 in ERA, fifth in strikeouts, and second for wins. In other words, Tanaka is already one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball. In fact, if you were to stack Tanaka’s MLB record with his numbers from Japan, the phenom has not lost a game since August 19, 2012.
Whether you hate them or love them, it would seem that the Yankee’s have once again struck gold by making an enormous and risky investment. Though the Yanks missed the playoffs this past season, they have snatched up the man who could be one of basesball’s brightest stars, showing not only that prior disappointments are soon to be forgotten, but also that great risks reap great rewards.